Didcot described in 1923

FromĀ A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3

Didcot lies chiefly on a ridge running east and west between the Thames Valley on the north and the Hagbourne Marshes on the south. The village is situated a little to the north of the main road from Wantage to Wallingford. Between the church of All Saints and the Manor Farm, occupied by Mr. Dennis Napper, are clustered a few dwellinghouses and ancient cottages, the village smithy, and the elementary school opened in 1896. The Glebe Farm House or Old Rectory is an ancient halftimber building near the church, now used as a parish room.

West of the village ‘Didcot Field’ stretches to the parish boundary, where stands ‘Marshland Barn.’ The land north and east of the village is subdivided and inclosed to a far greater extent. During the 16th century the tenants complained bitterly of attempts to inclose the common land and convert the arable into pasture, stating that it was the lord’s intent to ‘pull down the whole town and convert it into pasture.’ A dispute as to the commonable nature of the ‘Frith’ near ‘the Marsh’ even led to an assault by the lord’s servants upon his farmer. Of the 1,120 acres contained within the parish 444 are now arable and 572 acres pasture land. The soil is chiefly chalk-drift upon a subsoil of Gault Clay and Upper Greensand on rubble.

The station of the Great Western railway to the north of the village was opened in 1840, and a branch line to Oxford was laid down in 1844. The development of this junction and the establishment of provender stores for the railway within this parish have recently led to a considerable increase in population. The new houses extend into North Hagbourne. A corn market is held on Tuesdays outside the station in a place formerly called Foxhall ground, and a wool fair is held yearly on the first Tuesday in July. There is a village feast on the Sunday after Old Michaelmas (11 October).

Copse Lane is a bridle-path leading to Sutton Courtney. Lydall Lane is evidently connected with the Lydall family resident in Didcot during the 17th century. (fn. 4) Eleven acres in the west of the parish are known as Parsonage Pen and other place-names of interest which occur in the manorial records are Tubbeney Cottage, (fn. 5) a messuage called Bowyers, (fn. 6) and the house called Wights in the 18th century, (fn. 7) doubtless after the Wight family, lords of the manor at the close of the 17th century. (fn. 8)

Village tradition says that human sacrifices were offered on a barrow planted with trees on the high ground to the west of the parish. A silver coin of Plautilla Augusta wife of Caracalla was found in a garden near the railway station about 1880.