North Moreton Church
North Moreton church is 13th Century and has been described as the most perfect medieval church in Berkshire, although after the local government boundary changes of 1971 the church is now situated in South Oxfordshire.
The church is notable for the St. Nicholas or Stapleton Chapel whose east window contains a superb series of late 13th century stained glass showing fifteen colorful scenes from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Peter, St. Paul & St. Nicholas. The window is among the earliest in the county and supposedly among the finest. The chapel itself was remodeled in the decorated style in 1295 at the foundation of Stapleton's chantry by Sir Miles Stapleton who acquired his Berkshire lands through marriage. By misfortune Sir Miles was never laid to rest in the church as he was killed (with his two sons) at the Battle of Bannockburn whilst serving King Edward I.
The medieval manor of North Moreton is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The manor house, where the Stapleton family lived was situated East of the church but can now only be identified by the remains of a moat. North Moreton retains many houses from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, despite the devastating fire in 1807 which destroyed one quarter of the village including one whole side of the main village street.
North Moreton has always been a village existing solely within Berkshire boundaries until 1974 a year which saw comprehensive reorganization of local government in England and Wales. An indication as to how deeply North Moreton was embedded within Berkshire is indicated by the fact that Abingdon was the county town of Berkshire until 1867. Reading only became the new county town in that year taking over from Abingdon which remained part of the county until 1974. On this date several of the historic counties disappeared, new counties were created and all had significant boundary changes. North Moreton was swallowed up within Oxfordshire and despite losing the title of being within the 'Royal' county of Berkshire it is probably safer for the village to be within Oxfordshire.
"The first record of North Moreton is in the year 944 and it is one of many villages in historic Berkshire whose name ends with ton meaning a ` homestead'. The more signifies, simply, a fen. With the arrival of the Normans in 1066 there came in due course Norman rule and a Norman church. North Moreton seldom had a resident lord of the manor though influential families such as the Stapletons played an important role over three centuries. The Stapletons largely rebuilt the church in the thirteenth century, endowing Stapleton's Chantry with some unique glass from the period." The subsequent centuries have not been without their high and low points. "At the very end of the sixteenth century there was a cause celebre' in the famous witch-craft case bringing North Moreton to the national stage and leading to the allegedly-bewitched Anne Gunter going before the Court of Star Chamber and before King James I himself. An unusual feature of the Cromwellian period was the high number of marriages performed in All Saints church probably attributable to the lords of the manor being relations of Oliver Cromwell. North Moreton became acceptable for church weddings even when nationally they were forbidden.
Village life for centuries produced its even tenor of the rotating on of crops and the struggle for existence - North Moreton was never a rich village as the lack of any monuments in the church testifies. But change in many directions came in the last one hundred and fifty years. The Enclosure Award (late- in 1849 ) stabilized the economy of the village. The growth of Didcot and the development of railways gave employment and a new vicar, Albert Barff Â brought fresh vigor to the community.
The village paid its debt to the nation in two World Wars and the later twentieth century has seen a change in population with many professional people making their way to London daily as commuters. But, in the end, the sounds of sheep bleating, combine harvesters at harvest time and of tractors down the High Street, remain evocative of a North Moreton whose eternal roots are in the soil."
Click on the corresponding map to see what the village looked like in the:
A portion of the old 1:25000 map