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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A church existed by 1135, when the parish included Northmoor and South Leigh; both the size of the parish and scale of the church suggest that Stanton Harcourt was a preConquest ecclesiastical centre. (fn. 56) About 1148 Northmoor became a separate parish, but in the late 18th century the rector of Northmoor still paid a pension of 13s. 4d. to Stanton Harcourt church. (fn. 57) South Leigh remained a chapelry until 1868. (fn. 58) In 1959 the benefices of Northmoor and Stanton Harcourt were united, and in 1976 they were absorbed with Yelford and Standlake into the united benefice of Lower Windrush. (fn. 59)
Queen Adela granted the advowson to Reading abbey before 1141; (fn. 60) despite attempts by the Harcourts to secure the patronage in 1219 and 1498, (fn. 61) the abbey remained patron until the Dissolution, the bishop of Lincoln collating in 1498 and 1528. (fn. 62) In the early 13th century the abbey received a pension of £6 13s. 4d. from the rectory, increased in 1220 to £13 6s. 8d., (fn. 63) and in 1506 the benefice was appropriated and a vicarage ordained; except for a short period during the mid 16th century, it remained a vicarage until 1976. (fn. 64) At the Dissolution the advowson passed to the Crown, and in 1551 was included in Edward VI's exchange of lands with the bishopric of Winchester. (fn. 65) On Mary's accession the grant was rescinded, and in 1557 the advowson was granted to John and Bernard Drake of Musbury (Devon), from whom it passed to Sir William Petre of Ingatestone (Essex) who presented in 1558 and 1569; in 1584 the queen presented by lapse. (fn. 66) In 1584 the exchange of 1551 was ruled valid, and the bishop of Winchester returned the advowson to the queen. (fn. 67) William Buttle presented in 1589, presumably as the Crown's lessee, (fn. 68) but the same year Elizabeth bestowed the patronage and part of the rectory on the bishop of Oxford, whose successors remained joint patrons of the united benefice in 1987. (fn. 69)
In 1291 the rectory, with its chapel at South Leigh, was worth £20 a year, exclusive of Reading abbey's pension; £15 was attributed to glebe and to hay and small tithes in 1341. (fn. 70) In 1557 the glebe included 80 a. of arable in South Leigh and 16 a. in Stanton Harcourt, Parson's wood in South Leigh (4. a.), and 8 a. of inclosed pasture. (fn. 71) There was a rectory house before 1261, when it was rebuilt by the rector, Hugh de la Penne, following a fire; in 1444 it included a hall with a chamber at one end, a kitchen, and a storeroom. (fn. 72) In the late 16th century the site included farm buildings, a gatehouse, and domestic buildings grouped around three sides of a courtyard, abutting an H-shaped block on the east; the house was rebuilt by the lay rector in the 17th century. (fn. 73)
In the 16th century and earlier 17th the vicar received £16 13s. 4d. a year, from which he had to pay a chaplain for South Leigh. (fn. 74) In 1557 local jurors suggested that his annual income should be raised, and the following year Cardinal Pole consolidated the vicarage with two thirds of the rectory, (fn. 75) but on Elizabeth's accession the vicarage was re-ordained as before. (fn. 76) About 1594 the vicar sued to have tenths, fifteenths, and first fruits defrayed from the rectory estate, perhaps successfully, since in 1808 the vicarage had been discharged of those payments. (fn. 77) In 1657 the vicar's stipend was increased to £,20, (fn. 78) and in 1663-4 the bishop of
Oxford added small tithes worth £11 and 10 a. of glebe in South Leigh. (fn. 79) Ten or twenty years later Bishop Fell complained that the vicar's income was still scarcely £30 a year, and that he could not find able ministers who would reside. (fn. 80) In 1724 the benefice was augmented with £200 from the Bounty, £150 from Dame Elizabeth Holford, and £50 from Lord Harcourt; the money was used in 1744 to buy c 50 a. of land in Eynsham, from which the vicar received rent of £21 a year in 1773 and £62 in 1808. (fn. 81) At inclosure the vicar received c. 9 a. in lieu of small tithes arising in Stanton Harcourt, and in 1848 he received a rent charge of £16 for small tithes in South Leigh; (fn. 82) in 1808 the net value of the vicarage was £120, and in 1868 £177. (fn. 83) In 1877 the vicarage was further augmented with £153 a year from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, (fn. 84) and in 1914 the duke of Marlborough waived corn rent charges of c. £7 a year owed him from the glebe in Eynsham since 1802. (fn. 85) Responsibility for repair of the chancel remained with the rectors, and in 1970 Hoveringham Gravel Co., which having acquired part of the rectory estate was found liable, compounded with a payment of c. £4,000. (fn. 86)
In the late 17th century All Souls College was required to pay £13 6s. 8d. a year from an unspecified bequest for sermons at Stanton Harcourt. In the 18th century the payment, then said to be £6 for six or twelve lectures, was apparently made only once, when John Gambold, the vicar, delivered the lectures. (fn. 87) By the early 19th century the payment was £6 13s 4d. for ten lectures, and was regularly paid to the vicar; in 1832 it was doubled to £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 88)
The vicarage ordination required Reading abbey to build a house for the vicar; (fn. 89) in 1557 the house comprised a hall, parlour, buttery, and kitchen, with four chambers and four hearths, and a stable. (fn. 90) It perhaps stood on the site of the later house known as Wesley's Cottage or no. 17, built north of the churchyard c. 1600, and called the vicarage house in 1665; (fn. 91) the vicar seems, however, to have been deprived of his house in the early 17th century. (fn. 92) A house left by Robert Whitehall, vicar c. 1699, probably belonged to his freehold in Stanton Harcourt, (fn. 93) and by 1738 the vicar was living in the gatehouse of the manor house on Lord Harcourt's sufferance. (fn. 94) From the later 18th century Harcourt charged a nominal rent, and in 1803 he reappropriated the lodge; the house, probably no. 17, which he offered at 5s. a year was refused by the vicar as too small. (fn. 95) There was no house in 1831, (fn. 96) but by 1852 the vicar was again living in the gatehouse and in 1856 the arrangement was formalized. (fn. 97) About 1869 the vicar, W. P. Walsh, moved to Walsh Farm which was formally adopted as the vicarage house soon after. (fn. 98) In 1961 a new vicarage house was completed near Flexney's House on land acquired from All Souls College, and was used as a rectory house for the united benefice in 1987. (fn. 99)
From the mid 13th century most of the rectors were university graduates active in royal or ecclesiastical administration, and were often pluralists. (fn. 1) In 1325 a gang of local men attacked the rectory house, preventing Nicholas of Stockton's stewards from collecting the tithes; (fn. 2) in 1363 the parishioners complained that the rector, Robert Stonor, hindered a chaplain paid by them from celebrating mass, forbade them to ring the bells on anniversaries, and sold trees in the churchyard. (fn. 3) In 1405 Ralph Lovel, a son of John, Lord Lovel, was instituted in minor orders and under age, having received papal dispensation; on his death in 1413 he left £20 to Stanton Harcourt church to buy vestments. William Symond (d. 1444), a proctor at Rome for Oxford university, left small bequests to the church and 20s. to the poor; John Curtis (d. 1471), a doctor of medicine, left £20 to the poor. (fn. 4)
In 1526 the vicar, Richard Hunter, witnessed a local will, (fn. 5) but in 1517 or 1520 the vicar was non-resident (fn. 6) and Robert Aldrich, collated in 1528, held several benefices with Stanton Harcourt, later becoming bishop of Carlisle. (fn. 7) In 1526 and 1530 there was a curate, and in 1543 there was a curate in priest's orders and two clerks. (fn. 8) Several later 16th-century vicars were university graduates, (fn. 9) as was the curate serving Stanton Harcourt and South Leigh in 1584. (fn. 10)
Peter Bostock, collated c. 1611, had earlier kept a school in Stanton Harcourt. (fn. 11) Edward Smith, presented by James 1 in 1614, was still vicar in 1650; both he and Bostock witnessed local wills. (fn. 12) Clifton Stone, collated in 1661, had been ejected from Hopesay church (Salop.) after the Restoration and resigned before 1664. (fn. 13) During the late 17th century and early 18th several ministers or curates of Stanton Harcourt had connexions with All Souls College, but some may only have been lecturers appointed by the college, and there is no evidence that any were vicars. (fn. 14) Robert Whitehall, minister on his death in 1699, was vice principal of St. Mary Hall, Oxford, and the son of a freeholder in Stanton Harcourt, and left books worth £ 100 in his house there. (fn. 15)
There was a curate in 1706, (fn. 16) but for most of the 18th century vicars resided and served the cure in person. John Gambold, vicar 1735-43, was a close friend of the Wesleys, who visited him several times at Stanton Harcourt, but Gambold increasingly inclined towards mysticism and later became a Moravian bishop. (fn. 17) He increased communion to once a month, and held two Sunday services with one sermon at Stanton Harcourt. (fn. 18) George Gibbons, vicar 1751-61, and Thomas Barrett, 1761-90, (fn. 19) held only one service on Sundays during the winter, and Barrett reduced communions to six or eight a year, but children were catechized twice a week in Lent, and in 1768 the parishioners were said to be decent and regular in their devotions. (fn. 20) Thomas Davies, vicar 1790-1803, was frequently non-resident, and in 1790 there was a curate; in 1796 there were only four communions a year and c. 20 communicants. (fn. 21)
John Slatter, vicar 1803-10, lived at Cumnor where he was vicar but served both parishes himself. (fn. 22) Andrew Hughes Matthews, vicar 1810-27, also lived elsewhere, and the church was served by non-resident curates. (fn. 23) In 1814 complaints were made about disruption of services, (fn. 24) but from 1815 the cure was served by Thomas Symonds, curate and later vicar of Eynsham. (fn. 25) In 1827 he became vicar of Stanton Harcourt, but continued to live at Eynsham and to serve both cures alone. (fn. 26)
His successor, William Percival Walsh, 1845-1911, probably resided from his institution. (fn. 27) A man of moderate views, he served conscientiously and without assistance, though he created a scandal in 1869 by locking the new vicar of South Leigh out of South Leigh church during a dispute over parish boundaries. (fn. 28) He increased the number of communicants, which under Symonds had risen from under 20 to over 30, (fn. 29) to over 100 at great festivals, although by the 1890s the number had fallen to 50, for which Walsh blamed Dissent. (fn. 30) In 1901 he retired to Oxford, and the cure was served by priests-incharge. (fn. 31) In the early 1960s A. S. Caswell, the vicar, held carol services, harvest festivals, and theological discussions in local public houses, an initiative which met with good will. (fn. 32)
The church of ST. MICHAEL (fn. 35) comprises chancel, south chapel, central tower with transepts, and nave with north porch. (fn. 36) The spacious nave, including the north and south doorways, both south windows, and the two westernmost windows on the north, is of the 12th century; windows incorporated in the second stage of the tower are of similar date. In the 13th century the transepts and stair turret were added, and the chancel, chancel arch, and tower arches were rebuilt. The chancel, rebuilt c. 1260, (fn. 37) is almost as long as the nave, and is of high quality; it includes tall lancet windows set in groups of three above a string course, their rear arches flanked by shafts. In the south-west corner of the chancel, an elaborately framed recess, largely destroyed when the Harcourt chapel was built, may have been a low side-window; it was uncovered in 1970. (fn. 38) The open timber nave roof is of c. 1400.
In the 15th century the west window of the nave and the north and south windows of the transepts were inserted, the transept roofs were lowered in pitch, and the embattled upper stage of the tower was added; in the nave a small, low window was inserted into the north wall under a 13th-century recessed arch, which may formerly have contained an altar. The Harcourt chapel was built on the south side of the chancel in the 1470s, probably by the mason William Orchard; (fn. 39) two arches were cut through the south wall of the chancel and one through the east wall of the south transept. A low window in the south face of the tower was added soon after.
In the late 17th century the churchwardens inserted a new doorway, presumably that on the south side of the Harcourt chapel. (fn. 40) A lancet window in the north side of the chancel was blocked c. 1693 to receive a monument. A fourtier gallery in the south transept, said to be for the Harcourts, was erected probably in the late 16th or early 17th century and removed c. 1843. (fn. 41) The arches between the south chapel and chancel were blocked by c. 1720. (fn. 42) In 1743 a raised vault was built under the chancel; the top was removed and the floor levelled in 1972. (fn. 43)
In 1711 the church was in disrepair, and in 1726 part of a wall was in danger of collapse; Lord Harcourt spent c. £3,000 on repairs c. 1724. (fn. 44) The bells were overhauled in 1841, (fn. 45) when the crossing was possibly receiled; by 1846 there was a low plaster ceiling which cut off the tops of the tower arches, possibly replacing earlier stone vaulting. (fn. 46) Edward Vernon Harcourt, archbishop of York, gave £1,000 towards repairs in 1843. (fn. 47) A stone porch was built soon after 1846, replacing a windowless one of wood and plaster. (fn. 48) About the same time the door of the north transept, used by women only, was blocked; (fn. 49) it was reopened in 1965 when the transept became a vestry. (fn. 50) The external walls were partially roughcast by 1855. (fn. 51) Heating was installed c. 1876. (fn. 52)
In 1905-6 there was a major restoration of the tower. (fn. 53) In 1951 the transept roofs were restored, in 1964 the wooden flooring of the nave was replaced and the pews reset, and between 1969 and 1972 the chancel and crossing were receiled in softboard, the chancel was reroofed with Stonesfield slate, the south transept and chapel were restored, and the cement rendering on the chancel, south transept, and nave was refurbished. (fn. 54) The tower clock was installed in 1958; electric lighting was installed in 1948. (fn. 55)
The 15th-century font formerly incorporated heraldic arms, probably of Sir Robert Harcourt (d. 1470); it was restored in 1833, when fragments of damaged carving were transferred to a tablet on the west wall of the nave. (fn. 56a) On the north side of the chancel an early 14th-century shrine, identified as that of St. Edburg from Bicester Priory, was probably acquired at the Dissolution by Sir Simon Harcourt, and was later used as an Easter Sepulchre. The base is 16th-century, parts of the original base having been incorporated into a 15th-century tomb in the Harcourt chapel. (fn. 57a) The oak screen is 13thcentury: two panels retain a medieval painting, possibly of St. Etheldreda. Squints in the lower half were made probably in the 15th century. (fn. 58a) In 1841 there was a baroque reredos, apparently late 17th-century; it was removed before 1846. (fn. 59a) The organ, probably installed in the late 19th or early 20th century, was moved in 1958 from the south side of the chancel to the north transept. Oak choir stalls were fitted in its place to match those opposite, installed in 1910; all the stalls were removed c. 1970. (fn. 60a) In 1965 a small medieval statue, thought to represent St. John, was discovered in a wall cavity and placed in the nave, (fn. 61a) but had been removed by 1987. A stone figure of St. Michael was presented by All Souls College, Oxford, in 1957, and the oak altar at the crossing was made by pupils of the Bartholomew School, Eynsham, in 1966. (fn. 62a) There are three chests, one apparently medieval.
Medieval wall paintings were discovered in the nave c. 1845, but were destroyed soon after. (fn. 63a) In the chancel traces of 13th-century colouring were uncovered in 1970. (fn. 64a) Thirteenth-century glass survives in the south window of the chancel. In the south-east window of the Harcourt chapel are two inserted 13thcentury ovals depicting a king and bishop or abbot, and a late 15th-century armorial shield set in a garter, contemporary with the chapel; fragments of 15th-century glass also survive in other chapel windows. (fn. 65a)
In the Harcourt chapel are the altar tombs, with recumbent effigies, of Sir Robert Harcourt (d. 1470) and his wife, of his grandson Sir Robert (d. c. 1509), of George Simon Harcourt, Earl Harcourt (d. 1809), and of Edward Vernon Harcourt, archbishop of York (d. 1847); (fn. 66a) the effigies of the elder Sir Robert and his wife were removed to the manor house and returned c. 1724. (fn. 67a) Over the younger Sir Robert's tomb hangs a standard, reputedly carried by him at the battle of Bosworth. Other memorials in the chapel include a floor brass to Thomas Harcourt (d. 1460) and Nicholas Atherton (d. 1454), formerly in the chancel, (fn. 68a) an inscribed marble slab to John Lee (d. 1682), and a mural monument to Simon Harcourt (d. 1720), with an inscription by Pope. The uninscribed altar tomb of Sir Simon Harcourt (d. 1547) (fn. 69a) stands in the south transept, and a mural monument to Sir Philip Harcourt (d. 1688) and his wife was moved from the chapel to the south transept before 1876. (fn. 70a) Also in the south transept are plaster models for statues at Westminster and Windsor of Sir William Vernon Harcourt (d. 1904) by Waldo Story, and of Field Marshal William Harcourt (d. 1830) by R. W. Sievier. (fn. 71a) In the chancel are memorials to lay rectors including Christopher Hovenden (d. 1610), Robert Huntington (d. 1685), and William Gibbons (d. 1728); that to Huntington and his son (d. 1693) has verses by Congreve. Floor brasses commemorate Ellen Camby (d. 1516), wife of John Camby, and Henry Dodschone (d. 1519), the first vicar. (fn. 72a) Against the north wall is the altar tomb of Maud (d. 1394), wife of Sir Thomas Harcourt. Lost monuments include a brass to William Seacole (d. 1527), and a brass engraved with the arms of Harcourt and Beke, c. 1293. (fn. 73a) On the outside of the south transept is a memorial to two villagers killed by lightning in 1718, with lines by Pope.
The plate includes a silver chalice of 1634, a silver flagon marked 1639, and a silver almsdish marked 1717; two 18th-century pewter almsdishes were stolen in 1966. A 12th- or 13thcentury leaden chalice and patten, found in a stone coffin under the nave in 1845, were deposited in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. (fn. 74a) A collection of 16th- and 17th-century prayer books and theological treatises has been deposited in the Oxfordshire County Record Office. (fn. 75a)
There are six bells, dated 1656 except for the tenor and treble, dated 1686 and 1722; they hang in an early 17th-century oak frame. (fn. 76a)
The churchyard was extended c. 1900 and 1952; a new cemetery was opened south of Stanton Harcourt Village in 1982. (fn. 77a)