Wolvercote: Nonconformity

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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'Wolvercote: Nonconformity', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) pp. 323-324. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp323-324 [accessed 29 February 2024]


Richard Owen of Godstow was returned as a recusant in the 1590s, (fn. 64) and his influence may have encouraged the eight other recusants from the parish fined in the early 17th century. (fn. 65) Matthew Cheriton, a freeholder, and his uncle Edmund Reynolds of Gloucester Hall, Oxford, who was buried in Wolvercote in 1630, were also recusants, as were the Nappers of Holywell, freeholders and farmers of the great tithes of Wolvercote. Cheriton refused the protestation oath in 1642. (fn. 66) There is no evidence that the Nappers ever lived in the parish, and the Cheritons sold their Wolvercote property in 1659. (fn. 67) There is no further record of Roman Catholicism in the parish until the 20th century, when, in 1911, the church of St. Gregory and St. Augustine was built on the Woodstock road for a congregation drawn mainly from the new housing in North Oxford. (fn. 68)

In 1672 James Beckford's house was licensed as a Baptist meeting house, and the 8 dissenters returned in 1676 and the 3 or 4 returned in the 1680s were probably Baptists. (fn. 69) A Presbyterian and a Baptist family were reported in 1805, but they had no meeting place until John Ladson's cottage (later Nunnery Close) was licensed for Baptist services in 1816; the preacher came from Oxford. (fn. 70) The congregation was swelled by the influence of H. B. Bulteel who preached in Wolvercote between 1832 and 1835 and 'certainly roused some of the people' in the village. His followers attended the service at Ladson's house, or went to his chapel in Oxford. (fn. 71) Applications for meeting house licences were made in 1839 and 1841, that in 1839 supported by the Oxford Methodist minister, Corbett Cooke, (fn. 72) but no nonconformist chapels were recorded in 1854. Then, and in subsequent years, dissenters attended services in Summertown, presumably at the Congregationalist chapel there; (fn. 73) their numbers grew from c. 12 in 1854 to c. 50 in 1878, mainly artisans who found that there was no suitable place for them in church among the farmers or the labourers. (fn. 74) In 1884 Baptists from the New Road chapel in Oxford, at the instigation of their minister James Dann, opened a Sunday school in Wolvercote, and in 1886 a Baptist chapel was built there. (fn. 75) In 1985 the chapel was linked with Woodstock and Kidlington Baptist churches.

The Baptist chapel in Godstow Road is a plain rectangular building in Gothic style, of yellow brick with stone facings.


  • 64. Recusant Roll 1592-3 (Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii), 252; 1593-4 (Cath. Rec. Soc. lvii), 121; 1594-5 (Cath. Rec. Soc. lxi), 71.
  • 65. 'Oxon. Recusants', O.A.S. Rep. (1924), 18, 20, 32-3, 35, 42.
  • 66. M. Foster, 'Gloucester Hall', Oxoniensia, xlvi. 106-9; V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 412; Protestation Return, 96; Par. Colln. 354. Anthony Wood's statement (Wood's Life, i. 419) that Reynolds left Wolvercote property to Cheriton is incorrect: above, Econ.
  • 67. Above, Econ.
  • 68. V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 414.
  • 69. Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 39, 69.
  • 70. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 569, f. 167; d 571, f. 157v.; d 577, f. 161; c 644, f. 174; notebk. of Thos. Gregory (MS. in possession of vicar of Wolvercote), p. 29.
  • 71. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 39, f. 381v.; Gregory notebk. pp. 17, 28, 43, 71, 80, 111, 147-8.
  • 72. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 646, ff. 93, 111; for Cooke, see Hall's Circuits and Ministers, ed. T. G. Hartley, 418.
  • 73. V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 422.
  • 74. Wilb. Visit. 166; O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 332, f. 474; c 335, f. 438; c 338, f. 455; c 344, f. 453. No return for Wolvercote survives in the 1851 religious census.
  • 75. Oxf. Jnl. 16 Oct. 1886; Oxf. Times, 19 Oct. 1912; H. Paintin, Centenary Booklet, New Rd. Chapel Sunday Sch. Soc. (1913), 37-8.