A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 958 the 'old church of East Lea' stood on the site of Cokethorpe chapel on the periphery of the Ducklington estate. (fn. 1) The antiquity of Cokethorpe chapel presumably accounts for the tradition that it was the 'mother church' of Ducklington; (fn. 2) its possible origin in the period of the conversion is discussed above. (fn. 3) By 958 there may have been a church in the principal settlement of the estate, although the fabric of the surviving Ducklington church contains no dateable features earlier than the 12th century. That the later parish included Claywell, partly separated from the Ducklington estate by the mid 11th century, (fn. 4) suggests that Ducklington church was established early enough to retain the tithes of most of the estate described in 958. Cokethorpe was a dependent chapelry by the 13th century and remained so until the 20th. (fn. 5) Before Claywell was deserted in the later Middle Ages there may have been a dependent chapel there, though none was mentioned in comprehensive lists of local chapels over which Bampton church claimed rights. (fn. 6) In 1601, however, Ducklington's glebe included what was thought to have been a churchyard at Claywell, for which the tenants of Claywell farm continued to pay 2s. 6d. a year to the churchwardens into the 20th century. (fn. 7)
Niel, chaplain or rector of Ducklington, was mentioned c. 1170, and in 1195 witnessed a grant by the manorial lord Guy de Dive, who, like later Dives, was probably patron of the living. (fn. 8) The advowson was held with the manor until the later 17th century. (fn. 9) In 1222 the bishop of Lincoln collated during the minority of William de Dive, and other minorities led to royal presentations in 1295 and 1331. (fn. 10) The last recorded presentation by a Dive was in 1348. When the manor was divided in the later 14th century the advowson remained with the Lovels, despite a challenge by Edmund, earl of March, lord of the other part of the manor, who made a rival presentation in 1422. (fn. 11) In 1467 Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, presented as guardian of Francis Lovel. (fn. 12) In 1568 the rector Lewis Evans was presented by kinsmen who had purchased a turn. (fn. 13) In 1585 Robert Harrison was presented by Sir Christopher Brome and also later by the. Crown, perhaps because a delay had caused the presentation to lapse to the then vacant see of Oxford. (fn. 14) In 1610 Bartholomew and Thomas Harris presented as grantees of William Bayley (d. 1613). (fn. 15) In 1684 William Bayley (d. 1688), during the incumbency of his brother Walter (d. 1695), sold the advowson to Magdalen College, Oxford, of which both brothers were alumni. (fn. 16) The college retained the advowson until 1951 when it was conveyed to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 17)
The living was a rectory, assessed for tax in 1291 on £14 (including £2 for Cokethorpe chapelry) less £1 6s, 8d. payable to Osney abbey for tithes. (fn. 18) For the tax of 1341, which excluded glebe and certain tithes, Ducklington's earlier assessment was reduced to £8 and Cokethorpe's to £1 13s. 4d. (fn. 19) In the early 16th century the value of the living was stated variously to be £16 and £25 gross; a curate was paid £5 6s. 8d. in 1526. (fn. 20) Post-Reformation estimates of value, which presumably included Cokethorpe, rose from £120 in the early 17th century to over £160 in 1684 and nearly £200 in the early 18th century. (fn. 21)
Allegedly in 1074 Robert d'Oilly granted two thirds of his demesne tithes in Ducklington to the canons of St. George's in Oxford castle, a grant later confirmed to their successors, the canons of Osney. (fn. 22) In the 1170s, after a dispute between Ducklington's incumbent Niel and Osney abbey, Ralph de Chesney also confirmed the abbey's right to two thirds of all tithes from some additional demesne. (fn. 23) The abbey defended its rights against the rector's tithe farmer in the early 14th century, (fn. 24) and its portion was still valued at £1 6s. 8d. in the 16th century. (fn. 25)
Eynsham abbey's right to the tithes of 40 a. in Claywell, confirmed in 1239, may have derived from Ralph de Chesney's grant to the abbey of a hide of land there in the late 12th century; the abbey's tithe there was not recorded later. (fn. 26) In the early 15th century the dean and chapter of Exeter were claiming that tithes in Ducklington manor were being withheld by the Lovels, perhaps from Claywell where some demesne tithes were said in 1317 to belong to Bampton rectory, (fn. 27) or from Barley Park where some land was later thought to be tithable to Bampton. (fn. 28)
Recurrent post-Reformation tithe disputes (fn. 29) included one of 1588 over an alleged modus payable by Walter Bayley for the tithes of Barley Park. (fn. 30) In 1601, however, it was affirmed that the rector received tithes in kind from almost all Ducklington and Hardwick, even from parishioners' holdings in Lew meadow (presumably outside the parish boundary), the only modus being one of 2s. from each of three mills. (fn. 31) Later moduses included several from the Harcourt estate which in the 1720s paid £2 14s. for its Ducklington tithes and 15s. 3d. for those of Hardwick. By the 1740s the Hardwick payment had risen to £2 15s. 6d. and in the 1750s, after further acquisitions, the Harcourts paid £5 1s. for 'Cokethorpe', presumably the Ducklington part of Cokethorpe Park, £7 10s. for Barley Park, and £2 5s. for other Ducklington land; (fn. 32) for some 125 a. of Cokethorpe Park they paid a modus to the rector of Standlake. (fn. 33)
In the early 19th century the rector was letting the tithes and glebe to local farmers. (fn. 34) In 1819 compositions for the tithes of Ducklington and Hardwick were yielding c. £455, reduced by the 1830s to an average of c. £400. (fn. 35) Formal commutation, considered from the early 19th century, (fn. 36) was partly achieved in 1839 when Ducklington township was inclosed and its rectorial tithes replaced by a rent charge of £475. (fn. 37) A field attached to Claywell Farm was charged with a modus of 1s. 8d. payable to the vicars of Bampton, possibly related to the tithes payable from Claywell to Bampton in the 14th century, although those were rectorial, not vicarial tithes; a payment from Claywell farm to Aston vicarage survived in the 20th century. (fn. 38) In 1842 the rector of Ducklington was awarded £6 a year for the tithes of a few acres in Standlake. (fn. 39) The tithes of Hardwick chapelry, valued at c. £68 in 1821, (fn. 40) were formally commuted in 1852 when 422 a. of the 670 a. in the newly inclosed and redefined township were deemed to be tithable to Ducklington, the rest to Yelford or Bampton; the rector was awarded a rent charge of c. £83. (fn. 41) Tithe income, c. £564 gross in the 1850s, was altered slightly when rent charges were adjusted in 1887 to take account of boundary changes. (fn. 42) In the later 19th century the value of the living declined steadily to c. £320 net, but tithe income later recovered to c. £520 in 1922. (fn. 43)
In 1601 the glebe comprised the rectory house and gardens (c. 2 a.), 2 yardlands of arable in Ducklington and Hardwick, c. 7 a. of meadow, and the churchyards of Ducklington, Cokethorpe, and Claywell. (fn. 44) A later 17th-century terrier listing less arable may have excluded Hardwick. (fn. 45) At inclosure in 1839 the rector had c. 10 a. of closes and was awarded 22½ a. for his openfield glebe; in 1852 his Hardwick glebe comprised c. 5 a. (fn. 46) The glebe was unchanged in the later 19th century, (fn. 47) and until 1895 rectors also had the use of land near the rectory house garden, acquired on their behalf by Magdalen College in 1812 and 1836. (fn. 48)
In 1520 the churchwardens reported that the rectory house was let to a layman and in need of repair. (fn. 49) In 1552 the rector let his whole estate for 30 years, reserving only a single chamber for himself and his successors; c. 1574 a later rector was in dispute over the rent. (fn. 50) In 1601 the rectory house was described as a 'fair mansion', comprising a 2-storeyed entrance porch, hall, parlour, buttery, kitchen, brewhouse, and other offices, all with chambers over, built round a courtyard and set in gardens of c. 2 a.; there was a large barn and a dovecot. (fn. 51) For much of the 17th century rectors were resident, and the house, assessed for tax on 12 hearths in 1665, was much the largest in the village; during the Civil War troops were billeted there regularly. (fn. 52) In 1679 the patron and rector obtained a faculty to pull down a ruinous brewhouse and other parts of a south range, to provide materials for the repair of the main building. (fn. 53) In the late 17th century the 'very convenient' house comprised 10 bays of building, a 2-bayed brewhouse and washhouse, and a 6-bayed tithe barn with porch. (fn. 54) James Hawkins, rector from 1798, claimed that he had been obliged to rebuild 'almost the whole'; the work, which included demolishing the 'old hall' and the 'cellar part', was still in progress in 1802. (fn. 55) There were substantial additions by the rectors Thomas Farley in 1843-4 and W. D. Macray in 1870-1. (fn. 56)
The range which forms the north-west front is 17th-century, probably rebuilt by Thomas Wyatt, rector 1610-52, much altered internally in the earlier 18th century, and achieving its present form in the rebuilding of c. 1800, Behind it the two staircase halls and the rooms on the south-east are probably early 19th-century, incorporating older walls around the staircases. Later, probably in 1870-1, they were extensively remodelled and a south-west porch added. The north-east service wing, incorporating a carriage house and loose box, is work of c. 1800, although the vaulted half-cellars may be earlier.
Re-used timbers in the early 19th-century rear range include 15th-century painted beams with shields of arms of Grey and Deincourt (fn. 57) and heraldic emblems associated with the Sydenham and Holand families. (fn. 58) To all those arms the Lovels became entitled through marriages to heiresses, culminating in that of William, Lord Lovel and Holand (d. 1455), to Alice Deincourt, coheir, and from 1454 sole heir, to the baronies of Deincourt and of Grey of Rotherfield. (fn. 59) Assertions that the beams were brought from Minster Lovell are unfounded: (fn. 60) the Lovels were lords and patrons of Ducklington, and the beams were probably re-used when the older parts of the rectory house were demolished c. 1800. A similar roof beam survives in the parish room, formerly the tithe barn, also largely rebuilt c. 1800. (fn. 61) In 1977 the rectory house was sold and the living provided with a house on Standlake Road. (fn. 62)
Many of Ducklington's early rectors were educated men, (fn. 63) and some were probably nonresident beneficiaries of the well endowed living. Robert de Askeby, rector 1295-1304, a royal presentee, was a prominent royal envoy. (fn. 64) Philip of Hanbury, rector in 1363, belonged to an armigerous family and held estates in Worcestershire and elsewhere. (fn. 65) Thomas Raysaker, rector 1447-67, and his successor John Pereson were considerable pluralists; both were wardens of St. Katherine's chantry in Wanborough (Wilts.), which, like Ducklington, was in the patronage of the Lovels. (fn. 66)
The wealth of the living is reflected by Pereson's acquisition in 1501 of a pension of £10 for life from his successor at Ducklington, another pluralist. (fn. 67) In the 1520s the non-resident rector paid curates, (fn. 68) and Sir Thomas More's presentee in 1533, William Leson, Chancery master and considerable pluralist, was probably also nonresident. (fn. 69) In 1552 his successor, William Wright, archdeacon of Oxford and vicar of Bampton, (fn. 70) let the rectory house for 30 years, (fn. 71) presumably encouraging further non-residence.
Both Ducklington's rectors in the period 1558- 85 subscribed to the Elizabethan settlement; (fn. 72) Lewis Evans, rector from 1568, and his curate appeared frequently in ecclesiastical courts, both as litigants and to answer for alleged misconduct. (fn. 73) Robert Harrison, rector 1585-1610, was resident. (fn. 74) He seems to have been the former fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, (fn. 75) a 'zealous Catholic' whose election in 1568 as president of the college was annulled after royal intervention because of his alleged Romanist views. (fn. 76) At Ducklington Harrison may have been concerned in a belated effort to continue the veneration of St. Mary the Virgin. (fn. 77)
Harrison was the first of a succession of remarkably long-serving resident rectors: between 1585 and 1947 there were only 11 rectors, of whom only two served for fewer than 20 years. Thomas Wyatt, D.D., rector 1610-52, negotiated the perils of the Civil War with tact, as the rectory house became a billet for successive waves of troops from both factions; (fn. 78) although evidently mildly Royalist, and once threatened with arrest by passing Parliamentary soldiers, he was described by William Lenthall in 1649 as 'an honest and grave divine'. (fn. 79) William Burley (? 1652-71) was kinsman of the patron, William Bayley, (fn. 80) and Walter Bayley, rector 1671-95, a former fellow of Magdalen College, was the patron's brother. (fn. 81) When the Bayleys sold the living to the college in 1684 they reported that the duty expected was only moderate, comprising one service and sermon each Sunday, alternately at Ducklington and Cokethorpe. (fn. 82)
The churchwardens reported satisfactorily on Ducklington for most of the 18th century. (fn. 83) Mainwaring Hammond, rector 1695-1731, was one of the fellows ejected from Magdalen College by James II in 1687; (fn. 84) he left much of the duty to his curate, a Witney schoolmaster. (fn. 85) On Sundays in 1738 there was a morning service at Ducklington and an evening service at Cokethorpe, but only one sermon each week at alternate churches. (fn. 86) John Pinnell, resident rector for over 50 years from 1747, performed the duty himself and increased the number of services at Ducklington. (fn. 87) By contrast James Hawkins, rector 1798-1836, although resident was never known to preach or to read prayers; he reduced the number of services, and, claiming ill health throughout a long life, relied wholly on non-resident curates. (fn. 88)
His successor Thomas Farley (1836-70), at first an assiduous incumbent, annoyed his bishop by quarrelling with Walter Strickland of Cokethorpe and by conducting services from a 'reading pen' instead of from the altar; he also resisted pressure for additional services. (fn. 89) In 1851 average attendances at Ducklington of 60 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon were reported, but in fact there was only one service there each Sunday, the other being at Cokethorpe for which separate figures were given. (fn. 90) In the 1860s, when most of the duty was carried out by curates, some of them highly regarded, a second service was held at Ducklington in the summer. (fn. 91) Under W. D. Macray, rector 1870-1912, the duty was increased to two full services weekly at Ducklington and one at Cokethorpe. The living evidently could not support curates until, from 1899, the rector's income was increased by holding Yelford in plurality. (fn. 92) Macray, a distinguished archivist and librarian, (fn. 93) was also a model parish priest whose family played a large part in village life for over 40 years. (fn. 94) His successor Christopher Tristram, rector 1912-47, was similarly influential, his contribution including the creation of a parish room in the former tithe barn. (fn. 95)
The church of ST. BARTHOLOMEW, (fn. 96) built of rubble with ashlar dressings, comprises chancel, aisled nave, west tower, and north and south porches. There is a late 12th-century south arcade, of which the plain, single-chamfered western arch was presumably the earliest part. Flat buttresses supporting the west wall on each side of the later tower probably indicate the length and width of the nave c. 1200. In the early to mid 13th century the long, narrow chancel was built and a tower, of which the entrance arch from the nave survives, was added at the west end. The late 12th-century south aisle was probably narrower than the surviving aisle, of which the scale and fenestration indicate rebuilding in the later 13th century. (fn. 97) The small, plain south doorway is probably also of that date.
In the earlier 14th century a large window with geometrical tracery was inserted in the south wall of the chancel, and later, perhaps c. 1340, the chancel arch was rebuilt and a north arcade and lavish north aisle added or rebuilt. The work was distinctive, with tall, sharply pointed windows containing flowing tracery similar to work at Cogges and in the north transept at Witney; the aisle buttresses, with pack-saddle heads and ogee-headed niches, also have close parallels at Witney. Features such as the continuous exterior string course suggest that aisle and buttresses were of one build, an impression confirmed by examination of the footings in 1994. (fn. 98) The con- tinuation of the string course inside the north porch makes it unlikely that a porch formed part of the original design, (fn. 99) while the elaborate treatment of the north doorway suggests that it was by then the principal entrance to the church.
The interior of the aisle (fn. 100) is united by a stringcourse with ballflower running round the wall plate on the north and south sides and forming the window hoods on the east and west. The arcade piers are decorated with crowned heads, possibly of Edward III and Philippa, and coiled serpents, of which that on the east was added or recarved in 1873. (fn. 101) Apparently out of keeping with the high quality of much of the work is the setting of the windows, which have wide, flat splays below the level of the rear arches. Suggestions that the splays were retained from an earlier, presumably 13th-century, aisle (fn. 102) may be discounted on the ground of style and scale. The splays, in existence by the early 19th century, may have been cut to provide more light when galleries were added, but it seems unlikely that galleries occupied the length of the aisle. One possibility, though implying unusual ambition for a village church, is that the jambs formed part of the 14th-century design, and were prepared for niches or other decorations which were never completed.
The east end of the north aisle, heavily decorated with carved masonry, has the appearance of a private chapel and it has been suggested that the aisle's donors, probably members of the manorial family, the Dives, were entombed there in the surviving recesses in the north wall. (fn. 103) The recesses have cusped, ogee-headed arches decorated with carved heads and foliage arranged along a branching vine which, though incomplete, evidently issued from the reclining figure of Jesse in the central spandrel; the composition is set in a rectangular frame of plain roll moulding. The western recess contains a medieval grave slab, and a similar slab lies in the churchyard near the north aisle; both were once decorated with a raised floriated cross, and in 1805 an axe was visible on the slab in the recess. (fn. 104) The slabs, however, probably had no original connexion with the recesses, which they appear to pre-date. Other signs of later alteration include the clumsy setting of some parts into the frame, and the absence of a plinth. The craftmanship of the composition, though vigorous, is inferior to that of the aisle and its location across the lower part of an original window suggests that it was not a memorial to the aisle's founders. Even so most of the masonry is of the 14th century and the frame, in parts at least, is integral with the carving of the arches; a comparably framed 14th-century double recess, complete with effigies, survives in the north transept at Witney. (fn. 105) The Ducklington recesses are probably the remains of a sepulchral monument of the 14th century, although much altered and possibly wholly reset.
Other decorative-masonry in the supposed chapel may be re-used. High on the walls in deep, rectangular recesses are mutilated statues depicting scenes from the life of St. Mary the Virgin, notably, on the north, the Salutation, at the north-east corner the Nativity and the Madonna and Child, and on the south the Annunciation; the upper recess on the south-east contains vestiges of an Ascension. The centrepiece of the group, relatively undamaged, is a depiction of the Coronation of the Virgin set into the east window. (fn. 106) The statues were in their present arrangement and condition by the early 18th century, having perhaps been mutilated during or after the Civil War. In 1815 J. C. Buckler described their 'rude execution' and location as a 'puzzle', (fn. 107) and in 1891 scholarly visitors debated whether or not the Coronation scene was part of the 14th-century tracery design or (as surmised in 1871) a recent insertion. (fn. 108) The statues, although probably 14th-century, may have been reset; their frames have ill-fitting corners and are placed randomly and adapted crudely to accommodate the available figures. Yet the central tracery of the east window is carved out of the rear stonework of the Coronation scene, and parts of the outer moulding of the window arch are integral with the flanking recesses. The evidence for resetting is therefore inconclusive, although if the statues are in situ their location so high above the ground seems inexplicable. One possibility is that they were brought to Ducklington from Cokethorpe chapel, which before its partial destruction at the Reformation had attacted pilgimages to an 'image' of the Virgin, possibly in the form of carvings. (fn. 109) The controversial nature of such material after the Reformation might explain the obscure positioning of the statues. A possible instigator of a revived cult of the Virgin was the late 16th-century rector, Robert Harrison. (fn. 110)
In the 15th century or early 16th the threestage west tower was rebuilt, perhaps from ground level except for the nave arch; an east window was inserted and the chancel height- ened, and a window was inserted in the south aisle. The north porch, which incorporates a wide 13th-century doorway with attached shafts and moulded capitals, was perhaps added at that time. The re-used doorway may have been an earlier north entrance, although its retention seems implausible if, as argued above, no porch was planned at the time that the north aisle was added: perhaps the doorway was moved from the west end when the tower was rebuilt. Beneath the north porch, and probably built at the same time, is a plain vault, evidently a charnel house. (fn. 111)
The south porch, described in 1815 as modern, (fn. 112) is possibly 17th-century. In 1824-6 extensive repairs, which included restoration of the aisle roofs, were aided by a donation of £120 from Walter Strickland. (fn. 113) Thomas Farley, rector from 1836, in his early years restored the tower, tiled the sanctuary, and replaced much furniture with the help of grants and gifts from Magdalen College. (fn. 114) The principal 19th-century restoration took place in 1871-2 to plans by Edward Bruton: the work included partial reflooring, repewing the nave and north aisle, moving the font from the south aisle to the centre of the nave and the pulpit and reading desk from the north side of the nave to the chancel arch, and removing a singers' gallery from the west end and a men's gallery from the west end of the north aisle; a vestry was created by installing part of the former chancel screen in the tower arch, and blocked windows in the north aisle were opened up and whitewash removed from the 'curious sculptures'. The chancel was restored, reseated, and its roof repaired. (fn. 115) A second phase of restoration in 1883-4 included replastering both aisles and repewing the south. (fn. 116)
The drum font, decorated with intersecting round arches and roll moulding, is of the 12th century. (fn. 117) On the south side of the chancel are a piscina and sedilia and on the north an aumbry and credence, all 13th-century, as is a piscina in the south aisle. Traces of early 14th-century wall paintings were uncovered in both aisles in 1884, but only a depiction of the Trinity in a window jamb in the south aisle and some script over the south door were preserved. (fn. 118) By 1805 there seems to have been none of the medieval heraldic glass recorded at Ducklington in the 17th century, notably the coats of Dive, Holand, and Deincourt; (fn. 119) birds reported to be in the glass may have been from the arms of Bayley, the 17th-century manorial family after which the north aisle was once named. (fn. 120) There are fragments of 14th-century glass in the east window of the north aisle, which was damaged by vandalism in the 19th century. (fn. 121)
The medieval church had several altars and lights; (fn. 122) a house and half yardland given by an unknown donor for an obit was seized by the Crown at the Reformation. (fn. 123) Surviving epitaphs are of the 18th century and later, and include those of several rectors. (fn. 124) Stained glass of the late 19th century and early 20th commemorates members of the Macray family. (fn. 125) The pulpit includes late 17th-century panels and, like that at Cokethorpe, may have been made up from redundant woodwork from Magdalen College chapel given to Thomas Farley. A cartouche of the college arms, given at the same time, is in the north aisle. (fn. 126) The oak reredos incorporates 17th-century panels, possibly Flemish, given by Farley, (fn. 127) whose family in 1871 gave the oak eagle lectern in his memory. (fn. 128) In the early 19th century music was provided by 'an instrumental choir' and there was a small harmonium, replaced by organs from 1891. (fn. 129)
Of the ring of six bells four date from 1708; the tenor was recast in 1829 and a treble added in 1889. The saunce of 1633 is by James Keene of Woodstock. (fn. 130) The church plate includes a silver chalice of 1578, a silver paten given by the rector Main waring Hammond in 1707, and an alms dish given by Thomas Farley in 1841. (fn. 131) The registers date from 1579, with a few earlier entries, and are complete except for a gap in the burial register in the 1670s. (fn. 132)
An additional burial ground was provided in 1878 on land in Court Close north of the church given by Catherine Strickland; it was extended in 1926. (fn. 133)
By the early 19th century the parish held property independent of the rectorial glebe: it included a few strips of arable in the open fields, a small piece of pasture within the north boundary of Cokethorpe Park, a garden near Ducklington pond, and church houses in Ducklington on the site of the surviving brick terrace on the north-west side of the Square. (fn. 134) The open field land, 1 a. after inclosure in 1839, (fn. 135) and the other church land was still let by the churchwardens in the mid 20th century. (fn. 136) In the early 19th century the church houses, two in 1831 and three by 1839, were rented to the poor, although one was thought to have been used as a workhouse. (fn. 137) After 1834 that house, still owned by the parish, was administered by the guardians of Witney union, while the rent of the others supplemented church rates. In 1872 all three were sold and rebuilt. (fn. 138)
The origins of Cokethorpe chapel as the AngloSaxon church at East Lea are discussed above. (fn. 139) William, parson of East Lea, witnessed a grant of c. 1195 × 1218, but in 1212-13 reference was made to Robert, chaplain of Cokethorpe. (fn. 140) In 1290 it was alleged that the little church or chapel (ecclesiola seu capella) of Cokethorpe (fn. 141) had been dependent beyond memory and had usually been served by a resident chaplain or parson appointed and removed by Ducklington's rector. The rector was paid in cash or incense by the chaplain, who served Cokethorpe and Hardwick with all offices and sacraments except burials. Others claimed, however, that William de Dive (d. 1261) had directly presented a chaplain to Cokethorpe who had held it for forty years as an independent living without episcopal or papal sanction. On the chaplain's death in 1290 Philip de Dive, rector of Ducklington, secured episcopal confirmation of his rights over Cokethorpe on condition that he supplied a resident and honest curate. (fn. 142) The chapel's status was again in dispute in the later 14th century: the Crown made and revoked several presentations (fn. 143) until in 1376 an examination of the bishops' registers confirmed that Cokethorpe had never been a separate benefice. (fn. 144) In the 15th century presentations to Ducklington usually included reference to the annexed chapel of Cokethorpe. (fn. 145)
Hardwick lay outside the Ducklington estate granted in 958, but its inhabitants came to attend Cokethorpe chapel: references to Hardwick chapelry reflect the concentration of the congregation in that hamlet. Hardwick, unlike. Ducklington, was claimed as ancient demesne, (fn. 146) in which by charter Bampton church had tithes, perhaps strengthening, in the case of Hardwick, Bampton's persistent claims to parochial rights throughout Ducklington parish. (fn. 147) In 1290 the dead of Hardwick were still buried at Bampton, but by then Cokethorpe burials were at Ducklington. (fn. 148) As late as 1405-6 the dean and canons of Exeter were claiming for Bampton all Hardwick burials, some of which were taking place illicitly at Ducklington. (fn. 149) By the 16th century, however, when it was confirmed that there were no burials at Cokethorpe, (fn. 150) Hardwick people were evidently buried at Ducklington without challenge. (fn. 151) Later, although some residents in Cokethorpe House were buried at Ducklington, (fn. 152) most were buried at Standlake, of which technically they were parishioners. (fn. 153)
In 1520 Cokethorpe was served by a friar who in winter celebrated vespers only on festival days. In 1540 the churchwardens complained of a broken window in the chancel, the responsibility of the rector. (fn. 154) In the early 16th century there were pilgrimages to the image or picture of the Blessed Mary of Cokethorpe; wax images were sold to pilgrims from shops or stalls near the chapel. (fn. 155) The pilgrimages ceased in the late 1530s after Henrician legislation; allowances for decayed rents from shops associated with the cult were made to the bailiff of Ducklington manor from 1539. (fn. 156) A deponent in the 1590s remembered pilgrimages taking place for eight or nine years before the suppression of the monasteries; (fn. 157) the practice was presumably much older, although a claim in 1549 that the chapel owed its existence to the cult was evidently unfounded. (fn. 158) In the 18th century there was a memory of a curative well at Cokethorpe. (fn. 159)
In 1549, although it was conceded that Ducklington's curate celebrated Mass weekly at Cokethorpe, the chapel was suppressed as a chantry; its fabric was sold to Francis Chesildon and c, 9 a. of land, including the chapel yard, was sold to Richard Venables and John Maynard. (fn. 160) Chesildon pulled down much of the building and sold the materials to Leonard Yate and William Box. Local men successfully argued that the chapel should not have been suppressed, since it provided parochial functions for Cokethorpe and Hardwick as a chapel-of-ease, and in July 1549 Yate and Box were ordered to return, the materials and to repair the defaced chapel. By 1553-4, however, there had been little progress beyond the return of the bells. (fn. 161) In 1584 the rector denied responsibility for repairing Cokethorpe on the ground that it was only a chapel-of-ease, but he was censured for his neglect. (fn. 162) The chapel was still decayed in the 1590s. (fn. 163)
There are hints that in the later 16th century the chapel provided a centre for covert Roman Catholic worship in the area. Money for its upkeep was given by John Holyman (d. 1558), rector of Hanborough and formerly bishop of Bristol, a 'zealous Romanist'. (fn. 164) The move to Cokethorpe by the Easts, noted recusants, in the 1570s, despite the probable lack of a house of gentry status, may have been connected with the chapel. (fn. 165) Both Ducklington and Yelford churches had incumbents who were suspected Romanists. (fn. 166)
In the later 17th century the rector was entertained, presumably at Cokethorpe House, when he used the chapel on alternate Sundays for the parish's one Sunday service and sermon. (fn. 167) In the 18th century the Harcourts attended Cokethorpe chapel, which by mid century stood isolated in their park. (fn. 168) There was a weekly service, but sermons only on alternate Sundays, and communion services four times a year. (fn. 169) In the 19th century there was usually a single service with sermon, and average congregations were stated to be 50 in the mornings and 90 in the afternoons. (fn. 170) The chapel continued to provide services not only for Hardwick but also for some 25 residents of Cokethorpe Park; (fn. 171) that they were not parishioners may have contributed to the friction between the rector, Thomas Farley, and Walter Strickland, which included quarrels over pew rents and churchyard fencing. (fn. 172) By the 1880s services had been reduced to only one evening a month, the day of the monthly communion service, but there was an increase to alternate Sundays in 1899 when W. D. Macray acquired a curate. (fn. 173) From the 1950s the chapel was used chiefly by Cokethorpe School. Damage caused by a falling elm in 1976 hastened the decision to declare it redundant; it was presented to the school by the old boys in 1979. (fn. 174)
The chapel of ST. MARY was probably dedicated originally to St. Michael, whose feast day was still observed as Hardwick's wake in the 19th century. (fn. 175) By 1365 the dedication was to St. Mary, and in the 16th century, reflecting the importance there of the cult of the Virgin, the chapel was called Our Lady of Cokethorpe. (fn. 176) In the 18th century a dedication feast on 22 July was noted, indicating (if not an error) a postReformation change of invocation to St. Mary Magdalen which had been reversed by the 19th century. (fn. 177) The building comprises chancel, nave, north aisle, and north-west tower. (fn. 178) The older masonry is of coursed limestone rubble, additions made in 1873-4 are of dressed stone, and the roof is of 20th-century tiles. The earliest dateable features include a reset plain 12th- century tympanum inside the south doorway, (fn. 179) a notable 12th-century font, and a fragment of carved masonry, probably part of a late 11th- century windowhead, discovered in the demolished east wall in 1873 and adapted as a piscina. (fn. 180) The lower stages of the tower, which include on the west side a 13th-century two-light lancet and signs of a gable, and on the north a blocked early window close to the eastern corner, suggest that the largely post-medieval tower was built up on the walls of a probably 13th-century north aisle. (fn. 181) The plain western arch of the surviving north arcade also belonged to an earlier aisle, of which the foundations were discovered in the 1870s; until then a crude diagonal wall created a passage through the arch into the east side of the tower. (fn. 182) There may have been a large reredos in the medieval chancel: a blocked, probably 14th-century, window was revealed in the blank east wall in 1873, and until that date the east end was lit by a large, probably 14th-century, window at the east end of the south wall. (fn. 183) The image of the Virgin, the focus of Cokethorpe's medieval cult, may have formed part of such a reredos.
The surviving plain late-Perpendicular work perhaps dates from an unrecorded rebuilding in the late 16th century or early 17th, after the chapel had been ruinous from 1549 until at least 1590. (fn. 184) The tower, with blocked round-headed apertures, presumably bell-openings, in the second stage, probably belongs to that phase of building. In the early 18th century work sponsored by the Harcourts included timber flooring, (fn. 185) new bells and plate, perhaps the blocking of a late-Perpendicular priest's doorway in the south chancel wall (re-opened in 1873-4), (fn. 186) and perhaps the addition of the surviving south porch, certainly built before 1824 and for long housing chained books given in the early 18th century. (fn. 187) The tower's surviving belfry stage, of rendered brick, and low pointed roof were added before 1824, probably between 1807 and 1811 when there was much repair and refitting and the bells were rehung. (fn. 188)
Repaving and refurnishing were carried out by the rector Thomas Farley in 1840-3. (fn. 189) His successor W. D. Macray instigated a major restoration in 1873-4 to plans by E. G. Bruton; (fn. 190) the chief additions were a north aisle for the use of the Cokethorpe Park residents, donated in memory of Walter Strickland (d. 1870) by his relict Catherine, (fn. 191) an east window, a replacement of the medieval window at the east end of the south wall, heightened chancel and nave walls, and a new roof. The pulpit, font, and large pews for the rector and the owners of Cokethorpe Park were removed from the chancel, which was given a raised floor; the harmonium and singers were moved there from the demolished west gallery. There was a shortfall in subscriptions, notably because St. John's College considered the building inconvenient for Hardwick and not worth restoring. (fn. 192)
The 12th-century font has an elaborate intersecting arcade with spiral-fluted columns and rose decoration. (fn. 193) The credence shelf and piscina are medieval fragments found in the east wall in 1873. (fn. 194) The pulpit, lectern, and reredos, incorporating 17th-century woodwork from Magdalen College, were constructed by the rector Thomas Farley c. 1842. (fn. 195) Bosses bearing the arms of Sydenham and Lovel were brought in from the exterior of the building during the restoration of 1873-4. (fn. 196) There are several memorials to the Stricklahds and their successors at Cokethorpe House, including stained glass by Usher & Kelly in the east window, given in 1874 by Frances Cottrell-Dormer daughter of Walter Strickland (d. 1839). (fn. 197) The three bells include one of 1732 by Henry Bagley. (fn. 198) The plate includes a chalice of 1575 and another, with paten cover, of 1727 given by Elizabeth, Lady Harcourt. (fn. 199)
A chapel yard said to be 1 a. in 1549 (fn. 200) was reduced in 1712 when Simon, Viscount Harcourt (d. 1727) leased some of it to lay out an avenue. (fn. 201) It was later merged with the park; it measured less than ¼ a. in 1761 and remained unfenced until 1875 when Mrs. Strickland gave iron railings, removed in modern times. (fn. 202) The base of an ancient cross stood near the south porch until destroyed in 1873. (fn. 203)