Brackley, a municipal borough, a market-town, and head of a union, county court district, and petty sessional division, in Northamptonshire. The town stands on a descent at the confluence of two head streams of the river Ouse, adjacent to the Banbury and Bletchley branch of the L. & N.W.R., on which it has a station, 9½ miles ESE of Banbury. It was a place of note in the times of the Saxons; was nearly destroyed by the Danes; rose again to importance, and was walled and had a castle. Tournaments were held in its vicinity, at Bayard's Green, in 1249 and subsequent years, and the barons met at it in 1215 to treat with King John, and again in 1264 with Henry III. The town consists mainly of a single street nearly a mile long, and contains some good houses, chiefly built of stone. The town-hall, an edifice resting on arches, was erected in 1706 by the Duke of Bridgewater at a cost of £2000. St John's Hospital, of which the restored chapel marks the site, was founded in the time of Henry I. by Robert Ie Bossu, Earl of Leicester, for a master and six fellows; passed to Magdalen College, Oxford, and was a retreat of the members of that college during the plague in Oxford in the reign of Henry VIII. It has now been restored, and is used by the college school and the inhabitants. The chapel of it still shows interesting architectural features, and once had tombs of several noblemen, and the hall contained 105 blazoned shields of prelates and distinguished laymen. It was restored and reopened for public worship in 1870. Another hospital, dedicated to St Leonard, stood in the town, but has disappeared. St Peter's Church is chiefly Early English, with a tower and an Early Decorated font. The chancel of it was restored in 1886. St James' Church gave place to a cemetery-chapel in connection with its burying-ground (now closed), but is again used for divine worship. The parishes of St Peter and St James were united for civil purposes in 1884. The living is a consolidated vicarage in the diocese of Peterborough; net yearly value, £210 with residence, in the gift of the Earl of Ellesmere. There are Congregational and Wesleyan chapels, a grammar school in connection with Magdalen College, Oxford, six almshouses, and several charities. The town is a head post and telegraph office, has two banks, a police station with a magistrates' room, some good inns, a cottage hospital, and a workhouse, with accommodation for 200 inmates. A weekly market is held on Wednesday, and every alternate Wednesday in the month for cattle. A fair for cattle is held on 11 Dec., and a pleasure fair the day following. A great wool trade flourished in the reign of Edward III., and for some time before and after, but the chief trade now is in agriculture and brewing. The town is a fashionable resort for sportsmen during the fox-hunting season. It claims to have been incorporated by Henry III.; it sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward VI. till disfranchised by the Act of 1832. The old charter lapsed in 1886, and by a new one granted the same year the government of the town was vested in a council of 16-mayor, aldermen, and 12 councillors. The town is well lighted and drained. There is also an efficient public water supply and an irrigation farm. The sanitary improvements have cost upwards of £25,000. The town gives the title of Viscount to the Earl of Ellesmere. Samuel Clarke, the famous orientalist, a contributor to Walton's " Polyglot" was a native. Acreage, 3489; population of the municipal borough and civil parish, 2591; of the ecclesiastical, 2614. Halse is a hamlet in the parish of St Peter. The manor house, a splendid mansion of stone in the Early and Late Tudor styles, is a seat of the Ellesmeres. The Lodge, Brackley Hill, East Hill, Market House, and Brackley House are chief residences.
The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.
|Poor Law union||Brackley|
Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.
The registers, including that of St. James' parish, date from the year 1560.
Ancestry.co.uk, in association with the Northamptonshire Record Office, have images of the Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts for Northamptonshire online.
Church of England
The church of St. James was pulled down in 1836 and a chapel erected on the site for the performance of burial services, but this is now used for divine worship.
St. Peter (parish church)
The church of St. Peter is an ancient and spacious edifice of stone in mixed styles, consisting of chancel, nave of four bays with clerestory, aisles, south chapel with crypt beneath it and a fine embattled western tower containing a clock and 6 bells: the crypt is groined and supported by a central pillar; the church was re-seated in 1873, and in 1886 the chancel was enlarged and restored, from plans by John Oldrid Scott esq. F.S.A. at a cost of £2,500: nine of the windows are stained and were the gifts of various parishioners: there are sittings for 700 persons.
There is a Congregational chapel, erected in 1836, with 250 sittings.
There is a Wesleyan chapel, erected in 1905, at a cost of £3,300, and seating 500 persons.
Directories & Gazetteers
The Description for Brackley from Pigot & Co. Directory of Northamptonshire, 1830.
We have transcribed the entry for Brackley from the following:
- Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848 (Brackley)
- Kelly's Directory of Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, and Northamptonshire, 1914
Land and Property
The Manor House was entirely rebuilt and greatly enlarged in 1875-76-77 with the exception of some portions belonging to the old house, which have been carefully retained; the modern mansion, a splendid structure of stone in the Early and Late Tudor styles, situated at the upper end of the town, occupies a site of 6 acres of ground, and commands extensive views of the surrounding country.
The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Northamptonshire is available to browse.
Online maps of Brackley are available from a number of sites:
- Bing (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- Google Streetview.
- National Library of Scotland. (Old maps)
- old-maps.co.uk (Old Ordnance Survey maps to buy).
- Streetmap.co.uk (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- A Vision of Britain through Time. (Old maps)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Northamptonshire papers online:
Brackley was the head of a Poor Law Union which comprised the following parishes in 1911: in Northamptonshire:-Astwell & Falcutt, Aynho, Brackley St. Peter, Croughton, Culworth, Evenley, Eydon, Farthinghoe, Greatworth, Helmdon, Hinton-in-the-Hedges, King's Sutton, Marston St. Lawrence, Moreton Pinkney, Newbottle, Radstone, Steane, Stuchbury, Sulgrave, Syresham, Thenford, Thorpe Mandeville & Whitfield. In Bucks:-Billesden, Turweston & Westbury. In Oxon:-Finmere & Mixbury. The population of the union in 1911 was 10,941; area, 55,825 acres; rateable value of the entire union in April, 1914, £83,989; of Northamptonshire parishes, £75,191.
Magdalen College school, founded about the year 1447 by William of Waynflete, who endowed it with £13 6s. 8d. a year, for 10 boys of the now united parish of St. Peter and St. James, was thoroughly restored in 1860; in 1903 the head master's house was enlarged and the schools greatly extended by the addition of an assembly hall, chemical and physical laboratories &c. at a cost of about £5,000; the President & Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford, appoint and pay the head master and act as governors of the school; there is a house for the master, to which a wing containing dormitories and rooms for the masters was added in 1896, at a cost of about £1,600; the school buildings were enlarged and restored in 1904, when a hall and laboratories were added; in 1909 additional room was provided by the acquisition of the old Hospital of St. John; the number of boys in 1914 was about 70; there is a leaving exhibition to Oxford or Cambridge.
The Public Elementary School was erected, with house for mistress, in 1870, on a site given by the trustees of the Bridgwater estate & Magdalen College, at a cost of about £2,500, of which £500 was given by the Earl of Ellesmere; an infants' school room was added in 1897 at a cost of £800, defrayed in part by the trustees of Bridgwater estate.
The Workhouse, in Banbury road, is a building of brick & stone, erected in 1830, for 200 inmates.