Eynsham: Roman Catholicism

Pages 152-153

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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Roman Catholicism

In the later 16th century the Stanleys, lords of Eynsham manor, encouraged a recusant group in the parish, including the gentry families of Annesley and Hart and the Days, of whom one, Thomas (d. 1566), was a priest. (fn. 9) In the 1560s several Lancashire Catholics, antecedents of Anthony Wood, the Oxford antiquary, settled in Eynsham as servants in the Stanley household. (fn. 10) In 1580 Thomas Hart and in 1582 Sir Edward Stanley and his family were named as recusants to the Privy Council. (fn. 11) Sir Edward and his wife Lucy, daughter of the Catholic Thomas Percy, earl of Northumberland (d. 1572), officially conformed in the 1590s but were later reported as recusants. (fn. 12) Their daughter Venetia was a childhood playmate at Eynsham of the Catholic Kenelm Digby, whom she married in 1625. (fn. 13) In 1603 a dozen Eynsham people were listed as recusants, and several families, notably that of Richard Reynolds, gentleman, were persecuted in the earlier 17th century. (fn. 14) The prominent Almond family was sequestrated for recusancy during the Interregnum, (fn. 15) after which the Catholic tradition in the parish died out. (fn. 16)

Roman Catholicism revived in Eynsham when Herbert May started a small mission at his house, Newland Lodge, in 1895. After the house burned down c . 1897 the mission met at the Railway inn and later at May's new house, St. Michael's. It was served from Oxford and Begbroke, attracting congregations of over 40; after a few years the mission closed, May moving to Oxford. (fn. 17) In 1928 Eynsham was joined with Witney as a Roman Catholic parish; the Bartholomew Room was leased for services, and was known as St. Peter's chapel. (fn. 18) A new church of St. Peter was begun on land south-west of the parish church in the late 1930s, but work was interrupted by the war and the congregation had to resume services at the Bartholomew Room when flooding and other discomforts made the half-completed church unusable. (fn. 19) A temporary wooden nave continued in use after the war, and the church was not completed until 1967, to designs by Gilbert Flavel. It is of stone with mullioned windows and an apsidal east end. (fn. 20) From 1928 until his death in 1961 the parish priest, John Lopes, played a prominent part in the life of Eynsham. (fn. 21)


  • 9. Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii. 251; xxii. 110; lvii. 121; lxi, 70-1; Stapleton, Cath. Miss. 3; O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 184, f.242.
  • 10. Wood's Life, i (O.H.S xix), 24-5.
  • 11. Acts of P.C. 1580-1, 240; 1581-2, 430.
  • 12. M. Foster, 'Gloucester Hall and the survival of Catholicism', Oxoniensia , xlvi. 118.
  • 13. D.N.B . s.v. Kenelm Digby; Chambers, Eynsham , 41.
  • 14. H. E. Salter, 'Oxon. Recusants', O.A.S. Rep . (1924), passim .
  • 15. Cal. Cttee. for Compounding , iv. 2868.
  • 16. Compton Census , ed. A. Whiteman, 423; Hist. MSS. Com. 13, 10th Rep. App. IV , p. 177.
  • 17. Stapleton, Cath. Miss . 187-8; O.R.O., Palm. 1/4, pp. 235-7; Kelly's Dir. Oxon . (1903), index of priv. residents.
  • 18. Roundabout (Eynsham Par. News), Jan. 1983; O.R.O., Misc. Eynsh. 1/2, pp. 189, 348.
  • 19. Roundabout , Jan. 1983.
  • 20. Pevsner, Oxon. 601; Oxf. Mail, 8 Nov. 1963 (includes photo. of temporary nave).
  • 21. Roundabout, Jan. 1983; O.R.O., Misc. Eynsham 1/2-4, passim.