Steeple Claydon

The oldest items found in Steeple Claydon are a Neolithic polished greenstone axe that may come from Langdale Pike that was found in the Glebe allotments and some Neolithic flint flakes found in the allotments south of Camp Close. Roman pottery was found in the fields east of the village. A Roman coin hoard was found in a pot near the 'Great Pond' in Sir Thomas Chaloners Wood in the 17th century.


There is a possible Saxon meeting place or moot near the church where the ancient hundred of Lamua may have held courts. Steeple Claydon is recorded in Domesday and late Saxon pottery has also been discovered in the Camp Close Allotments.


The parish was part of Bernwood Forest from before that time. Bernwood had been a hunting forest from the time of Edward the Confessor. It grew to its largest extent under Henry II. The whole area was not covered by woods; in the medieval period a forest was a place where deer roamed for hunting and so included open land, villages and fields. All those who lived in the forest were not allowed to hunt or even gather wood without a special licence from the king. Bernwood Forest was finally disafforested in the reign of James I in 1635, although it had been shrinking in size since the time of King John (1199-1216).


Aerial photograph of shrunken medieval village and ridge-and-furrowSteeple Claydon was bigger in the medieval period and earthworks of the medieval village can be seen north of the village and around Manor Farm, which is on the site of the medieval manor house. The manor is recorded as having vineyards in 1297 when, presumably, the climate was good enough for them! There was also a windmill in the parish, as recorded in the late 12th century and in 1556 and it may be that the mound in Mill Field supported a windmill. It could be that the mill referred to was a watermill, which may have been on Claydon Plank.


St Michael's churchSt Michael's church was built in the 14th century and the nave raised in the 16th to 17th century. Many of the other listed buildings in Steeple Claydon date to the 17th century. The vicarage was a 17th century house but it burned down in 1899 and the current one was built on the same site. One house on Rhenold's Close dates back to the 15th century. It is cruck-built and one of the crucks was dated with tree-rings and was found to have been felled in 1431. A row of three cottages on Queen Catherine Road was thought to have originally been a pair of 16th century cruck-built houses, but dendrochronological dating dated one of the timbers to 1445. Another building on West End was thought to be 17th century. Building recording revealed that the house was two bays of an originally three bay cruck-built house that had been altered in about 1600 and the tree-ring dating uncovered that it was built at 1448.


There are earthworks of a possible Civil War entrenchment at Camp House and Close, but if any earthworks existed they have now been ploughed flat. The remains in the grounds of Camp House may actually be the edge of a quarry. There is a historical record of 1644 that Cromwell stayed in a barn in the grounds of Camp House before the siege of nearby Hillesden House. After the Civil War Dr Chaloner opened a school in Steeple Claydon in 1656 with £12 a year. It was enlarged in the 19th century and a village hall built in 1902. It is now a library.


A couple of ponds in the parish were probably used for different things. One was probably used for fish but was disturbed when the railway was built. Another star-shaped pond was recorded on a 1788 map and it seems to have been where Pond Wood is today. There is a depression in there and it is thought to have been for breeding and capturing ducks.


The latest changes to the parish are the railway lines. The Bletchley to Banbury line passes through this parish. It was opened in 1850 and was closed to passengers in 1961. The Great Central was also built to Quainton Road. It opened in 1899 and was closed in 1966. Some of the brick piers or a bridge carrying the Great Central railway across the Bletchley-Banbury line near Shepherd's Furze Farm.