A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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This isolated parish (1,019 a.) is elongated in shape and projects into Buckinghamshire: the county and parish boundaries are therefore for the most part the same. On the north and east the parish is bounded by the Birne, a tributary of the River Ouse, which here divides into several parallel streams. (fn. 1) There have been no recorded changes of boundary. (fn. 2) The centre of the parish lies on drift gravel, bordered by Cornbrash in the valley on the north-west and by the Oxford Clay in the south-east. (fn. 3) The greater part of it is a bleak almost treeless table-land, mostly above the 300-foot contour line. The highest point of 356 feet is reached in the centre of the parish near Godington Hall. The south-west of the parish is crossed by the Stratton Audley-Poundon road, from which a branch, called the Stratton AudleyBuckingham road in 1817, runs north-eastwards to the village. (fn. 4) The nearest station is the former L.M.S. one at Marsh Gibbon and Poundon, two miles distant.
The village, standing about 290 feet up, lies at the northern end of the parish. (fn. 5) The medieval village was never large and may have declined in numbers in the late Middle Ages. (fn. 6) In 1665 there were two gentlemen's houses, one of them the Rectory, which each returned six hearths for the hearth tax. There were only five other houses listed, and none had more than two hearths. In the fuller list of 1662 there were nine houses. (fn. 7) During the 18th century incumbents estimated that there were sixteen houses in the parish. (fn. 8) In 1951 the village had only twelve dwellings, some of which were red-brick cottages dating from the 19th century. (fn. 9) They were spread out on either side of the road running from Moat Farm, past the church and the Old Rectory, to Grange Farm and the new Rectory, half a mile away.
Moat Farm stands a short distance to the north of the church. It is surrounded by a rectangular moat of medieval date. (fn. 10) The present farm-house was built in the 17th century, and the date 1672 with the initials c B appears on a weather-vane on the roof. The sash windows were inserted in 1782 by William Fermor, (fn. 11) whose initials are carved on a date-stone on the south side. It may have been the house occupied by one Davis in 1738, who had a resident priest and made the house a centre for the Roman Catholics of the neighbourhood. (fn. 12) It was later occupied by another yeoman family of well-known Catholics—the Collingridges.
In 1787 the old Rectory was 'in so ruinous and decayed a state' that it was rebuilt at a cost of £200 with the help of a loan from Corpus Christi College. The new house (37 ft. wide by 16 ft. high) was of brick, and consisted of parlour, kitchen, dairy, brewhouse, three bedrooms, and two garrets. (fn. 13) In 1867 a new Rectory on a different site was built at a cost of £1,200 (architect W. Wilkinson of Oxford), (fn. 14) but in the 1930's it was sold for use as a private house. (fn. 15)
Formerly there were a blacksmith's shop near the Rectory and a number of mud cottages, which have been pulled down within living memory. There is no record of any public house in the village. (fn. 16)
Poodle Farm at the southern end of the parish has a history going back to the 13th century and stands on the site of a grange belonging to Missenden Abbey. (fn. 17) The name is possibly derived from Old English pol-dæl, 'the stream valley', (fn. 18) and no doubt refers to the never-failing spring of water which still supplies the farm. The present house is stone-built with walls of great thickness, but has been refronted with blue vitreous bricks said to have been made in the local brick works. (fn. 19) The house is of two stories with attic dormers; a west wing was added in the 19th century, possibly in 1822 when the stables were rebuilt. (fn. 20)
Godington Hall is a well-built house dating from the early 19th century. (fn. 21) Grange Farm, formerly Manor Farm, has been rebuilt, but still retains parts of an earlier 17th-century house.
The only family of note connected with Godington was the medieval one of the De Camvilles. A 12thcentury charter of Hugh de Camville suggests that he then lived in the village. It is witnessed by his wife and brother, by Regnerus the painter and others, who appear to be members of Hugh's household, together with the halimot of Godington. (fn. 22) The parish has, however, been well known for generations as an outpost of Roman Catholicism. (fn. 23) In more recent times its coverts have been renowned in connexion with the Bicester Hunt. (fn. 24)
GOLDINGTON, which before the Norman Conquest had been held by Siward and Siwate, was held in chief as 7 hides by Richard Puingiant in 1086, while a tenant, William, held it of Richard. (fn. 25) Until the early 14th century the overlordship of Godington followed the same descent as Richard Puingiant's Domesday manor of Middleton Stoney, of which it was regarded as a dependent member. (fn. 26) In the mid-12th century Godington appears in the possession of the De Camville family, who until the loss of Normandy in King John's reign still held Canville-les-Deux-Eglises (Seine-Inférieure), from which they took their name. (fn. 27) Richard de Camville held 1 knight's fee in Oxfordshire in 1166, (fn. 28) of which Godington no doubt formed part, for Richard and his brother Roger granted lands in Godington to Missenden Abbey (Bucks.) about that time. (fn. 29) Richard died in 1176. (fn. 30) His eldest son Gerard married Nichole, daughter and heiress of Richard de la Hay, hereditary Sheriff of Lincolnshire and Constable of Lincoln castle, and held these offices in his wife's right. (fn. 31) He supported Count John against King Richard and so lost his lands, (fn. 32) and in 1194 had to pay 2,000 marks for their recovery. (fn. 33) He died about the end of 1214, leaving his son Richard, the husband of a daughter of Gilbert Basset, as his heir. (fn. 34) Unlike his mother Nichole, Richard seems to have sided with the barons in the civil war, and suffered for his opposition. He recovered some of his confiscated manors early in 1217, but died a few years later. (fn. 35)
His heir was his daughter Idoine, and the right to arrange for her marriage had been given to William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury, in 1216. (fn. 36) The earl's eldest son William married her and received her inheritance when she came of age in 1226. (fn. 37) He held Godington as ¼ knight's fee in 1243, (fn. 38) but was killed on crusade in 1250, a year or two before Idoine died. (fn. 39) Her son William succeeded (fn. 40) in 1252, but died in 1257, leaving an infant daughter, Margaret, as his heiress. (fn. 41) In 1268 her husband Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, received his wife's inheritance. (fn. 42) In 1279 and 1285 he was said to be holding Godington in chief. (fn. 43) Henry, one of the most loyal and capable of the earls of Edward I's reign, died in 1311, leaving his large possessions, including Godington, (fn. 44) to his only surviving child, Alice de Lacy, who inherited two earldoms. At his inquest post mortem Godington was said to be held of Middleton Stoney of the honor of Pontefract. Alice married Thomas, later Earl of Lancaster, in 1294, and he was recorded as lord of Godington in 1316. (fn. 45) Thomas was beheaded in 1322 after the failure of his rebellion against Edward II, and all his possessions were taken into the king's hands. His widow Alice never recovered Godington. (fn. 46)
Richard de Camville (d. 1176) appears to have enfeoffed first his younger brother Roger, and later, presumably on Roger's death, another brother Hugh with the manor of Godington. Hugh, who was in possession about 1160, (fn. 47) was succeeded by his son Thomas, who about 1206 enfeoffed William Falconer with a carucate of land in Godington as 1½ knight's fee (fn. 48) and undertook to perform the service due to Gerard de Camville, the chief lord of the fee. Thomas died in 1235, (fn. 49) and in 1243 Roger de Witchester held Godington, presumably of Robert de Camville, Thomas's son. (fn. 50) Robert was of age by 1246, and in 1255 the tenant of the manor, Philip Lovel, held of Robert, who held of the younger William Longespée. (fn. 51) There had been another change of tenants by 1279 when William de Havere held the principal estate in Godington as 1/6 fee. (fn. 52) Robert de Camville does not appear as mesne lord of Godington in 1279 for in that year he surrendered the manor to the king and queen. (fn. 53) In 1281 Queen Eleanor granted the manor, 'late of Sir Robert de Camville', to Guy Ferre, to be held for a nominal rent and the services due to the chief lord of the fee (fn. 54) —the Earl of Lincoln. Robert clearly acquiesced in this arrangement, for a few months later he promoted a grant to Guy Ferre of lands and rents in Godington by Godfrey and Joan Fitzpeter. (fn. 55) Guy died childless in 1323 and the manor reverted to the Crown, (fn. 56) which had already acquired the overlordship by Thomas of Lancaster's forfeiture.
In 1325 Edward II granted the manor to Richard Damory of Bucknell at fee farm. During the lifetime of Eleanor, Guy Ferre's widow, Richard was to hold two-thirds of the manor for 10 marks a year. On Eleanor's death the remaining third would revert to him, and his farm would be increased by £10. (fn. 57) Eleanor was still alive in 1330 when Richard died (fn. 58) leaving his son Richard, who was still a minor, as his heir. The wardship of the younger Richard was granted to his mother, and he came of age in 1337. (fn. 59) In 1347 Richard was permitted to entail the manor on himself and his male heirs. (fn. 60) The reversion of Eleanor's dower in Godington seems to have fallen in by 1354, (fn. 61) but by then Richard was heavily in debt. (fn. 62) In 1354, when he owed Edward III £2,000, he surrendered Godington to the king, who regranted it to him for life at the farm of £10 a year. (fn. 63) In 1373 the farm was made payable to John de Beverley, who with his wife Amice was granted the reversion of the manor in the same year. (fn. 64) In 1374 Richard was allowed to let the manor to John for £2 a year; (fn. 65) in 1375 he died without issue and without known heirs, (fn. 66) and Godington duly reverted to the De Beverleys.
John de Beverley died in 1380, and Godington was delivered by the escheator to his widow Amice, since they had held the manor jointly. (fn. 67) On Amice's death in 1416 Godington, like Bucknell, passed to Robert Langford and Walter Dauntesy, John de Beverley's grandsons. (fn. 68) The manor continued to be held of the Crown at a farm of £10 a year, and in the course of the 15th century a number of grants of the farm were made by successive sovereigns. Richard Bedford, an auditor of the Exchequer, received a grant of the farm of Godington for ten years in 1439, and in 1447 he and Edmund Hampden were granted it for life. (fn. 69) In 1466—the Lancastrian Hampden having been attainted—Edward IV gave the farm of Godington to his queen, Elizabeth. During his brief restoration in 1471, Henry VI granted it to George, Duke of Clarence, but Elizabeth probably regained it when Edward IV recovered his kingdom. (fn. 70) Richard III seems to have taken the revenue from Godington for himself, but Henry VII restored it to Elizabeth in 1486. (fn. 71) Unfortunately this series of grants refers to those who were responsible for paying the farm as 'Richard Damory and his heirs', without giving any indication of who were the tenants of the manor. In 1428 William Parkins held the manor, but it was not known of whom he held it. (fn. 72) Robert Langford and Walter Dauntesy may well have alienated the manor as they did Bucknell but with the exception of Parkins subsequent tenants in the 15th century are not known.
The Fermor family seems to have acquired its first possessions in Godington shortly after the Dissolution (see below), and by his death in 1552 William Fermor held Godington manor, (fn. 73) although his will mentions only his lands in 'Poodle' (fn. 74) (i.e. Missenden Abbey's former estate). (fn. 75) William Fermor's nephew and heir Thomas succeeded to Godington, and held the manor, with appurtenances in Hardwick, of the queen in fee farm, paying the £10 a year which the successors of Richard Damory had paid. (fn. 76) Thomas died in 1580 and by the terms of his will left Godington manor in trust for sixteen years until his son Richard came of age. (fn. 77) Like Somerton Godington was held by Richard's eldest son John and his wife Cicely Compton. John died before his father, and Cicely and her second husband Lord Arundell of Wardour continued to hold the manor in dower. Lord Arundell's estates were sequestered during the Civil War and he petitioned to compound for them in 1646. But it was not until 1653 that Godington manor was purchased for £2,131 from the Treason Trustees by his brotherin-law, Humphrey Weld, for the duration of the lives of Arundell and his wife. (fn. 78) In 1665, as the house was being leased by a Mr. Croker, a member of a wellknown local family, it is possible that the estate was also leased to him. (fn. 79) Henry Fermor (d. 1673) left lands in Godington to his wife Ursula, (fn. 80) and from his son Richard (d. 1684) Godington descended to Henry (d. 1703) and James (d. 1722). When Rawlinson visited Godington early in the 18th century he recorded that the lord of the manor was Sir Edmund Denton, (fn. 81) not James Fermor. The Dentons of Hillesden (Bucks.) held land in Godington, (fn. 82) but based their claim to the lordship of the manor with view of frankpledge on their possession of the manor of Middleton Stoney which they held until 1712, (fn. 83) although Godington had been separated from Middleton since 1322. Proof of the reality of the claim to lordship by the lords of Middleton lies in the fact that their steward was holding the Godington court leet at Middleton in the 1650's. (fn. 84)
Godington remained in the Fermor family, following the same descent as Somerton until the death of the last of the direct line, William Fermor, in 1828. (fn. 85) William left his property to his illegitimate daughter Maria Ramsay, and after her death it was split up among her children, who sold Godington to Henry, 2nd Earl of Effingham, in 1857. (fn. 86) The lordship of the manor descended with the Earldom of Effingham (fn. 87) until 1927, when the estates were sold. (fn. 88) Manorial rights have now lapsed. (fn. 89)
Missenden Abbey acquired 2 hides, the Poodle estate, in Godington from the De Camvilles in the 12th century (fn. 90) and held it until the Dissolution. (fn. 91) By 1541 the estate had been purchased by William Fermor (fn. 92) and it again became part of the manor. A virgate in Godington was held by Chetwode Priory (Bucks.) in 1279 (fn. 93) and passed with the priory's possessions to Notley Abbey (Bucks.) in 1461. (fn. 94) Notley held it at the Dissolution, (fn. 95) and in 1554 it was held by the Risley family. (fn. 96) The later history of 2 virgates held by Elstow Abbey (Beds.) in 1279 (fn. 97) is unrecorded.
Godington was probably first settled by the Saxons; the place-name is derived from Gōdan dūn or perhaps Gōdinga dūn, 'the hill of Goda' or of 'Goda's people'. (fn. 98) In the Domesday survey the village had land for 7 ploughs and was worth £5, as it had been at the Conquest. There were 2 plough-teams with a serf on the demesne, and 6½ worked by the 16 villeins (villani) and 2 bordars, who made up the recorded working population. (fn. 99) In 1279 William de Havere, tenant of the manor under the Earl of Lincoln, held 6 virgates in demesne; the only other free tenants were probably the Abbess of Elstow and the Prior of Chetwode, with 3 virgates between them. Holding of William de Havere were 25 villeins—2 virgaters and 23 halfvirgaters—paying rents of 5s. a year on a virgate, 2 cottars and 6 tenants, who each held a messuage and a few acres of land for an average rent of 1s. a year. (fn. 100) This survey of the village does not include the estate given to Missenden Abbey by Richard de Camville about the middle of the 12th century; (fn. 101) it lay in the lower south-western part of the parish called Poodle.
In 1291 the abbey's lands in Godington were worth £2 8s. 8d. a year, and its stock and crops £1 10s. 8d. (fn. 102) The labour services owed by the villeins of the Camville manor had apparently been commuted by the late 13th century: no services are specified in 1279 when rents probably included payments in lieu of works. In 1323 these payments came to £4 14s. 6d. a year. (fn. 103) For a comparatively small parish Godington was fairly prosperous in the early 14th century, judging by its assessments for taxation. (fn. 104) In 1327 as many as 23 individuals were assessed, and it may be noted that in 1316 Missenden's grange of Poodle was the highest contributor. (fn. 105) At the end of Edward III's reign there were 43 contributors to the poll tax in Godington. (fn. 106)
At the Dissolution Missenden Abbey's estate was bringing in rents of £2 6s. 8d. a year (fn. 107) and it is probable that much of it was then used for grazing, for of an estate of 120 acres in Poodle in 1541 all but 20 acres were pasture. (fn. 108) By the end of the 16th century the whole parish, with the exception of the glebe lands and a ½-yardland held by Nicholas Jackman, had been bought by the Fermors, the lords of the manor. (fn. 109) In 1524 two Jackmans, Robert senior and junior, had been among Godington's subsidymen, and another Robert had contributed to the subsidies of 1559 and 1569. But by 1603 these and other substantial yeoman families, the Allens and the Lambournes, (fn. 110) had evidently given up their holdings, and in about 1615 Nicholas Jackman sold his lands to Sir Richard Fermor. (fn. 111)
There had no doubt been a number of small closes in Godington dating from the Middle Ages; the acre of land with appurtenant meadow lying between two houses in Godington and granted by Hugh de Camville in about 1160 to Regnerus the painter may have been one, (fn. 112) and an inclosure, 'Garscroft', is mentioned in about 1208. (fn. 113) But very nearly the whole of the parish was inclosed in or shortly after 1603 by agreement between Sir Richard Fermor, James Benskyn, the rector, and Nicholas Jackman. (fn. 114) By the early 18th century the Fermors' estate was split up into five farms each let at over £40 a year, and three smaller ones let at between £20 and £40 each, the total annual rents amounting to about £347. (fn. 115) There were six farms at the beginning of the 19th century, but rents had more than doubled, having risen very steeply in the last decade of the 18th century. (fn. 116) Godington Cow Pasture, nearly 100 acres in the south-west of the parish, remained uninclosed (fn. 117) until 1817 when the tithes were commuted, (fn. 118) and Magdalen College, which had held three small meadows in the parish in 1535, (fn. 119) was awarded 2 acres in lieu of its right to the first crop of hay from certain lands. (fn. 120)
In the 19th century two of the farms belonged to the rector: Glebe farm (about 50 acres), 'one of the most compact glebe farms in the kingdom', (fn. 121) was in the early part of the century let as a dairy farm; (fn. 122) the other, consisting of the 130 acres the rector received at inclosure, was known as Tithe farm. (fn. 123) In 1918 both these farms were sold to Thomas Markham of Hall Farm. (fn. 124) In 1956 there were five farms in the parish. There were 360 acres of arable and 744 acres of grassland. (fn. 125)
Although the population was probably always comparatively small, it has considerably declined in recent years. In 1676 there were 65 adults, and the population may have been static for most of the 18th century, when the incumbents constantly returned 16 houses and 100 inhabitants. By 1801 the population was 99, and it reached a peak of 118 in 1831. Thereafter the number of inhabitants has steadily declined. It was 57 in 1901 and had fallen to 45 by 1951. (fn. 126)
In 1086 the mill was worth 3s.: (fn. 127) it is mentioned in 1279, when it was held by William de Havere. Another is recorded in 1323, worth £1, and on the estate of Missenden Abbey. It was held of the abbey by the Prior of Chetwode. (fn. 128) No more is heard of it and it had evidently fallen into disuse by 1535, when it was not included in the survey of the abbey's and priory's possessions. Twyford mill, two miles away and reached by a footpath, (fn. 129) was commonly used by the people of Godington until the late 19th century.
It is likely that there was a church at Godington at least by about 1160, when Hugh de Camville and his wife Christina held the manor and probably lived in the parish. A charter of this date is witnessed by the halimot and Humphrey the clerk, who was perhaps the parish priest. (fn. 130)
The earliest evidence about the advowson comes from a case of 1221 between Thomas de Camville, lord of the manor, and the Abbess of Elstow (Beds.), a rich Benedictine nunnery. It was agreed that Thomas's mother Christina had presented the last rector, but the abbess claimed that after his mother's death Thomas had granted the church to her convent in free alms, and she produced his charter and a confirmation by St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (1186–1200). Thomas denied the gift and said that neither the charter nor the seal was his. (fn. 131) Next year, however, Thomas de Camville quitclaimed the advowson to the abbess and was received with his heirs into the abbey's prayers. (fn. 132)
Elstow held the advowson until its dissolution in 1539. (fn. 133) Thereafter, the Crown was patron (fn. 134) until 1608, when it granted the advowson, with that of four other churches, to Sir Henry Fowkes, (fn. 135) who at once sold it for £320 to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (fn. 136) In 1928 (fn. 137) the rectory was annexed to the vicarage of Stratton Audley, in the patronage of Christ Church, and the two colleges have since presented in turn. (fn. 138)
The church was valued at only £2 in 1254, (fn. 139) but by 1291 it had risen in value to £4 6s. 8d., (fn. 140) and by 1535 to £7 18s. 10d. net. (fn. 141) Eighteenth-century valuations vary: in the early years it was worth 'near £200', (fn. 142) but in 1787 the gross value of the living, before the deduction of £16 land tax, was about £150. This consisted of £71 for the rent of about 50 acres of glebe and £79 from the lease of tithes and Easter offerings. By 1814 the glebe was let for £250 and the tithes for £415. (fn. 143) In that year the rector complained that since there was no resident curate or bailiff the farmers were withholding part of their tithes. (fn. 144) In 1817 the tithes were commuted for 124 acres of land, plus 7 acres in lieu of common for 4 cows. (fn. 145) The scattered strips of glebe in the open fields had been exchanged for about 50 acres near the parsonage as early as about 1603. (fn. 146) Although the rector later became dissatisfied with the exchange, his efforts to recover his old glebe were unsuccessful. The value of the rectory declined in the course of the 19th century and in 1867 was valued at £361. (fn. 147) In 1918 all the land was sold. (fn. 148)
One of Godington's earliest rectors was a prominent civil servant, Eustace de Fauconberg, who became rector before 1200. (fn. 149) He had had a vicar, William de Esseburn, but when Eustace became Bishop of London in 1221, William was collated to the rectory, thus uniting it with the vicarage. (fn. 150) In the later 13th century the living was usually held by university graduates; (fn. 151) some rectors stayed for many years, but in the later middle ages the church, on account of its poverty, no doubt, was frequently exchanged. Between 1400 and 1420, for instance, it was exchanged at least eight times, sometimes for neighbouring livings, such as Westbury (Bucks.), sometimes for distant ones, such as Butterwick (Lincs.). The main evidence about the rectors in the early 16th century comes from a visitation of about 1517. It was then reported that the rector was living in the parish and keeping a woman and a girl in his house. (fn. 152)
Almost no records of the post-Reformation church survive before the late 17th century: even the parish register does not begin until then. After Corpus Christi College had acquired the advowson, it presented its own Fellows or scholars. Of one, John Kerswell (1643–68), (fn. 153) it may be noted that he was resident (fn. 154) and was buried in the church. (fn. 155) Another, Theodore Fletcher (1673–1706), was the last resident rector for 150 years. He too, with many of his family, was buried in the church.
Eighteenth-century rectors were rather more distinguished, but were non-resident. William Buckeridge (1707–14) was the author of a pamphlet attacking occasional conformity; (fn. 156) William Tilly (1714–40) was well known for his sermons and was also Rector of Albury; (fn. 157) Francis Ayscough (1741– 63), said to be of Bangorian principles, (fn. 158) held many offices including those of Dean of Bristol and tutor to George III and his brother; (fn. 159) and Timothy Neve (1763–98), also rector of Middleton Stoney, where he lived, was a noted theologian. (fn. 160)
During this time the parish was served by a curate. For many years in the middle of the century Stephen Richardson held the office for a salary of £35 a year. (fn. 161) Although for at least part of the time he was also curate of Stoke Lyne, he lived in Godington, held services there twice on Sundays, when he preached one sermon, (fn. 162) and administered the sacrament three times or more a year. When in 1739 the Roman Catholicism of the parish was causing concern, he assured the bishop that he took 'as particular care of the parish of Godington as any curate in your diocese'. (fn. 163) In 1812 the poor state of the Rectory, recently rebuilt, (fn. 164) was given as a reason for his nonresidence by the rector, H. J. Beaver (1798–1815). (fn. 165) To make it 'barely convenient', he said, would cost at least £1,500. The situation was 'low and wet in the extreme' and among other disadvantages, although two horses could stand in the stable, only one could lie down. His other reasons throw an equally interesting light on the social position of the clergy: there was no society within eight or nine miles; the roads were too bad for travelling; and as the farmers were Roman Catholics, there would not be 'that ease and freedom of communication' with them which was desirable. (fn. 166)
Beaver's poor opinion of the parish was reciprocated. In 1814 the churchwarden presented that the church was not well served and the children not catechized. (fn. 167) He also wrote to the bishop asking for a resident minister, who would 'instruct the lower class men in their duty' and hold two services on Sunday. (fn. 168) The parishioners of Godington fared no better under Beaver's successor Joseph Hollis (1815– 26), Vicar of Chesterton. He did not reside and would not enlarge the Rectory for a curate. 'There is hardly a parish in your Lordship's diocese where the presence of a curate is so little wanted', (fn. 169) he wrote. The congregation seldom exceeded twenty, and the whole Protestant population amounted to fifty-one. (fn. 170) Its smallness accounted for there being only one churchwarden, and its humble and illiterate character is demonstrated by the fact that Thomas Turner, who was warden from 1745 to 1790, made his mark each year on the presentments. (fn. 171)
During most of the 19th century the parish was served by the curates, the William Perkinses, father and son, who came over from Twyford (Bucks.). Services were held regularly, but only once on Sundays in winter. (fn. 172) By 1854 the congregation had reached its peak of about forty. (fn. 173) On the death of the rector, Thomas Haverfield (1826–66), who had lived at his London cure, it was decided to get a resident rector. One urgent reason for this was the need to have someone to superintend the education of the children. (fn. 174) Consequently a new Rectory was built, (fn. 175) but since the living was combined in 1928 with Stratton Audley the rector has lived there.
The church of HOLY TRINITY is a small Georgian building with seating for only 50 persons. It consists of a rectangular body without structural division between nave and chancel, and has a small western tower and a south porch. The original rectangular casement windows were converted into lancets in the 19th century.
The only relic of the medieval church is the circular font. The old building was considered 'very indifferent' by Rawlinson; (fn. 176) it had already been reported 'out of repair' in the late 17th century; (fn. 177) in 1757 the chancel screen among other things needed rebuilding, (fn. 178) and by 1790 the church was in danger of falling down. (fn. 179) In 1792 a new one was built at the expense of William Fermor, the Roman Catholic lord of the manor, who employed a co-religionist as builder. (fn. 180)
In the 19th century the roof caused trouble (fn. 181) and around 1850 the rector, T. T. Haverfield, planned to rebuild the church in a 12th-century style, but was unable to raise the money. (fn. 182) He did, however, in 1852 install pointed windows in the chancel in place of the 'old shabby ones', a new pulpit, open seats, and an altar at a cost of about £100. (fn. 183) The church was restored and the south porch added in 1905. (fn. 184)
When the church was rebuilt, some of the monumental inscriptions from the old church were transferred to it. These include stone slabs to James Benskyn, rector (d. 1643); to the family of Theodore Fletcher, rector (d. 1706); to Frances Busby, daughter of Charles Busby, gent. (fn. 185) (d. 1679, aged 4); and an interesting inscription, formerly in the chancel but now on the floor of the tower, to George Sargeante of Brill (d. 1668), a surveyor 'known in most parts of England, Ireland and Wales'. Those to Ralph Coker (d. 1648), son of John Coker of Bicester, John Kerswell, rector (d. 1668), and Charles Howse (d. 1705), have not survived. (fn. 186)
At the Reformation the church possessed two sets of vestments, two copes, a silver-gilt chalice, and a brass cross. There was a light supported by lands worth 1s. 6d. a year. (fn. 187) In 1955 the church owned a silver chalice and paten cover of 1674. The former was inscribed: 'enlarged for the use of the church of Godington by Mr. Mew, late Rector, 1674.' (fn. 188)
In the 16th century there were three bells and a sanctus bell. Rawlinson noted 'three new bells'. One of these, cast in 1717, was in use in 1955, (fn. 189) and the other two were sold to help rebuild the church in 1792. (fn. 190) The sanctus bell is of 1793.
There are many Roman Catholic gravestones in the churchyard. (fn. 191)
For several centuries after the Reformation this parish was an important Roman Catholic stronghold. During the Elizabethan persecution four local farmers, one a Paxton, were accused in 1583 of sheltering priests; (fn. 192) members of their families were later fined for their religious beliefs. The gentry were also recusants: in the early part of the 17th century the Godbeheres and Halls, (fn. 193) and towards the end the Busbys, who were originally a Bicester family. (fn. 194) The persistence of the old faith was encouraged by the fact that the manor was owned by the Fermors of Somerton and Tusmore. (fn. 195) Sixteen papists were returned in 1676 and fifteen in 1706, the largest Catholic family at that time being the Paxtons. (fn. 196) The community grew throughout the 18th century. In 1739 the rector, writing to his bishop for advice about his 'Popish parish', said 'the distemper grows and requires a pretty rough remedy'. (fn. 197) A list of a few years later shows that there were 40 Papists and 36 Protestants: there were two branches of Paxtons, and the large Davis family had 15 members. (fn. 198) At this time a priest named Whitcraft lived in the parish and held Sunday services, (fn. 199) but in 1759 the Papists were said to go to church at Tusmore. (fn. 200)
At the beginning of the 19th century there was still a large congregation, consisting of five farming families: the labourers were Protestants. (fn. 201) By 1834, owing perhaps to the disappearance of the Fermors, the numbers had decreased, though the two chief families of the parish were still Roman Catholic. (fn. 202) As late as 1840 there were still Roman Catholic members of the important yeoman family of Collingridge which had been established in Godington and adjoining parishes for several centuries. (fn. 203) In 1854 there was one Roman Catholic family (fn. 204) and by 1866 none. (fn. 205)
It is said that mass used to be said at Moat Farm, where a branch of the Collingridge family lived. The chapel in the roof, served in the 18th and 19th centuries by a priest from Hethe, was only dismantled in about 1900. (fn. 206)
In 1744, when the number of Roman Catholics was causing concern, the curate said that not more than four or five Protestant families could read or write and all were very neglectful of the education of their children. (fn. 207) Soon after, a small school was started and the schoolmaster received £3 or £4 a year from the rector and the Fermors, lords of the manor. (fn. 208) By 1800 it had been found unnecessary, as there was a good school at Twyford (Bucks.). (fn. 209) There has been no day school in the parish since. In 1854 there was a Sunday school with about ten pupils. (fn. 210) In 1871 Godington children went to school at Stratton Audley, (fn. 211) but from about 1929 the juniors went to Fringford and the seniors to Bicester. (fn. 212)