Bicester (St. Eadburg)

BICESTER (St. Eadburg), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Ploughley, county of Oxford, 12½ miles (N. E. by N.) from Oxford, and 55 (N. W. by W.) from London; comprising the townships of Market-End and King's-End, and containing 3022 inhabitants. This place, by the Saxons called Burenceaster and Burnacester, both implying a fortified place, is supposed to derive its name either from its founder, Birinus, a canonized Saxon prelate; from Bernwood, a forest in Buckinghamshire, not far from which it is situated; or from the small stream of the Bure, on which it stands. A priory for a prior and eleven canons of the Augustine order was founded in 1182, and dedicated to St. Eadburg, by Gilbert Basset, Baron of Haddington, and his wife, Egiline de Courteney: the revenue, at the Dissolution, was £167. 2. 10. In 1355, a royal license was granted to Nicholas Jurdan, warden of the chapel of St. John the Baptist, for the establishment of an hospital for poor and infirm people; but the design does not appear to have been carried into execution. During the civil war in the reign of Charles I., the inhabitants suffered by repeated exactions levied on them by both parties; and, in 1643, a skirmish took place, in which the royalists were defeated and driven through the town.

Bicester is situated in a valley, on the banks of a stream which falls into the river Ray, which joins the Cherwell, near Islip; it is neatly built, and amply supplied with water. The female inhabitants are employed in making pillow-lace; and the town is noted for excellent malt-liquor. The market is on Friday; and fairs are held on the Friday in Easter-week, the first Friday in June, August 5th, and the third Friday in December; there are also statute-fairs on the first three Fridays after Michaelmas. The county magistrates hold pettysessions for the district every Friday: the powers of the county debt-court of Bicester, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Bicester. The Living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £16; net income, £250; patron and impropriator, Lady Page Turner: the tithes for King's-End were commuted for land and annual money payments in 1793. There is an excellent parsonage-house, with a large and productive garden; the premises have been greatly improved by the incumbent, the Rev. J. W. Watts. The church, which is supposed to have been built about the year 1400, on the site of a former edifice, is a spacious and handsome structure with a lofty square tower, and contains many interesting monuments and some antique sculptures. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A school is supported partly by endowment; and lands producing about £200 per annum, and a few minor charitable bequests, are appropriated to the relief of the poor. The union of Bicester comprises 38 parishes and places, of which 36 are in the county of Oxford, and two in that of Bucks, and contains a population of 15,201; the union house is situated near the town. In the vicinity, on the Londonroad, is Graven-hill Wood, on the north side of which ran the Akeman-street; and not far from the town, on the west side, is St. Eadburg's well, famous before the Reformation for miraculous cures, and which proved very useful in supplying water to the town during the dry summer of 1666. In making some excavations in 1819, the foundations of the priory, a vast mass of sculptured fragments, pieces of painted glass, and other relics, were discovered.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.