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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There was a church at Shipton-on-Cherwell by the later 12th century. (fn. 99) Its medieval invocation was to the Holy Cross; in the early 18th century the parish wake was held on the second Saturday after latter Lady Day (8 September), which was the first or second Saturday after the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September), but the connexion with latter Lady Day may imply that the invocation had already changed to St. Mary. (fn. 1) In 1786 and 1846 the church was St. Mary's, but in 1851 and 1876 its patron was said to be St. Jerome. (fn. 2) Since 1892, if not earlier, it has again been Holy Cross. (fn. 3) The ecclesiastical parish was coterminous with the civil parish until 1952 when the northern part of Kidlington parish, broadly but not exactly the same as the township of Thrupp, was transferred to Shipton-on-Cherwell ecclesiastical parish. The south-western part of the new parish was transferred to Bladon in 1953. (fn. 4) In 1986 the benefice, with that of Yarnton, was united with Begbroke. (fn. 5)
The living is a rectory, the advowson of which descended with Shipton manor from 1217 or earlier. In 1217 the demesne lord and patron, Roger son of Ralph, was excommunicate, so the mesne lord, Ralph son of Robert presented. (fn. 6) In 1545 the presentation was made by Alice Baldwin who had inherited a turn granted by Urian Brereton and his wife Jane Halywell, (fn. 7) but John Rathbone presented in 1559 and the advowson descended with the manor to the Standard family. (fn. 8) A turn had been granted before 1675 to Robert Perrott of North Leigh, and in 1719 the presentation was made by two men who seem to have been trustees for Barbara Standard, a minor. (fn. 9) In 1720 Barbara Standard conveyed the advowson to her maternal uncle Adolphus Meetkerke, but no vacancy occurred until 1780 when, as a result of a sale of the next presentation in 1777, the patron was Samuel Rash of East Dereham (Norf.) (fn. 10) Adolphus Meetkerke presented in 1787, but in 1813 the patron was Mary Payne of Kidlington. For the rest of the 19th century the lords of the manor presented regularly, but the advowson was not sold with the manor house, and the duke of Marlborough remained patron. (fn. 11) From 1986 patronage of the united benefice was shared with Brasenose College and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust. (fn. 12)
The rectory, comprising tithes and 2 yardlands of glebe, was valued at £4 in 1254, at £4 6s. 8d. in 1291, and at £12 gross in 1526 and 1535. (fn. 13) At inclosure in 1768 the rector was allotted 182 a. for his glebe and tithe. (fn. 14) In 1831 the living was worth £320 a year gross, £310 net, and in 1862 the rent from the glebe amounted to c. £224 a year, but by 1893 the agricultural depression had reduced its value to £177. (fn. 15) The glebe was slightly altered by the sale of c. 1 a. to the Great Western Railway Co. in 1847 and the purchase of c. 5 a. north of the rectory house with Lodge cottage on the main road from the duke of Marlborough in 1878; in 1910 50a. were sold to the rector, George Duncan, in his private capacity. (fn. 16)
The rectory house was said to be in ruins c. 1520. (fn. 17) In 1634 it comprised six bays of building as well as a detached kitchen and other outbuildings; it seems to have been altered before 1685 when the house comprised only five bays, still with a detached kitchen. (fn. 18) The house, or part of it, was let as the glebe farmhouse in the 18th century; (fn. 19) it was repaired, presumably for the rector's use, in 1800 and in 1817-18. (fn. 20) In 1875 extensive repairs were carried out under the supervision of E. G. Bruton, and the house was extended westwards, enlarging and heightening the front rooms. (fn. 21) The house was sold in 1952. (fn. 22)
The first recorded rector was Richard, priest of Shipton, c. 1185. (fn. 23) The medieval rectors were undistinguished, and none before the 16th century is known to have had any connexion with Oxford university. Robert of Chesterton, presented in 1230-1, was ordered to study singing; his successor William de Greynville was the only known pluralist rector before the 16th century. (fn. 24) The 14th-century incumbents included Roger Paulton (presented in 1298), a member of the family which held the manor and advowson, and Roger Fouk (1328-49 or later), whose family were local freeholders. John, parson of Shipton, was among those accused of breaking and entering Sir John Haudlo's manors in 1322, and Roger Fouk was outlawed briefly in 1349 for a trespass against the justice William Shareshull. (fn. 25) There was an altar of St. Mary in the church by c. 1225 when a light before it was endowed with 6d. a year, (fn. 26) but there is no later record of it.
The parish seems to have been in a poor state c. 1520, the rector non-resident and the rectory leased to a layman; (fn. 27) the rector may already have been John Cornish, rector from 1526 or earlier until his death in 1545. He was a graduate and pluralist who spent at least part of his time in Oxford; Shipton was served by curates in 1526 and 1530, and the rectory was farmed by a layman in 1544. (fn. 28) Cornish's successor, Robert Collmer (1545-59) was another graduate and pluralist, but he seems to have lived at Shipton, perhaps farming the glebe, and he asked to be buried in the chancel there. (fn. 29) His immediate successors, also graduates, were similarly resident. John Gill (1559-87), who also served Hampton Gay, conformed to the Elizabethan settlement. (fn. 30) One of his parishioners showed puritan leanings: William Webb gave his daughter the puritan name Faith, and made a strongly protestant declaration of faith in his will dated 1573. (fn. 31) Richard Newbury, rector 1592-1625, brought several tithe suits against the Rathbones and later the Standards; he wrote or witnessed several parishioners' wills. (fn. 32) The next rector, Philip French (1625-75), lived on his other living of Chesterton and seems to have left Shipton-on-Cherwell to curates. (fn. 33) His successor, Stephen Pomfret (1675-1718) served the church as curate in 1673; he lived in the parish, and in 1685 the only criticism of the church was that it lacked a bible. (fn. 34)
William Deane, who held the living for 61 years from 1718, resided at least part of the time until 1738 when he became ill; by 1759 he was of unsound mind and seems to have remained so until his death, aged over 90, in 1780. (fn. 35) In 1756, on the petition of the churchwarden and two leading parishioners, the living was sequestrated. (fn. 36) Deane's immediate successors were also non-resident, so that from 1738 until 1803 the church was served by a succession of curates, most of them fellows or members of Oxford colleges, although the Revd. John Pudsey Sydenham of Hampden Manor, Kidlington, served the church on several occasions between 1773 and 1786. William Winder, curate from 1738, had sufficiently close connexions with the parish to be buried there in 1753, and in 1756 the parishioners expressed satisfaction with the care and diligence of the curate, although the sequestration order that year alleged that the cure was totally neglected. (fn. 37) In 1796 the curate lived at Woodstock and also served Westcott Barton. (fn. 38) Services, twice with one sermon on Sundays and Communion three or four times a year, were usual for the period, but the number of communicants fell from 20 in 1738 to 8-10 in 1790. (fn. 39) By 1796 the number of Sunday services had been reduced to one in the winter, and by 1808, despite the presence of a resident rector, to one all the year round; by 1811, when the rector had been disabled by a stroke, Communion services had been reduced to two a year. (fn. 40)
Thomas Slatter, rector 1813-31, increased the number of Communion services to four a year, but did not restore the second service on Sundays. (fn. 41) His successor H. J. Passand made few changes. There was only one service, attended by 38 adults and 21 Sunday School children, on Census Sunday in 1851, but in 1854 there were two Sunday services at which congregations averaged 60, a 'decided increase' over the previous two years. Communion was celebrated four times a year for the 16 communicants. (fn. 42) Bishop Wilberforce found Passand an unsatisfactory incumbent, lacking gravity, associating too much with the 'lower class of farmers', and sometimes appearing either mad or drunk. (fn. 43)
Illness forced Passand to leave the parish in 1864, and by 1866 his curate had increased the number of Communion services to one a month. (fn. 44) Improvement continued under Passand's successors, George Brown (1867-74) who was responsible for the repair or partial restoration of the church in 1869, and Henry William Yule (1874-98) who also served Hampton Gay and was domestic chaplain to the duke of Marlborough. Both congregations and communicants increased until c. 1884, but remained static or fell slightly thereafter. (fn. 45) Yule's successor, George Duncan, held the living for nearly 50 years, until 1947, serving it in plurality with Hampton Gay. He increased the number of Communion services to one a week in 1899, but reduced them again to one a fortnight in 1902. (fn. 46) On his resignation there was some difficulty in finding a priest willing to serve the poorly endowed living, even in plurality with a neighbouring parish, but H. A. McCann, rector of Begbroke, finally accepted it and held it until 1980. In 1984 the church was served by the rector of Bladon as priest in charge. (fn. 47)
The church of the HOLY CROSS, completely rebuilt in 1831, comprises chancel, nave with north porch, and west tower. The medieval church comprised a chancel with north chapel and a nave with south porch and bellcot but no tower. (fn. 48) The north chapel may have been added to the earlier nave and chancel by c. 1225, if it contained St. Mary's altar, recorded then. (fn. 49) At least one window, at the west end of the north wall of the nave, was inserted in the 13th century, and most of the windows were replaced in the 14th century. Wheat and barley were left to the repair of the church in 1544 and 1558. (fn. 50)
The plan of the church demolished in 1831 was unusual in that the chancel was not centrally placed at the east of the nave; the south wall of the nave and the south wall of the chancel were aligned, but the north wall of the chancel seems to have run from about two thirds of the way along the east end of the nave, and the north wall of the north chapel projected several feet beyond the north wall of the nave, resulting in a chancel and north chapel of roughly equal width. Despite a statement c. 1880 that a Saxon chancel arch had survived until 1831, (fn. 51) the most plausible explanation for the unusual plan seems to be that the chancel and north chapel were rebuilt in the 17th century, perhaps by the first Robert Standard, who may have wished to enlarge the north chapel, used as a mortuary chapel by the lords of the manor, at the expense of the chancel; one early 19th-century drawing of the church appears to show 17th-century east windows in both chancel and chapel. The north chapel had only the east window, and was walled off from the chancel and nave, access being by a single door. (fn. 52)
Minor repairs were carried out during the 18th century and the early 19th, (fn. 53) but in 1831 the church was demolished and rebuilt to designs by the artist William Turner of Oxford at the expense of his uncle, William Turner, lord of the manor. (fn. 54) Some materials from the old church, notably the porch, were reused in the new one. The church was restored in 1869, when the walls and roofs were repaired, the chancel was floored with Minton tiles, the altar being built up on two steps, the pews were renewed, and the doors replaced; the architect was Charles Buckeridge. (fn. 55)
The monuments include four from the old church: wall plaques in the chancel to John Rathbone (d. 1614), and to the rector Stephen Pomfret (d. 1718), the latter with a skull and hourglass, and two 18th-century floor-slabs in the nave. There are also memorials on the chancel window sill to the rector H. J. Passand (d. 1867) and on the north wall of the chancel to William Turner (d. 1853), lord of the manor. In the north wall of the chancel is a 14th-century tomb recess, presumably from the old church, and in the floor beneath it a 12th- or 13th-century coffin lid. A medieval stone child's coffin lies by the east wall; it was discovered built into the bellcot of the medieval church in 1831. (fn. 56)