BICESTER NORTH Bicester has a long history - the Bicester With Whaddon Chase Hunt dates back to the 1700s. Despite having an old market square (or triangle) and some 16th-century gabled houses, it stopped being a period piece when the army depot was established in 1941. The town is mainly regarded as a modern provider of very large housing estates with an edge-of-town factory-outlet shopping centre, but the sense of community is maintained with annual celebrations such as a carnival in July. The town centre itself is due to undergo a transformation, including more pedestrianisation, additional shops and a library. One-bedroom starter homes are priced at around £130,000; two-bedroom houses around £185,000.
Villages to the west of Bicester – Steeple Aston and the Bartons (Middle and Steeple) – have returned to rural tranquillity following the decommissioning of the USAF base at Upper Heyford, but now fear that large quantities of new housing will fill the gap. The District Council is opposing development due to the historic nature of the site. Meanwhile, the stone-built village of Kirtlington, where Christopher Wren’s father is buried, has retained is popularity because of its polo park and stud farm. It has a village green with a pond, a post office stores, a couple of pubs and a junior school. New developments here are stone-built in cottage style to blend with the older houses. The larger four-bedroom detached properties cost £300,000 to £400,000. Small houses start at £250,000. An 18th-century cottage with two bedrooms would be likely to fetch more. ‘People move here and don’t move out again,’ says one local.
Villages to the north of Bicester are good value. For the price of a three-bedroom house closer to Oxford, you will get four bedrooms in Stratton Audley – Stratton meaning enclosure on a Roman road, and Audley from the family who built the 14th-century moated castle. It is a tiny village where the houses group around the central green, but fears are mounting that the buffer which keeps its separate from Bicester – the land owned by RAF Bicester – will be sold off and used for new development. For £420,000 you could buy a substantial four-bedroom stone period house. Prices are about the same in Stoke Lyne, a similarly quiet Chiltern village set in undulating countryside where people are said to keep to themselves.
Just over the county border is Marsh Gibbon, with houses built of local stone rather than the brick and timber more usual in Buckinghamshire. A sprinkling of low-cost housing has been built here for sale to local families. The result is a busy little place with a village pond, a primary school and a younger than average age profile. A four-bedroom detached house might be found for £480,000.
Launton, back in Oxfordshire, is growing rapidly into a dormitory of Bicester, though the intervening railway and bypass prevents its being swallowed completely. It has a mix of old and young in both population and property. There are quite a few modern bungalows and new estates where a two-bedroom semi would cost around £185,000. Young children go the local primary. Their older brothers and sisters, in common with those from all the surrounding villages, attend secondary school or sixth form college in Bicester.