Combe: 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, 'Combe: Nonconformity', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990), pp. 96-97. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

A P Baggs. W J Blair. Eleanor Chance. Christina Colvin. Janet Cooper. C J Day. Nesta Selwyn. S C Townley. "Combe: Nonconformity", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990) 96-97. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Blair, W J. Chance, Eleanor. Colvin, Christina. Cooper, Janet. Day, C J. Selwyn, Nesta. Townley, S C. "Combe: Nonconformity", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, (London, 1990). 96-97. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,


John White of Combe was sentenced to execution during the Catholic uprising of 1549. (fn. 75) A recusant woman was reported in 1592-3, (fn. 76) and a will made by a Combe man in 1619 was Catholic in tone. (fn. 77) There was one recusant in 1642, (fn. 78) and one, a convert, in the 1670s and 1680s. (fn. 79)

Several Quakers were reported to be living in Stonesfield and Combe in 1682, but only one is likely to have been from the latter. The Presbyterian Thomas Whateley preached in Combe in the later 17th century, (fn. 80) and in 1685 there was a Particular Baptist group with its own minister, Henry Sanders, meeting at a malthouse near the later Meeting House Farm, c. 500 yd. west of Bolton's Lane. Up to 200 people attended, mostly from Woodstock. (fn. 81) In 1740 a house was registered for meetings by Timothy Sanders, (fn. 82) possibly Henry's son. Baptists and their pastor were still meeting in Combe in 1763, (fn. 83) but no later record has been found.

There was a Methodist meeting in Bolton's Lane, at the house later called Wedgehook, in the 1770s, attended by a preacher from Witney, (fn. 84) and there were probably Methodists continuously in the parish from that time. A Primitive Methodist group active c. 1827, when the chaplain complained of the riotous behaviour of 'ranters', (fn. 85) may have been short lived. References to a Primitive Methodist chapel in the later 19th century seem to repeat a mistake in the Ordnance Survey map; no such chapel is known, and Combe was not part of the local Primitive Methodist circuit. (fn. 86) The popularity of Wesleyan Methodism was for long periods unchallenged by the Established Church which generally neglected the parish, and, in the 1820s, in the figure of Edward Tatham, rector of Lincoln College, alienated a large part of the population. (fn. 87) A meeting house at East End was registered in 1823, and two others in the parish in 1827 and 1829. (fn. 88) The chaplain claimed in 1834 that there were only a few Methodists, most of whom also attended church, (fn. 89) but in 1835 a chapel was built on the eastern outskirts of the village attended by 34 members and 2 local preachers. (fn. 90) Membership rarely exceeded 25 but attendances were much higher, and on Census Sunday 1851 there was a congregation of 60 adults and 20 Sunday school children for morning service, with 120 and 20 respectively in the evening; the figures were high relative to total population. (fn. 91) The reported closure of the Sunday school in the 1840s, in the face of a more successful Church school, (fn. 92) had clearly been temporary. As at Bladon the Wesleyan Reform movement split the congregation, and membership of the chapel, which reached a peak of 42 in 1861, fell to 24 in 1868, and thereafter exceeded 30 only once, although congregations remained high. The chapel was rebuilt in 1893, the new foundation stone being laid by Charles Spencer Churchill, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 93)

A United Methodist Free chapel was built south-west of the village green in 1861-3, on a site obtained by Alderman Gabriel Banbury of Woodstock. Its position just in front of a row of cottages is said to have been tolerated by the householders, who were prominent in its congregation. (fn. 94) It was claimed in 1872 that of 48 professed dissenters in the parish 28 attended the free chapel, (fn. 95) though congregations were larger, and in 1882 the chapel was extended. (fn. 96)

In the later 19th century some of the most prominent families in the parish were nonconformist. William Davis of Akeman Street Farm was a Wesleyan Methodist preacher. (fn. 97) Methodists at that time usually no longer attended the parish church. (fn. 98) At the Methodist union of 1932 the free chapel was closed and the congregation transferred to the Wesleyan chapel. Attendances declined, as elsewhere, in the later 20th century, but in the 1980s joint monthly services were held with the parish church, and in 1988 the chapel was extensively refurbished. Combe belongs to the Oxford circuit. (fn. 99)


  • 75. V.C.H. Oxon. ii. 36.
  • 76. Recusant Roll 1 (Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii), 257.
  • 77. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 70/1/51.
  • 78. Protestation Returns, 88.
  • 79. Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 423; Bp. Fell and Non- conf. 12, 38, 54.
  • 80. Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 12, 48.
  • 81. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 173, ff. 195-6; J. Hinton, Hist. Sketch of Assoc. Chs. 11.
  • 82. O.R.O., Q. Sess. Min. Bk. 1688-1768, 657.
  • 83. J. Ivimey, Hist. Eng. Baptists, iv. 18.
  • 84. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 23, ff. 370, 392v.
  • 85. Ibid. b 18, ff. 77-8.
  • 86. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit c 18, item a; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Oxon. XXVI. 7 (1880 edn.); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883, 1891).
  • 87. Above, Intro.; Church.
  • 88. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 645, ff. 19, 90, 124, 127-8; ibid. Cal. Q. Sess. viii. 814.
  • 89. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 39, f. 107.
  • 90. Ibid. MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit b 1-7; ibid. c 21, item 6, ff. 73-4; ibid. e 3.
  • 91. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, nos. 280, 499-500.
  • 92. J. H. Overton, John Hannah, 37; Wilb. Visit. 42.
  • 93. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Oxf. Meth. Circuit c 21, item 6, ff. 73-4; inscription on chapel.
  • 94. United Free Chs. Mag. May, 1863, 328-9; inscription; inf. from Messrs. E. and H. Busby.
  • 95. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 338, f. 116v.
  • 96. County Mus., P.R.N. 621; inscription.
  • 97. P.R.O., RG 11/1511.
  • 98. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 344, f. 115v.
  • 99. Inf. from Messrs. E. and H. Busby.