Mr Russell Leigh
Dorchester on Thames
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The Village of Dorchester on Thames
Dorchester-on-Thames is a small village, 9 miles south of Oxford. The village sits at the confluence of the rivers Thames and Thame. It is actually the River Thame that runs through the village.
There is evidence of human settlement in Dorchester from Neolithic times. To the south, Iron Age people occupied a hill fort on Castle Hill; later the Celtic people protected their settlement by building the Dyke Hills, a rare example of a pre-Roman town, about half a mile from the present village.
Dorchester today lies over the old Romano-British walled town, of which the southern and western boundaries can still be traced. This town became the centre of a Saxon settlement. The present day allotments were once the Hempcroft. Cynegils the king of the West Saxons was baptised in the River Thame by St Birinus in 635 and Dorchester became the episcopal centre for Wessex. Later it came under the control of Offa, King of Mercia, which led to the See of Dorchester stretching from the Thames to the Humber, in 1075 Remegius removed the See to Lincoln.
In 1140 Dorchester’s Augustinian monastery was founded and the Abbey was built on the old Saxon foundations. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the church building was saved for posterity through its purchase for £140 by local wealthy man Richard Beauforest who left it to the village in his will.
As Wallingford and Oxford grew, Dorchester’s importance as a centre decreased. However, its location on the main roads from Gloucester and from Oxford to London ensured its role as a focal point for travellers, with several inns as well as two stagecoach inns. The road was one of the earliest to become a toll road. The building of the bypass (the present A4074) in the 20th century brought further changes.
Please visit www.dorchester-on-thames.co.uk for further information.
Drayton St Leonard
Drayton St. Leonard is our neighbouring village. The River Thame passes by the south east corner of the village and is near the end of its journey, as two miles downstream it joins with the River Thames at Dorchester.
The village can be traced back several hundred years in its present form and can actually be traced back to medieval settlements. Of the present 100 houses about half have been built this century with the rest being older. There are several interesting old thatched cottages which nestle next to more modern ones.
The village church, St Catherine and St Leonard, is an interesting building built mainly of stone, though now pebble-dashed with most of it being several hundred years old. The village hall was formerly the original two roomed school and is used for many local functions. There are two working farms in the village.
Please visit www.dsl.iofm.net for further information.