Ashbury and Idstone
Ashbury is a pretty, small village at the foot of the
Berkshire Downs with an attractive blend of chalk and
stone cottages, many of them thatched. In the centre is
a small triangular green with a well-kept war memorial
and a thoughtfully placed seat.
Ashbury is on the B4000, the road that links Lambourn,
the racehorse capital of the downs, with the Vale village
of Shrivenham. It is also
at the end of the B4507 which runs westwards along the
foot of the Downs from Wantage. This road gives superb
views over the Vale of White Horse to the north and the
lower slopes of the Downs in the south, which makes the
drive from Wantage even more worthwhile.
By comparison with other nearby villages the parish church,
the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, is large. Set on a
hilltop, it has fine views across the parish and is approached
by foot up a steep cobbled path to the entrance. Parts
of St. Mary's date from the 12th century although most
of the building dates only from the 13th to 15th centuries.
There has been a church at Ashbury since the 10th century
when monks attached to Glastonbury Abbey lived at Ashbury
The name Ashbury is thought to mean 'Ash Tree covered
Fort', the fort in question being an Iron Age hill fort
now known as Alfred's Castle, a couple of miles south
in the downs near Ashdown House and Park. King Alfred's
birthplace was later to become the Vale town of Wantage
and King Alfred, and his campaign against the Danes, is
linked either in fact or fiction to many places in and
around the Downs. A famous defeat of the Danes is said
to have been the result of The Battle of Ashdown which
is thought to have taken place near the Berkshire village
House and Park are a couple of miles to the south of Ashbury on the B4000. Ashdown House, once the residence of the Earls of
Craven, has been described as 'the perfect
doll's house' and is now owned by the National Trust.
In front of the house, next to the road, is a mysterious
field of 'petrified sheep'. These are thought to be debis
left by retreating glaciers.
Just north of the village, at Chapel Wick, a medieval
moat shows where a small chapel was built in 1220. Nearby
is the Manor House, sometimes known as Chapel Manor because
there is a small oratory over the porch. The manor of
Ashbury remained in the ownership of Glastonbury Abbey
until the Dissolution in 1539. This building dates substantially
from the 15th century and contains many 15th century features.
This is the extreme south-west of the county and Ashbury
is almost the last village in Oxfordshire with only the
small village of Idstone before the Wiltshire border, and
four miles further on are the outskirts of Swindon.
Idstone is a tiny hamlet with mainly brick-built houses
on the Swindon road, but the real charm of the hamlet
is off the road, where there are some attractive thatched
Ashbury is on the B4000 about three miles south-east