IN THE past the area was scythed once or twice a year for hay and at other times grazed by a few sheep, goats or cattle – often the property of the vicar.

Although a church has been here for more than 1,000 years, the earliest burial for which a written record still exists is that of William Ladyman who died in 1636 and the earliest grave marker which is still decipherable is dated 1684.

In fact, 80 per cent of all burials in the records have no grave marker.

About 20 families where the ones who had a marker; from the Manor or else tradesmen or processionals – millers, bakers, masons, smiths, wheelwrights, farmers, clergymen and publicans.

There is a mix of memorial styles, ranging from chest tombs, railed tombs, head and foot markers, curbed plots, coped stones and horizontal slabs as well as the smaller cremation markers. It is the place these people held in the village community which remains of interest today.

Walking clockwise round the church, there is a plaque on the wall of the tower dedicated to Thomas Pulley who was churchwarden and tythingman (an elected official charged with maintaining the peace and curbing disorderly conduct).

One of his responsibilities was to attempt to get the father of a child born out of wedlock to pay for that child’s upkeep.

After Thomas’s death, two Bletchingdon men, were each made to pay £30 to answer for the child of Matilda Pulley, one of Thomas’s daughters.

His will details bequests to his wife, five daughters and two sons. Thomas (described in Jackson’s Oxford Journal as a respectable farmer) left each of his children a bequest, and his wife Anne received £3,000 - “all and everything, my ready money, securities for money, household furniture, farming stock, cattle and implements in husbandry etc provided she continues my widow” Control from beyond the grave.

Just beyond the east wall of the church is the grave of Esther, widow of Uriah Read. This stone is unusual in that Uriah and his children were labourers, not professional people.

Somehow the family prospered so that Uriah’s great-grandson purchased property when the village was sold in 1918 and he subsequently gave the land on which the Memorial Village Hall was erected in 1921.

Pictured are the four Coggins graves – Ann, Thirza, Clementina and Eliza - all daughters of William and Ann Coggins of Weston Park Farm.

Oxford Mail:

William and Ann had nine daughters in all, six of whom died before their 20th birthday – 19th century life was hard.

On the east wall of the church is a monument to Stuart Bevan, who, along with his wife, lived at the Manor for a few years. He is remembered for giving all the schoolchildren a ‘new minted’ sixpence to mark the silver jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The wall shows a change in stonework marking the original chancel opening of 6.4 metres. This chancel extended 11.7 metres into the churchyard and must have been impressive but, sadly, it was removed when the building was renovated in 1743.

There is a change in level across the width of the churchyard. This shows the original boundary of the area.

A farm once stood on the lower level but was destroyed by fire in 1850 and then, 40 years later the land was taken into the churchyard, the Bletchingdon road realigned and the space began to be used for burials.

This, newer, area of the churchyard is full of aconites and scillas in spring, while closer to the church there are primroses and ‘fox and cubs’ later.

The Ancil family came to the village in the early 20th century, farming and training racehorses and there are many tales of the two sons who rode in many races. One horse - Carfax - probably cost many in the village a few shillings when it ran in, but didn’t win, the Grand National.

After a day at the races, when both brothers fell, they drove home together, one steering and using the pedals, the other changing gear.

Both had broken bones on their left side.

There are two chest tombs, and both are listed monuments. One, close to the path, was built for Richard Williams who was a mason and set out details in his will of the design and type of stone – Horton Stone – to be used for his tomb. Pictured is one of the carved corner pillars.

Oxford Mail:

Finally, Samuel Badger, along with his wife Mary and daughter Hannah is exceptional in a parish where the Manor owned all the land, as Samuel was a yeoman, a term usually denoting a free man with his own land. He had been churchwarden here, a ‘notable’ farmer who also sold peat – presumably dug from the local peat pits- of ‘unblemished character’ at the time of his death.

Thus in one small village churchyard we move from a man hoping to control his wife from the grave, via another who chose the stone for his own tomb to an owner of the Manor who was long remembered by children alive in 1935 to a family who prospered from humble origins and were able to donate land to the village.