Hanborough: Nonconformity

Pages 177-178

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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Alexander Belsyre, first president of St. John's College, Oxford, who was deprived by the founder for dishonesty and perjury c. 1559, lived in Hanborough rectory house until his death in 1578; in 1561 he was confined to the area within 2 miles of Hanborough as an 'old, wealthy, and stubborn' recusant. (fn. 83) Despite Belsyre's presence in the parish and the Catholic sympathies of his nephew the rector Thomas Neal, only four recusants, two married couples, were reported in the 1590s. (fn. 84) There was one papist in Hanborough in the 1680s and 1690s, and four, all members of the same family, in 1706. (fn. 85)

One anabaptist was reported in 1685, and 'very few' dissenters in 1738, (fn. 86) but neglect by later 18th century rectors and curates led to the rise of a strong Methodist movement, particularly in Long Hanborough. The new meeting house reported by the rector in 1805 was probably the chapel opened at Freeland that year, but five of the six houses or barns registered for worship in Long Hanborough between 1812 and 1828 seem to have been Methodist. (fn. 87) The sixth was the short-lived 'anabaptist' meeting house reported by the rector in 1823. (fn. 88) In 1814 a Methodist service in a meeting house or chapel, a converted barn in Long Hanborough, was disrupted, presumably by opponents of Methodism. (fn. 89)

A Methodist chapel built on the south side of the main road in Long Hanborough was opened at the end of 1827; it had accommodation for c. 200 and was said in 1828 to be filled for most services. (fn. 90) Actual membership of the church was 56 in 1837 and 73 in 1840; it declined in the 1840s, but on Census Sunday in 1851 there was a congregation of 200 adults and 100 Sunday school children. (fn. 91) Membership fell again in the 1870s, reaching a low point of 28 in 1874, but congregations probably remained large, and in 1878 the rector reported that half the population of the parish were dissenters. (fn. 92) Hugh Price Hughes, the active Methodist minister at Oxford, was probably responsible for an increase in membership of the Hanborough church in the early 1880s, to 73 in 1883, but thereafter membership fell again and between 1890 and 1938 generally ranged from 35 to 45. (fn. 93) A new chapel, just west of the earlier one, was opened in 1895. (fn. 94) The church remained open and active in 1986 when it was served from Witney.

The chapel of 1827 survived as a private house in 1986, having been converted into a parish hall in 1912. It is a small, rectangular building of coursed rubble with pointed arched windows which seem to date from a later 19thcentury remodelling. The chapel of 1895 is also of coursed rubble, with ashlar quoins; most windows are lancets, but that on the north is in 14th-century style; an annexe to the east was presumably built as a school room. In 1970-1 the original vestry, at the south end of the church, was demolished and replaced by a flatroofed extension containing a new vestry, lavatory, and meeting rooms. (fn. 95)

Some Primitive Methodist meetings were held in Hanborough in 1842 and 1860, but no permanent congregation seems to have been established. By 1883, however, there was a Primitive Methodist chapel in Millwood End. It was replaced in 1904 by a new chapel, of brick with ashlar quoins, on the south side of Main Road, opposite Millwood End, which seems to have remained open until the Methodist union of 1932. (fn. 96) The adjoining Sunday schoolroom was later demolished leaving only the roadside wall, and the chapel was converted into a manse, refurbished c. 1968, for a Methodist minister; it was disused by 1988. (fn. 97)


  • 83. Early Hist. St. John's Coll. (O.H.S. N.S. i), 123-4; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1601-3, 521.
  • 84. O.A.S. Rep. (1911), 104; Recusant Roll 1 (Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii), 256; Recusant Rolls 2 and 3 (Cath. Rec. Soc. lxi), 73.
  • 85. Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 38; O.R.O., Cal. Q. Sess. ix, pp. 395-427; W. O. Hassall, 'Papists in early 18th-cent. Oxon.' Oxoniensia, xiii. 80.
  • 86. Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 38; Secker's Visit. 70.
  • 87. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 568, f. 161; d 574, f. 133 and v.; c 644, ff. 128-30, 212, 218; c 645, ff. 23, 40, 79, 98-9.
  • 88. Ibid. d 580, f. 119 and v.
  • 89. O.R.O., Cal. Q. Sess. ii, f. 204v.
  • 90. Ibid. viii, p. 814; Methodist Mag. 1828, p. 261; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 199.
  • 91. O.R.O., Witney W.M. Circuit Schedule Bks. I/1/a-b; P.R.O., HO 129/161.
  • 92. O.R.O., Witney W.M. Circuit Schedule Bks. I/1/c-i; ibid. MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 332, f. 208; c 344, f. 189v.
  • 93. O.R.O., Witney W.M. Circuit Schedule Bks. I/1/f-i; V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 420.
  • 94. Datestone on bldg.; Witney Gaz. 30 Oct. 1975.
  • 95. O.R.O., Hanborough P.C. 1/4, meetings of 5 June 1970 and 10 Mar. 1971.
  • 96. O.R.O., Witney and Faringdon Meth. Circ. II/1A; II/1B; ibid. Oxf. Circuit Prim. Methodist Plans, 1885, 1897; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1903 and later edns.); O.S. Map 6", Oxon. XXVI (1883 edn.); datestones on bldg.
  • 97. Inf. from Mr. H. G. Busby, Myrtle Fm., Long Hanborough.