Woodstock: Protestant 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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A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley, 'Woodstock: Protestant nonconformity', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990), pp. 415-416. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp415-416 [accessed 17 June 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "Woodstock: Protestant nonconformity", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 415-416. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp415-416.

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "Woodstock: Protestant nonconformity", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 415-416. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol12/pp415-416.

Protestant Nonconformity

The Presbyterian Thomas Whateley preached at Woodstock in the late 1660s, (fn. 55) and in 1672 Edward Miles and William Metcalfe applied for meeting-house licences. Edward Wilsden was presented in 1675 for holding meetings on Sundays, and although only one nonconformist was reported in 1676 Metcalfe was alleged to be continuing a conventicle in 1678. (fn. 56) In the 1680s many Woodstock people were said to be attending Anabaptist meetings at Combe. (fn. 57) In 1737 there was a registered meeting, probably Baptist, at the house of Samuel Wise, an Old Woodstock farmer, but in 1738 the rector reported that there were no meeting houses in the town and hardly any dissenters besides one Quaker family: Presbyterian and Independent sects had declined through religious indifference. (fn. 58)

Until the 1790s no dissenters were reported. In 1794 James Hinton, the Oxford Baptist, held a meeting in Thomas Boulton's house opposite the Marlborough Arms in Oxford Street, registered in that year; mobs, including soldiers, broke up the meeting and stoned Hinton out of town as a Jacobin. Hinton tried again in 1819 and was later credited with establishing the Baptists in Woodstock. (fn. 59) Timothy Hunt, a Baptist glover from Worcester, helped in 1820-1 to register two meeting houses in Old Woodstock, and a Woodstock congregation was supported by the regional Baptist Association in 1821. (fn. 60) In 1825 a church was formally constituted with 12 members, and a chapel built on the site of a stable in High Street. (fn. 61) The Baptists opened a Sunday school, and in 1831 there was a thriving Independent Sunday school lately separated from the Baptist chapel under the leadership of James Chisholm; both schools were said to recruit largely from outside the town, however, and no reference has been found to a separate Independent meeting after 1833. (fn. 62) In 1851 the Baptist congregation was 71 in the morning and 99 in the evening. (fn. 63) From the outset there was usually a resident minister, (fn. 64) but in 1887 the congregation reported that it could no longer afford one; then and later New Road chapel, Oxford, provided preachers. (fn. 65) There was a resident minister from 1914 until c. 1928, and after the Second World War services were maintained chiefly by student pastors from Regent's Park College, Oxford. The church comprised 21 members in 1938 and 15 in 1981; from 1955 it was closely linked with Kidlington. (fn. 66) The chapel, renovated in the early 20th century, (fn. 67) is a plain stuccoed building with a pedimented front of three bays and round arched doorway and windows.

Thomas Meek, glover, registered his house for Wesleyan meetings in 1819 and remained steward of the chapel in 1851. (fn. 68) A chapel was built in 1824-5 on land on the west side of Oxford Street acquired by Daniel Evans, the Oxford builder. (fn. 69) There were then c. 19 members, of whom few separated themselves from the established church. (fn. 70) There was no resident minister but William Leggatt, ironmonger, was an active local preacher and later a circuit steward. (fn. 71) Membership reached its highest point of 45 in 1843, and in 1851 the congregation was 60 in the morning and 130 in the evening. (fn. 72) Soon afterwards the society was split by the secession of Wesleyan Reformers; membership was nearly halved and did not recover. (fn. 73) A new chapel was built in 1906-7 on the east side of Oxford Street; it is a stone building in Jacobean style with an ornate front and battlemented porch. (fn. 74) The earlier chapel, the site of no. 41 Oxford Street, (fn. 75) was used successively as a Masonic hall, a cinema, and a garage, and was largely rebuilt in 1987. (fn. 76)

Primitive Methodists evangelized Woodstock in the 1840s but failed to establish themselves. (fn. 77) Wesleyan Reformers established a separate small chapel in 1851. (fn. 78) In 1859 a new chapel was opened in a former infants' school in Oxford Street, earlier the parochial workhouse, and there was a flourishing Sunday school. (fn. 79) The Reformers included William Leggatt, J. N. Godden, glove manufacturer, and G. G. Banbury, draper. Banbury campaigned for the town's public cemetery and the abolition of church rates in the 1860s. He and his son, John, pressed for reform of the old corporation, which excluded dissenters, and he later became mayor; he and Godden promoted the agricultural labourers' union. (fn. 80) The Banburys were instrumental in the building in 1868 of a new chapel and schoolroom on the earlier site; it was known as the United Free Methodist or the Olivet chapel. (fn. 81) In 1881 a resident minister was lodging with the Baptist minister, (fn. 82) but usually the chapel seems to have been served by local preachers. After the Methodists were reunited in 1932 there was a resident minister. The Olivet chapel continued in use for school and evening services until the Second World War, and was converted into a private house in 1957. It was built in stone on an octagonal plan, with pillared undercroft. (fn. 83) The adjacent no. 80 was presumably the new schoolroom of 1868. (fn. 84)


  • 55. V.C.H. Oxon. xi. 116-17; Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 522.
  • 56. Boro. Mun. 96, f. 54; Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 38, 66-7; Lyon Turner, Recs. of Nonconf. ii. 828; Ballard, Chron. Woodstock, 99; Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 429.
  • 57. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 173, f. 195-6; above, Combe, Nonconf.
  • 58. O.R.O., Cal. Q. Sess. VIII. 807; Secker's Visit. 18.
  • 59. J. H. Hinton, Life of James Hinton, 255-74; J. Hinton, Hist. Sketch of the Associate Chs. 11; Baptist Mag. 1827, 234; O.R.O., Cal. Q. Sess. VIII. 812.
  • 60. Boro. Mun. file 21; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 644, ff. 215, 232; Hinton, Hist. Sketch, 11.
  • 61. Boro. Mun. file 21; ibid. 12/14-15: corpn. rentals 1824-5; Baptist Mag. 1827, 234; 1831, 204; Ch. and Chapel, no. 499.
  • 62. Oxf. Jnl. 17 Sept. 1831; Educ. Enq. Abstract, H.C. 62, p. 758 (1835), xlii.
  • 63. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 499.
  • 64. e.g. P.R.O., HO 107/893, 1730; ibid. RG 10/1449; RG
  • 65. Circular Letter of Oxon. Baptist Assoc. (1887), 20-1; New Rd. Chapel Monthly Visitor, pp. 15, 160; H. Paintin, New Rd. Chapel Sunday Sch. Soc. 1813-1913, 38.
  • 66. F. Townsend, Woodstock Baptists in 20th Cent.; inf. from the Revd. R. Brown.
  • 67. Oxf. Times, 19 Oct. 1912.
  • 68. Oxf. Chron. 4 May 1872; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 644, f. 206; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 500.
  • 69. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit c 21, item 6, f. 73; Meth. Mag. (1825), 267; Digest of Endowed Char. Oxon. H.C. 247, p. 6 (1890), Iv.
  • 70. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit b 1; ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. d 579, f. 127 and v.
  • 71. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. d 581, f. 119v.; ibid. MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit b 1, s.a. 1836; Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. b 18, f. 74; Oxf. Chron. 31 May 1851.
  • 72. O.R.O., MSS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit b 1-3, c 3; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 500.
  • 73. O.R.O., MSS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit b 3-7.
  • 74. Ibid. c 21, item b, f. 73; County Mus., P.R.N. 1044.
  • 75. Boro. Mun. 100, f. 17; O.S. Map ½,500, Oxon. XXVI. 8 (1876 and later edns.).
  • 76. O.R.O., D.V. VIII/275; I/16; County Mus., P.R.N. 4719-20; above, Intro.
  • 77. O.R.O., Witney Prim. Meth. Circuit, Q.M. min. bk. 1843-9.
  • 78. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 647, f. 138; Oxf. Chron. 26 Apr. 1851; Oxf. Times, 21 Oct. 1911.
  • 79. Oxf. Chron. 9 Apr. 1859; United Meth. Free Ch. Mag. (1863), 329; above, Local Govt., Par. Govt. and Poor Relief; below, Educ.
  • 80. Oxf. Chron. 31 May 1851; 25 Apr., 8 Aug. 1868; United Meth. Free Ch. Mag. (1863), 329; Oxf. Times, 21 Oct. 1911.
  • 81. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit c 21, item 6, f. 139; Oxf. Chron. 7 Mar., 25 Apr. 1868; Boro. Mun. 90, pp. 249, 261, 285, 289, 291; Marshall, Woodstock Manor, 274-5; United Meth. Free Ch. Mag. (1869), 330.
  • 82. P.R.O., RG 11/1512.
  • 83. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit c 21, item 6, f. 139; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1939); County Mus., P.R.N. 1045; Oxf. Mail,3 Apr. 1957: conversion plan.
  • 84. Oxf. Chron. 7 Mar., 25 Apr. 1868; cf. O.S. Map ½,500, Oxon. XXVI. 8 (1876 and later edns.).