We know much about the history of Berinsfield. There is an array maps and pictures, which record our history, there are also numerous archaelogical reports written about digs carried out, together with oral histories from those interested in the history of Berinsfield.
The Gravel Pits
The Gravel Pits were one of the first developments to the farmland. The maps of 1879 show a disused gravel pit to the north of the village next to the remains of Broadmoor Barn. It is the gravel extraction which has brought to light many of the archaeological finds. In 1924 gravel extraction started and Dennis Greenaway, brother of Leslie Edward Greenaway, affectionately known as Gammie, began work. Dennis, along with others, found numerous mammoth bones, tusks, teeth and other artefacts which were sent to the Ashmolean Museum. Gammie remembers that the current site of Berinsfield was a hill (before the gravel was dug away). The men were paid piecework for each skip they filled by hand. They dug up to the Roman Road, which was protected by railway sleepers laid across it. They continued extracting gravel the other side of the Roman Road. When the pits were dug it lowered the water table and people of Dorchester and the surrounding villages had to dig their wells deeper. Colin Winterbourne of Colwell Road remembers one of his first jobs was working for Mr Kirby, the builder, and his least favourite job was going down the wells along the Abingdon Road to clean them out and make them deeper because the gravel extraction had lowered the water table.
Abbey Woods Close was formed from the silt washed from the gravel, so if you have ever dug in the copse you will find it is very fine soil. The gravel extraction went on day and night so some archaeological finds may have been missed.
Palaeolithic & Neolithic Man (Mammoths too!)
Colin Winterbourne went on to work in the gravel pits and saved numerous very important finds of coins and flint axes of great importance. A fine collection can be seen at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford. From 1933 to 1936 Major G.W.G Allen flew over Oxfordshire taking thousands of photographs. These photographs depicted the crop markings. The pictures taken between May and August showed the evidence of what was hidden below the ground. One of the most impressive sites, no longer in evidence, was the massive Ring Henge. This could be seen from the air and consisted of a double ring - this was in fact the in-fill of the ditches on either side of a mound surrounding a ritual site. Over the years erosion and ploughing the site have levelled the site. Therefore, Berinsfield¹s history rests upon Neolithic Enclosures, field systems and pits discovered in the 1934 excavations. The site was excavated again in 1955 when burial sites containing high quality flint knives and other tools were found, plus the existence of a henge. These sites witness the first true residents of Berinsfield.
Bronze Age & Iron Age
The aerial photography showed numerous Bronze Age Ring ditches in the fields to the north of the village. One large ring ditch to the south of the village, which was also high-lighted along with lots of other crop markings in 1934 was of special interest and was excavated that same year by the Oxford University Archaeological School under J.N.L.Myers who found two Bronze Age ring ditches. These had been ploughed in during later occupation by an early Iron Age settlement. J.N.L.Myers showed that the site had continuous occupation through the Middle to Late Iron Age to the start of the Roman occupation.
Roman (1st Century - 4th Century)
The first part of the gravel extraction at Queensford Mill (1970 - 1971) removed 13 inches of topsoil. Colin Winterbourne, who had an eye for anything unusual, noticed bones and pots concealed in the soil. Digging stopped and archaelogists assessed and surveyed the area which revealed skeletons close to this new surface. In one corner there was a round pit with about 50 small skulls, probably of children. 200 graves could be seen and a rescue dig was carried out before the gravel extraction took place. 78 burial sites were excavated, 27 graves had coffin nails and fittings. Christopher Law of Bullingdon Avenue took his son Mark and his friend Ian Brown to have a look at the excavation. It was reported in Oxoniensia and Britannia Vol.XIII that there were potentially 2,000 burials. When the By-pass, which now separates us from Dorchester, was being built another 90 burials including a Neolithic Cursor was discovered.
Rev. R Hussey in 1840 researched and plotted the route of the Roman Road, which runs through our village towards the Roman town of Alcester, just outside Bicester. The road was 16.5 miles long and its Agger was 24 feet wide, one foot high going up to two feet high in the centre with a ditch either side. The route leaving Dorchester going up Green Lane and going through our village and out the other side to the north is well defined, the course can be followed going through Marsh Baldon, Little Baldon, Baldon, Chislehampton and Garsington with existing roads, footpaths and tree lines.
Building the flats in Cherwell Road and Evenlode Drive allowed the discovery, by builders like Mr Doran (Evenlode Drive) of an industrial site, a Roman Pottery factory. Although most of the sherds (broken pottery) found were Roman, there was evidence that this site had been used from the Bronze Age. The site appears to have prospered during the Roman age due to the improved transportation, as the site is next to the Roman Road. Pottery produced in this area has been found in villas on the Isle of White and is described as the "posh stuff" being very fine and containing very few impurities - the site was probably chosen as we are on a raft of some 50 metres of clay. Towards the end of the Roman period around the end of the 4th Century the pottery went into disuse, one of the pits used for cleaning the clay was filled with all the broken pots from the firing and in the top a single cremation urn, was found, upturned in the centre of the pit, a few feet below the topsoil surface - the last of the potters with his own pot.
In 1977, Ian Brown's first job after leaving school was taking part in the rescue dig of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Walley's Corner (Whalley the Anglo-Saxon word for "ghost"). He remembers working under the guidance of George Lambrick. The dig continued for 9 months running alongside the gravel extraction, which had brought this find to light. This was the last of the gravel extraction in our immediate area. This had "a watching brief" resulting from the finds of the dig that had taken place in 1934. In the 1974 114 graves were located and they were of quite high status judging by the artefacts, which were found with them.
A comprehensive report has been compiled by A. Boyle, A Dodd, D. Miles and A. Mudd. Near this site was Coll Well, which was built of large stone in a very uneven circular construction, this may have been caused by wear over time and at the base of which were two very large stones in a V configuration.
We know the land was occupied during the medieval times from the pottery found. The land was used predominately for farming. We have maps, which show the field names and some of the features in the landscape in and around our village.
Charlie Brown was born in 1911 and one of his earliest memories is of walking down the long dark road from Newington to school at Stadhampton. He still had the certificate of attendance presented to him for attending 495 times out of 500. He left school at the age of 14 years and started to work at Field Farm (Mount Farm) as a general farm labourer for which he got paid ten shillings a week although 9d (nine old pennies) was stopped for insurance. Charlie was employed by Henry Osbourne King (affectionately known as H.O.). The house at Mount farm was known as King,s House, H. O. King who lived at the large house was a straw & hay merchant, and Gammie when working for him remembers two cottages next to the large house and two set further back.
Field Farm becomes Mount Farm
There were three Field Farms in this immediate area in the parish of Dorchester, I believe that the Post Office may have had something to do with the renaming of Mount Farm in the early 1930¹s when maps of the area show the change from Field Farm to Mount Farm. Gammie remembers the postman, Jim Cheryl who delivered the mail on foot and walked from Oxford Road across the fields to Field Farm (Mount Farm) and then onto the Lodge, but even in those days things were beginning to move faster and the Post Office insisted that he use new technology, so Jim had to learn to ride a bike. The bike had various uses, not only to travel to work, but also used to wind straw together to produce a twine to tie the sheaths together before going on the rick.
Charlie's first job for 3 months was to help look after H.O.'s sheep. Gammie did odd jobs with his uncle Jim [Greenaway] once he left school 1929-30 helping with the horses and hay making on Field Farm (Mount Farm). This was until Christmas when they no longer required his services. He does remember a story about the local children getting up to mischief when George Brown was ploughing the fields, as he just started the team of horses, the children shouted "Whoa" and the horses stopped, he started the team again and they shouted "Whoa" again - they stopped again. This went on for a little while and George Brown was not amused.
Charlie and Ethel married in 1935 and lived in half of the white bungalow, which was in the field where the car boot sale is now held, near the staggered junction of Abingdon Road and the Oxford Road. Charlie had now started to work for Mr Farrant in Drayton-St-Leonard as Mount Farm and the land had been sold in preparation for forthcoming world events, which would lead to Charlie joining the Grenadier Guards.