A Short History of Steeple Claydon

The Beginnings

Claydon is really claegiga11 dune, which is Anglo-Saxon for the village the clayey hill, and a better name could not have been found.

Map of the area

Claydon's clay has been the controlling factor in its history. If it had not been for the grass which the clay grows and the bricks into which the clay can be turned, there would be no Steeple Claydon to-day.

But left to itself clay in England only means a rushy swamp on low-lying ground, and on higher ground a forest of oak and ash with a thick undergrowth of thorn, holly and bramble. And that is what Claydon must have looked like during the Roman occupation of Britain and for thousands of years before an impenetrable jungle into which no human being had perhaps ever once set foot.

The first trace that we have of man's presence in Claydon is a pot of Roman coins, which was found in 1616 under a tree by the Great Pond (now drained off; a little to the east of what is now Calvert Station ). The coins were all of Carausius (286-293 A.D.) and Allectus (293-6 A.D.), and were perhaps deposited in Claydon by some fugitive, who was later killed or captured, during the disturbances that accompanied the fall of Allectus.

The depositor may have made his way to the Great Pond either from Akeman Street (3 miles away) or from the Bicester, Water Stratford Road (5 miles away). It is also possible that there was a Roman road, an off-shoot of Akeman Street, passing through Steeple Claydon parish. 

All through the Middle Ages down to the end of the eighteenth century the main road from London to Banbury (via Aylesbury, East Claydon and Buckingham) went through the northern end of the parish, leaving it originally at Kingsbridge and later at Whitebridge.

Now some thirteenth century documents refer to the Steeple., Claydon portion of this road as the road called 'Alstoneswey,' the way all made of s tones. This looks very much as if a bit of Roman road had survived. In the thirteenth century nobody would ever have bothered to transport stone to Claydon (there is none in the parish) for road-making.

Steeple' Claydon was first settled, sometime in the seventh century. in 1660 the Buckingham-Bicester district was occupied by a tribe of Middle Angles called the Fins, who were among the last Anglo-Saxons to become Christian and had apparently followed up the Ouse into Bucks.

Some twenty Fin families seem to have built a wooden encampment on the high ground where Claydon Church now stands and set to work clearing the forest and draining the swamps. They and their descendants were arable farmers and the ' open fields ' system of agriculture they Instituted survived in Claydon for over a thousand years.

Apparently they prospered; at any rate they were soon establishing colonies at Bot! (An Anglian word meaning building; Botolph is a modern conception), East and Middle Claydon. And the Hundred Court of the district, the equivalent of our Petty Sessions, is believed to have been held on a mound in what is now the churchyard.