A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7, Dorchester and Thame Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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Church. (fn. 1)
Since Thame was an ancient manor of the Bishop of Dorchester, there can be little doubt that it had a church early in the Anglo-Saxon period and that this was the mother church for the neighbouring chapelries of Sydenham, Tetsworth, and Towersey (Bucks.). (fn. 2) Wulfhere, King of Mercia (657–74), may have been in this church when, as his charter says, he swore 'on the altar' at Thame. (fn. 3)
Between 1070 and 1086 the see of Dorchester was moved to Lincoln, and the bishops of Lincoln thus became the lords of Thame. By 1146 the church had been given to Lincoln Cathedral and formed into a prebend, henceforth known as the prebend of Thame. (fn. 4) The donor was probably Bishop Alexander (1123–48), who endowed the prebend with land from his Thame manor. Because it belonged to a prebend Thame and its chapels between the 12th and the 19th centuries formed an ecclesiastical peculiar.
In the 13th century a vicarage was endowed and the prebendaries presented to it, except during the second half of the 14th century, when the prebend was held by foreign cardinals and presentations were made by their English agents; and in 1537 when the prebendary granted to Bishop Longland his right of presentation. (fn. 5)
The prebend was one of the richest in Lincoln Cathedral, being valued at £35 in 1254, at £112 in 1291, and at £82 12s. 2½d. net in 1535. (fn. 6) The prebendary received the greater part of the ecclesiastical income from the parish, the great tithes and the tithes of wool and hay from Thame, Sydenham, Tetsworth, and Towersey. (fn. 7) He also held a large estate: 4 carucates of land in Thame which had been granted to the church in free alms by Bishop Alexander and which owed service neither to the bishop nor to the king, (fn. 8) and ⅓-fee in Tetsworth. (fn. 9)
From the late 11th to the 13th century part of the church's revenue had gone to Eynsham Abbey, for Bishop Robert Bloet c. 1095 granted the abbey the demesne tithes of some of his manors, including Thame and Great Milton. (fn. 10) These tithes, and a bordar with 2 acres, were confirmed to the abbey in 1109, (fn. 11) and in the 13th century the cellarer of Eynsham was receiving the tithes, then valued at 5 marks. (fn. 12) In about 1267, in return for the appropriation of Brize Norton church, the abbey gave up its Thame tithes, which became merged with those belonging to the prebend. (fn. 13)
In 1547 the prebend was lost to the cathedral when the last prebendary, George Heneage (d. 1549), who had been a resident canon of Lincoln, sold the prebend to Sir John Thynne and Edward Kelway. (fn. 14) In 1549 the sale was confirmed by the bishop and by the dean and chapter on condition that the chapter continued to receive an annual pension of £7 from Thame. (fn. 15) In 1550 Thynne and Kelway exchanged the prebend for lands in Devon and Somerset with Sir Edward Seymour, second son of the Duke of Somerset. (fn. 16)
Somerset and Sir John Williams were probably both involved in the alienation of the prebend, for in 1548 Thynne, who was Somerset's steward, had granted Williams a large part of the prebend. (fn. 17) In 1553 he and Seymour confirmed the division: Williams was to have almost all the land belonging to the prebend and the tithes of North Weston, while Seymour was to have the rest of the tithes, the prebendal house with a few acres, and the advowson of the vicarage. (fn. 18)
The land which Williams acquired apparently became merged with Thame manor and descended with it to his heirs, the Norreys and Bertie families. (fn. 19) In 1625 Edward Wray and his wife, who were then holding Thame manor, granted the tithes of North Weston to William Clerke, who was lord of North Weston manor. (fn. 20) After that they followed the descent of the land, so that in effect land in North Weston was free from great tithes. (fn. 21)
The other part of the prebend, which Seymour had kept, and which became known as the rectory, he sold probably in the 1550's to Sir John Thynne of Longleat (Wilts.), (fn. 22) and from this time until the late 18th century it descended in the Thynne family. (fn. 23) Thynne died in 1580, having settled Thame rectory on his eldest son. (fn. 24) This Sir John Thynne died in 1604, and the rectory was inherited by his eldest son Sir Thomas Thynne, (fn. 25) but was held for life by the latter's younger brother John in satisfaction of a £100 pension, and then by his son John. (fn. 26) This was probably the John Thynne of Egham (Surr.), who presented to the vicarage in 1665 and 1675 and died in 1698, heavily in debt, (fn. 27) leaving a widow Jane. She still held the Thynne part of the prebend in 1704. (fn. 28) By 1606 this branch of the Thynne family had leased the prebend to two Thame families, the Hesters and Stribblehills. (fn. 29) The Stribblehills continued as lessees for the rest of the century. (fn. 30)
In the late 17th century the rectory returned to the main branch of the Thynne family. Sir Thomas Thynne, later Viscount Weymouth, (fn. 31) died without sons in 1714, and while the title descended to his great-nephew Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth (d. 1751), he is said to have left Thame rectory to John Carteret, the husband of his granddaughter Frances Worsley. (fn. 32) Carteret, later to become Earl Granville, presented to Thame vicarage in 1722, 1751, and 1761, and died in 1763. (fn. 33) His son and heir died without children in 1776, leaving part of his estates, (fn. 34) including the rectory, to his nephew Henry Frederick Thynne, who became Lord Carteret. (fn. 35) Thus the rectory returned to the Thynne family, but Lord Carteret sold it, probably in 1786, to John Blackall (d. 1803), lord of Great Milton manor, (fn. 36) and his son separated the rectory and the advowson. The latter descended to the Blackalls' heir Walter Long, and was bought by Richard Barry Slater, a High Wycombe doctor, (fn. 37) who in 1841 had the livings of Sydenham, Tetsworth, and Towersey separated from that of Thame. (fn. 38) On his death the advowson of Thame was vested in five trustees, named the Peache Trustees after the Revd. Alfred Peache. (fn. 39) They were the patrons in 1958.
The lay rectory of Thame and Sydenham, the tithes of which brought in about £1,000 a year in the 1820's, (fn. 40) but not that of Tetsworth, was sold to Miss Wykeham (later Baroness Wenman) of Thame Park in 1825. (fn. 41) By the inclosure award of 1826 the great tithes of Thame and Sydenham—except for those of Thame Park, which as the ancient demesne of Thame Abbey was tithe free, and of North Weston—were commuted for 693 acres, the equivalent of 1/5 of the arable and 1/8 of the meadow land. (fn. 42) In 1836 Baroness Wenman sold the prebendal house, with its estate of 14½ acres, for £950 to Charles Stone of Thame. (fn. 43) The rest of the rectory lands, with responsibility for the chancel, descended with Thame Park to the Wykeham-Musgraves. (fn. 44) In 1958 the lay rector was Mr. F. Bowden, the owner of Thame Park.
As the church was a prebend of Lincoln the parish, with its chapelries, was in the Middle Ages an ecclesiastical peculiar, for Bishop Robert de Chesney (1148–66) freed prebendal parishes from the jurisdiction of the bishop and the archdeacon. (fn. 45) The bishops of Lincoln did not visit Thame, (fn. 46) but they instituted to the vicarage, and the fact that in 1519 Thame church was one of the centres where the clergy met to hear the constitutions for church reform also shows that the bishop preserved some rights. (fn. 47) When the bishop came to Thame he was accorded the privilege of having the church bells rung in his honour. (fn. 48) The prebendary of Thame, like the other prebendaries of Lincoln, had ordinary archidiaconal jurisdiction in his parish, (fn. 49) and probably held the chapters which the churchwardens attended. (fn. 50) Cases of appeal could go to the Chapter of Lincoln, which inducted to the vicarage. (fn. 51) Every three years the dean on behalf of the chapter was allowed to visit, (fn. 52) and the church bells were rung for him also. (fn. 53) In spite of the formation of the see of Oxford in 1542 and the alienation of the prebend from the cathedral in 1547, Thame remained in the jurisdiction of the dean and chapter. They appointed a commissary for all their Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Northamptonshire peculiars, who visited every year, swore in churchwardens, granted marriage licences, inducted clerks, granted letters of administration, and proved wills. (fn. 54) The dean still had the right to visit every three years, although it is not clear how often he did so. (fn. 55)
The peculiar records, beginning in 1584, show that the visitations were held in Thame church and were attended by the minister and churchwardens of Thame and its chapels. (fn. 56) In about 1675 the vicar and wardens of Great Milton began to attend the visitations at Thame, and from this time the two peculiars were united. (fn. 57) So little control did the bishops of Lincoln or Oxford have that in the 18th century it was not clear whether the Lincoln peculiars were in Lincoln or Oxford diocese. Although it was generally believed that the bishop had the right of visitation, no bishop was known to have visited the peculiars before the 19th century. (fn. 58) About episcopal institution there was a diversity of practice: in 1545 the Bishop of Lincoln instituted to Thame vicarage, and it was then stated that the parish, although in Oxford diocese, was in his jurisdiction. (fn. 59) Later in the 16th century and in the early 17th century the Bishop of Oxford instituted; (fn. 60) but in the second half of the century the Bishop of Lincoln again began to institute and it was said that Thame lay in his diocese. (fn. 61)
In spite of an opinion given in 1745 by Bishop Sherlock of Salisbury that episcopal rights in the peculiars should belong to the Bishop of Oxford, (fn. 62) when the living of Thame fell vacant in 1751 Bishop Secker of Oxford and Bishop Thomas of Lincoln each wrote to Lord Granville, the patron, asking for the presentation of the next vicar. After considering the arguments on both sides, Lord Granville sent it to the Bishop of Lincoln, who was able to institute. (fn. 63) The matter, which concerned all the peculiars, continued to be pursued by the bishops of Oxford, who in 1769 were said by an official of the Bishop of Lincoln to have been 'nibbling at and plaguing' the Bishop of Lincoln for 200 years and to have sometimes 'by surprise usurped upon the bishop and dean and chapter'. (fn. 64) In 1795 the Bishop of Lincoln again instituted to Thame, (fn. 65) and in 1800 the Vicar of Thame considered him his diocesan, an opinion which drew a sharp retort from Bishop Randolph of Oxford. (fn. 66)
Although in 1802 the Bishop of Oxford began to visit Great Milton (fn. 67) confusion continued as to which diocese Thame was in: sometimes it was listed in Lincoln diocese, sometimes in Oxford diocese. (fn. 68) From 1819 it appears to have been visited by the Bishop of Lincoln, (fn. 69) and in 1841 he instituted to the vicarage. (fn. 70) Yet by 1800 the Bishop of Oxford was licensing curates and in 1838 he began to visit the parish. (fn. 71) The struggle came to an end with the legislation of the 1830's and 1840's (fn. 72) and with the end of the chapter's jurisdiction (see below).
The Chapter of Lincoln upheld the Bishop of Lincoln's rights in their Oxfordshire peculiars, for when he instituted they inducted, (fn. 73) whereas when the Bishop of Oxford instituted the Archdeacon of Oxford inducted. The chapter's rights in the peculiars were evidently not questioned until the late 18th century, when the bishops of Oxford began to doubt whether the peculiars had any legal basis. In 1801 the chapter definitely refused to put the question to arbitration and threatened to resist any legal action taken by the Bishop of Oxford. (fn. 74) Jurisdiction in Thame peculiar continued to be exercised by the chapter's official, and when it came within the archdeacon's jurisdiction is not clear. (fn. 75) The court of the peculiar proved wills until the Court of Probate Act of 1857. (fn. 76)
The formation of a prebend at Thame had important consequences for the parish. A prebendal house was built near the church and from there the prebendary's large estate was administered in his absence. When in residence the prebendary assisted at the services in the parish church: his seat in the chancel was opposite the vicar's seat. (fn. 77) The richness of the prebend made it much coveted and twice in the 13th century its disposal led to violent conflicts. On the first occasion, in 1241, the king's clerk John Maunsel, a well-known pluralist, was provided to the prebend by the Pope at the instance of Henry III, (fn. 78) while Bishop Grosseteste collated Master Simon de London. In order to get possession Maunsel was said to have seized and held the church by force, but eventually he resigned it and was given another benefice. (fn. 79) After a vacancy in 1292, the prebend was the subject of a violent dispute between Master Thomas de Sutton, nephew of Bishop Sutton, and the papal provisee, Edward de St. John, which led to the disturbances of 1293–4 and the desecration of the church. (fn. 80) Eventually after legal proceedings Sutton obtained the prebend. (fn. 81)
During much of the 14th century the prebend was held by foreign cardinals, who farmed the parish, perhaps sometimes to local men, as was the case in 1378. (fn. 82) From the late 14th century the prebendaries were usually distinguished Englishmen, many of whom became bishops. Some of these took a close interest in the parish, by giving gifts to the church, (fn. 83) or, as was the case with Adrian de Bardis (1480– 1518) and Richard Maudely (1519–31), by making improvements in the chancel. (fn. 84) The latter left in addition a bequest for memorial services in the church and may have been buried in it. (fn. 85)
There was a vicarage by the time of Bishop Grosseteste (1235–53), who wrote that the prebend was a desirable one because there was a perpetual vicar to relieve the prebendary of most of the cure. (fn. 86) The vicar was to receive the oblations of the mother church; he was to have a house and croft on the south side of the church and a virgate of glebe; the tithe of hay from North Weston; a mark from Sydenham for its hay; and a ½-mark from Thame Abbey. In his house he was to keep two chaplains, a deacon, and a subdeacon to help him serve the church, and he was to provide books and ornaments. The vicar was to name the chaplains of the chapels (Syndenham, Tetsworth, and Towersey), who were to receive the income from their altars and have the land belonging to the chapels. (fn. 87) The small tithes are not mentioned in this ordination, which was partly superseded by one of 1274: this reserved to the prebendary the great tithes and those of wool and hay, and implied that the vicar had the small tithes from the parish and its chapelries. (fn. 88)
In 1291 the vicarage was valued at £8 and in 1535 at £18. (fn. 89) At that time it was therefore a rich vicarage, but after the Reformation it became a poor one. The profits of the altar virtually ceased and in 1707 it was worth only £43. (fn. 90) In 1810 the living was valued at £170, but the vicar claimed that by the time he had paid for services in the chapels he had no more than £100 left. (fn. 91) At the inclosure award in 1826 the small tithes of Thame and Sydenham were commuted for 148 acres, and 32½ acres were allotted for glebe. (fn. 92) The value of the living—£300 in 1831 (fn. 93)—was decreased in 1841 when Thame was separated from its chapelries. (fn. 94) From this time the endowment of the living came from about 112 acres of glebe, (fn. 95) most of which was sold in 1921, (fn. 96) and the small tithes of North Weston. In the 19th century the vicar augmented his income by letting the churchyard at £2 a year, and 200 to 300 sheep were sometimes kept there. (fn. 97)
The tithes of North Weston had long been separate from those of the rest of the parish. Part of North Weston had been tithe-free since at least the late 17th century, and by the mid-18th century the small tithes on the rest had been commuted for a modus of about £3 7s., far less than their real value. In 1844, when tithe commutation was being discussed, the vicar tried to break this modus, and finally agreed to accept a tithe rent-charge of £30, which he considered less than half the real value of the tithes. (fn. 98) Accordingly in 1848 they were commuted for this sum. (fn. 99)
As is shown by the ordination of the vicarage, the vicars of Thame, with several clerks serving under them, must have held an important position. Little is known about the early priests of Thame, and with the exception of Elurich, clerk, and Wlwrich, priest, of uncertain date, (fn. 100) and Peter, clerk of Thame, who occurs in the mid-12th century, their names are not known until the mid-13th century. (fn. 101) In the 14th and 15th centuries the names of Thame vicars frequently occur in local charters, as do those of the chaplains assisting them, of whom otherwise there would be no record, (fn. 102) such as John Elys (fl. 1440), a member of the prominent Thame family of landowners and merchants. (fn. 103) A few of the vicars were local men, notably Richard Elys (1340–61), a member of the same family, (fn. 104) and John de Towersey (instituted 1378), who was probably the same as the John Lucas who in 1389 gave land to Thame Abbey, perhaps for a chantry, and a chalice to Thame church. (fn. 105) Towards the middle of the 15th century it became usual for the vicars to be university graduates; an Oxford graduate was Master John Atherton or Aldersonne (1478– 1503), whose brass was once in the church. (fn. 106)
Churchwardens' accounts, beginning in 1442, have been preserved and provide a rich store of information about medieval church life. (fn. 107) In the 15th century there were evidently four wardens, two from New Thame and two from Old Thame, (fn. 108) who collected and spent the church's revenue. Their income came mainly from receipts from the Whitsun Ales, one in New Thame and one in Old Thame and Priestend, (fn. 109) from the rent of the church land, (fn. 110) from contributions from the parishioners to the rood light at Easter and Christmas, (fn. 111) from receipts from the church play, (fn. 112) from the waste of the torches at a funeral, and from occasional bequests. For any major work on the building special contributions were given by the parishioners. (fn. 113)
The wardens were responsible for the upkeep of the church fabric (except for the chancel). This included buying supplies and paying workmen, lighting the church, keeping the vestments clean and in repair, keeping the lamps and brasses clean, repairing the organ, keeping the parish records, and keeping the church books in repair: in 1443, for example, they paid an Oxford bookbinder 5s. (fn. 114) Constant expenses were the upkeep of the bells and of the clock, the bellman and the keeper of the clock both receiving regular payments. (fn. 115) A salary was paid to the organist, (fn. 116) and later to the parish clerk, who appears in the 15th century but who first received a salary in the 16th—£1 a year in the 1520's and £4 by 1560. (fn. 117) The sexton or sacristan was paid for the work he did. (fn. 118)
The 16th century saw many changes in Thame church. Ceremonies and ritual connected with the old faith were abolished. The yearly service held for the benefaction of the church, at which bread was distributed to the poor, came to an end, (fn. 119) and so did the endowment of chantry priests. Sir John Clerke's bequest in 1539 to provide a priest to say mass for him for six years was probably the last of the kind at Thame. (fn. 120) The many separate lights or altars of which some had their own wardens and possessions, (fn. 121) the chief being the altar of St. Christopher with its guild, were taken down and their possessions sold.
The chantry or guild of St. Christopher was founded in 1447 in St. John's aisle by Richard and Sibyl Quatremain of North Weston. It was to be served by a chaplain who would say daily services for the royal family and the members of the guild. The members were to elect the wardens, who were to form a corporate body with the power of acquiring land. (fn. 122) The chantry priest, who received £8 a year, besides saying the chantry services, in the 16th century acted as assistant to the vicar. (fn. 123) When in 1550 the guild, which had been well endowed, (fn. 124) was dissolved and its property sold to Sir John Williams, he promised to pay £6 a year to a priest or chaplain, to be appointed by him and his heirs, who would help the vicar. (fn. 125) The arrangement does not seem to have been permanent, but the poet William Forrest, a former monk of Thame Abbey may have been appointed by him. (fn. 126) The chantry's main endowment, however, went to the grammar school and the almshouses. (fn. 127)
During the troubled years of the mid-16th century there were probably six vicars, five of them between 1537 and 1559. At the beginning of the century was John Parker (1504–36 or 1537), who was accused first of buying counterfeit money, (fn. 128) an indication perhaps of the increasing financial difficulties of the clergy in a period of rising prices and debased currency. In 1533 he was accused of using seditious words against the king. (fn. 129) His successor, Master William Goodrich (1537–41), also had difficulties. In 1537 to the complaint of Thomas Stribblehill that the feast of St. Thomas Becket had been kept in the church, the vicar replied that his parishioners 'would have it so'. In the same year there had been a public dispute at a church ale between Robert Johns, a churchwarden, who deplored the harsh treatment of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and two members of the Stribblehill family, who supported the government's policy. Johns also advised the selling of the church jewels and plate to avoid their confiscation. (fn. 130) The sale of the plate some years later aroused opposition, some parishioners alleging that the wardens had divided the proceeds, £300, amongst themselves. (fn. 131)
Changes were also taking place in the services, as is shown by the purchase in the 1540's of a large bible, a hymnal, two English psalters, and the paraphrases of Erasmus. (fn. 132) The two fellows of Magdalen College, who in 1553 were interpreting the scriptures at Thame without having been called to the ministry, may be typical of the confusion of the period. (fn. 133) With the restoration of Roman Catholicism by Queen Mary changes were again made in the church services, and furniture, (fn. 134) and the May ales were revived. (fn. 135)
In November 1559 Lord Williams was buried in Thame church with what was probably one of the most elaborate ceremonies ever held there. (fn. 136) The fact, however, that in his will he made no provision for services for his soul but instead left money to the almshouses and school shows that a new era had arrived. (fn. 137) From 1560 onwards various English books, including a bible, a book of homilies, a communion book, the Book of Common Prayer, and other service books were bought, (fn. 138) and the Anglican method of communion, in which the congregation took part, replaced the Roman Catholic one. (fn. 139) A custom which appears in the early 17th century was the renting of the north porch of the church for 10s. or more a year. (fn. 140)
During over a hundred years, beginning in 1559, in contrast with the earlier part of the century, Thame had only three vicars. (fn. 141) Of these most is known about Thomas Hennant (1629–65). He was on intimate terms with the local gentry, having married a Petty, and was respected in the town. (fn. 142) The churchwardens in 1630 granted him the Church House for life in return for his work in keeping the church accounts. (fn. 143) Services were stopped for a period when the church was occupied by parliamentary soldiers. (fn. 144) Although Hennant had Puritan sympathies, (fn. 145) he was left undisturbed at the Restoration. On his death in 1665, he was buried in the chancel. (fn. 146) He was succeeded by Hugh Willis (1665– 75), headmaster of the grammar school and a onetime royalist, (fn. 147) who had to contend with the growing nonconformity in his parish. (fn. 148)
The later 17th and 18th centuries were evidently a more stable time in the history of the church, when disputes about pews and about church rates replaced doctrinal disputes. (fn. 149) Most of the five vicars who held the living between 1675 and 1841 were resident, and were often assisted by licensed 'lecturers', (fn. 150) but because of the small value of the vicarage they started the practice of holding another living as well. William Clerke (1675–1722) was perpetual curate of Long Crendon, and his successor Samuel Thornbury (1722–51) was Rector of Stoke Talmage. (fn. 151) A non-resident and probably elderly vicar was Sampson Letsome (1751–61), who had been chaplain to Lord Granville, the patron, (fn. 152) and John Newborough (1761–95) was also Vicar of Aston Rowant.
Until about 1720 there were usually four churchwardens. After that there were two, usually one each from New Thame and Old Thame, although occasionally one was chosen from North Weston, Thame Park, Moreton, or Priestend. (fn. 153) By about 1770 they were receiving and spending between about £60 and £100 a year, of which perhaps a third came from a rate, for there was rarely a year in which a rate was not levied. (fn. 154) Most of the rest of their income came from the church lands and the charities which they administered. Most of their income was therefore spent on charitable payments and on the upkeep of the church and churchyard. In the 18th century the dog-whipper received £1 a year; from the 1820's the organist received 2 guineas; the clerk and the sexton, received an occasional pound or two from the war dens, but do not seem to have had a fixed salary. Another regular expense was the churchwardens' feast on Easter Monday or at the visitation. In 1816 the vestry decided that no more than £10 was to be spent on it and named five different inns at which it was to be held in succession. By this time the income and expenses of the wardens had risen and amounted sometimes to £200 or £300 a year.
At this period the vicar was Timothy Tripp Lee (vicar 1795–1840), a member of a Thame family, (fn. 155) and from 1814 headmaster of the grammar school. He lived in the parish and in 1830 wrote that he had been there constantly for 35 years without a month's absence. (fn. 156) Sometimes on Sundays he had to give several services, for two Sunday services were held in Thame and one in each of the three chapels, and with eleven children to support he did not have the money to pay a regular curate. (fn. 157) At this time he was being helped by his son Frederick, who was an unlicensed preacher. Frederick had established a Sunday evening lecturership which was well attended, visited the sick, and held Sunday schools. In spite of a petition from about 100 Thame householders the bishop refused to license him. (fn. 158)
With the separation of Sydenham, Tetsworth, and Towersey from Thame in 1841 (fn. 159) the number of services at Thame was able to be increased. In 1854 two services with sermons were held on Sundays and another on Wednesday evening, and by 1866 three full services were held every Sunday; communion services were held fifteen times a year. (fn. 160) In spite of having congregations of about 600, James Prosser (vicar 1841–72), a Hebrew scholar, was described as 'a man whose pronounced calvinistic views soon emptied the church', and whose theological ideas incurred criticism. (fn. 161) He was also criticized for the scale on which he rebuilt the vicarage in 1841 at a cost of about £2,000 even though the conservatory which was to have been a 'principal feature' of the building was finally omitted. (fn. 162) The size of this house and the view expressed in 1838 that the old vicarage was 'a very small house' provides an interesting comment on the rising material standards of the time. Prosser was noted for his generosity to his parishioners. In his later years the care of the parish proved too much for him. In 1871 a memorial circulated 'to secure an effective ministry', deplored the fact that within the last 30 years four large dissenting chapels had been built, and Prosser was forced to resign. (fn. 163)
Later developments in the history of the church were the introduction of a choir; the starting of an evening school and monthly Bible and communion classes; (fn. 164) the building of the mission church in Chinnor Road in 1884, as the town spread towards the station, and its enlargement in 1898; and the building of the Parochial Church Hall in Nelson Street. It was begun in 1913, but for lack of funds was not completed until 1928. (fn. 165)
In the Middle Ages there was a chapel, dedicated to St. James, attached to North Weston manor-house. The right of presentation belonged to the lord of the manor, (fn. 166) who no doubt paid the chaplain. The chapel was in existence at least by about 1390, when Guy Quatremain was baptized there (fn. 167) by the lord's chaplain, (fn. 168) and it was probably used for marriages and burials also. (fn. 169) In 1526 Richard Birde was curate there, and the curacy was worth more than that of Tetsworth. (fn. 170) In the late 17th and early 18th centuries it was used by the Clerkes of North Weston, several of whom were buried there, and occasionally by other people, for marriages and burials. (fn. 171) It also served as a chapel of ease for the village until the Clerkes sold the manor in 1755, the preacher receiving about £20 a year. (fn. 172)
In the Middle Ages there were two churches attached to Thame Abbey: the abbey church, which was pulled down when the abbey was dissolved, and a chapel at the abbey gates, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, the oblations of which were worth 3s. 4d. in 1535. (fn. 173) In the late 17th and 18th centuries it was used as a private chapel by the Wenman family, and after its restoration in 1836 regular services were held there, 'sweetly and efficiently sung by a chaplain and a band of surpliced choristers'. (fn. 174) The last regular service was held in 1916, when the Wykeham-Musgraves were leaving Thame Park, although the family continued to be buried there. A baptismal service was held in 1949 for the son of the owner, Mr. F. Bowden. (fn. 175)
The church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a cruciform building consisting of chancel, a clerestoried nave, north and south transepts, north and south aisles, a central tower, and south porch with a room above. (fn. 176)
The earliest parts of the present building date from the early 13th century. (fn. 177) The chancel (60 ft. long) retains four of the original six lancet windows in its north wall and an original north door. The tower arches are of bold Early English design. The transepts, although since reconstructed, were originally of the same period and one lancet window remains in the west wall of the north transept. The nave arcades are also Early English. Later in the 13th century the fifth and sixth lancets in the north wall of the chancel were replaced by a three-light window. The restored east window is rather later in date and so are the three reticulated windows in the south wall of the chancel which, it is assumed, replaced six lancets. Externally, the Early English buttresses remain unaltered although the string course has been dropped in places so as to pass under each of the 'Decorated' windows.
In the 14th century the aisles appear to have been widened. The fact that the aisle wall encroaches on the lancet window in the north transept shows that the original aisle must have been somewhat narrower.
The windows of the south aisle are good examples of the period. The vaulted porch has a room above with a fireplace and is reached by a staircase. The need for more light and height was met at the end of the 14th century or early in the next by raising the nave walls so as to provide a clerestory. The original steeply pitched roof, the marks of which could be seen until recently on the tower, (fn. 178) became flatpitched and acquired a parapet. The new roof rested inside on stone corbels. The buttresses against the outside of the west wall were built at this time to buttress the nave arcade, as the weight of the clerestory caused a tilt of the nave piers to the west. Two upper stages were added to the tower, raising it to a height of 95 ft., and the tower piers were built round with ashlar to support the additional weight, and that of the bells, so encroaching on the first arch of the nave. The ringing chamber of the tower has a timber roof supported on stone corbels. It is decorated with carved bosses and painted.
In 1442 the reconstruction of the north transept was begun. Full details of the work have been preserved in the churchwardens' accounts. (fn. 179) The new work included the taking down and 'setting up' again of the east window; the rebuilding of the north wall and the insertion of a new north window and the making of a new roof. The present east and north windows, each of five lights and both restored, are of this period. The wardens themselves purchased and paid for the materials. They bought freestone at Taynton and ordinary stone at Headington. The latter was supplied by John Beckley, the principal mason employed. He received 7 marks for 'the reryng of the ii syde walls wyt corbeltabul and hascheler abowte ye same ile'. John East of Finchhampstead was the carpenter who made the roof and put it up. John Plummer of Abingdon covered the roof and made the rain-water pipes. Lead was supplied by William Plummer of Wycombe. Four local masons, John Lawrence, Richard Sharpe, John Walkeleyne, and John Warren were also employed. The total cost of rebuilding the transept was £28 15s. 3d.
It was presumably about this date that the south transept was reconstructed. The north and east windows of the five lights are similar to those in the north transept. The east wall was rebuilt farther to the east, the respond and arch belonging to it marking the position of the original wall. The raising of the walls, as was the case with the north transept, meant the substitution of a flat roof with a parapet for the former high-pitched roof. This aisle was dedicated to St. John, and when the Quatremains founded the guild of St. Christopher in 1447 they endowed a chantry chaplain to celebrate divine service daily in this aisle. (fn. 180) The tombs of the Quatremains were placed before the new altar.
In 1456 the substantial sum of 42s. 8d. was paid for new leading the steeple. (fn. 181) For many years now the tower had had a clock. It was first mentioned in 1442, and in 1465 a floor was constructed beneath, in case the weight fell. (fn. 182) Early in the next century in 1529 the tower was rough-cast by Michael Spendler. (fn. 183) Work during this period also included the building of two organ lofts, perhaps above the rood screen, between 1477 and 1480 (fn. 184) for one and perhaps two new organs; and the construction of a door to the loft above St. John's aisle (i.e. the south transept) in 1524 so that the loft might be used as an almery. (fn. 185) The loft over the north transept was repaired or enlarged in 1548 when boards were purchased to make the loft 'over Master Dormer's aisle' (i.e. the north transept). (fn. 186) Although the lofts in both transepts have since been removed the position of the original floors can still be seen.
The date when the chancel walls were raised and a low roof with parapets replaced the earlier steeply pitched one is uncertain. Sir Gilbert Scott thought that this change was effected late in the 14th or early 15th century, (fn. 187) but the presence on the north and south parapets of the arms of Adrian de Bardis, Prebendary of Thame from 1480 to 1501, may indicate that the alteration was made at his expense. His arms in stained glass were also formerly visible in the chancel windows. (fn. 188)
The religious changes of Edward VI's and Mary's reigns were reflected in the church building. In 1548 the 'pargitor' was paid for 39 days' work in 'white lynyng' the church, (fn. 189) and the pulpit and a desk for the bible were mended. (fn. 190) The work of washing out the medieval wall decorations (fn. 191) was thoroughly done. Only the traces of a pieta on the south-east pier of the tower and stencilled decoration on the soffit of the north window in the north transept were visible in 1959. In 1551 the 'timber work' about the high altar was pulled down. This must have been the canopy of carved wood over the high altar (fn. 192) and a communion table and two forms were made. (fn. 193) No record of the destruction of the medieval stone reredos exists, but that also may have taken place at this date. The side altars were also pulled down: these included the altars of St. John the Baptist and of St. Christopher in the south transept; of the Most Blessed Trinity in the north transept; of 'our Lady', which appears to have stood where the pulpit now is; of 'All Hallows', standing against the screen separating the north aisle from the north transept; the altar of All Souls, which apparently stood under the arch separating the south aisle from the south transept, where there was also a screen of carved oak; and an unlocated altar of St. Michael. (fn. 194)
With the restoration of the Roman Catholic service and ritual in Mary's reign changes were again made in the furnishing of the church. In 1556 a cross and a new rood of Mary and John were bought; in the following year, the rood-loft was mended and a rood-light made and an image of Our Lady for the high altar was purchased. (fn. 195) In 1560, however, the roodloft and the altars were again taken down. (fn. 196) In 1562 a table of commandments was painted; a desk was made in the body of the church for reading the lessons; the clock was mended at great expense, (fn. 197) and in 1589 a new pulpit was made, (fn. 198) possibly the existing one, with sounding board, which was formerly a three-decker. A new Jacobean communion table was provided in 1625 (fn. 199) and is still in use; in 1637 in accordance with the injunction of Archbishop Laud it was enclosed by rails. (fn. 200)
Little seems to have been done to the fabric in the later 16th and 17th centuries. Payments for roughcasting the church were made in 1564 and 1566; (fn. 201) the chancel was probably put in order after about 1609, when it was reported out of repair; (fn. 202) the west window of the nave was rebuilt in 1672–3: it has the date 1673 inscribed on the exterior and 1672 and the names of the churchwardens on the interior; (fn. 203) and at the end of the century the great south gallery was built at the expense of the master and scholars of the free school and was appropriated to the school in 1693. (fn. 204)
By the early 18th century the chancel was in a very dilapidated condition (fn. 205) and in 1707 Thomas, 1st Viscount Weymouth, the holder of the prebend, repaired it. This event was once commemorated by an inscription with his arms in the east window. (fn. 206) The flat plaster ceiling, which was described in 1888 as being so low that it cut off the top of the east window and chancel arch, must have been inserted at this date; the walls were panelled 'in common deal'; and a classical altar piece erected. (fn. 207) In 1792 a new plaster ceiling was put up in the body of the church, semicircular in the nave, and flat in the two side aisles. (fn. 208)
Some major repairs were executed in the first half of the 19th century; in 1828 the tower was reroofed and leaded; in 1838 the wall of the north aisle was rebuilt at a cost of £330, the architect being George Wilkinson; (fn. 209) and in 1843–5 a series of internal alterations was carried out at a cost of nearly £400 by the architect H. B. Hodson. (fn. 210) The nave and aisles were reseated; the font was placed at the crossing of the nave; the prayer desk, which had faced south, was turned to the west; the two Quatremain tombs were moved from their original position and a number of remains of archaeological interest were destroyed or concealed.
In 1889 a thorough restoration was begun. J. O. Scott made a report on the fabric in 1888. (fn. 211) He described the church as one of the few large churches which had been left practically unrestored. In addition to necessary repairs to the roof and walls, the 15th-century nave roof was uncovered, the transept ceilings were raised to clear the tower arches, and the chancel was restored at the cost of W. A. WykehamMusgrave. (fn. 212) This presumably included the removal from the east window of the disfigurement reported by Scott—a large circle in the tracery, divided by very late mullions and transomes. All plaster was removed from ceilings and walls, and all the galleries were taken down. In addition to the Jacobean school gallery there was a singing gallery at the west end of the nave, and other private galleries had been erected in the south transept, at the west end of the north and south aisles, and at the east end of the north aisle. The Wenmans had once had a gallery under the tower arch, but this had already been removed. (fn. 213) The restoration of the aisles followed: the south aisle in 1893 and the north aisle in 1897, when the north porch which had been used as a vestry was removed. The total cost was over £3,000. (fn. 214)
In 1937–8 the stonework of the body of the church, particularly the north window of the north transept, was repaired under the direction of T. Lawrence Dale, the estimated cost being £1,000. In 1949 the lay rector, Mr. F. Bowden, paid for the restoration of the exterior of the chancel. (fn. 215) The south transept, which had been rearranged in 1908, (fn. 216) was again refurnished and dedicated as a chapel of St. Christopher in 1954. The architect was J. M. Surman. (fn. 217) Gas lighting was first installed in 1840. (fn. 218) It was replaced in 1947 by electric light. (fn. 219) A new heating system was installed in 1958 by the Southern Gas Board at a charge of nearly £1,000, the money being raised locally. (fn. 220)
There was a considerable amount of carved woodwork in the medieval church. Permanent seats were made as early as 1449 in the 'north quarter', and other seats were made and erected by a carpenter from Chilton in the same year. (fn. 221) The church still retains a 14th-century screen to the north transept, and a 16th-century chancel screen. The latter has linen-fold panelling below and carved columns above, showing Renaissance influence. A modern screen was erected in 1925 in the west entrance to the north transept in memory of Mary J. Lee, the wife of Dr. H. G. Lee. (fn. 222)
Some of the chancel stalls, with a seat for the prebendary on the south and the vicar on the north, were the gift of Prebendary Maudely in 1529, (fn. 223) and others were bought by the churchwardens from Thame Abbey in 1540. (fn. 224) The choir-stalls under the tower were constructed in 1908 out of the Jacobean gallery once in the south aisle. (fn. 225)
The present organ was erected in 1873 in the north transept by Conacher & Co. of Huddersfield at a cost of £300. (fn. 226) The churchwardens' accounts show that the church had 'a pair of old organs' as early as 1448. It was probably these that were sold in 1478 and replaced by new ones made by John, organmaker. (fn. 227) The accounts contain various references to them, (fn. 228) and new ones were no doubt again bought in 1523 when the old ones were sold to the Rector of Stanton St. John for £10 13s. 4d. (fn. 229)
In the early 18th century the church had no organ. Rawlinson says this was because the soldiers of the Earl of Essex had pulled the organs down during the Civil War and 'went tooting about the town with the pipes'. (fn. 230) In 1819 £105 raised by subscription was paid to Mr. Brycedon for a new organ, (fn. 231) and this was replaced by another in 1842. (fn. 232)
The earliest monument in the church is the effigy of a priest now set in the wall of the south transept. It dates from the first half of the 13th century, (fn. 233) and probably commemorates one of the prebendaries of Thame.
Thame church is rich in brasses: the two oldest, both on altar tombs, are in the south transept, or the Quatremain aisle. The first is to Thomas Quatremain of North Weston and his wife Katharine (both d. 1342), and to their son Thomas (d. 1398) and his wife Joan. It shows two men in armour (one mutilated) with their wives at the side. Almost all the long inscription is now missing. (fn. 234) The second brass is to Richard Quatremain, Esq. (d. 1477) and his wife Sybil (d. 1483). An English verse inscription records Richard's foundation of St. Christopher's chantry. (fn. 235) Around the sides of the stone tomb are niches for statues and eight carved panels, each containing a central shield of arms with two shields above. A third brass on an altar tomb, which was once in the south transept (fn. 236) but is now in the north transept, is to Geoffrey Dormer (d. 1502/3), merchant of the staple of Calais, (fn. 237) his two wives and their 25 children. (fn. 238) His coat of arms and merchant's mark are depicted.
There are three other brasses of about the same period to Thame merchants: they are dressed in furtrimmed gowns and have purses attached to their belts. One is to a man, his wife, and nine children. Another is to Christopher Bridgeman (d. 1503), his wife Maud and their twelve children. (fn. 239) The third is to Walter Prat (d. 1508), his wife Isabel and their six children. (fn. 240) A similar brass to John Benett (d. 1498) with a verse inscription was mostly there until the early 19th century. (fn. 241) The mutilated inscription is now on a wall in the south transept. (fn. 242)
Later brasses are to Sir John Clerke (d. 1539) (see below); to John Galey, gent. (d. 1543) (mutilated and on the chancel floor); and to Edward Harris (d. 1597), the first headmaster of Thame Grammar School. The last was erected by his pupil and heir William Ballowe.
In 1582 there were two brass inscriptions which are now missing: one was to John Aldersonne, vicar (d. 1503), (fn. 243) the other to Henry Bowler (undated), his wife Elizabeth (d. 1555/6) and their ten children. (fn. 244) There may also have been at one time a brass to members of the Marmyon family. (fn. 245)
In the centre of the chancel is the splendid altar tomb of Lord Williams of Thame (d. 1559) and his first wife Elizabeth, executed in Chellaston marble and surrounded by an iron railing. On it are his alabaster effigy, dressed in full armour, and that of his first wife Elizabeth. Around all the sides are the coats of arms of Williams, Moore, Wentworth, and other families to whom he and his daughters were related by marriage. (fn. 246)
In his will Lord Williams provided that he was to be buried in Thame church and that part of the proceeds of the sale of 'Leistropp' manor were to be used for his funeral and the making of his tomb. (fn. 247) He also provided for the upkeep of his tomb. In 1661 the Warden of New College found it 'very much mangled, and broken', for it had been damaged by parliamentary soldiers during the Civil War. (fn. 248) The estimate of £32 14s. of Mr. Jackson, sculptor (probably the Oxford craftsman John Jackson), for its repair was considered too high and the work was given to William Bird of Oxford, who was paid £20 for making a new unicorn (called a lion) a greyhound, and other stone work. Richard Hawkins received £13 6s. 2d. for painting and gilding. (fn. 249) The horn of the unicorn has since been broken off.
On the chancel wall there is a brass inscription to Viscount Bertie of Thame (d. 1919), lord of Thame manor and Lord Williams's descendant. The only other memorials to lords of the manors are to the Clerkes of North Weston. The brass to Sir John Clerke (d. 1539) has already been mentioned. (fn. 250) There are three shields on the Purbeck marble tomb with the arms of Clerke and above there is a funerary surmounted by a ram's head, the crest of the Clerkes. On the chancel floor is the gravestone, with a long Latin inscription on brass, surmounted by the arms of Clerke impaling Carr, father-in-law of Sir John Clerke, Bt. (d. 1667), and on the chancel wall is a white marble monument to his widow Philadelphia (d. 1698).
Many families of Thame gentry have memorials dating from the 17th century onwards. (fn. 251) There are monuments with arms to Rebecca (d. 1631), daughter of John Petty of Stoke Talmage and wife of John Ellis, Rector of Wheatfield, and to Elizabeth (d. 1683), daughter of Maximilian Petty and wife of William Burte, headmaster of Thame school 1631– 47. There is a tombstone to Thomas Bryan, gent. (d. 1643); a monument to John Stribblehill, gent. (d. 1692) and to his widow Frances (d. 1722), daughter of Thomas Carter of North Weston; a tombstone to Edward Leaver, gent. (d. 1697); a monument with arms to Richard Leaver, gent. (d. 1723); an inscription to Thomas Messenger, gent. (d. 1712); a monument to Philip Herbert, Esq. (d. 1749) of Kingsey, M.P. for Oxford; one with arms to William Simons (d. 1764); a tombstone to Harry Style, gent. (d. 1798); and to Richard Smith, Esq. (d. 1808).
Eighteenth and early 19th-century professional men, commemorated mostly by inscriptions or ledgerstones, are Matthew Wilkins (d. 1722), lawyer; Henry Warner (d. 1750/1), attorney; Matthew Loder (d. 1763), surgeon; Edward Rose (d. 1776), attorney; Henry Reynolds (d. 1806), solicitor (by Brine, London); and Sackville Bale Lupton (d. 1840), surgeon. (fn. 252)
The only monument to a vicar is that to Timothy Tripp Lee (d. 1840), who was also headmaster of the grammar school. The tombstones of the vicar Samuel Thornbury (d. 1751) (fn. 253) and of the nonconformist minister John Nott (d. 1702) (fn. 254) are no longer visible. There is a tombstone to William Newborough (d. 1787), Minister of Long Crendon (Bucks.).
Besides Edward Harris and Lee (see above) the following headmasters of the grammar school are commemorated: Richard Boucher (d. 1627), by a monument in the chancel; Thomas Middleton (d. 1694); and the Revd. Alfred Edward Shaw (d. 1921).
There are also memorials to a number of tradesmen and craftsmen: a monument with arms to Robert Heath (d. 1694/5), mason, from whom are probably descended the Revd. Robert Heath (d. 1743) and Robert Heath (d. 1765), to whom there are inscriptions; inscriptions to William Peck, senior (d. 1717), ironmonger; to Edward Phillips (d. 1719), draper; to Samuel Wollaston (d. 1741), apothecary; (fn. 255) tombstones to Thomas Haynes (d. 1731), bodice maker; and to John Kent (d. 1737), hatband maker. The tombstone to Richard Cowley (d. 1710), apothecary (pharmacopola), is no longer visible. (fn. 256)
Other 18th-century inhabitants commemorated are Thomas Crewes (or Crews) (d. 1721/2), Robert Crews (d. 1731/2), and Thomas Crews (d. 1769); Stephen Cook, senior (d. 1707); John Rose (d. 1726/7); Thomas Bayley (d. 1747/8) and his wife; and Edward Burnard (d. 1777). There are 19thcentury memorials to Thomas Prickett (d. 1816); Charles Theophilus Dorrington (d. 1821); Thomas Hedges (d. 1847), his wife and daughter, by Bedford, London; and there is a brass to Arthur Conyers (d. 1884). Memorials to the Lee family include a marble monument with arms to Timothy Newmarch Lee (d. 1794), father of the vicar Timothy Tripp Lee; memorials to the vicar's sons Frederick Lee (d. 1841), curate at Thame, and Richard Lee (d. 1882), surgeon; to Dr. Herbert Grove Lee (d. 1909), for 20 years people's churchwarden and his son Douglas Cameron Lee (d. 1938). Other 20th-century inscriptions are to Mrs. F. Eales Shrimpton (d. 1932) and to Constance (d. 1938), wife of Sir Ralph Pearson.
It is likely that the church was once rich in glass and that much of it was destroyed by the parliamentary soldiers who were quartered in the building. Rawlinson mentions some armorial glass in the chancel windows in his day. (fn. 257) In 1958 there was no ancient glass, but there were modern stained-glass windows commemorating Harry Lupton, surgeon (d. 1861), and H. W. Reynolds, surgeon (d. 1875), both by Clayton and Bell; Jane Chard (d. 1883); Job and Sarah Shrimpton, erected in 1890 by their children; Winifred Lee (d. 1923), by Morris and Co. (fn. 258) The east window, designed by F. E. Howard, is in memory of the parishioners killed in the First World War. (fn. 259)
The church was richly furnished in the Middle Ages. An inventory made in 1448 lists vestments and altar furnishings of great richness, of damask, silk, and velvet, many embroidered with gold. There were also a number of crosses, chalices, and candlesticks. Many of the church's possessions were the gifts of local magnates and clergy or distinguished visitors: the prebendaries Nicholas Bubwith, John Wakering, and William Kynwolmarsh had given vestments; Thomas Nash, Rector of Chinnor, had given a chalice, and the vicars John Lucas (1378– 1416) and John Derman (1416–?) (fn. 260) a chalice and a vestment; other gifts were from Lady Joan Beauchamp and Sir Robert Marney. (fn. 261) In addition each of the side altars had its own vestments and plate. (fn. 262) Later in the 15th century and in the 16th century the churchwardens' accounts record further gifts. (fn. 263)
During the reign of Edward VI most of the plate and the other treasures were sold. In 1547 they were put in the custody of 'divers honest men of the town'. Two of them were churchwardens, and one was the chantry priest, John Collins. (fn. 264) In 1547 they sold brass candlesticks to a London brasier; the next year they received £38 10s. 2d. for church plate; in 1549 the great cross fetched £21 4s.; and there were further extensive sales in 1550 and 1551. (fn. 265) At least £185, of which £70 was for bells, was obtained. There must also have been other sales for the inhabitants, probably in 1553, listed church property (including four chalices, two crosses, and the foot of the great cross), which had been sold over the last five years for over £300. This sum, they said, had then been divided among the sellers, while the church was left with almost nothing. (fn. 266)
The church remained very poorly furnished, for in 1630 its only plate was a brass pot. (fn. 267) It seems to have been after 1630, therefore, that the present fine Elizabethan plate was acquired. It consists of a silvergilt chalice with paten cover of 1569 and inscribed '1570' and 'NT', probably for New Thame, and another and smaller chalice and paten cover of 1570. (fn. 268) The church possesses two other pieces of old plate which it was given early in the 18th century: a large paten engraved 'MH 1705' with the arms of Holt impaling those of Stribblehill, the gift of Martha Holt; (fn. 269) and a jug-shaped flagon of silver gilt, the gift in 1715 of Thomas Carter, Esq. The remaining plate is late 19th or 20th century. (fn. 270) The church once owned two large silver candlesticks, said to have been given by a member of the Thynne family, the lay rectors, but in the late 18th century these disappeared and were replaced by less valuable ones. (fn. 271)
The known history of the bells begins in 1448, when there was a ring of five large bells and another bell in the tower not forming part of the ring. The churchwardens' accounts frequently mention the buying, recasting, and repairing of bells. (fn. 272) In 1627 the wardens bought a new 'stock' ring of six from Ellis Knight's Reading foundry, and these bells remained in use until 1876 except that in 1664 the tenor was recast. (fn. 273) By 1875 two of the bells were cracked, and the vestry decided after protracted discussion, to recast the cracked bells and rehang all instead of adopting Richard Lee's proposal to buy new ones. Lee raised a fund to recast the six bells, but in 1876 eight new bells were rehung in the old frame, an event commemorated by a brass tablet on one of the tower piers. In 1881 when the bells were again taken down it was discovered that all were in fact new and contained no 'old bell metal'. They were rehung in 1884, with a new oak frame and floor, at a cost of £120 borne by S. Lacey. (fn. 274) Besides the ring of eight, there was also in the church in 1958 a sanctus bell, probably of the 17th century. (fn. 275)
A few adherents of the old religion remained in Thame after the Reformation. The earliest recorded recusants belonged to the Etherege family. (fn. 276) Dr. George Etherege of Thame was Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford under Queen Mary and was of her faith. (fn. 277) He was deprived under Elizabeth, and was living in Thame in 1564 when the sheriff was ordered to summon him before the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; Etherege had already twice disobeyed the summons of the commissioners concerning 'sundry notorious disobediences in causes of religion'. (fn. 278) Subsequently he lived in Oxford, practising medicine and 'educating several sons of the nobility in their ancient faith'. In 1577 he was listed as a leading Oxford recusant; (fn. 279) but in the same year he was also returned under Thame, with his wife, his son Thomas, and two maids. (fn. 280) In 1592 Mary, wife of Thomas Etherege, gent., was the only Thame recusant returned, (fn. 281) but in 1606 she and her husband and their son George were presented by the churchwardens for not coming to church or receiving communion, (fn. 282) and at the same time George Etherege, gent., lately of Thame, was fined for recusancy. (fn. 283) At least one branch of the family continued to live in the region, (fn. 284) but there is no later record of their being recusants.
Others fined for recusancy in the early 17th century were George Hashett (or Haslett), brewer, Thomas Stones of Moreton, and John Greene of North Weston. (fn. 285) Two of these were among the fourteen people presented by the churchwardens between 1606 and 1609 for not coming to church or not receiving communion at Easter. (fn. 286) Slightly later the Maynes, sometimes reported as of Priestend, sometimes as of Moreton, were another Roman Catholic family. John Mayne, gent., his wife Dorothy, and their children were listed as recusants at various dates between 1623 and 1635. (fn. 287)
The Wenmans of Thame Park are on no recusant lists, but Agnes, the first wife of Sir Richard Wenman, was the daughter of Sir George Fermor of Easton Neston (Northants.), and therefore a member of a leading recusant family. (fn. 288) When Father John Gerard, the Jesuit, was staying with Elizabeth Vaux at Great Harrowden (Northants.) in 1599 they were visited by a relative of Mrs. Vaux, a lady who lived in Oxfordshire and 'was married to a knight with a large estate, who hoped one day to become a baron', and this lady is thought to have been Agnes Wenman. (fn. 289) As her husband was a Protestant she was unable to keep a priest in her house, but she regularly performed certain prescribed religious duties. (fn. 290) After the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 both Sir Richard and his wife were questioned and it was alleged that Lady Wenman had corresponded with Mrs. Vaux about the conspiracy, and Sir Richard claimed that Mrs. Vaux had tried to 'pervert his wife'. (fn. 291) Nothing was proved against either of the Wenmans and after the death of Agnes Wenman in 1617 (fn. 292) there was no further report of recusancy at Thame Park until the 18th century.
At the same period Margaret, the wife of Sir William Clerke of North Weston, and the daughter of Sir John Bourne, Secretary of State to Queen Mary, was fined as an Oxford recusant in 1603. (fn. 293) Her father was a strong opponent of the new religion. (fn. 294) In 1604 a Roman Catholic priest was reported to be with 'Lady Clark at Weston nigh unto Thame' (fn. 295) and according to local tradition Catholic services were held at North Weston, either in the chapel or in the manor-house, until 1624, (fn. 296) the year of Lady Clerke's death.
There is little further record of Roman Catholicism in Thame until 1766, when the 7th Viscount Wenman married a Roman Catholic, the Lady Eleanor Bertie, a daughter of the 3rd Earl of Abingdon. (fn. 297) In 1767 there were only five 'papists' in the parish: Lady Eleanor, her sister, her two maids, and a hatter's wife. (fn. 298) From this time probably until 1800, the year of Lord Wenman's death, a Roman Catholic chaplain lived at Thame Park and mass was said in the chapel there. Father Bernard Stafford, alias Cassidy, the superior of the Residence of St. Mary, lived there and was buried in the chapel in 1788. (fn. 299) He was followed by a secular priest and then by another Jesuit, William Hothersall. (fn. 300)
After the 'reign of terror' in France a large number of Roman Catholic clergy fled to England and in 1796 about 50 from Brittany were housed in the 'Mansion House', (fn. 301) and the government grant for their maintenance was supplemented by local collections. The Marquess of Buckingham (fn. 302) made contributions, and Richard Smith, the father-in-law of the vicar, Timothy Tripp Lee, generously allowed them £250 a year for four years. (fn. 303) They had a temporary chapel in the house, where mass was said. Two of these emigré priests were buried in Thame churchyard in 1796 and 1797. The survivors eventually returned to France after a public thanksgiving at which the sermon was preached by the vicar. (fn. 304) The house was closed in 1802. (fn. 305)
No more is known of Roman Catholicism in Thame until 1912 or 1913, when Colonel Harman Grisewood allowed the use of the prebendal chapel for public Roman Catholic services and Thame had a resident priest, Father Randolph Traill. (fn. 306) The present church, St. Joseph's in Brook Lane, was dedicated in 1922.
In 1958 the Roman Catholic community, including no doubt some who lived in neighbouring parishes, numbered 270. (fn. 307)
Even the established church in Thame was Puritan in character in early Stuart times, and conditions were distinctly favourable for the growth of dissent. Some of the leaders of Thame society had puritan leanings and were sympathetic to the parliamentary cause. The vicar Thomas Hennant (1631–65) and the headmaster of the grammar school William Burte (1631– 47) were thought by Anthony Wood to show greater kindness to the parliamentary soldiers than to the royalist. They had both married members of the Petty family, (fn. 308) and Charnell Petty at least was dubbed by Wood 'an old pritan'. (fn. 309) The Pettys were related to the Cromwells, Hampdens, Ingoldsbys, and Wallers, (fn. 310) and consequently moved among families of which many members were strongly puritan. After the Restoration there were Quakers, Presbyterians, Independents, and members of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. (fn. 311) The Compton Census of 1676 recorded that there were 100 'utter' dissenters. (fn. 312)
The continued strength of nonconformity in Thame in the 18th century is demonstrated by the numerous meetings of gentlemen and ministers from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire to pass resolutions in favour of the repeal of the Test Act. During the century there was always at least one dissenting congregation, and by the end of the century the Wesleyans had founded a chapel. (fn. 313) From the 1820's, when the Baptists became established, there were at least three chapels, and in addition in the first half of the century a number of private houses were registered for worship for unknown denominations. (fn. 314) Among the sects at this time were Primitive Methodists and Particular Baptists. The progress made by the nonconformist movement may be judged by the success of its Sunday schools: the roll of 1833 gives 185 Anglican pupils and 234 belonging to the three dissenting Sunday schools (i.e. Congregationalist, Wesleyan, and Baptist). (fn. 315) Some children from neighbouring villages were probably included in the nonconformist group. In 1854 the vicar estimated that about a third of the parish was nonconformist and in the 1880's the proportion was probably greater. (fn. 316) In this century nonconformity, which had once had a distinctly Calvinistic character, was of a more general Evangelical type, although still strongly opposed to the established church.
So the town was divided into two camps: the rivals would not deal with the same tradesmen, and a dual system of shops grew up. (fn. 317) Churchwardens were suspected of trying to restrict the various charities to church people (fn. 318) and nonconformists sometimes tried to elect one of their own number as a churchwarden.
Nonconformists co-operated in matters other than opposition to the church: Baptists lent their choir to the Wesleyans for Sunday school anniversaries; (fn. 319) Wesleyans their Sunday school to the Congregationalists before they had one of their own; (fn. 320) all rallied to the support of the British School, founded in 1835, and the annual Temperance Festival, held from 1841 to 1898. (fn. 321) Sometimes combined weekday services were held in different chapels in turn. (fn. 322) Nonconformity in Thame was reinforced towards the end of the century by the Salvation Army. By 1958, however, only the Congregationalists, Baptists, and Methodists survived.
Presbyterians. In its early days Thame nonconformity drew much of its inspiration from the Buckinghamshire movement, and a common opposition to the Anglican church drew the sects together to such an extent that organized separate churches were slow to develop. As late as the 1690's Presbyterians and Independents formed one community and the minister was paid from a Common Fund to which both contributed. (fn. 323)
The earliest notice of nonconformist activity in the town occurs in 1669, when an assembly of about 200 Presbyterians and Anabaptists was reported to be meeting in the house of John Burton. (fn. 324) One of their 'teachers' was George Swinnock, ejected Vicar of Great Kimble (Bucks.). (fn. 325) He was chaplain to Richard Hampden of Great Hampden, who was noted for his Presbyterian sympathies. (fn. 326) Two other 'teachers' were also eminent nonconformist divines from Buckinghamshire. Robert Bennet, ejected from Waddesdon, and Samuel Clarke, ejected from High Wycombe, were connected with Buckinghamshire nonconformity through Lord Wharton of Wooburn, (fn. 327) who had been a puritan and an opponent of the penal laws of the Restoration period. This Thame assembly, however, was dissolved by the justices of the peace and it removed to Buckinghamshire. (fn. 328) A year later the vicar presented about 90 persons for not receiving the sacrament at Easter and for failing to pay their church dues. (fn. 329) Among them were Burton, Atkins, Horn, and Edward Howes, a 'Congregationalist'. The house of the last was the first to be licensed in 1672 as a meetinghouse. It was registered again in 1690 along with that of John Nott. (fn. 330) On neither occasion was the denomination specified. Nott was an ejected minister with Buckinghamshire connexions: like Swinnock, he had been chaplain to Richard Hampden and had also been the preacher in the chapel at Wooburn. (fn. 331) When his licence was renewed in 1692 (fn. 332) it appeared that the 'constant meeting' he had 'newly set up' in 1690 (fn. 333) was in a house in New Thame. At the time his congregation could not promise him £15 a year, but he received £10 (later £8) from the Common Fund. (fn. 334) Edmund Calamy records in his autobiography that when he was at Oxford in 1691 and 1692 he used to 'help' Mr. Nott. (fn. 335) Nott died in Thame in 1702 and was buried in St. Mary's church. In the register he is described as a 'nonconforming minister'. (fn. 336) Two other houses were licensed in his time: the house of Samuel Horn in 1692 and that of Stephen King, in New Thame, in 1693. (fn. 337)
By 1715 the Revd. Matthew Leeson had a con gregation specifically described as Presbyterian with a membership of 100–200, eight being gentlemen and the rest tradesmen, farmers, and labourers. (fn. 338) It was for these Presbyterians that in 1728 a licence was sought by Samuel Horn, William Pain, Joseph Howes, John Geary, Robert Carruthers, and Thomas Eeles, the trustees for a building in an orchard lately belonging to the Sun Inn, New Thame. (fn. 339) This probably marked the erection of the chapel in Sun Yard, said to have been built by the Geary family, (fn. 340) although it may have been already in existence. Matthew Leeson was still minister and was also master of a private school where in 1739 he took as a pupil John Wilkes of later notoriety. Wilkes reported his master to be constantly searching for 'some new heresy', and Leeson became a deist two years after and having been obliged to resign his ministry removed his school to Aylesbury. (fn. 341) He was succeeded in 1743 by Thomas Dixon, a member of an old nonconformist family, who was paid £25 a year in salary until he left in 1750. (fn. 342) By 1772 the Presbyterian community seems to have died out and in about 1780 the meeting-house was sold or let to the Methodists. (fn. 343)
Congregationalists (Independents). The sect flourished at Thame in the second half of the 17th century and had a licensed meeting-house in 1672 belonging to Edward Howes. (fn. 344) But the Presbyterians were clearly predominant until the mid-18th century when the ascendancy of the Congregationalists seems to have begun. The date of the foundation of their church is given as 1750, (fn. 345) but its early history is not well documented. A letter of 1850 describing the 'rise of the Independent cause in Thame' gives the names of early ministers, of which some are recorded to have preached in Chinnor also. They were Mr. Stumphouse, Mr. Murrain, who kept a school and was 'very moderate in his views concerning divine truth'; Mr. Molland, 'very high' (i.e. Calvinistic); Mr. Hornsby 'coarse but high'; and Mr. Day. (fn. 346)
In 1786 'all that messuage or tenement in Hoggherd's Hill', being then the 'Chequer' ale house, with forge attached, was bought by public subscription to be made into a meeting-house for the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, a movement closely allied to Congregationalism. (fn. 347) There is no further record of this sect and their meeting-house was apparently later used by the Independents. (fn. 348) The Independent minister at the end of the century, John Paul, was clearly a man of energy and distinction. In 1799 he was allotted £10 a year by the Hughes Trust on condition that he preached one Sunday a year at the New Road chapel in Oxford, and in 1805 he built the Congregational chapel at Chinnor. (fn. 349) In 1810 the Thame Congregational chapel must have been one of the two dissenting chapels recorded there. It may have been the one where no services were said to be held, (fn. 350) for it must certainly have gone out of use before 1821, since in that year a new congregation was founded. 'A small church was (then) formed' in the Independent chapel, (fn. 351) and from that date Thame Congregationalism has an unbroken history up to the present day (1959), as is shown by the continuous succession of its ministers, beginning with W. H. Wiffen, who had been assistant to Paul in Chinnor. (fn. 352) The chapel used was probably the building in the Cattle Market at the east end of Middle Row (now the offices of Burrows and Bradfield). When it was put up for sale in 1829, after the new chapel had been built it was described as an 'Independent dissenters' chapel … substantially erectied with bricks and timber, tiled and in good repair', and containing pews and fittings. (fn. 353)
The new chapel, built in 1827 at a cost of £1,400, (fn. 354) is now the Masonic Hall (14 High Street). (fn. 355) In 1838 the chapel was registered for marriages (fn. 356) and in 1841, with 35 members, it was included in the newly formed Oxfordshire and West Berkshire Association. (fn. 357) It had no burial ground and when Wiffen died in 1844 he was buried in front of it. (fn. 358) A year later some stir was caused by the appointment of a Baptist minister, Isaac Doxey, but on inquiry from the Congregational Association the chapel members said they were remaining Independent (fn. 359) and in 1851 the chapel was returned as an Independent one. Congregations numbered over 100 in the morning, 30 in the afternoon, and 166 in the evening; there was an attendance of between about 120 and 140 children at the morning and afternoon Sunday schools; and the minister held a small Bible class for female domestic servants. (fn. 360) Doctrinal trouble arose in 1860 on the resignation of J. G. Stevenson, appointed two years before. He was accused by James Marsh, a prominent Congregationalist, of not preaching in accordance with the principles laid down in the trust deeds of the chapel (i.e. Calvinistic principles). The majority of the members were willing to have the trust deeds altered, (fn. 361) but when it was found that this would be illegal Stevenson resigned. The British School allowed him free use of a room for religious meetings and worship. (fn. 362) Chapel membership was more than halved and Marsh offered to reimburse Stevenson for any expenses incurred if he would return to the Congregational Church. He refused unless the trust deeds were altered. Marsh brought the state of affairs before the ministers of the Association and the Home Missionary Board, but both were unable to assist from want of funds. The separatist movement was finally ended by the managers of the British School, who in 1862 decided that Stevenson should no longer have the use of the schoolroom as his 'strange doctrine' gave offence to some of the subscribers. By 1865 he had left Thame and was officiating at Shanklin. (fn. 363) In spite of these events, by 1868 the Congregationalists had sufficiently recovered to consider the building of a larger and more comfortable chapel with a schoolroom. (fn. 364) In 1871 the present chapel was built for 'Protestant Dissenters of the Congregational Denomination called Independents being Pædobaptists'. According to the trust deeds the minister was to be chosen by two-thirds of the members at a special meeting, but no mention was made of 'Calvinistic principles'. Part of the ground was to be used for burials and a house already on the site became the manse. The chapel, built of brick and fronted with stone, cost £2,000 and had 450 seats. (fn. 365) It had a vestry and schoolroom below.
The period 1881–5 seems to have been most prosperous for the chapel, with an active membership of up to 81 persons. (fn. 366) In 1958 there were 48 members. (fn. 367) A memorial hall and vestry were built in 1907 at a cost of £300, of which £200 came from a legacy from Samuel Lacey and a grant from the 20th-century fund. A new manse was built in Southern Road in 1922. (fn. 368)
The registers date from 1838, the minutes from 1858, (fn. 369) and the members' roll from 1881.
Society of Friends. A footnote to a draft copy of the original return to the Compton Census of 1676 states that out of 100 'utter' dissenters recorded 32 were Quakers. (fn. 370) No further evidence of the movement had been found until William Wheeler (1800– 87), a Thame grocer and a writer of religious poetry, (fn. 371) who was one of the leading supporters of the British School and the Thame Temperance Society, founded a Quaker meeting, which met in a small building in his garden at 4 East Street. For many years the group resisted the imposition of church rates. On Wheeler's death the society broke up, but the building still exists and its benches are used by a Baptist Bible society in a nearby room. (fn. 372)
Methodists. Wesleyan preachers met with hostility from the mob and no headway was made until Wesley himself paid two visits to Thame in 1778 and 1782. He used the former Presbyterian chapel on his first visit and had a crowded and attentive meeting. A case of faith-healing occurred. (fn. 373)
In about 1780 the Wesleyans bought or leased the chapel in the Sun Yard. Hitherto they had used two rooms in a cottage next to the present Barclays Bank in Middle Row. (fn. 374) The community prospered: its Sunday school, started in 1826, had the largest attendance—90 pupils—of the three dissenting schools being held in Thame in 1833. (fn. 375) In 1853 a new chapel was built in Upper High Street at a cost of £1,095. It was to serve '40 members' and had an average congregation of 150. The building was of brick with a stone front and seated 300 persons; it had a schoolroom on the ground floor. (fn. 376) It is of interest that the trustees of the new building almost all came from the surrounding villages and not from Thame itself; they consisted of the relieving officer, the minister, two farmers, a number of tradesmen and craftsmen, and a servant. (fn. 377) In 1875 the chapel, which had just become free from debt, was badly damaged by fire, and its restoration cost £653. (fn. 378)
As with the Congregationalists, the most prosperous period of the sect was in the 1880's. In 1884 there were 180 children on the Sunday-school roll, double the number of 40 years before, although only a minority were members; they were taught by eighteen teachers. By 1950 the number of scholars and teachers had declined to 20 and 6 respectively. (fn. 379) In the 1880's Thame was at the head of a circuit that included eight Buckinghamshire villages. In addition to the minister, there were eight lay-preachers in the town. (fn. 380) In the 20th century Thame has remained a Methodist centre: membership declined only slightly from 64 in 1900 to 59 in 1958. (fn. 381) There is still a resident minister, one of the two on the Thame and Watlington circuit.
Primitive Methodists. Primitive Methodists were also strong in the parish. The house in Moreton registered for worship in 1820 may have been used by them, (fn. 382) for their first chapel was Bethel chapel, built in 1839 in Moreton. (fn. 383) Of its seven trustees, all labourers except for one farmer, four were from Moreton and three from Drayton (Bucks.). (fn. 384) In 1851 attendances of 50 and over were reported in the afternoons and evenings. (fn. 385) In 1870 a new chapel was built and was registered for marriages in 1875. (fn. 386) When the Primitive Methodists joined the Wesleyans in 1932 Moreton chapel became a Methodist chapel. In 1958 it had a membership of ten and was on the Thame and Watlington circuit. (fn. 387)
The second Primitive Methodist Society in the parish, the Society of New Jerusalem Methodists, was formed in Thame itself in 1849. Their meetingplace had 150 seats and was in the poorest part of the town. It was considered a 'blessing to the neighbourhood'; and after its opening fighting and quarrelling decreased. (fn. 388) The steward was James Phillips, a Thame grocer, and the congregations, of 100 and over in the afternoon and evening, were said to consist entirely of poor people. The Primitive Methodist chapel built in East Street in 1864 was no doubt the successor to this room. (fn. 389) It probably ceased being used as a chapel in about 1900, (fn. 390) and was leased from about 1917 to the County Council. The trustees sold it in 1940. (fn. 391)
Baptists. In 1851 there were two Baptist meetingplaces in Thame. The larger one, belonging to the Particular Baptists, had started in 1825, when the house of Thomas Juggins, a Thame furrier, was registered. (fn. 392) In the same year a Baptist Sunday school was started, and by 1833 it had 70 pupils. (fn. 393) In 1851 the chapel, built not long before March 1842, had an average Sunday attendance varying from 34 to 103, according to the time of day. (fn. 394) Its minister was Stephen Walker, a Thame grocer, and the building was off the south end of Rook's Lane, where remains of a gallery and baptistry still exist. (fn. 395) In 1851 the other Baptist meeting-place had an average attendance of no more than 25 persons. Its date of foundation is not given and nothing further is known about it. (fn. 396)
There is no further record of these two groups of Baptists, and it seems possible that they united and used the old Presbyterian chapel in the Sun Yard which had been used by the Methodists until they built a new chapel in 1853 (see above). This Sun Yard building was the Baptist chapel from at least 1860 until 1865, (fn. 397) when the present chapel in Park Street was built at a cost of £500. (fn. 398) At this time there were 40 members. By 1925 membership had sunk to three, but since then there has been a revival and in 1958 there were 38 members. (fn. 399) In addition to the chapel, the Baptists used the former Primitive Methodist chapel in East Street as a church hall.
Salvation Army. Between 1886 and 1897 the Salvation Army made intermittent attempts to establish itself, Herbert Booth, General Booth's son, paying a visit in 1887, and arousing a good deal of opposition. Both the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyans lent their buildings to the Army on different occasions. (fn. 400) The Army later built its own small red brick hall in East Street.
Schools. (fn. 401)
Since the 16th century Thame has been renowned for its excellent endowed grammar school for boys, founded in 1559 by Lord Williams of Thame. In the 17th century in particular it was attended by an unusual number of pupils who later made their mark in English history. (fn. 402) The history of this school has been summarized up to the 1930's in a previous volume. (fn. 403) It became a voluntary controlled school under the 1944 Education Act, and in 1955 had 124 day boys and 46 boarders. (fn. 404)
The town also attracted a number of private schools, of which at least two, the County Middle Class School for boys and the Girls' Grammar School, had a considerable reputation in the county in the 19th century. (fn. 405) Of the more ephemeral ones mention may be made of a boarding school advertised in the Oxford Journal in 1779, of a school at North Weston manor-house recorded in 1819, of a day and boarding school with 42 boys founded in 1827, and of another for 17 girls in 1832, of a classical and commercial school conducted by a Mr. Scadding in 1836, and of Miss Were's establishment at Montpellier House which is recorded in 1840. (fn. 406) In 1854 Billing's Oxfordshire Directory listed four private schools. (fn. 407)
No evidence has survived about elementary education in Thame before the 1730's, when the strong interest in education in the country generally after peace had been declared in 1713 found expression in the town. Between 1732 and 1740 five bequests were made for the education of poor children: these included bequests by Matthew Crew and the 2nd Earl of Abingdon. (fn. 408) About a hundred years later a committee was formed to establish Schools of Industry, (fn. 409) and the British school and the National schools were set up. This interest in elementary education was accompanied by an increase in the activity of Sunday schools. There had been two such schools in 1815 with about 30 boys and 50 girls attending. (fn. 410) In 1833 there were four attended by 400 children; a Church of England one with a lending library attached, and three others managed by the Independents, Wesleyans, and Baptists respectively. (fn. 411)
The Market House School, whose early history has been described in a previous volume, (fn. 412) was held in a room over the market-house, rented from the Earl of Abingdon for £2 a year. (fn. 413) The school was still in existence in 1833, when it had 54 pupils, 24 educated freely and the rest paid for by their parents, but did not survive long after this, for in 1837 its endowment was transferred to the National school. (fn. 414)
In 1837 a British school, later known as the John Hampden School, was built in Brick-kiln Lane on land given by Sarah Richmond. It was paid for and supported out of subscriptions, a government grant, and a legacy of £500 in 1839 by Charles Dorrington. (fn. 415) It consisted of a boys' room and a girls' room with a master's house between, and was for long known as the Thame Royal British School because of the patronage of the Duchess of Kent. Later it was called Park Street School. (fn. 416) Subscribers at the time of its foundation were allowed to nominate one pupil for every annual subscription of 5s. 6d., and the children paid 1d. a week, or 2d. and 6d. in the top classes. Children from all the surrounding villages attended. Those under five years of age were not admitted. At first gardening, knìtting, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught. The school was undenominational and so the pupils were to attend their own churches on Sundays. (fn. 417) From the 1850's the school took boarders; there were six in 1872 and later twelve. An infants' class had been started in 1869. (fn. 418) Like the National school, it found difficulty after 1865, when it became subject to government inspection, in meeting the Board of Education's requirements, but it was never declared inefficient. A classroom was added in 1852, and further extensions were made in 1900. (fn. 419) Numbers rose from an average of 117 boys and 40 girls in 1846 to 256 children in 1903. (fn. 420) The school became a junior and infants' school in 1929 and the seniors were transferred to the Church of England school. (fn. 421) In 1947 it ceased to be a voluntary school, and was maintained by the county until 1950, when it was recognized as a primary school. There were 208 juniors and 125 infants in 1954. (fn. 422)
The Thame National School Society was formed in 1836 in order to provide the poor of the parish with 'a religious, moral and suitable education'. (fn. 423) The Earl of Abingdon gave an acre in the old Hog Fair for the site and Mr. Abraham, a London architect, then working at Thame Park, made a plan and elevations for the schools free of cost. (fn. 424) The school was opened in 1838 and like the British school it consisted of a boys' department and a girls' department, separated by a master's house. Infants were taught in rented premises until 1842, when a separate stone building was added, partly paid for by a government grant and the National Society. (fn. 425) There were usually a master, a mistress, and an infant mistress. (fn. 426) From the 1850's to the 1920's the school was taught by a master and a mistress. (fn. 427) In 1837 the endowment of the Market House School was transferred to the National school. In 1881 the income, which had remained constant, was regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners, under which half went to the maintenance of the school and half to prizes, scholarships, and grants to encourage children to stay at school. (fn. 428) The school was inspected from 1867 and until the end of the century found it difficult to reach the required standard. In 1896 it was declared inefficient, but in 1900 when a new classroom had been added the school manager was congratulated on the school premises and a Higher Principle grant was recommended. (fn. 429) There was an average attendance of 170 children in 1887 and of 199 children in 1890. (fn. 430) Until 1891 fees ranged from 2d. to 6d. a week, and from 1878 tradesmen's children paid more than those of labourers'; there were 26 charity children who received free education. (fn. 431) In 1929 the school became a senior school with 130 seniors and 24 infants; juniors were transferred to the John Hampden School in the same year and all infants were transferred in 1933. In 1945 the school became a secondary modern school with voluntary controlled status from 1949. There were 160 seniors in 1950. (fn. 432)
Moreton Church of England school was built in 1860 through the efforts of the vicar on land given by Lady Wenman and with the help of funds given by her and by the government. (fn. 433) It was supported for some years by Lady Wenman. (fn. 434) In 1873 the school had 54 children. (fn. 435) Numbers were never very large: although the school was built for 55 children, there were only 22 in 1891, when it was called a National school. (fn. 436) It closed some time after 1920 and the money obtained from the sale of the building was used to endow a Moreton charity. (fn. 437)
Of the boys' private schools, the Mansion House School was opened in 1808–9 by John Jones, a former master of the Market House School, and continued for about 20 years. (fn. 438) In 1840 it was taken over by L. D. Hunt, and extensive alterations were made which included new classrooms, boarding accommodation, two halls, a gymnasium, and swimming bath, and the school was reopened as the Oxford County School. (fn. 439) In 1868 James Marsh, at one time a master of the British school, became headmaster and the school was amalgamated with Howard House School, (fn. 440) a private school which he had opened in 1854 at Cuttlebrook House. At this school instruction of a 'sound commercial character' was given for low fees. By 1866 he had 120 pupils, of whom 80 were boarders. (fn. 441) The combined schools advertised under the joint names of the Oxford County Middle Class School and Howard House School, and promised 'a practical commercial education'. Boys were prepared for the universities, the Civil Service, and especially for professional and business careers. There was a preparatory department. (fn. 442) Marsh's son J. W. Marsh succeeded him in 1883 but committed suicide in 1888 because of financial difficulties. (fn. 443) The school was then taken over by T. Gardner and in 1894 by C. H. Hills. In 1900 it became a preparatory school and in 1908 it was transferred to London. (fn. 444)
There were two large private schools for girls in the 19th century, one opened by a Miss Todd in 1841 at 40 Upper High St. and another started next to the Wesleyan Chapel in 1849. (fn. 445) The former was advertised regularly in the Thame Gazette until 1894, when it apparently came to an end. The latter was acquired by Mrs. J. Pearce, formerly a mistress at the National school, in 1870. In 1877 the school moved into the old grammar school buildings, formerly used by the Lord Williams's School, and the name was changed to the Girls' Grammar School. (fn. 446) A preparatory department for boys was opened when Miss Gillett was principal in 1888. (fn. 447) In 1889 Miss Dodwell and her partners acquired the school and later in 1908 they moved into the extensiver buildings recently vacated by the Oxford County School for Boys. (fn. 448) In 1917 a limited liability company was formed to manage the school with Miss Hockley and Miss Messenger as principals. (fn. 449) The school was recognized and inspected from 1907, and was accepted under the 1902 Act as providing secondary education for this part of the county. Until the Geddes economy measures of 1921 the County Education Committee subsidized the school by an annual grant of £125 and made grants for natural science and domestic science equipment. (fn. 450) At first boarders outnumbered day pupils: in 1917 there were 77 boarders, but in 1943 it ceased to be a boarding school. From 1921 only 'county scholars' from Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire who paid fees attended, and by 1948 there were 110 county scholars, 30 fee payers and 35 in the preparatory department. In 1948 the two principals retired and the school closed. (fn. 451) Thame girls then went to the temporary girls' secondary school at Water Eaton and later to Holton Park, Wheatley. (fn. 452)
Rycotewood College for Rural Crafts was founded in 1938 by Capt. C. Michaelis of Rycote Park to provide free education for three or four years for boys from any county, but preferably from Oxfordshire. His intention was to foster good craftsmanship, especially in cabinet-making. The boys received free board, clothes, and medical attention, and the school was housed in the old work-house, which was adapted for the purpose. During the Second World War the work-house was requisitioned by the War Department and the school was housed in temporary premises in Thame. In 1948 the trust expired and the County Council took over the school; Capt. Michaelis generously transferred the old work-house at a pepercorn rent and on derequisition it was re-equipped. In 1950 the college returned and was reorganized as a County College for rural crafts with a secondary technical course attached. Numbers rose from 24 in the war period to nearly 75 in 1950. (fn. 453) In 1959 a new block of buildings was added. By then there were 110 students in residence. Courses were being given in agricultural engineering and pre-apprenticeship cabinet-making and building. (fn. 454)
Richard Quatremain and his wife founded and almshouse for six 'poor men' in connexion with the guild of St. Christopher, which they founded in 1447. (fn. 455) In 1548 after the chantry had been dissolved the almshoused were apparently spared: three beadsmen and three beadswomen were then receiving 11d. a week each—a total of £8 16s. 4d. a year. The chantry certificate was marked 'Continuatur quosque to the poore'. (fn. 456) An account roll for the years 1548–50 shows that the receipts from the property of the dissolved guild amounted to £41 17s. for the two years and notes that Sir John Williams was then the owner. Payments included 6d. a week to each of the five poor men and one woman, amounting to £15 3s. for the year. An additional 1d. a week was paid to the poor men for bread and a sum of 5s. was spent on their smocks, and 22s. 1d. on the repair of the almshoiuses. (fn. 457) It is likely that it was the influence of Sir John Williams, one of the commissioners for the suppression of the chantries, that secured the continuance of the institution. He and the inhabitants of Thame petitioned the crown to this end and when Sir John was granted in 1550 the property of the dissolved guild he agreed to pay £10 13s. 9d. a year to support 'six paupers'. (fn. 458) In 1575 the endowment consisted of lands in Long Crendon (Bucks.) and certain 'candle rents', together producing £23 5s. a year, and the almshouse buildings.
The deed of 1575 by which Lord Williams's executors regulated the future management of the grammar school founded by him made arrangements for the almshoused also. The property of both school and almshouses was vested in the Warden and Scholars of New College, the warden was visitor to both, and the schoolmaster acted as secretary and housekeeper to the almshouses. To the original endowment of the almshouses was added land in New Thame, Sydenham, and East Hendred (Berks.), producing £7 4s. 9d. for normal maintenance, and land in New Thame producing £2 13s. 4d. for gowns for the almspeople. The almspeople, to be chosen by Lord Norreys and his heirs (the earls of Abingdon), were to be old and of good character, and 'in spirit a pauper'. They were to attend the parish church at morning and evening service daily, and on Sundays and festivals were to sit in seats in the chancel around Lord Williams's tomb, for the 'dressing' and cleaning of which 2s. was to be paid quarterly to the parish clerk out of the income of the almshouses. In addition to the usual pension the oldest almsman was to receive 4s. a year for cleaning the water-course between the almshouse and the privy. (fn. 459)
In the early 19th century the almshouses had a reputation for drunkenness and immorality, in which the inmates were allegedly encouraged by the conduct of the inhabitants of the houses on the other side of Church Row. The moral condition of the almshouses had improved by 1860, though the inmates were thought to be unfortunate in their living conditions. Six years later their houses were stated to be 'poor, it might be said miserable, places' inside. (fn. 460) In 1860 an almswoman who had been acting as nurse was said to be too old to continue to do so. Each of the six almspeople received £19 10s. a year in weekly payments; these payments together with gowns and various occasional gifts amounted to an annual distribution of about £22 a head. Although the endowment of the almshouses was in theory separate from that of the school, there was no attempt to distribute the combined income in exact proportions. In addition to the income from property and rents there was also interest of £189 a year from a fund started in 1798 out of surplus income. The almshouses received, in fact, rather less than the income from the property with which they had been endowed, not taking into account the interest from accumulated capital. (fn. 461)
Under a Scheme of 1874 of the Endowed Schools Commission the almshouses were sold and the almspeople were to receive £33 6s. 8d. a year in place of all the former allowances and residence. The charity was placed under the new board of governors established for the school. In 1927–8 £150 was received from invested capital and £60 from the school foundation; of this, £200 was spent in weekly payments to the six almspeople and 10s. in cleaning the founder's tomb. (fn. 462)
Church Lands. By the 15th century the rent from land held by the church formed an important part of the churchwardens' income and was regularly entered in their accounts. (fn. 463) Some of the land which the church held after the Reformation had been acquired in the Middle Ages. Land in Buttwell Leys, for instance, had been given for a light. (fn. 464) It was said in 1612 that this land had anciently been given for the use of the church. In 1821 it amounted to about 8 acres let at £8 a year which was spent on the repair of the church. In 1821 there was also about 1½ acres in Priestend Field, the rent of 30s. from which was used for the same purpose, and the churchwardens also received for the use of the church a rent-charge of 6s. 8d. which apparently derived from the 15th century or earlier. John Collins, by deed of 1558, gave to the churchwardens for the maintenance of church services a house and garden opposite White Hound Pond; by 1821 the house was in ruins and the land was let for £2 2s. a year. One-sixth of the income from the property given by Nicholas Almond by deed of 1634 was for the repair of the church, but the money was not being used for this purpose in 1821. (fn. 465) By 1880 the church had ceased to receive any rent from the land in Priestend Field; the land in Buttwell Leys, then reckoned at 6 acres, yielded £19 a year, the land given by Collins, part of which was let to the Local Board and used for the fire-engine shed, was producing £4 2s., and these rents together with the rent-charge and £2 10s. from Almond's charity were used jointly for the repair of the church and the maintenance of services. (fn. 466) Under the Charity Commissioners' Scheme of 1881 these endowments formed part of the Thame Parochial Charities, and under an Order of 1896 were distinguished as the Ecclesiastical Charities, the income being administered by trustees separate from those then appointed to administer the parochial charities in general. The income of the Ecclesiastical Charities in 1948 was £31, excluding the share of a little over £3 from Almond's charity. (fn. 467)
Parochial Charities. (fn. 468) By a Scheme of 1881 the Charity Commissioners consolidated the ecclesiastical charities and the charities for the poor (excluding Lord Williams's Almshouses and Stephen John Johnson's charity), and regulated their application under a new board of trustees. (fn. 469) The ecclesiastical charities were the Church Estate and John Collins's charity. (fn. 470) There were two charities founded solely for distributions of money to the poor of Thame generally: Thomas Cannon by will of unknown date left £35 to provide a groat each for 30 poor widows annually, and in 1715 the capital was used, together with that of Adkyns's and Stonell's charities (see below), to buy a rent-charge of £7 10s. out of which about £1 was being distributed to the poor in cash in 1880; (fn. 471) Friday Street Cottages (also known as the Poor Houses) were bought in 1698 with £40 given by various donors, the income to be distributed in money, but by the 19th century they were normally used for housing poor persons rentfree and it was only after the cottages had been destroyed by fire in 1868 and the site sold (for £50, yielding £1 11s. 2d. in 1880) that regular distributions in cash were resumed. (fn. 472) Bread charities were founded by Robert Hall, who by will dated 1655 left a rent-charge of 10s.; by Thomas Funge, who by will dated 1766 left £600 stock producing £18 16s. 10d. in 1880; by Eustace May, who by a deed of 1793 gave a rent-charge of £8; and by Sophia Bull, who by will dated 1801 left £250 stock producing £11 2s. 8d. in 1880. These four charities were being distributed roughly in accordance with the donors' wishes in 1880. (fn. 473) The other bread charities, those of William Peck (£10 by will of c. 1717) and Robert Funge (£10 at unknown date) had lapsed by 1776, when the vestry authorized the churchwardens to recover the charity money in arrears; £10 recovered in respect of each charity was, together with £120 recovered for Phyllis Burrows charity (see below), invested in stock in 1782. For a few years thereafter Peck's and Funge's gifts were distributed in bread, but by 1821 were being used as part of Phyllis Burrows charity. (fn. 474)
There was an unusually large number of clothing charities. Joan Robotham by will dated 1595 left £10 for the use of the township of New Thame; by 1687 this sum had grown with accumulated interest to £50 and with a further sum of £160, given by a deed of that year by Martha Burrows to provide suits of clothing for seven poor persons (any residue to be distributed among the same seven persons in cash), was invested in land at Piddington. The combined charity was known as the Piddington Estate, the rents from which were to be distributed according to the intentions of the donors in the proportion one to three. By 1821, when the estate comprised a house and garden, a close, and about 10 acres of land, all let for £25 a year, about £15 was spent on gowns for 20 poor women and about £10 was distributed to the poor in sums of 5s. By 1880 the rent had fallen to £21, of which £11 15s. went on gowns and £9 5s. on doles. (fn. 475) Before 1821 the restriction of Joan Robotham's charity to New Thame had lapsed, and Martha Burrows's was confined to women. George Benson by a deed of 1641 gave £120 to buy a £6 rent-charge to be spent on suits of clothing for eight poor persons. Except that it was confined to men by before 1821, the charity was still being so distributed in 1880. (fn. 476) William Adkyns by will dated 1691/2 gave £30 for suits of clothes for two poor persons, and in 1715 the capital was used together with that of Cannon's and Stonell's charities to buy a rent-charge of £7 10s., out of which £1 4s. was being spent on clothing in 1880. (fn. 477) Richard Leaver, perhaps in 1723, left by will to trustees his property known as the 'Blue Man' in Friday Street, the rent to be used to provide suits for two poor men and two poor women; the cloth was to be bought yearly from a draper belonging to the Church of England and not from a dissenter. By 1820 the rent was £12 and three coats and eighteen gowns were given away. (fn. 478) Phyllis Burrows by will proved 1728 gave £100 to provide shirts and shifts for the poor; this sum had accumulated to £120 by 1782 when with Peck's and Robert Funge's charities the capital was invested in stock, the whole interest from which was being used in 1821 for the purposes specified by Phyllis Burrows. By 1866 the charity was carried in one account with Martha May's, (fn. 479) and in 1880 £7 7s. was spent on clothing for the poor. (fn. 480) Martha May by will dated 1811 gave £700 stock, the interest to be distributed in clothing. About 120 poor women received shifts or petticoats in 1821, and in 1880 £21 was distributed in this way. (fn. 481)
There were two apprenticing charities, founded by John Hart, who by will dated 1664 gave a rentcharge of £10, and by Lettice Stonell, who by will dated 1713 gave £100, Lettice Stonell's gift being invested, with those of Adkyns and Cannon (see above) in 1715 in a rent-charge of £7 10s. Between 1803 and 1819 Hart's charity, with occasional assistance from Stonell's, enabled eleven boys to be apprenticed. In 1880 £10 was spent on apprenticing three boys for unusually low fees. (fn. 482) In the early 19th century boys were apprenticed for premiums of up to £5 out of Stonell's charity, but by 1819 it had become impossible to place a boy for so small a premium and the trustees did not feel authorized to spend more on a single boy. The Charity Commissioners, however, appear to have dispelled this hesitation: the money was allowed to accumulate, and by 1880 £5 6s. a year was being spent on apprenticing. (fn. 483) Nicholas Almond, by a deed of 1638, gave the property later known as III High Street for various purposes: one-sixth of the income was for the maintenance of the parish church, one-sixth for the maintenance of roads and bridges in Thame, two-sixths for poor widows, lame and old people, and two-sixths for apprenticing. The property was let for £6 c. 1780, from which £1 went to the surveyors of the highways, £2 18s. 6d. to apprenticing, and the remainder to purposes not specified by the donor. By 1821 the rent had risen to £11, from which £1 was still spent on highways, but there was 'no specific appropriation of any other part of the rent'. Thereafter the charity was distributed in accordance with the donor's intention; by 1880 the rent was £15. (fn. 484)
The trustees of the parochial charities, under the Scheme of 1881, also administered Thomas Reed's charity, but this was not included as one of the parochial charities because it benefited only Moreton. (fn. 485) Following the Local Government Act of 1894, (fn. 486) a separate body of trustees was set up in 1896 to administer the distribution of the ecclesiastical charities, but the property of ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical charities continued to be administered together. The trustees of the parochial charities also administered the property of Sophia Susannah Ray's charity from 1916, and of the Moreton Welfare Fund from 1952. Under the Scheme of 1881 the parochial charities proper were divided into three branches—ecclesiastical, educational, and poor's. Each of these was accounted for separately, except that Almond's charity (the one-sixth share for roads and bridges continuing to be paid to the local authority, who received £3 2s. 10d. in 1948) had its own account, as did the charities not part of the parochial charities but administered by the trustees. (fn. 487)
The rent-charge forming the endowment of Hall's charity was redeemed for £20 stock in 1933, the 'Blue Man' (Leaver's charity) was sold in 1918, and III High Street (Almond's charity) in 1920. The income of the parochial charities excluding the ecclesiastical charities was nearly £140 in 1948: of this sum £20 went to the educational branch account; after various charges and the payment to the local authority from Almond's charity the rest of the expenditure took the form of donations to hospitals and welfare organizations and gifts in cash and kind. (fn. 488)
Other Charities. Thomas Reed by will dated 1770 left land in Thame the rent from which was to be distributed to poor persons living in the liberty of Moreton. The rent about 1790 was £2 12s. 7½d., and in 1821 £3 10s., which was distributed in sums of from 1s. to 5s. (fn. 489) Under a Scheme of 1881 the property was administered by the trustees of the Thame Parochial Charities but continued to be used specifically for Moreton. In 1948 the income of the charity was £5 11s. 3d., and this sum was given to the Moreton Coal Club. (fn. 490) Stephen John Johnson gave, shortly before his death in 1878, £100 to the minister and deacons of Thame Congregational Church. Under a deed of 1879 the money was invested in stock and the interest distributed to poor widows of Thame over sixty. In 1932 22 widows each received 5s. (fn. 491)
The Victoria Cottage Hospital received £180 in trust under the will of Miss Sophia Susannah Ray (proved 1916), and £500 in trust under the will of Philip J. D. Wykeham (proved 1924) subject to the life-interest of his wife, who died in 1937. (fn. 492)
Moreton Welfare Fund. The proceeds of the sale of the Moreton Church of England school were invested in £200 stock as the endowment of a charity, authorized by the Charity Commissioners in 1952, for promoting the 'physical, moral, mental and spiritual welfare of the inhabitants of Moreton'. The trustees were those of the Thame Parochial Charities. The income in 1954 was £5. (fn. 493)