The bell-tower at All Saints Church in Great Bourton is an iconic feature of the village, standing directly on the main street. It is unusual in being completely detached from the church building, with the tower structure also forming the gateway into the churchyard. The architecture combined with the beautiful view down into the Cherwell valley makes the tower memorable to villagers and visitors alike.
The top of the bell-tower is constructed as open timberwork with a steeply pitched gabled, wood shingle roof. The most serious deterioration identified on the tower was to the roof shingles which needed to be entirely replaced.
A £72,000 restoration project was undertaken to restore the roof with oak shingles and to repair elements of the stonework on the tower. A large amount of money was raised through events held in the village and the parish is grateful to the Trust for their grant which was essential to help reach the funding target. The work was completed over the last summer and a celebration led by the Bishop of Dorchester was held by the tower in September 2023.
All Saints Church was originally C13 but was desecrated at the Reformation. Subsequently villagers attended church in the neighbouring village of Cropredy. The Church was re-established and almost entirely rebuilt in 1863 by William White (1825-1900).
The combined Lychgate and Bell Tower (Grade II listed) was built in 1882, also by William White. It is constructed of Ironstone ashlar to match the Church. It was built in memory of Mary Ann Cubit who is the great, great, great grandmother of our current Queen Camilla.
The most striking feature is that the bell-tower is not physically attached to the church, but instead forms part of the boundary to the churchyard. A separate bell-tower is very unusual in England, and there are probably no more than 12 English churches with such a feature. A design where the bell-tower also acts as a gateway or entrance into the churchyard is even more unusual and some literature suggests there are only 3 with this form, including Great Bourton.