The background to our Benefice

With thanks to Lawrence Clarke who wrote this for the St Mary’s, Black Bourton website and shared it with us.

As of the end of January 2022 the three PCC’s of the three churches – St Britius’ Brize Norton, St John’s Carterton and St Mary’s Black Bourton – unanimously supported the merger of the benefice of Black Bourton with the benefice of Brize Norton and Carterton. The process to formally approve the reorganisation should be complete by the Autumn. In the meantime the three churches are informally working as a single benefice. One of the many advantages of being part of this multi-church benefice is that it provides all in the benefice with a variety of forms of worship, from the more formal at St Mary’s, to not quite so formal at St Britius’ to the informal at St John’s. It also widens our access to a range of social events.

St Mary’s is the site for Carterton’s  cemetery managed by Carterton Town Council. It is also the site for war graves managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Nearly all the graves are for airmen who died in the second world war or have served in the RAF since. This naturally attracts many visitors from Carterton and Brize Norton. Just as St Britius’ has close associations with 99 Squadron, St Mary’s has close associations with the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit (JADTEU), which represents RAF Brize Norton at our annual Remembrance Day service.

Of the three churches, St Britius is the oldest, probably established in 1074 and predating our own church by about 70 years. Both churches have Christ Church Oxford as their patron. In Carterton from around 1915 there was a small mission church, which saw St Mary’s as its mother church.  The church was replaced by St John’s in 1963 and the link with the mother church of St Mary’s was kept alive by the donation of one of the bells from our tower. This was made by H. Knight of Reading and is dated 1619.

Construction of RAF Brize Norton began in 1935 with the official opening taking place on 13 August 1937. It was not until 1951, when the runway was extended by half-as-much-again, that the main runway cut across the middle of Black Bourton parish and Burford Road was suppressed. Thereafter access to Black Bourton village was from the west, south or east only.

Burford Road was clearly a vital link between Carterton and Black Bourton. At either end there were the two church’s (the mission church and St Mary’s) and the two pubs built within a few years of each other, providing respite for those working at Rock Farm in Carterton and the farms in Black Bourton. Despite the separation Carterton Station (now stables at Elmwood House in Black Bourton) remained open until 1962.

In 1963 the northern part of Black Bourton parish (Carterton and the western section of the airbase) was transferred to Brize Norton ecclesiastical parish, the enlarged parish forming the benefice of Brize Norton and Carterton. In 1971 the civil parish was renamed Carterton and Black Bourton. Carterton remained part of Black Bourton civil parish until reorganization in 1985 when the two were separated, long after Carterton had acquired a fully urban character.

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