Brackley is located in Northamptonshire
Location within Northamptonshire
Population16,195 (2021 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSP5837
• London63 miles (101 km) SE[2]
Civil parish
  • Brackley
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtNN13
Dialling code01280
AmbulanceEast Midlands
UK Parliament
WebsiteBrackley Town Council
List of places
52°01′55″N 1°08′49″W / 52.032°N 1.147°W / 52.032; -1.147

Brackley is a market town and civil parish in West Northamptonshire, England, bordering Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, 19 miles (31 km) from Oxford and 22 miles (35 km) from Northampton. Historically a market town based on the wool and lace trade, it was built on the intersecting trade routes between London, Birmingham, the Midlands, Cambridge and Oxford. Brackley is close to Silverstone and home to the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.


The place-name 'Brackley' is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Brachelai. It appears as Brackelea in 1173 and as Brackeley in 1230 in the Pipe Rolls. The name means 'Bracca's glade or clearing'.[3] Brackley was held in 1086 by Earl Alberic, after which it passed to the Earl of Leicester, and to the families of De Quincy and Roland.[4][5]

In the 11th and 12th centuries Brackley was in the Hundred of Odboldistow and in the Manor of Halse. Richard I (The Lionheart) named five official sites for jousting tournaments so that such events could not be used as local wars, and Brackley was one of these. The tournament site is believed to be to the south of the castle where the A422 now passes.

The town was the site of an important meeting between the barons and representatives of the King in 1215, the year of Magna Carta. Magna Carta required King John to proclaim rights, respect laws and accept that the King's wishes were subject to law. It explicitly protected certain rights of the King's subjects, whether freemen, serfs, slaves or prisoners—most notably allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment. King John and the barons were to have signed Magna Carta at Brackley Castle, but they eventually did so at Runnymede.[citation needed]

Market day was on Sundays until 1218, when it was changed to Wednesdays.[6] It is now on Friday mornings.

The Tudor antiquary John Leland visited Brackley, where he learned 'a Lord of the Towne' named Neville had (at an uncertain point in the past) had the parish vicar murdered. This he had done by having the man buried alive. The writer Daniel Codd observed that in the grounds of St Peter's Church, a human-shaped stone effigy is sometimes pointed out as being connected with the event.[7]

In 1597 the town was incorporated by Elizabeth I. It had a mayor, six aldermen and 26 burgesses.

In 1602, the metaphysical poet John Donne was elected as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Brackley.[8]

Brackley used to be known for wool and lace-making.

It had 20 houses in the 18th century.[5] In August 1882 the Brackley Lawn Tennis Club organised the Brackley LTC Tournament, as part of the Brackley Show.[9][10]

In 1901 the population of the town was 2,467.

Brackley Poor Law Union[edit]

Brackley used the poor house at Culworth until 1834, when Parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act and as a result Brackley Poor Law Union was founded.[11] A workhouse for 250 people was built in 1836, southwest of the town on Banbury Road. It was demolished in the 1930s.

Notable buildings[edit]


Brackley Castle was built soon after 1086. Its earthwork remains lie between Hinton Road and Tesco. It comprised a motte mound 10 feet (3.0 m) high and approximately 44 yards (40 m) in diameter with an outer bailey to the east. Archaeological excavation has revealed evidence of a ditch defining the perimeter of the bailey. Two fishponds originally lay outside the ditch but have subsequently been infilled – however south of St. James Lake may have formed a part of this. Brackley Castle may have gone out of use in 1147.[citation needed] It was destroyed between 1173[12] (when the then lord of the manor, the Earl of Leicester, Robert le Blancmain, fell out with Henry II) and 1217 (when the Earl of Winchester, Blancmain's heir, was on the losing side against Henry III during the First Barons' War.[13] The site was later granted to the Hospital of SS. James and John.

Parish church[edit]

St. Peter's Church in 2023

The oldest part of the Church of England parish church of Saint Peter at the eastern end of the town centre is an 11th-century Norman south doorway.[14] Both the four-bay arcade of the south aisle[15] and the west tower with its niches containing seated statues[14] were added in the 13th century. Next the chancel was rebuilt, probably late in the 13th century.[15] The north arcade and the windows in both the north and south aisles were probably added early in the 14th century, about the same time as the Decorated Gothic chapel was added to the chancel.[15]

Medieval hospitals[edit]

In about 1150 Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester founded the Hospital of St. James and St. John.[16] Its master was a priest, assisted by a number of religious brothers. Its duties included providing accommodation and care for poor travellers.[16] In the 15th century there were complaints that successive masters were absentees, holding other livings at the same time as being in charge of the hospital.[16] The hospital was closed in 1423 for maladministration but re-established in 1425.[16] In 1449 a master was appointed who seems to have continued the practice of non-residence while holding parish livings elsewhere.[16] In 1484 the patron, Viscount Lovell granted control of the hospital to William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, citing its failure to give hospitality and alms.[16]

Waynflete had founded Magdalen College, Oxford in 1458 and Magdalen College School, Oxford in 1480. He made the former hospital part of their property and by 1548 it was Magdalen College School, Brackley. St James' chapel became the school chapel, in which use it remains today. It is the oldest building in Great Britain in continuous use by a school. The oldest part of the chapel is the west doorway, which is late Norman.[15] Most of its windows are slightly later, being Early English Gothic lancet windows.[12] The trio of stepped lancets above the west doorway are late 13th century.[15] The Gothic Revival architect Charles Buckeridge restored the chapel in 1869–70.[15]

The Hospital of St. Leonard was a smaller institution, founded to care for lepers.[17] It was 12 mile (800 m) from SS. James and John, apparently on the northern edge of Brackley.[17] It was in existence by 1280. After 1417 it shared the same master as SS. James and John and thereafter there is no separate record of St. Leonard's, so the larger hospital may have taken it over.[17] No buildings of St. Leonard's hospital have survived.

Secular buildings[edit]

The junction with Buckingham Road and High Street, Brackley in 2004

The almshouses were founded in 1633 by Sir Thomas Crewe of Steane.[12] They have one storey plus attic dormers.[12] They were originally six houses but by 1973 they had been converted into four apartments.[12]

Brackley Manor House was also a 17th-century Jacobean building that also originally had one storey plus attic dormers.[12] In 1875–78 the Earl of Ellesmere had it rebuilt on a larger scale, in the same style but retaining only the doorway and one window of the original building.[12] It is now Winchester House School,[18] a coeducational preparatory school for children aged from 3–13. It used to be a Woodard School.[12]

Brackley Town Hall is Georgian, built in 1706 by the 4th Earl of Bridgewater.[12] The ground floor was originally open but has since been enclosed.[12] Market Place and Bridge Street feature number of other early 18th-century houses and inns, mostly of brick and in several cases combining red and blue bricks in a chequer pattern.[12]

The town park belongs to the National Trust and hosts the Folk in the Park[19] festival.


Roads and buses[edit]

Brackley is close to the A43 road, which bypasses the town and links it to Towcester and Northampton to the north-east and the M40 motorway to the west. The A422 links it to Banbury and Buckingham.

The town has numerous bus services and is connected to other towns and cities including Banbury (499, 500), Bicester (505), Buckingham, Towcester, Oxford and Northampton (88).


Approximate route of the London-Birmingham section of HS2 based on the official description.[20] It would pass just south and west of Southam and through Brackley.

There are no railways stations in Brackley - the nearest stations are at Kings Sutton, about 6 miles (10 km) west of the town and Banbury, around 8 miles (13 km) away. A bus service links Brackley town centre to Banbury station.[21] Brackley had two railway stations but these were closed in the 1960s.

Brackley's first station, known in its latter years as Brackley Town, opened in May 1850 as part of the Buckinghamshire Railway's Buckingham and Brackley Junction line between Verney Junction and Banbury Merton Street via Buckingham. The London and North Western Railway operated the line from the beginning and absorbed the Buckinghamshire Railway Company in 1879. British Railways withdrew passenger trains from the line through Brackley Town station in January 1961 and closed the line to freight in 1966.

Brackley's second station was Brackley Central, opened in March 1899 on the Great Central Main Line, which was the last main line to be built between northern England and London. The GC Main Line included Brackley Viaduct across the Ouse Valley southeast of the town, which was 255 yards (233 m) in length, 62 feet (19 m) high, had 20 brick arches and two girder spans. British Railways withdrew passenger trains from the line through Brackley Central in September 1966. Brackley Viaduct was demolished in sections early in 1978.

Chiltern Railways is said to want to restore services between London Marylebone and Rugby along the former Great Central Main Line.[22] This would have Brackley Central railway station reopen with direct services to London, Aylesbury and Rugby. However, the Department for Transport has chosen part of the former Great Central route north-west of Brackley as part of the new High Speed 2 line between London and Birmingham.[23] A station at Brackley is not currently proposed.[24]


Brackley is near the Silverstone motor racing circuit, and has some industry related to Formula One racing, notably Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (formerly Brawn GP, Honda, British American Racing and Tyrrell) which is based in the town, and the Aston Martin F1 team which operates a wind tunnel on the former site of the north railway station yard. On the east outskirts of the town was H. Bronnley & Co., makers of hand-made soaps who hold Royal Warrants of Appointment for supplying Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III.


Brackley has four primary schools: Bracken Leas,[25] Southfield Primary Academy,[26] The Radstone Primary School and Brackley Junior School. The town also has Waynflete Infants' School,[27] most of whose pupils progress to Brackley Church of England Junior School.[28] There is a private pre-prep/prep school for 3- to 13-year-olds, Winchester House.[29] Magdalen College School, Brackley is the comprehensive secondary school for the town and surrounding villages.


Local news and television programmes is provided by BBC South and ITV Meridian. Television signals in the town are received from the Oxford TV transmitter. The town is served by both BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Northampton. Other radio stations including Heart Thames Valley, Capital Midlands and 3Bs radio that broadcasts from Buckingham. Local newspapers are Banbury Guardian and Northampton Chronicle.

Morris dancing[edit]

The Brackley Morris Men are one of only seven 'traditional Cotswold' sides remaining in England, and the only one to survive in Northamptonshire.[30] Their history dates back to the 1600s when a solid silver communion plate was given to the parish. The plate which is still in the possession of St Peter's Church is dated 1623, and is inscribed with the names of seven men, whom local folklore believes to have been the Morris dancers.[31] In 1725 the men were paid half a guinea to dance at the Whitsun Ale at Aynho House.[32] In 1766 their 'Squire' was arrested in Oxford for his insolence and committed to Bridewell as a vagrant.[33] In 1866 an article in the Oxford Chronicle reported on their performance in Banbury, describing their 'many coloured ribbons and other gaudy finery', and the 'witless buffoonery' of their 'fool'.[34] The side still performs today.[35]

Sports and leisure[edit]

Brackley cricket Club run 2 Saturday Teams and a Midweek Team as well as a Kwik Cricket and Junior Teams. They play in the Cherwell Cricket League and play at Brackley Cricket Club Ground.

Brackley Town Football Club,[36] known as the Saints, play in National League North. Its finest season was in 2013–14 when it reached the FA Cup Second Round having beaten League One side Gillingham 1–0 in a First round replay following a 1–1 draw. Brackley Town's ground is St James Park. They won the FA Trophy in 2018, this being the first time in the club's history.

Brackley Rugby Union Football Club[37] currently plays in the English Rugby Union Midland Division's Counties 2 Midlands East (South) League. It hosts two senior sides and a number of teams in the junior section.

Brackley Sports Football Club first team plays in the North Bucks and District League Premier Division and its reserve team plays in the North Bucks and District League Intermediate Division. It also has a ladies' team that plays in the Northants Women's League.[38]

Brackley Athletic Football Club[39] is a junior football club affiliated with the Northamptonshire Football Association. It plays in three leagues: the under 7s – 10s are in the Milton Keynes & District Junior Sevens League, the under 11s – 16s are in the Milton Keynes & Border Counties League and the girls' team is in the Oxford Girls' Football League.

Brackley has a tennis club,[40] a leisure centre and swimming pool,[41] a martial arts academy and a badminton club.[42]

South of the town is St. James lake, a balancing lake of almost 3 acres (1 ha) created in 1977.[43] Fishing in the lake is managed by a local angling club.[43] The lake is in a 5 acres (2 ha) wildlife park that is open to the public.[43]

Brackley is also the home of F1 team Mercedes AMG Petronas having had Brawn GP, who were bought out by Mercedes-Benz in 2009. Honda F1 and BAR, who were bought out by Honda in 2006 were previously based in Brackley.[44]

Closest cities, towns and villages[edit]


  1. ^ "Brackley". City population. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  2. ^ Brackley to Charing Cross by shortest route Google Maps
  3. ^ Eilert Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names, p.57.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Brackley" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 368–369.
  5. ^ a b "Brackley - British History Online".
  6. ^ "Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs to 1516: Northamptonshire". 18 June 2003. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  7. ^ Codd, Daniel (2009). Mysterious Northamptonshire. Mysterious Counties. Breedon Books Publishing. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-1-85983-681-1.
  8. ^ Colclough, "Donne, John (1572–1631)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, October 2007 Retrieved 18 May 2010
  9. ^ "Brackley Show: Tho following are particulars the semi-finals of the lawn tennis tournament held yesterday: — Ladies' and Gentlemen's Doubles: Mr. E.V.E. Bryan. and Miss A. Barlow beat Mr. R.P. Phipps and Miss A. Meredith and Rev. J. W. Boyd and Miss M. Blencowe beat Mr. W. Blencowe, and Miss. Bullen". Northampton Mercury. Northampton, Northamptonshire, England: British Newspaper Archive. 5 August 1882. p. 7.
  10. ^ Routledge's Sporting Annual (1883) Lawn Tennis Tournaments of 1882. George Routledge and Sons. London. England. p.116.
  11. ^ Brackley Poor Law Union and Workhouse 1835 onwards Archived 8 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Pevsner & Cherry 1973, p. 117
  13. ^ Clarke, John (1987). The Book of Brackley. Barracuda Books. ISBN 0-86023-285-9.
  14. ^ a b Pevsner & Cherry 1973, p. 115
  15. ^ a b c d e f Pevsner & Cherry 1973, p. 116
  16. ^ a b c d e f Serjeantson & Adkins 1906, pp. 151–153
  17. ^ a b c Serjeantson & Adkins 1906, pp. 153–154
  18. ^ "Winchester House School - Private Co-Educational Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School".
  19. ^ "Festivals – Brackley Market Town".
  20. ^ "Official description". Department of Transport. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010.
  21. ^ "Bus route".
  22. ^ "Chiltern Train Route". April 2009.
  23. ^ "Adonis Publishes Plans for 540 km Y-Shaped High Speed Network". Railnews. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  24. ^ "Station Name: Brackley". Disused Stations Site Record. Subterranea Britannica.
  25. ^ "Bracken Leas Primary School". Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Southfield Primary Academy - Brackley". Southfield Primary Academy.
  27. ^ "Waynflete Infants School". 18 August 2004. Archived from the original on 18 August 2004.
  28. ^ "Brackley CE Junior School".
  29. ^ "Overview of Winchester House School | Leading Prep-Prep & Preparatory School in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Northamptonshire borders". Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  30. ^ "Morris Ring Member and Associate Side Formation Dates - The Morris Ring". 17 June 2021.
  31. ^ Baker, George (1822). History and Antiquities of the County of Northampton. London: John Bowyer Nichols and John Rodwell.[page needed]
  32. ^ Northamptonshire Record Office, Cartwright papers, Josh Burton 1722–35
  33. ^ "Journal entry". Jackson’s Oxford Journal. 31 May 1766. p. 3.
  34. ^ "Chronicle entry". The Oxford Chronicle. 25 May 1866. p. 7.
  35. ^ "The Brackley Morris Men".
  36. ^ Brackley Town Football Club
  37. ^ "Brackley RUFC". Archived from the original on 24 April 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2006.
  38. ^ "IIS7". [permanent dead link]
  39. ^ Brackley AFC Archived 24 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "Brackley Tennis Club".
  41. ^ "".
  42. ^ " - Crazy Domains". Archived from the original on 23 April 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2006.
  43. ^ a b c "St. James Lake". Brackley Town Council Official Guide. Brackley Town Council. Archived from the original on 24 May 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  44. ^ The Brackley App

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]