Steeple Aston is an ancient settlement with roots going back to Roman times, maybe earlier. Today, with a population of around 1,000, it is a busy village with plenty to see and do.
The village has its own shop and Post Office, Harris Stores, and a traditional pub and restaurant, the Red Lion. Much activity centres around the village hall where you can find everything from WI meetings, to badminton sessions and, from time to time, amateur and professional theatre. The village is known for its enthusiastic team of bellringers, and has thriving football and cricket teams.
A monthly magazine, Steeple Aston Life, contains news, views and details of village events past and future. It is distributed free to all residents, and available for sale in the village shop.
Steeple Aston is an unusual village in that it has no natural focus, such as a village green. Instead it is built in a rectangle around a steep valley, through which runs a tributary of the River Cherwell.
There are many ancient and listed houses in the village. The primary school, Dr Radcliffe’s, was founded in 1640, and you can still see the original building, now a private house. The parish church, St Peter and St Paul, goes back at least 1,000 years.
It is little surprise then that Steeple Aston was designated as a conservation area in March 1988. This means that it is regarded as an area of special architectural and historic interest, which should be preserved and enhanced. Consequently, Cherwell District Council places restrictions on building development and on the felling of trees.
Steeple Aston has its own Parish Council, which meets monthly and spends much of its time concerned with planning matters, and improving the appearance and facilities of the village.
Steeple Aston lies in the Cherwell Valley, and there are plenty of footpaths providing access to beautiful views across the water meadows where the river, the Oxford Canal and the railway come together. The land surrounding the village is mainly agricultural, although there is a small industrial site between Steeple and Middle Aston. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen including the occasional muntjac deer and badger. Kingfishers can be spotted by the river and canal and a wide variety of birds visit local gardens.
Steeple Aston has many keen gardeners, so a walk round the village can provide plenty of horticultural interest. Every year, there is an Open Gardens Day, run in conjunction with the National Gardens Scheme. Wildflowers are particularly prolific alongside the river and streams, and include Water Avens, Great Burnet and Flowering Rush.
To see a map of the footpaths, please click here
What’s in a name?
The origin of the name Steeple Aston is often a source of speculation, particularly as the church has a tower, not a steeple. Many villagers who walk from the shop to the church with a heavy load (or worse still pushing a buggy) speculate that it was originally called ’Steep Hill Aston’.
However, etymologists think that the name might come from the Old English ’stapol’, meaning a pole or a pillar, or possible from the Middle English ’staple’ used in the sense of a market. Aston may be derived from ’east tun’, meaning East Town and signifying where the market was held.
Middle Aston is located just a mile north of Steeple Aston. It has a much smaller population and is part of the ecclesiastical parish of Steeple Aston. However, the villages have been separate for civil purposes since the 18th century. Middle Aston does not have a parish council; instead it holds an annual parish meeting.
The largest building in the village is Middle Aston House, which has been turned in to a residential training centre, owned by the PERA Group. Most other buildings are residential, some ancient and others built in the last few years.
Much of the information in this section was taken, by kind permission, from the Village Appraisal published in 1993.