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Graven Hill and

Historic Bicester

Close by is the site of the Roman Town of Alchester. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as Berencestra, but it has been known as Bicester since the mid-17th century.

It was founded as a frontier fort on the border between Mercia and Wessex and was originally two separate townships: Kings End, on the site of a Saxon fort, and Market End to the west on the other side of the River Bure. The town grew as a market centre in the Middle Ages. Local crafts included saddlery, bell founding, rope making and brewing.

By the 19th century the area was renowned for horse racing and good fox hunting, but in the 20th century Bicester became known for its military bases. A First World War airfield north of the town later became a Royal Air Force station (today the site of Windrushers Gliding Club). In the Second World War, a huge military depot was developed at Bicester clustered around two hills - Graven Hill and Arncott Hill. It covered over 12 square miles, with nearly 50 miles of railway track. It was planned as the main supply base for the British Army's operations and became an important supply base for the United States forces in Europe, under Operation Bolero.

After the war the town became one of the expanding 'Country Towns' of Oxfordshire. New businesses arrived, as did the M40 and the new dual carriageway to Oxford. Together with the rail links, this gave the town its excellent transport connections. Deserving of its reputation as a garden town, in 2014 Bicester was identified by the Government for new development that will secure its status as a healthy town, with Graven Hill the site for the creation of an innovative new village. This will see up to 1,900 new homes created between now and 2026.

With thanks to Cherwell District Council and Bicester Local History Society -
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