Charlton-on-Otmoor lies to the south of Bicester, on the northern edge of Otmoor, close to the River Ray.

The village’s 13th century preaching cross.
The village’s 13th century preaching cross

In the 17th century, apart from the Rectory, there were 24 houses listed for the hearth tax of 1662 and in 1665 there were 16, 4 of which were substantial farm houses with 3 or 4 hearths each. Today it has a population of over 400.

There is no record of any manor house ever having existed. The manor itself was recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as being in the possession of Roger d’Ivry, on behalf of his father-in-law, Hugh de Grantmesnil. With Hugh’s content it was later granted to St Evroul Abbey, in Normandy.

The Priory of Ware, a cell of the Abbey in Normandy, held the manor until it was suppressed in 1414. Then, in the following year, Henry V granted it to his new foundation at Sheen. Sheen then held it until the Dissolution in 1539.

The crown kept it for a number of years and it was used to secure loans for Elizabeth I in 1558 and 1560. It was eventually granted to Lord Cheney of Toddington in 1574, who passed it to Sir John Dudley the following year. It was then sold to William Shillingford who died in 1589 and left it to his son, Edmund. But it was charged with so many legacies by him that his son, John, was forced to mortgage it in 1668. It then went through a number of legal disputes until it was sold to John Pope in 1688.

John Pope gave it to his son, Gregory, in 1717, whose widow then sold it in 1732 to Thomas Cooper. Cooper immediately mortgaged it to John Coker, of Bicester, and eventually sold it in 1753 to Sir Edward Turner, of Ambrosden. The Turner, and later Page-Turner, family remained owners of the manor until 1874.

St Mary the Virgin Church
St Mary the Virgin Church

Charlton had a parish church by the 11th century. But the present Church of Saint Mary the Virgin didn’t arrive until the 13th century. Originally an Early English Gothic building, it received substantial Decorated Gothic alterations in the 14th century. The east window is slightly later, in the transitional style from Decorated to Perpendicular Gothic. Then, around the beginning of the 16th century, the clerestory and new roof were added to the nave and a new window was added to the south aisle.

In the early 16th century the present rood screen and rood loft were added to the church. During the English Reformation Edward VI’s injunctions of 1547 instructed that rood screens and lofts be removed from all churches in England and Wales. But Charlton’s screen and loft managed to survive these injunctions. A tradition of garlanding the rood cross with flowers and box greenery on May Day also survived the Reformation and continues to the present day.

By 1553 the bell tower had five bells plus a Sanctus bell, but all have since been recast or replaced. Richard Keene, whose foundries included one at Woodstock, cast the two largest bells in 1681. The treble bell broke in 1789 but John Warner and Sons of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry recast it that same year. In the 19th century one of the bells survived for a long time with a fracture, but in 1895 its tongue and head fell out. It was recast in 1898.

In 1998 the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast a new treble bell, making the 1789 bell the second bell and increasing the tower to a ring of six bells. In 1999 the new bell was hung and the old bells re- hung as a project for the village to celebrate the Millennium.

The church clock is of an unknown date, but appears to be late 17th century. Two of the wheels of the going train are characteristic of the work of the clockmaker Edward Hemins, of Bicester, which would make them an early 18th century alteration.

In 1830 the locals met in the George and Dragon, a 17th-century public house that stood at the eastern end of the village, and formed the Otmoor Association. This led to the Otmoor Riots in opposition to plans to drain and enclose Otmoor. The rioters achieved their objective, and the villagers continued to farm a four-field open field system. A subsequent attempt at enclosure in 1858 was successful.

The enclosure of 1858 set aside land for the building of Charlton Parochial School, which opened in 1866. The number of pupils grew and a second classroom was added in 1892. It was reorganised as a junior school in 1937 and is now Charlton-on-Otmoor Church of England Primary School.