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St Marys Church


Waterperry dates back in written history to the Domesday Book of 1066. More historical information can be found at the museum in the Waterperry Gardens and from an information sheet within St. Mary's Church next to Waterperry House.

Waterperry 1803
Waterperry, Oxfordshire 1803
by William Alfred Delamotte 1775-1863

The name comes from Pereium, probably meaning ‘pear orchard’. Waterperry is on the Buckinghamshire border, with the river Thame for its southern boundary and the Holton brook for its western boundary. The ground is low lying, generally about 200 ft above sea level, rising to 234 ft to the north. The soil is rich loam with a subsoil of gravel and clay, and it provides excellent meadow land and pasture.

Bernwood Forest is north-west of the parish, where rare butterflies can sometimes be found during the summer.

Waterperry has one street, with a mixture of new council houses and ancient cottages which are mostly of the 17th and 18th century. They are built of coarse rubble or brick and some are timber-framed.

Waterperry House owes its graceful Queen Anne frontage to Sir John Curson, who had it rebuilt in 1713. The Henley family bought the estate in 1830 and it was sold to Magdalen College in 1925. Seven years later Waterperry Horticultural School was opened by Beatrix Havergal, the principal, as a residential horticultural college for women. Miss Havergal was known as the ‘Strawberry Queen’ at Chelsea Flower Show, where for many years she won the gold medal prize for her exhibit of Royal Sovereign strawberries. She retired in 1971.

The house was then taken over by the Fellowship of the School of Economic Science. It is now run as a horticultural and garden centre. The school organises the annual ‘Art in Action’ festival in July, where craftsmen and women from all over the world exhibit their skills.

The church of St Mary was built in the pre-Conquest period. It comprises a nave of three bays, chancel, south aisle and south porch. The west tower with its weather boarded bellcote is of wood, supported on oak pillars within the church. In the nave there are some high-backed pews on which the candlesticks remain and with the original hinges on the doors. Most interesting are the early 14th century windows with excellent tracery on the north wall.

The ghost of Waterperry is the Grey Lady, who walks the footpath from Holton to Waterperry House. A number of people living in both villages have encountered here while walking the footpath in the last 20 years.

Waterperry is now within sight of the M40 motorway from London to Birmingham and village life is bound to alter from the sleepy village it has been to a commuting village of the future.

The above article was based on one that appears in "The New Oxfordshire Village Book" written by the local village WIs and compiled by the Oxfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes.

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