Harwell is a large village at the foot of the Berkshire Downs historically well known for its cherry orchards. In fact records show them selling the famous Harwell cherries in Abingdon in the 1610s, and the area still has a few local orchards today!

Cromwell is thought to have held a Council of War in the village After the Second Battle of Newbury during the English Civil War and Parliamentary troops were billeted in the village at that time. In 1852 a disastrous fire swept through the village and much of the village was destroyed. It is believed the fire was started when a discharged labourer set fire to a hay rick and the result was the loss of nine farms and twenty-three cottages. Despite the fire many medieval buildings remain, some dating from the 13th & 14th century.

St. Matthew's Church was mainly built in the 13th Century and has rubble walls of clunch covered with plaster on the inside and with roughcast on the outside. Its size reflects the existence of a considerable population in the village, then on the Wallingford to Gloucester highway, and was formerly dedicated to St. Mary. The date of the rededication to St. Matthew's is not known.

The atomic research establishment, which used to occupy the nearby former airfield, has been decommissioned but this is now the home of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, whose scientists use their spectacular microwave dish to gather information on outer space, the Harwell International Business Park and the new Diamond synchrotron light source, a new scientific facility housed in a futuristic doughnut-shaped building which covers the area of 5 football pitches.

Harwell is just off the A417 about 2 miles west of Didcot. It is bypassed by the A34.

Images of Harwell:
(Click to view)

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