The trail begins at the southern end of Brackley on Bridge Street close to the medieval settlement of ‘new’ Brackley. It continues northwards through the Market Place along High Street, ending in the ‘Old Town’ at St. Peter’s Church.
As late as 1901, or maybe later, all the main street through Brackley was called the High Street. There was a single stone bridge in Henry VIII’s time. A second bridge for the railway was built in 1850.
St James’ Lake
A tributary of the River Ouse once fed a 20-foot wide castle moat. Later there were fishponds on the site. Anglian Water, to stop flooding in Buckingham created St James’ Lake on the low-lying marshy ground in 1974 and is now being developed as a Nature Reserve and recreation area.
Town Hall and Market Place
On the site of one of Brackley’s three handsome crosses the magnificent Town Hall was built for the Earl of Bridgewater in 1707 and sold to the town for one shilling.
The ground floor arches were once open and the scene of trading on market day. A market is held here every Friday although livestock is no longer sold.
The Crown Hotel
No-one knows how old this ancient coaching inn is. In 1649 a fire broke out at the rear, destroying 14 houses but leaving the main part of the Crown unscathed. The frontage is 18th century. A coach from the Crown went to Northampton every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at noon. The stagecoach to Oxford left the Crown on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm. The London Stage went from the Reindeer Public House (on the site of Barclays Bank).
The Old Hall
A fine example of an 18th century house, now a thriving bookshop. It is one of only a few brick built buildings of this period in Brackley.
Magdalen College School
Until the 15th century there was a hospital with chapel and graveyard on this site founded by Robert le Bossu in 1150. The hospital was given many endowments of land in Brackley and neighbouring villages. In 1548 it was reported that the fellows of the college had started a free school in the former hospital premises which continues to this day as the Secondary School for the Brackley area.
This was the home of a cadet branch of the Cartwright family and more recently the home of Lord Grosvenor. Around 1830 the Lodge was home to the Brackley House Academy and after finding use as a Hotel has was converted to apartments in 2009.
St John’s Chapel
The chapel of St John was built in about 1200 as part of the hospital. Now extant, are a long nave and chancel with a squat Norman tower and handsome Norman west door. The chapel was as neglected as the rest of the buildings and in 1669 the fellows of Magdalen ordered the lead to be stripped from the roof and sold. The chapel was restored in 1869-70 by Buckeridge and is now used as a school chapel for Magdalen College School.
Locally known as ‘Feed my lambs’ because of the inscription on a beam above the entrance. This was built in 1871 as St. Peters Church of England School. In 1968 the school moved to a new site in Manor Road. In 2014 the building was converted to apartments.
Formerly Brackley Manor, Winchester House was originally a 16th century stone house of which now only the front door and one window remain. The house was enlarged by the Ellesmere family between 1875-8 in the Jacobean style, when it became the main family residence. All but one of the gates were handmade by Harry Mobbs, a local blacksmith from Hinton-in-the-Hedges. The building has been further enlarged in this century and is now Winchester House, a private mixed boarding and day school.
Old Fire Station
Now converted into a Community Room and Cafe, the original building opened in 1887 with the ‘new’ building added when the a larger home was needed. In 2010 a new fire station was built at the other end of the high street and the buildings remained empty until 2016 when they reopened in their current guise.
Located close to the heart of the town, Brackley Park is owned by the National Trust. It was formerly called Dove House Close and part of it was once a private garden.
Founded in 1633 by Lord Crewe of Steane, Lord Crewe was a Puritan who supported Parliament in the Civil War. The Almshouses restored in some measure the provision of accommodation for the poor, which had existed in Brackley before the closure of the Hospital of St James and St John.
Brackley Top Railway Station
Originally this was the ticket office for Brackley Central as it was officially named. The station was on the former Great Central Main Line which ran from Manchester to London Marylebone the last main line to be built from the north of England to London. The trackbed and platform is now a car park, the entrance to the bridge to the central platform can still be seen in the picture below.
Near St Peter’s Church there are two ancient springs called Golden Spring Well and St Rumbold’s Well. Because water ran from the springs down the roadway, it was known as Watery Lane. At the bottom of Watery Lane is ‘Jenny’s Pond’ a delightful wildlife area maintained by volunteers. Named in memory of Jenny Gavaghan who looked after the pond for about 15 years until her death from a brain tumour on November 1, 2002. When she passed away the Allotment Association bought a plaque and got permission from the town council to name the spring after her.
St Peter’s Church
Although there was probably a church in Brackley from Saxon times, few records now exist before the 15th century. Traces of Norman work can be seen in the large piers at the east end of the nave and there is a Norman south door. The south aisle is perpendicular and the north 14th century.
This is where Brackley originated from along with the castle which was sited close to what is now St. James Lake. Located behind St. Peters Church only a handful of houses remain.