Courtenay is a largish straggling village on the south
side of the River Thames.
The extreme south
of the village has nothing to commend it at all, being
mainly unattractive 1950s housing. However, as you travel
north along High Street towards the centre of the village
it starts to look more attractive with a mixture of
older buldings and more
expensive modern houses.
The geographic centre of the village is the junction of
High Street and Church Street, but the historic village
centre, centred on the large Green, is a quarter of a
mile further on along Church Street. The quarter-mile
the Green and the road junction appears
to be rather a no-man's land with the grounds of The Manor
House on one side and of The Abbey on the other, and appears
to split the village in two!
The name of the village comes from 'Sutton', which meant
'South Town' (i.e. 'South Farm') in Saxon times and 'Courtenay'
from from the name of Reginald
Courtenay who became Lord of Sutton
in the 12th century.
The Manor House, together with the house now known as
Norman Hall, is on the site of a former Royal palace,
wife of King Henry I lived here at one time. Most
of the present building dates from the 14th & 16th centuries.
However, one wing dates mostly from the 13th century and
part of it, including a vaulted undercroft, dates from
the 11th century.
Reginald’s younger son, Robert, expanded the buildings
at Sutton and erected the house now known as 'Norman Hall'
late in the 12th century. It may originally have been
a chapel and was part of the same complex as the manor
house until early in the 14th century.
The building now known as 'The Abbey' was the Rectory
House which was built in the 13th century. It incorporated
some of an earlier dilapidated Parsonage that had been
used as a Grange for Abingdon Abbey.
All Saints Church has a 12th century tower but the rest
of the building dates from 13th-16th century. During the
Civil War, the vicar of Sutton, a staunch parliamentarian, kept
stores of powder and ammunition in the church
- King Charles was of course not far away at Oxford. In
1643 the whole lot unfortunately
shattered the glass in the windows and damaged the tower.
The graves of former
statesman Herbert Asquith and author
George Orwell are in
Asquith's second wife brought the family to Sutton Courtenay,
buying the Wharf in 1912 and converting its barn. George
not a parishioner but wished to be buried in a country
There are still four pubs in the village - The George
and Dragon and The Swan are both on The Green. The Fish,
known for its French cuisine, is along the Appleford Road,
and The Plough is in High Street.
Courtenay is about 3 miles north-east of Didcot
and about half way along the B4016 between the villages
of Appleford-on-Thames and Drayton.