BURFORD, a parish and market town in the hundred of Bampton, in the county of Oxford, 18 miles to the W. of Oxford, and 73 miles from London by road. It is about 10 miles from the Charlbury station of the West Midland railway. The parish is situated on the banks of the river Windrush, a branch of the Thames, and contains the hamlets of Upton and Signett-Burford is a town of great antiquity. Its Saxon name was Beorford, and it was the seat of a synod held in the year 682. A spot called Battle Edge, near the town, was the scene of a battle in which Ethelbald, King of Mercia, was vanquished by Cuthred, King of Wessex, and the banner of the former, which bore the device of a golden dragon, was taken. A festival was long held on Midsummer Eve to commemorate this conflict. A small priory was early founded in this parish. Burford is a nominal borough, having received a charter of incorporation from Henry II. Most of its privileges were revoked in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. In the town are many very old houses, ill-built, but possessing interest for the antiquarian. The principal business is in agricultural produce. A good trade in saddle-making was formerly carried on here. Petty sessions are held by the county magistrates. There are a parish library and a savings-bank. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Oxford, of the value with the curacy of Fulbrook annexed, of £294, in the patronage of the bishop of the diocese. The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It is a large edifice in the form of a cross, exhibiting various styles of architecture, with a central tower and fine spire. The tower and western doorway are Norman, and the spire is of the perpendicular style. The south porch is much admired. In the church are two side chapels, a sculptured hexagonal font, a brass of the date 1437, and several old monuments. There are chapels belonging to the Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists; a free school founded and endowed by Simon Wisdom, in 1751, with a revenue of £85 per annum; and National and boys' schools. The free school is held in the townhall. The town contains several almshouses: one founded and endowed by the Earl and Countess of Warwick, in 1457, for eight widows, the endowment of which is £24 a year; another, for four widows, endowed by Simon Wisdom; and a third, for the same number of widows, by John Castle, in 1726. The poor have the benefit of various charities, the principal of which are the Church Estate and Pool's Estate. The celebrated Peter Haylin, author of “Microcosmos,” was a native of this town, and received his education at the grammar school. Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and Lord Liverpool were also educated here. Sir William Beechey, the painter, was born here in 1753. Burford Priory, a mansion in the Tudor style, built on the site of the old priory, is the seat of the Lenthalls. It was the residence of Lenthall, Speaker of the Long Parliament, who purchased it of Lord Falkland. It contains some valuable paintings, which formed part of the collection of Charles II. Among them are the famous picture, attributed to Holbein, of “Sir Thomas Moore and Family;” a portrait of Charles I. by Jansen, and those of Lord Falkland, and Henrietta Maria, Queen of Charles I., by Vandyck. Burford gives the title of earl to the Duke of St. Alban's. Saturday is the market day. Fairs for cattle and cheese are held on the last Saturday in April; for horses on the 5th, July; and for horses, sheep, and cheese on the 25th September.The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003
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