Oxfordshire A Glorious County. Bicester.

One of the places featured in the book Oxfordshire A Glorious County is Bicester.

Bicester has a three cornered Market Square, a variety of delightful buildings and the Parish Church of St Edburg, and once had a priory. It lies in flat countryside near the Buckinghamshire border and has been described as an ‘unspoilt little market town’ and it once had a priory.

An Augustinian Priory was founded here in 1182 by Gilbert Basset on a site south east of the Parish Church. It was dedicated to St Edburg. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries most of the buildings were pulled down and the remaining building became a private house.

In 1239 William De Longspee obtained a grant from King Henry III for a market, and in 1252 a licence was given for a three day fair to be held on and about the feast of St Edburg.

At one time Bicester was in two parts. One was King’s End and the other Market End and The Causeway was built along an embankment by the Canons of the Priory to link the two.

Several distinguished people can be found in Bicester’s history including Sir Thomas Grantham, Samuel Blackwell, and the Coker family.

Sir Thomas Grantham was a naval commander. He served with the East India Company, and his father was killed in 1645 fighting for the King at Oxford.

Samuel Blackwell was vicar between 1670 and 1691 and founded the towns seventeenth century Grammar School.

The Coker family had a long association with Bicester. From 1584 they were Lords of the Manor of King’s End and were resident at Bicester House. They were active in local government and John Coker was Sheriff in 1749. Another John was Chairman of the Quarter Sessions and has been described as ‘an especial friend of Bicester’.

Market Square is a long triangular space which has houses of a variety of style around it. Buildings in the island in the centre were built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Causeway leads to Church Street and St Edburg’s Church. St Edburg’s is a large church with parts dating to the twelfth century.

Sheep Street extending northwards from Market Place is an ancient thoroughfare and is still the main shopping street. The comedy actor Kenneth Williams lived here at No 19 after being evacuated to Bicester in 1940 during World War II. It was the home of John Chisholm who encouraged his ambitions to be in the theatre. Kenneth Williams described the house as ‘a magical abode’ and an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ to him. The former Post Office in Sheep Street is now The Penny Black public house.

Bicester is a delightful market town with many interesting buildings including a dovecote which stands in what was the main courtyard of the medieval priory.

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