With its 16th and 17th century cottages, thriving pub with its convivial coffee mornings, the ancient church gazing serenely over its parish, Beckley is a seemingly cosy, picture postcard image of rural England - one which is recognised across the globe. Who doesn’t dream of exchanging their stressful urban existence for a peaceful life in a charming English village? But hang on a minute - why are so many TV crime series set in rural idylls? Think Broadchurch. Or Agatha Christie’s St Mary Mead, setting for The Murder at the Vicarage, the first of her Miss Marple novels. The story of this village like many others from Norman times to the present day is not one of sleepy rural idylls. It is a story of purpose, persistence and power: a history of death, theft, arson and more happily: cricket matches, Oddfellows meetings, village feasts, dances to support the church… Birth, marriage, death - all human life is here.
This is a snapshot of Beckley in 1891 - based on the census return taken on Sunday 5 April. At that time Beckley consisted of 3,620 acres and had an overall population of 345, the population density in Beckley was less than 1 person per acre.
The 1891 census in Oxfordshire