Country England
County Oxfordshire
Study Area Chalgrove
About the Study The parish of Chalgrove is about 1115 hectares. In addition to Chalgrove itself, which embraces a small part of Cutt Mill, the parish includes the former Liberty of Rofford, and the former parish of Warpsgrove, which was absorbed in 1932.

On 18 June 1643 in a field on the outskirts of the parish of Chalgrove a battle took place between the cavalry units of the Royalist Army led by Prince Rupert and a contingent from the army of the Earl of Essex, although the Earl was not actually present, at this battle the Parliamentarian John Hampden was mortally wounded he died 6 days later in Thame. Research now suggests that this battle was more significant than first thought, since it marked the beginning of the end of the Earl of Essex and the collapse of the parliamentarian army in the South East of the country, allowing the Royalist to concentrate on the other parts of the Parliamentarian Army and allowing Queen Henrietta to bring in much needed supplies. Two hundred years after the battle a monument was erected, by Lord Nugent, on land close to the supposed site of the battle.

In 1943 the RAF took over some of the agricultural land and started work on Chalgrove Airfield, this was handed over to the USAAF and used by photo reconnaissance units. Since 1946 Martin Baker Aircraft Company have held a lease, from the Government, for the runway and a large portion of the old Airfield, this was the site where the first live ejector seat testing took place, Martin Baker still fly the same Meteor aircraft. The airfield was also been used by car manufacturers based at Cowley for testing prototype cars.

The growth of the village can be seen most clearly in the census returns, taken every ten years since 1801. They show that the population of Chalgrove never exceeded 700 until after the Second World War. In the early 1930s it was little more than half that but it reached a remarkably high figure of around 800 in 1951, due to the large number of squatters and displaced persons who had moved into the Nissen Huts of the former American Air Base. The huts with their families were eventually officially 'adopted' by the Bullingdon Rural District Council and facilities were provided, including a school. The number dropped to 652 in 1961 when many of the families had been re-housed at Berinsfield or Littlemore, although most of the original Chalgrove inhabitants who were temporary tenants had had new houses built for them at Brookside. In the early 1960s a rapid expansion took place, mainly due to the fact that the village was outside the Oxford Green Belt and by 1971 there were 2,433 persons recorded. The present population is approximately 3,000.

Chalgrove Friendly Society was established, on 6 July1840, to provide funds for those unable to work due to sickness or injury. The balance of the funds was spent on a roast dinner for all of the members on the Wednesday following Whit Sunday. Perhaps this celebration took the place of the Wissenail, last recorded in 1805/6, or Claypit Sunday, another merry-making event, held in mid Lent. The Friendly Society disbanded on 23 June 1913 after the National Insurance Act was introduced. The splendid banner, suitably restored with the help of funds raised by the History Group, can be seen in the church.

The earliest part of the church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, dates back to 1150, the southern chapel and tower were added C1190 and a north aisle added C1250 . The main glory of St Mary’s is the internationally important scheme of medieval paintings on the upper walls of the chancel. Painted in the first half of the fourteenth century they depict, on the north wall the childhood and Passion of Jesus, and on the south wall the death and assumption of the Virgin Mary. Both narratives come together on the east wall and would originally have been augmented by a stained glass representation of Jesus in the east window. The paintings were lime washed over at the Reformation after 1547 and were re-discovered and uncovered in 1858.

The study is being carried out by members of Chalgrove Local History Group (CLHG). The object of the study is to collect, record and preserve information relating to the village and its population over the years. CLHG have groups of people working on: Research of some of the older buildings in the village and seeing how they have changed over time; the genealogy of the various families that have lived in the village; the men that went to serve their country in World War 1; recording the monumental inscriptions in the graveyard attached to St Mary's Church; we are also looking for information relating to the more modern history of the village in particular its growth following the end of WWI and the opening of the Airfield.

Contact Chalgrove Local History Group