Piddington is a village that lies just over 4 miles southeast of Bicester, close to the border with Buckinghamshire. Its toponym has been attributed to the Old English Pyda’s tun.

Just before the Norman Conquest Hacun, a Dane, held the manor of Piddington together with the nearby manor of Merton. But the Domesday Book records that by 1086 Judith, Countess of Huntingdon, a niece of William the Conqueror, held the manor.

After the Revolt of the Earls in 1075 Judith’s husband, Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria, was executed and William betrothed her to Simon I de Senlis. She refused to marry him and fled England, so William confiscated her estates and allowed Simon to marry Judith’s eldest daughter Maud. Simon received estates including Merton and Piddington as part of the honour of Huntingdon.

In 1152 Simon II de Senlis inherited Piddington and almost immediately granted it to the Priory of St Frideswide, Oxford. In 1153 Simon II died and his heir, King Malcolm IV of Scotland, confirmed the grant of Piddington to the Priory. However, Malcolm’s heir-apparent, William the Lion, took Piddington back from the Priory. In about 1174 Henry II deprived William of all his titles and lands in England and granted the Earldom of Huntingdon to Simon III de Senlis. Simon acknowledged the Priory’s claim to Piddington but continued to hold the overlordship himself, even ignoring a Papal bull upholding the Priory’s rights.

Joan of Piddington had held the manor of Simon II de Senlis, and in about 1183 she married Aubrey de Dammartin, son of Albéric I de Mello and Dammartin, Grand Chamberman of France. After Aubrey’s death the Crown held Piddington in escheat for several years before it passed to his heir, Reynold de Dammartin. In the Anglo-French War of 1202–14 Reynold supported Philip II of France against King John, for which he was deprived all of his English estates. In 1213 Reynold’s estates were restored, but when he died in 1227 Henry III seized them again.

In 1270 Henry III granted Piddington to Alan Plukenet, in exchange for a manor in the New Forest. In 1309 his son, Alan II, granted Piddington to Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester, who in turn granted it to John de Hadlow, lord of nearby Boarstall.

In 1326 Despenser was executed for rebelling against Edward II. His estates were forfeited, but de Hadlow was allowed to keep Piddington until he died in 1346. But in 1331 St Frideswide’s Priory began a lawsuit to recover Piddington from John de Hadlow.

In 1337 Edward III granted Piddington to Nicholas de la Beche of Aldworth and in 1340 de la Beche was licensed to grant Piddington to Sir John Sutton, lord of Dudley. In 1347 Sir John was licensed to grant Piddington to John de Peyto for life, with reversion to Sir John thereafter. Title was then disputed between the Sutton and de Peyto families, but in 1359 the Priory finally succeeded in regaining the manor. St Frideswide’s Priory then retained Piddington until 1525, when Cardinal Wolsey suppressed the Priory to found his Cardinal’s College. In 1530 Henry VIII deposed Wolsey and in 1532 Piddington passed to Christ Church, Oxford.

However, in 1553 Piddington was granted to Thomas Dynham, lord of the manors of Brill and Boarstall. In 1634 Thomas’s grandson John Dynham died leaving his estates to his daughters, Mary and Alice. Piddington seems to have passed to Mary, as her daughter, Margaret Lewis, was lady of the manor in 1661. Her daughter, Mary Jephson, inherited Piddington in 1672 and had married Sir John Aubrey, 2nd Baronet, by 1691. On her death in 1717 Mary’s stepson Sir John Aubrey, 3rd Baronet, inherited Piddington, and it remained with the Aubrey baronets until Sir Thomas Digby Aubrey, 7th Baronet, died in 1856 and the title became extinct.

A cousin of Sir Thomas, Elizabeth Sophia Ricketts, then inherited Piddington. Her son Charles Aubrey Ricketts inherited the manor from her and took the name Charles Aubrey Aubrey. He died in 1901, leaving Piddington to Sir Henry Aubrey- Fletcher, 4th Baronet, who was the great grandson of Sir John Aubrey, 3rd Baronet. Sir Henry Aubrey- Fletcher, 6th Baronet, also known as the detective novelist Henry Wade, inherited the manor in 1937 and held it until his death in 1969.

Piddington was originally part of the ecclesiastical parish of Ambrosden. By 1152 “Ralph the hermit” had established Holy Cross chapel on Muswell Hill, about 1 mile south of the village. Until the English Reformation, Piddington villagers used to process to the chapel on Christian feast days. The last ruins of the chapel disappeared in the early 1800s.

St Nicholas’ Church
St Nicholas’ Church

The chapel of Saint Nicholas in Piddington is known to have existed by 1309 and is now Piddington’s parish church. Its Early English chancel was built in about 1300, but has an ornate Decorated Gothic sedilia and Easter Sepulchre carved in about 1350. There is a canonical sundial on the south wall. In the 14th century the Decorated Gothic south aisle was added, with a four- bay arcade and some new two-light windows, but also re-using two Early English lancet windows presumably from the south wall of the nave. The present belltower was built in the 16th century.

Decorated Gothic sedilia in the church.
Decorated Gothic sedilia in the church

The church was repaired in 1826 and then restored in 1855. In 1898 it was restored again under the architect John Oldrid Scott, whose alterations included replacing the chancel arch. A 14th-century wall painting of Saint Christopher on the north wall of the nave was discovered in 1896 and restored in 1935.

The Congregational chapel in the village was founded in 1825 and enlarged at a later date. It was still used for worship in 1951 but has since been converted into a private house.

A Sunday school was founded in 1818. It became a day school supported by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education in 1858, and a new school building was erected in 1863. In 1925 it was reorganised as a junior and infants’ school. It was still open in 1952 but has since closed.