St Mary’s plays a major part in the history, traditions and heritage of our community, an ancient heart which entitles us to consider ourselves a village and not just a collection of dwellings. Many families have their ancestors buried in the churchyard or, latterly, in the graves across the lane. The church continues to be so much at the centre of our village life with weddings, christenings & funerals, all very well attended.
There are suggestions that there has been a church on the current site since at least the eleventh century, but the oldest part of the existing church is the tower which was built in 1425 and described as ‘plain Perpendicular work, lofty and well-proportioned, containing three storeys and a battlement parapet’. It is well worth making a visit to the churchyard to stand at the base of this tower, look up and get a feeling for the sheer size and mass of it. Before the tower was built, there had been earlier structures. At the time of the Norman Conquest there was a wooden church and a subsequent stone building was consecrated in the 13th century. Later, New College was granted the manor and was able to put up a much enlarged and improved building during the century after the tower was completed. However three hundred or so years later, the church had been allowed to fall into a ruinous condition and the then Rector, the Reverend C. B. Mount, instigated the rebuilding of the main body of the church. Work commenced in 1866. The new work was in imitation of the previous Perpendicular style and is what we have today. The porch on the south side was added at this time and in 1884 the stained glass window at the east end was put in (by the Rev. Fox, as a memorial for his mother). Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was commemorated by the installation of the clock (a gift to the parish by the Reverend C. B. Mount) and a memorial plaque. In keeping with tradition the a memorial plaque to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee was unveiled at a packed Diamond Jubilee service in the church in June 2012.
Inside the church you will find an intriguing history & guide to the church placed there by The Friends of St Mary’s – read it and gain an insight into all the treasures in the church and then go outside and track down the grave of James Allen who was murdered in 1863. It is widely believed that this is one of only two tombstones in England to include the dreadful word ‘murder’.
We are sure that any visitor making the effort to visit will be amply rewarded and surely agree with the villagers of Upper Heyford that St Mary’s is one of our small community’s most valuable assets.
Church Electoral Roll
There is a need to compile a new church electoral roll, so for those who are interested in registering, the form below can downloaded.
Please return completed forms to: Andrew Gotch, Chapel House, High St, Upper Heyford.