Stratton Audley

The village of Stratton Audley lies just over two miles north-east of Bicester.

The Domesday Book of 1086 records that Robert D’Oyly held five hides of land at Stratton. Like many of his manors, Stratton later became part of the Honour of Wallingford. The Honour of Wallingford became part of the Earldom of Cornwall and thence in the 15th century a number of former Wallingford manors became part of the Duke of Suffolk’s Honour of Ewelme.

The Audley family became tenants of the manor by marriage in 1244 and had built a moated castle there by 1263. Stratton remained in the Audley family until Hugh Audley died in 1347, leaving the manor to his daughter Margaret, wife of Ralph de Stafford, 1st Earl of Stafford. The castle no longer survives, but its remains, now a scheduled ancient monument in the field to the south-east of the church, were excavated in 1870.

In 1431 the estate was settled to one of his descendants Humphrey, Earl of Stafford who was created 1st Duke of Buckingham “for eminent services to Henry VI”. Humphrey died in 1460 commanding the Lancastrian army.

In 1461 Henry, 2nd Duke of Buckingham succeeded to the land. He materially helped towards establishing Richard III on the throne through his intrigues in June 1483 with the Lord Mayor and citizens of London, being implicated in the murder of the Princes in the Tower. He rebelled, was betrayed and beheaded in 1483. The estate was confiscated.

The Duke’s son Edward had been under age at that time, but later found favour with Henry VIII and the estate was returned. However, he eventually fell out with the King who then granted Stratton to an earlier family branch member. After their death the estate was held by Trustees.

In 1551 the Borlase family inherited the village and although they lived in Marlow, they appear to have arranged for the building of the Manor House in the 16th Century.

In 1672 Sir John Borlase inherited and settled in the Manor House at Stratton Audley. His father had fought in the Civil Wars on the Royalist side, with the result that his estates were confiscated but later restored during the period of Parliament.

Sir John and his brother Baldwin are buried and commemorated in the Church, Sir John with the ornate baroque monument and Baldwin with a large plaque opposite the organ.

In 1763 Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren inherited the estate. He was a distinguished Naval Officer and took part in the Battle of the Nile. He ended his naval career as Admiral of the White and on retirement became an Ambassador to the Court of Russia.

The entire Parish remained in single ownership until it was sold off in lots in an auction in 1890.

The present manor house was originally built in the 16th century. It was altered in the latter half of the 17th century and partly rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries. It continued to be owned by single families until the mid 1960s, when it was divided into apartments.

There was some enclosure of land in the parish in the 16th century, and by 1779 the enclosed land totalled 300 acres. Arable farming continued on an open field system until Parliament passed an inclosure act in 1780 to enable all Stratton Audley’s open fields and common lands to be enclosed.

St Mary & St Edburga’s Church
St Mary & St Edburga’s Church

The parish church of Saint Mary and Saint Edburga dates from the 12th century, but was largely rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Decorated Gothic bell tower was added late in the 14th century. The church has a Jacobean pulpit and elm table, the latter dated 1636. There is also an oak tower screen, which was made in the 20th century by the Oxford Diocesan Surveyor T. Lawrence Dale.

In 1552 the church had three bells plus a Sanctus bell. The bells were re-hung in 1636. Richard Keene of Woodstock cast the present third, fourth and fifth bells in 1693 and re-cast the Sanctus bell in about 1699. Henry III Bagley of Chacombe cast the tenor bell in 1721. Pack and Chapman of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast the treble bell in 1779, completing the present ring of five bells. The ring was re-hung in 1902 but part of the old 1636 frame was preserved in the church.

A school was opened in the village in 1808, supported by Sir John Borlase Warren, 1st Baronet, who provided a house and salary for the schoolmaster. New premises for the school were later opened in 1837. It was affiliated to the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. In 1929 it was reorganised as a junior school and senior pupils were transferred to the school at Fringford. It became a voluntary controlled school in 1951, but has since closed.