by Charles Moorhen on 15/09/11 at 2:33 am
A free non fiction article. The Oxfordshire village of Clifton Hampden, on the banks of the River Thames, has much to offer those interested in history and for those who love to visit English villages.
Three miles east of the Oxfordshire town of Abington, England, at a crossroads on the A415 leading to Burcot, Chislehampton and Long Wittenham, stands the charming old English village of Clifton Hampden.
Evidence exists that a settlement was in place on this stretch of the River Thames as far back as Saxon times. When Pope Eugenius III confirmed the possessions of Dorchester Abbey (Dorchester-on-Thames) in 1140, a chapel was already established there.
St. Michael and All Angels, Clifton Hampden
The present-day church of St. Michael and All Angels replaced the ancient chapel and dominates the village, standing on one of only two rocky outcrops along the entire stretch of the famous River Thames. Windsor Castle, further downriver towards London, is built on the other. Although St. Michael’s was much restored in the Victorian era, some evidence of the former medieval church still remains.
The small churchyard is interesting for a number of reasons. It was at one time part of a farm until 1819 when it was gifted to the church by the owner. Up until that time all burials took place in the nearby village of Burcot.
Two burials in Clifton Hampden churchyard are worth noting. The first is that of John Shannon DSO DFC RAAF, a WW2 squadron leader who survived as one of the bomber crews that took part in the ‘Dambusters Raid’ over Germany. The second is of William Dyke. At the age of 20, Dyke was a private in the 1st Foot Guards (later to become the Grenadier Guards) when he accidentally fired the first shot at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Moving away from the church towards the centre of the older part of the village, a number of beautiful thatched cottages can be seen dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. While at the end of the High Street is an area known as ‘Butt’s Furlong’. The name does not derive from that of the person who once owned the land, as is often the case with English field names, but dates back to medieval times. It was obligatory at that time for all men of fighting age to undergo regular archery practice in readiness for war or invasion. A ‘butt’, therefore, was the area where the targets were placed; hence the name ‘Butt’s Furlong’.