Harwell is a large village and civil parish in the English county of Oxfordshire (formerly in Berkshire). It lies near The Ridgeway long-distance footpath, halfway between Abingdon, Oxfordshire and Newbury, Berkshire and two miles from Didcot. Harwell has a population of about 2,400.
The village supports two shops, Bobs the Butcher's and White Horse News (which doubles as an off licence). Two other general stores have closed in the village over the last 20 years, and the village bakery. At one point the village even had a brewery. This is now a private house and located opposite the White Hart public house.
The village church is St Matthew's and is part of the Church of England. It was mainly built in the 13th century. It is a Grade 1 listed building and was formerly dedicated to St Mary. The nave roof dates from 1220, and the screen dividing the chancel from the body of the church also dates from the 13th century. The church is notable for the quality and age of the peal of 8 bells housed in the belfry, and 1 sanctus bell, all dating from 1611 to 1932. These are the oldest set of bells that are still in use in the World. The tenor weighs 16 cwt. There is a single-handed clock on the tower's west face. In 1975, a two floor extension was built on the north wall which now contains a parish office. A new church hall was built in 1994.
The Harwell Feast is a celebration held on the Monday of the May Bank Holiday each year. The celebrations include a parade of decorated floats and people through the village. The recreation ground is turned over to various fund raising stalls and demonstration from sheep dog handling to vintage cars. Either a cow or a couple of pigs is roasted to supply the meat for the feast.
In 1946, this airfield was taken over to become the new Atomic Energy Research Establishment, the main centre for atomic energy research in the UK, and become known as Harwell Laboratory. It was the site of Europe's first nuclear reactor in 1946, and once housed five nuclear reactors, all of which have been shut down. Two have been completely dismantled, and it is anticipated that the other three will be decommissioned by 2022.
Other parts of the airfield were later used for other scientific organizations, including the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory which runs the ISIS neutron source and is part of the Diamond Light Source synchrotron joint venture. The Atomic Energy Research Establishment part of the airfield site is now officially called Harwell International Business Centre; locally it is referred to as the "Site". The former airfield site as a whole is now known as the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.