Northmoor: Nonconformity

Page 170

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



Six recusants listed in 1577 included John Hearbes, presumably John Herle (d. 1581), the lord of Northmoor, and two members of the More family. (fn. 1) No papists were noted later. In 1768 there were said to be two or three Anabaptists in Northmoor, without a meeting place of their own. (fn. 2) In 1821 Ephraim Dix, later a prominent Primitive Methodist, registered a meeting at his house, (fn. 3) and in 1826 Northmoor joined the Faringdon Primitive Methodist circuit. Membership fluctuated between 14 in 1826 and 26 in 1835. (fn. 4) Since many 'Ranters' were said in 1834 to attend the parish church and even to take the sacrament, (fn. 5) relations at that time were presumably amicable. About 1841, however, a hostile farmer bought the 'chapel' and turned the congregation out; some members were even dismissed and evicted from their cottages. A temporary building erected in 1842 was replaced the following year by a brick chapel built north of the village on the east side of the later Chapel Lane. Local Baptists, notably the Gileses of Standlake, gave substantial assistance, and the preachers at the opening service were all Baptist ministers. (fn. 6)

Despite its modest size, (fn. 7) the new chapel reportedly provided 140 free sittings. On census day in 1851 90 people attended in the morning and 150 in the evening, a marked contrast to the 50 and 60 respectively attending the parish church. (fn. 8) The curate in 1854 estimated that there were 12 or 13 families of Primitive Methodists, presumably meaning subscribers. (fn. 9) Membership in 1867 was drawn from at least 14 local families. (fn. 10) Two members of the Taylor family (a carpenter and a sawyer) were recorded in 1861 as local preachers, and the chapel steward (an agricultural labourer), also a local preacher, had as a visitor on census day that year the minister of Faringdon chapel. (fn. 11)

In the later 19th century nonconformity continued to benefit from the non-residence of Northmoor's vicars. In 1878 the vicar asserted that there were only 20 'professed dissenters', (fn. 12) but it was more credibly claimed that most parishioners were either Primitive Methodists or Salvationists. (fn. 13)

The chapel was transferred to the Witney Circuit in 1916. (fn. 14) It was closed and sold in 1920, the proceeds being used to support evangelistic services during the winter; by c. 1930 it had been demolished. (fn. 15) Thereafter local nonconformists went to Witney.


  • 1. Recusant Roll, 1577 (Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii), 113-14; cf. above, Bampton: Lower Haddon, nonconf.
  • 2. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. d 559, f. 141.
  • 3. Ibid, c 644, f. 233.
  • 4. O.R.O., NM2/B/A5/1.
  • 5. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 39, f. 275.
  • 6. O.S. Map 6" Oxon. XXXVIII (1883 edn.); Primitive Methodist Mag. (1853), 618.
  • 7. Drawing of 1873 in Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. d 218, f. 201.
  • 8. Ch. and Chapel, nos. 320-1.
  • 9. Wilb. Visit. 104.
  • 10. O.R.O., NM2/23/F1/1.
  • 11. P.R.O., RG9/904.
  • 12. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 344, f. 285.
  • 13. Oxf. Times, 26 Aug. 1882.
  • 14. O.R.O., NM2/B/A5/8. The statement in trade dirs. that a new chapel was built in 1891 has not been verified: Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1893 and later edns.); cf. O.R.O., NM2/B/A5/8; ibid. NM2/23/F1/1.
  • 15. O.R.O., NM2/B/As/8; J. Stowell, Glimpses of Northmoor Through 800 Yrs. (priv. print, c. 1930), 13: copy in Bodl. G.A. Oxon. 8° 1055 (17).