Sutton Courtenay

Sutton Courtenay is a largish straggling village on the south side of the River Thames. The extreme south of the village has nothing to commend it at all, being mainly unattractive 1950s housing. However, as you travel north along High Street towards the centre of the village it starts to look more attractive with a mixture of older buldings and more expensive modern houses.

Location map:

The geographic centre of the village is the junction of High Street and Church Street, but the historic village centre, centred on the large Green, is a quarter of a mile further on along Church Street. The quarter-mile stretch between the Green and the road junction appears to be rather a no-man's land with the grounds of The Manor House on one side and of The Abbey on the other, and appears to split the village in two!

The name of the village comes from 'Sutton', which meant 'South Town' (i.e. 'South Farm') in Saxon times and 'Courtenay' from from the name of Reginald Courtenay who became Lord of Sutton in the 12th century.

The Manor House, together with the house now known as Norman Hall, is on the site of a former Royal palace, and Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I lived here at one time. Most of the present building dates from the 14th & 16th centuries. However, one wing dates mostly from the 13th century and part of it, including a vaulted undercroft, dates from the 11th century.

Reginald’s younger son, Robert, expanded the buildings at Sutton and erected the house now known as 'Norman Hall' late in the 12th century. It may originally have been a chapel and was part of the same complex as the manor house until early in the 14th century.

The building now known as 'The Abbey' was the Rectory House which was built in the 13th century. It incorporated some of an earlier dilapidated Parsonage that had been used as a Grange for Abingdon Abbey.

All Saints Church has a 12th century tower but the rest of the building dates from 13th-16th century. During the Civil War, the vicar of Sutton, a staunch parliamentarian, kept stores of powder and ammunition in the church - King Charles was of course not far away at Oxford. In 1643 the whole lot unfortunately exploded, shattered the glass in the windows and damaged the tower. The graves of former statesman Herbert Asquith and author George Orwell are in the churchyard. Asquith's second wife brought the family to Sutton Courtenay, buying the Wharf in 1912 and converting its barn. George Orwell was not a parishioner but wished to be buried in a country churchyard!

There are still four pubs in the village - The George and Dragon and The Swan are both on The Green. The Fish, known for its French cuisine, is along the Appleford Road, and The Plough is in High Street.

Sutton Courtenay is about 3 miles north-east of Didcot and about half way along the B4016 between the villages of Appleford-on-Thames and Drayton.

Images of Sutton Courtenay:
(Click to view)

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