A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
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Eynsham was apparently the site of an early Saxon minster and the centre of a largeparochia, steadily diminished as new churches were established, for example at Water Eaton and Cogges. (fn. 67) Cassington parish was created before 1123 out of Eynsham parish, and the abbey retained residual rights there until the Dissolution. (fn. 68) Yarnton, though recorded as a chapel of Eynsham in the early Middle Ages, (fn. 69) was less closely bound to the mother church. Eynsham parish remained large, however, and there is no indication that the lost village of Tilgarsley was ever ecclesiastically independent. (fn. 70) The parish was reduced in 1869 by the creation of Freeland Particular District, in 1953 by the transfer to North Leigh of Eynsham Park, and in 1966 by a further extension of Freeland. In 1985 the benefice was united with Cassington. (fn. 71)
The parish church was probably founded as a chapel for the villagers when Eynsham's Saxon minister became the abbey church of a closed order in 1005. It was first recorded in the late 12th century, (fn. 72) and was dedicated to St. Leonard, a saint popular with the Benedictines. (fn. 73) Chaplains were mentioned in the early 13th century (fn. 74) but in 1235 Bartholomew Nash (de Fraxino) was presented to the perpetual vicarage of Eynsham, probably created at that time. (fn. 75) Thereafter the living remained a vicarage, the abbey retaining the rectory and advowson. (fn. 76).
After the Dissolution the advowson descended with the manor until the late 17th century, (fn. 77) although Sir Edmund Pye, patron in a disputed presentation during the Civil War, is not known to have had an interest in the manor. (fn. 78) The Jordans, lords of the manor, seem to have sold the advowson in the 1690s, and by the early 18th century it belonged to John Martin, a London banker. (fn. 79) A presentation in 1715 was made by Samuel Weeley, who held one turn only. (fn. 80) John Martin later settled at Overbury (Worcs.), and the friendship between his family and that of Treadway Nash, the historian of Worcestershire, greatly influenced the future of the Eynsham living. (fn. 81) John Martin the younger secured the presentation in 1751 of Treadway Nash, later his brother-in-law. (fn. 82) In 1767 Martin presented Treadway Nash's relative Thomas Nash, (fn. 83) who bought the advowson from Maria Martin in the late 18th century or early 19th. (fn. 84)
Nash (d. 1826) arranged for his son-in-law and curate Thomas Symonds to succeed him as vicar but devised the advowson to his son Richard Skillicorne Nash. (fn. 85) In 1833, on the marriage of R. S. Nash's daughter to William Simcox Bricknell, the advowson was settled on trustees with the intention, fulfilled in 1845, that Bricknell should become vicar. (fn. 86) On Bricknell's death in 1888 the trustees, R.N. Bricknell and W.N. Skillicorne, presented R. J. Rowton on condition that he resigned when R. N. Bricknell's son was ready to take the living. In 1893 William Nash Bricknell duly became vicar and later sole patron; his successor in 1928 was presented by Amy, his relict (d. 1951) (fn. 87) who devised the advowson to Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, the patron in 1984. (fn. 88)
In 1235 the vicarage comprised a house and £5 a year from Eynsham abbey. (fn. 89) In 1254 the vicarage was assessed at only £3 but in 1291 the abbey seems to have paid the vicar £5 out of a church valued, with its chapels, at £21 6s. 8d. (fn. 90) By then, as later, the vicar was probably receiving the small tithes, while the abbey, as at Cassington, retained a share of the oblations. In 1535 the vicarage was valued at £16 9s., from which the vicar paid 15s. to the abbey for oblations and procurations. (fn. 91) By the later 16th century the manorial lords were paying the vicar £6 for the small tithes of the demesne; from the rest of the parish (except certain fields which were former demesne) the vicar or his tithe farmers took tithes of wool, lambs, calves, milk, pigs, geese, onions, and hemp. (fn. 92) No tithe wool was taken from the lord's flock, wherever it grazed, but in 1595 the vicar claimed, probably successfully, the tithe of a flock grazed on common land by the lessee of Twelve Acre farm, even though the farm itself was exempt. (fn. 93)
Though the living was valued at £50 in the 1630s, it was claimed in 1664 that the vicar never made more than £30 a year. (fn. 94) In 1685 the vicarage comprised the house, the small tithes, and moduses of £6 from the lord, £3 from Freeland grounds, and 13s. 4d. from Eynsham mill; there were also the usual fees, and a payment for an annual sermon at Bampton. (fn. 95) The living, valued at £40 in 1707, (fn. 96) was augmented from the Bounty in 1719 and the money invested in land at Caversfield. (fn. 97) In the mid 18th century tithes of wool, lambs, pigs, and apples were taken in kind, but money payments were agreed for many other products; at that time the tithes were farmed for c. £40. (fn. 98) When Robert Langford inclosed part of the heath in 1781 he offered to lease the vicarial tithes of the whole parish for £60 but Thomas Nash declined, later complaining that Langford had 'encroached' on the vicarage. (fn. 99) In 1798 the vicar's income of c. £90 included £25 from the Caversfield land, £40 from tithes, and £15 for the rent of the vicarage house. (fn. 1) At inclosure in 1802 the vicar was granted 101 a. for his tithes, and rent-charges of c. £23 a year from old inclosures. (fn. 2) By a confusion the moduses from the lord of the manor and from Eynsham mill continued to be paid. (fn. 3) In 1808 the glebe comprised c. 124 a., including 19 1/2 a. at Caversfield, and 1 a. at Bell closes obtained in a supplementary inclosure award of 1807. (fn. 4) In 1832 the vicarage was worth £176 net, its value rising slowly as rents increased. (fn. 5) Some glebe near Freeland was sold in 1877, and by 1970 most of the glebe had been sold off, much of it as building land. (fn. 6)
The house assigned to the vicar in 1235 may have stood on the present site in Mill Street, which it certainly occupied by the 17th century. (fn. 7) The building, said to be ruinous in the incumbency of John Pierce (d. 1663), was assessed for tax in 1662 on five hearths, (fn. 8) and in 1685 comprised a stone and slate house of five bays, with a gatehouse and outbuildings, standing in a large garden and close. (fn. 9) The house was allegedly rebuilt by John Goole, vicar 1715-48, (fn. 10) and the surviving front, a tall symmetrical structure of two storeys and semi-basement, probably belongs to that period. The house was greatly enlarged in 1809 by Thomas Symonds, who added the garden front and in 1827, after becoming vicar, built the surviving outbuildings, which replaced a range bordering the street. (fn. 11) The rear garden was greatly reduced in 1967 to provide a public car park and health centre; (fn. 12) the garden for long contained fragments of masonry from the abbey site, later removed to the church.
Of Eynsham's medieval vicars Simon of Charlbury, vicar 1278- 1315, was notably longserving, but others moved quickly to other livings, especially to nearby Cassington, suggesting that Eynsham was regarded by the abbey as a suitable first cure. (fn. 13) Most of the later medieval vicars may be identified as Oxford graduates and some were pluralists. (fn. 14) In the Middle Ages the town and its church was a place of pilgrimage at Whitsun, when the faithful from the Oxfordshire deaneries processed to make their payments of 'smoke farthings'. (fn. 15) During the Middle Ages some parishioners, perhaps only the rich, were buried in the abbey precincts: Eleanor Martin (d. 1508), who was buried there, left 20s. to the high altar of St. Leonard's. (fn. 16)
Although John Nutling, vicar 1559-68, conformed to the Elizabethan settlement, (fn. 17) the Stanleys and several other leading families adhered to the 'old religion'; there seem to have been priests in the village in the 1560s, and one of them, Thomas Day (d. 1566), left a small bequest to Nutling in his will. (fn. 18) William Emmot, vicar 1569-85, a Lancastrian and former fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, was described as 'one of the superior types of Elizabethan clergy'; (fn. 19) he was resident, taught children and bequeathed Bibles and other books to neighbouring clergy and pupils. (fn. 20) Robert Lloyd, vicar c. 1593-1608, also bequeathed books. (fn. 21)
From the 17th century Eynsham had an unusual number of long-serving incumbents. Thomas Long was vicar 1617-43. In the confusion of Civil War there seem to have been rival presentations before John Pierce's claims prevailed. (fn. 22) Long may have been ejected, since he apparently died penniless and his widow was maintained by alms. (fn. 23) Pierce served throughout the Interregnum and survived the Restoration: at his death in 1663 he owned a study of books but was also a working farmer with 74 sheep and lambs, 85 fleeces, and wheat and maslin in the barn. (fn. 24) The churchwardens' accounts suggest that church life changed little during the Interregnum: the bells were renewed in 1655, and the traditional Whitsun ales were not entirely discontinued. In 1660, however, the maypole was re-erected and Whitsun festivities increased in scale. (fn. 25)
There was little or no separatism in Eynsham, and Roman Catholicism died out during the 17th century. (fn. 26) John Rogers, vicar 1665-1715 and rector of Wick Rissington (Glos.), was father of the divine, John Rogers (d. 1729). (fn. 27) John Goole, vicar 1715-48, was also master of the free school at Witney; (fn. 28) in 1738 he was spending most of his time in Witney but served Eynsham without a curate, providing two services with one sermon each Sunday and communion services at major festivals. He catechized regularly and conducted prayers on special festivals such as 5 November and Whitsun, 'except when there is a revel called Whitsun ale'. (fn. 29)
Thomas Nash, vicar 1767-1826, was resident at first, but from 1774 lived in Gloucestershire or at Salford (Oxon.), one of his several livings. (fn. 30) In the 1790s he paid Eynsham's curate only £25 for 'double duty'. (fn. 31) Continuity was provided by long-standing curates such as Robert Davis (c. 1775-84) and Thomas Symonds, who first served Eynsham as a locum for the curate in 1796 and became curate himself in 1797. (fn. 32) He married Nash's daughter, Frances, succeeded to the vicarage in 1826, and lived until 1845; he also served Stanton Harcourt as curate and vicar for over thirty years, but seems never to have employed a full-time curate. (fn. 33) Nash raised his salary to £60 in 1804 but Symonds paid rent for the vicarage house and his fees; having spent large sums on the house because he was promised the advowson, he later complained of being misled into serving a large cure for half the normal salary. He made ends meet by running a private school for gentlemen's sons at the vicarage. (fn. 34) He was a diligent and popular pastor, remembered as founder of the Sunday school and a friend of the poor; (fn. 35) he was also an enthusiastic antiquarian, whose compendious collections on Oxfordshire were never published. (fn. 36) During his incumbency, despite his vigorous efforts, (fn. 37) nonconformity gained strength but at the same time the number of communicants increased from fewer than 40 to nearly 100 at Easter. (fn. 38)
The incumbency of W. S. Bricknell, vicar 1845-88, created deep divisions among the parishioners. Bricknell, an Oxford city lecturer from 1840, was strongly Evangelical, (fn. 39) but probably caused most trouble because of his litigious spirit and fondness for publicizing quarrels. He clashed with Bishop Wilberforce while curate of Grove (in Wantage, formerly Berks.) (fn. 40) and later over liturgical matters. (fn. 41) At Eynsham Bricknell aroused hostility in 1847 by securing the arrest of a man selling sweets on Sunday (fn. 42) and in 1853 by refusing to bury the son of a prominent parishioner, apparently because he was unbaptized; the duty was eventually performed by a neighbouring clergyman before a crowd of over 1,000. (fn. 43) In 1856-7 during a dispute over church restoration (fn. 44) an opposition group formed under Joseph Druce, church-warden and leading farmer, who then harried Bricknell for over twenty years. (fn. 45) The quarrel merged quickly into liturgical disputes, Bricknell acquiring 'Protestant notoriety' by removing the communion table to the chancel arch and conducting services from the pulpit rather than the reading desk. (fn. 46) Bricknell was also accused of failure to hold services and maladministration of charities. (fn. 47) Even so he was a tireless evangelist (fn. 48) and retained solid support in the parish. (fn. 49) He claimed an average congregation of over 500 in 1857, (fn. 50) despite the extent of nonconformity and the distance from Freeland. Ironically the eventual foundation of Freeland church was probably Bricknell's worst reverse. (fn. 51) At Eynsham, in keeping with his low church outlook, he never substantially increased the number of services, and the number of his communicants rarely exceeded 100. (fn. 52) At his death in 1886 he was described as 'almost the last survivor of those unhappy theological controversies that embittered the lives of so many good men'. (fn. 53)
His successor, R. J. Rowton, employed an assistant curate, quickly introduced weekly celebrations of communion, and in 1893 claimed that congregations at all services had quadrupled. (fn. 54) Under W. N. Bricknell, vicar 1893-1928, and his successors the low church tradition of services was maintained, culminating in the grant of the advowson to the Evangelical Wycliffe Hall. S. Y. Blanch, vicar 1951-5, resigned to join the staff of Wycliffe Hall, and was later archbishop of York (1975-83).
The church of ST. LEONARD, built of limestone rubble and ashlar, comprises a chancel with a north organ chamber and vestry, an aisled and clerestoried nave, a north porch and parvise, and a north-west tower. (fn. 55) The oldest dateable parts of the fabric, the chancel and part of the south aisle, are of the late 13th century, although in the early 19th century there was said to be earlier masonry in the south wall. (fn. 56) The narrowness of the north aisle and evidence of a south aisle of similar width suggest that there was a large aisled church before late 13th-century alterations. It appears that the eastern end of the south aisle was widened in the late 13th century, probably to form a chapel, and the tower may have been begun at the west end of the north aisle in the early 14th century. The north aisle and arcades were rebuilt in the later 15th century and a clerestory added, comprising four two-light windows on the north but only three single-light windows on the south. (fn. 57) Soon after the completion of the arcades the tower was largely rebuilt and its northern stair turret added. Early in the 16th century a two-storeyed porch was added to the church's north doorway.
Evidently the wide eastern and narrow western parts of the south aisle were connected by an arch which, at least after the rebuilding of the arcades, had its north end on a voussoir of the fourth arch of the south arcade. Some masonry of the connecting arch survived when, in the early 16th century, the west part of the aisle was widened to align with the late 13th-century work to the east.
A gallery was set up in the church in 1648. (fn. 58) There was a gallery in the south aisle until the mid 19th century, (fn. 59) and c. 1820 a large raised gallery over the west end of the church. (fn. 60) Soon afterwards another was inserted in the north aisle. (fn. 61) In the mid 18th century the churchwardens complained repeatedly about the condition of the chancel, the lay rector's responsibility, (fn. 62) and Thomas Symonds persuaded the duke of Marlborough to contribute to chancel repairs in the early 19th century. (fn. 63)
In 1856 the roofs of the nave and south aisle were reported to be in danger of collapse, and the vestry agreed to reroof both and rebuild the chancel arch and some of the walls. The south clerestory was built to match that on the north, and the south aisle given a high pointed roof in place of the former lean-to; the architect was William Wilkinson of Oxford. Work began in advance of a faculty and included the removal of the west gallery, but objectors successfully blocked plans to rebuild the north aisle and repew the whole church, mainly because of the expense. (fn. 64) The gallery had been removed to make way for an organ, to replace a barrel organ; (fn. 65) until at least the 1830s church music had been provided by an orchestra, to which Robert Day in 1831 bequeathed instruments, as well as providing £100 for choir robes. (fn. 66)
The church was restored and reseated under a faculty of 1892 to the designs of H. G. W. Drinkwater; the work included the removal of the north gallery and ancient box pews. (fn. 67a) Some proposed alterations, notably the reopening of the tower archways, were not carried out. (fn. 68a) In 1900-1 the chancel was reroofed by the duke of Marlborough, and a new altar and choir stalls were inserted. (fn. 69a) In 1903 the later 13th-century east window, much mutilated before 1840, was replaced with tracery designed by John Wilkins and glazed by Lavers & Westlake. (fn. 70a) In 1915 an organ chamber was built on the north side of the chancel. (fn. 71a) After an appeal launched in 1979 the church was thoroughly restored in the 1980s. (fn. 72a)
In the sanctuary is a brass to Sir Edward Stanley (d. 1632), grandson of Edward, earl of Derby. (fn. 73a) There is a wall memorial to Thomas Symonds, vicar (d. 1845) above a tombstone recording Symonds and his family. In the chancel are wall monuments to James Stanley (d. 1611), a London lawyer, and to the families of John Bartholomew (d. 1724), a London goldsmith, and the farmers Samuel Druce (d. 1860) and George Brown (d. 1782). Floor slabs include those of George Knapp (d. 1711) and Edward Minn (d. 1788). In the nave is a black marble tablet, carved in 1713 by Bartholomew Peisley of Oxford, to the 17th-century Martins, whose later members took the name Knight. (fn. 74a) In the aisles are plaques to Michael and Richard Martin (d. 1610 and 1617), William Emmot, vicar (d. 1585), Col. Patrick Hay of Eynsham Hall (d. 1822), (fn. 75a) John Rogers, vicar (d. 1715), and his son John (d. 1729). In the churchyard is a medieval table-tomb with quatrefoil decoration. (fn. 76a) Lost memorials include that of Samuel Benwell (d. 1777), steward of the duke of Marlborough. A north window formerly contained the picture of a kneeling man, commemorating a late-medieval rector of Hanborough, Hugh Hulle. (fn. 77a) Nothing remains of heraldic glass noted in 1574, (fn. 78a) but fragments of medieval glass were gathered together and inserted in a south window in 1965.
The 15th-century font is much repaired; it was raised in 1893 on steps similar to those removed in the mid 19th century. (fn. 79a) The pulpit, described in 1840 as 'ludicrous', perhaps because of its central position, (fn. 80a) is of c. 1700 on a later base. There is a much altered 14th-century ogee piscina in the chancel, and a double piscina and aumbry in the south aisle. Near the altar a mutilated 14th-century image niche contains a wooden figure of St. Leonard installed in 1979. Fourteenth-century wall paintings in the sanctuary, discovered in 1936, depict the life of St. Catherine. (fn. 81a) Before 19th-century restoration the church contained a 15th-century chancel screen, (fn. 82a) and a few 15th-century bench-ends remain.
In the early 18th century there were five bells, four cast by the Keenes of Woodstock between 1653 and 1673, the treble by the Bagleys in 1708; there was also a saunce of 1683 by Richard Keene. (fn. 83a) Four new bells cast in 1895 survive with two bells of 1653 and 1673 and a saunce of 1924. (fn. 84a) A clock acquired in 1640 (fn. 85a) was replaced in the mid 18th century by the tower clock which, after 1964, was preserved in the south aisle. The plate includes a communion cup of 1575, one of two cups which belonged to the church in the 17th century; pewter salvers and flagons survive from communion plate given by George Devall in 1720. (fn. 86a)
In 1869 Freeland church was consecrated and a Particular District (505 a.) assigned to it; (fn. 89a) in 1966 the ecclesiastical parish of Freeland was enlarged by c. 387 a. to make it coterminous with the civil parish as defined in 1948. (fn. 90a) The living was a perpetual curacy and titular vicarage, to which incumbents were licensed not inducted. In 1980 the benefice was united with that of Cassington, but in 1985 Cassington was transferred to Eynsham and Freeland united with Hanborough.
The church and glebe house were built and the living endowed at the cost of the Taunton family of Freeland Lodge. The patronage, after some dispute, was vested in W. E. Taunton (d. 1873), his brother-in-law Robert Raikes, and the latter's son Robert Taunton Raikes. (fn. 91a) Surviving trustees appointed others from time to time until in 1957 the patronage was transferred to the St. John the Evangelist Trust Association. The original endowment of Freeland comprised £1,000 and a repair fund of £150, but grants from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Bounty raised the vicar's gross income from c. £116 a year in the 1880s to c. £200 in the 1920s. The glebe house was built in 1869 by J. L. Pearson as part of a unified group with church and school, and is linked to the church by a cloistered passageway. Its Gothic front with a mixture of mullioned and transomed windows, plate tracery, irregular gables, and buttresses, contrasts with a half-timbered rear. It was sold in 1937 and a new house provided. After the union with Cassington in 1980 that house was transferred to the diocese and a new vicarage provided in Freeland.
The foundation of Freeland church was controversial. Eynsham's low church vicar, W. S. Bricknell, acceded to Taunton's wish to create a new church and parish but was then dismayed to find that Freeland was intended to be a centre of extreme high churchmanship. The church was designed with what Bricknell considered illegal ornaments, and the first incumbent, F. H. Bennett, brother of the prominent high churchman W. J. E. Bennett, vicar of Frome (Som.), was notorious for liturgical innovation. (fn. 92a) The Tauntons, with many other Freeland church-goers, worshipped at Hanborough rather than Eynsham, perhaps because of their liturgical tastes. Local tradition (fn. 93a) attributes the foundation of Freeland church to Emma Taunton (d. 1895), daughter of Sir W. E. Taunton (d. 1835), but W. E. Taunton (d. 1873) credited it to the family as a whole: he and his wife Sarah had long been associated with the Bennetts, (fn. 94a) his mother Maria (d. 1872) gave the site, and his relatives the Raikes family were influential; Robert Raikes, a Tractarian, had already commissioned a new church at Treberfedd (Brecon.) from J. L. Pearson, the chosen architect for Freeland. (fn. 95a) Bricknell's vigorous opposition to the consecration of the new church alienated Bishop Wilberforce and he was successful only in securing the removal of a proposed stone altar. (fn. 96a) The consecration of the church and an oratory in the glebe house was attended by many leading high churchmen. (fn. 97a)
The form of liturgical worship established by F. H. Bennett was refined by later incumbents. (fn. 98a) The new church continued to attract controversial interest, as in 1871 when a vast crowd gathered on Palm Sunday because of a rumour that Bennett proposed to ride round the church on an ass, 'as in some Catholic churches'. William Ulyat, vicar 1888-1903, made the church notorious for the 'extreme character' of his services before he became a Roman Catholic. A commission investigating the forms of services used at Freeland was disturbed particularly by the Stations of the Cross on the nave walls. (fn. 99a) In the 19th century there were sometimes as many as four Sunday services and many extra midweek communion services, the number of communicants rising from c. 30 to 70 by the 1880s. (fn. 1a) In the 1870s and 1880s assistant curates were employed. Altar lights and vestments were introduced in 1874-5, the ceremonial use of incense in 1886, and the reserved sacrament in 1899. Of the services which continued to make Freeland church distinctive in modern times the weekly sung Eucharist was introduced in 1909 and a children's mass in 1931.
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN (fn. 2a) comprises an aisleless nave and apsidal chancel, a north-east tower with a saddleback roof, and a south porch and parvise. The building was completed in 1869 at a cost of c. £2,900. It was designed by J. L. Pearson in 13th-century style, with little exterior decoration except for carved stonework around the south doorway and porch, and a statue of the Virgin Mary over the entrance. (fn. 3a) The interior, which retains all its original fittings, is notable for the emphasis placed on the paramount importance of the chancel. In contrast with the plain nave the chancel was lavishly decorated and included 13th-century style wall-paintings by Clayton and Bell; some were added in 1878, and the whole design completed in 1890. The same firm was responsible for other interior fittings and all the stained glass. The west window was inserted in 1877 in memory of Sir W. E. Taunton (d. 1835) and his wife Maria (d. 1872). In 1889 Pearson inserted raised marble steps and a new super-altar, which involved raising his original alabaster reredos; a stone altar slab consecrated at that time was presumably a replacement for that removed from the church in 1869. Paintings depicting the Stations of the Cross were hung in the nave in 1897.
A ring of six bells by Mears & Stainbank (1896) was given by Emma Taunton (d. 1895); (fn. 4a) the tower clock of 1898 commemorates Sarah Percival Taunton (d. 1896). The plate, of 1868 and later, includes a chalice of 1894 set with jewels once belonging to Maria, Lady Taunton. (fn. 5a)
The churchyard, which contains the graves of the Taunton family, was enlarged on the south in 1902 by the gift of Robert Taunton Raikes. (fn. 6a) The lych gate was built in 1873 in memory of Maria, Lady Taunton. A war memorial cross was placed in the churchyard in 1919. (fn. 7)
By will proved 1900 the Revd. C. E. Taunton left stock to provide for the education of choristers. The income was rarely, if ever, used for choral scholars, and by a Scheme of 1904, altered in 1951, was divided between the school, the organist, and the choir. R. A. R. Bennett by will proved 1931 and Minnie Taunton by will proved 1940 left charities for churchyard maintenance, the Bennett charity also yielding a small income for the Sunday school. (fn. 8a)