BICESTER, a parish and market town in the hundred of Ploughley, in the county of Oxford, 13 miles to the N.E. of Oxford; and 54 miles to the N.W. of London by road, or 66 miles by railway. Bicester is a station on the Oxford and Winslow branch of the London and North-Western railway. The name of this place is contracted from the Saxon Burin-ceastre, or Bernaceaster, and was probably derived from Birinus, a prelate of the 7th century, who assisted in founding it. It is near the site of the ancient Roman Alchester, and is divided into the two districts of King's End and Market End. An Augustine priory was founded here in 1182, by Gilbert Bassett, which was dedicated to St. Eadburg, and had a revenue at the Dissolution of £167. The name of the saint of Aylesbury is still attached to a pleasant walk, and a well to which it leads. A skirmish occurred here between the royalist and parliamentary forces in the reign of Charles I., and the town was alternately in the possession of both parties. The town, which stands in a valley on a small stream, a branch of the Cherwell, is mostly well built, paved, and lighted with gas. It principally consists of one long street, on the high road to Banbury; a market-place where the townhall and shambles formerly stood, before they were destroyed in the riots of 1826; and two other streets, called Chapel-street and Crockwell. Great improvements have been recently made in the sanitary condition of the town, by covering the open drains, laying down a flagged foot pavement, and improving the supply of, water. In 1832, during the time of the cholera, seventy persons were seized with that malady, and the smallpox hospital, which stood near the London-road, was appropriated for their reception. The hospital has since been removed to make way for the London and North-Western railway, which has a station here. Bicester is not the seat of any manufacture, except lace, which is made to a small extent, and the employments of the workpeople are chiefly agricultural. It has some extensive breweries, the ale of which is celebrated. The general trade of the place, which depends upon its well-attended market and cattle fairs, is benefited by the Oxford canal, which passes near it. Bicester is the seat of a Poor-law Union, comprising 38 parishes, and a County Court district. Petty sessions for the district are held here. It is also the head of a deanery, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Oxford. The town contains a savings-bank and the Union poorhouse, a spacious edifice, erected in 1836, capable of accommodating 320 inmates. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Oxford, of the value of £231, in the patronage of the trustees of the late Sir G. Page Turner. The church, which stands on the site of the old conventual church, was built about 1400, and is dedicated to St. Eadhurg. It has a good tower, and contains a monumental brass, several Norman arches, and some interesting monuments and sculptures. There are chapels belonging to the Wesleyans and In-dependents. The latter, a commodious brick building, capable of seating 400 persons, was built in 1729. Colonel Gardiner was a frequent attendant at the service of this chapel. The charitable endowments of Bicester consist chiefly of lands for the benefit of decayed townspeople, the produce of which is £206 per annum. There is a blue-coat school, founded in 1721, for 30 boys, which is supported partly by endowment; a diocesan school, established in 1839; a National school, and several other schools and charities. The market is held on Friday, and a large cattle market on the first Friday in every month. The fairs are held on Easter Friday, the first Friday in June, the 5th August, the last Friday in October, and the third Friday in December. There is also a wool fair in July, recently established.The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003
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