A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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A chapel existed c. 1230 when Eynsham abbey, as lord, agreed to give the vicars of Bampton 2 lb. of wax a year for lighting it on St. Laurence's feast day. (fn. 1) It had no endowment and remained subject to Bampton until 1857, when under Order in Council of 1845 it was incorporated into Bampton Aston parish, (fn. 2) from 1976 part of the united benefice of Bampton with Clanfield. (fn. 3) The chapelry in 1405 and still in the 19th century included Shifford, Cote, Chimney, and that part of Brighthampton within Bampton parish. (fn. 4) In the late 15th century inhabitants of Shifford and Chimney successfully petitioned the dean of Exeter to allow burial at Shifford, though in the 16th and 17th centuries testators sometimes specified burial at the mother church. (fn. 5) The chapel had baptismal rights by the 18th century and probably from the Middle Ages. (fn. 6)
In the early 15th century the chapel was served by a chaplain from Bampton once a week. (fn. 7) Then and throughout the 14th century the abbot of Eynsham was obliged to accommodate him in the manor house on the nights of Christmas, Easter, and St. Laurence's day, providing ale, light, and oats, and supplying 2 candles at vespers on the vigil of St. Laurence. (fn. 8) In 1499 the abbey allowed a cottage in Cote to be used by the chapelwardens for church ales, though in 1504 and 1506 it was in disrepair. (fn. 9) In 1510 the homage of Shifford agreed that no-one should fish with cooppis for nine months except for the benefit of Shifford chapel, (fn. 10) and several 16th and 17th-century testators made bequests towards the chapel's upkeep, (fn. 11) among them members of the Veysey family of Chimney, some of whom were buried there. (fn. 12)
Few medieval chaplains are known, (fn. 13) though 16th-century curates and clerks witnessing Shifford or Chimney wills may have served the chapel. (fn. 14) Edward Joye (curate c. 1634), a graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge, and probably related to the Bampton vicar Robert Joye (d. 1614), was a schoolmaster in Bampton, (fn. 15) and William Standard, an intruded vicar of Bampton probably ejected c. 1662, may have been curate in 1664. (fn. 16) In the late 17th century and early 18th Thomas Horde (d. 1715) of Cote worshipped and received the sacrament regularly at Shifford; (fn. 17) by then the weekly duty, one morning service with prayers and a sermon 'when the weather and floods permit', (fn. 18) was evidently undertaken by vicars of Bampton or their substitutes, who arranged for replacements from Oxford as necessary. From the 1730s the cure was served without licence for £20 a year by Thomas Middleton, the non-resident vicar of Clanfield, who by 1738 employed his Clanfield curate to do the duty every third Sunday and was criticized by the bishop for consequent disruption of services in his own parish. In 1750 the Bampton vicar William Reynolds substituted his own resident curate, citing local demands for an additional Sunday service and alleging that Middleton's farming activities and numerous benefices prevented him from fulfilling his duties adequately; thereafter Middleton served Shifford only occasionally, but was still claiming arrears against Reynolds' widow in 1752. (fn. 19)
From c. 1772 to 1784 the chapel was derelict and there were no services, and following its reopening the chancel remained for some years in such disrepair that the sacrament could not be administered, parishioners and the chief landowners being unwilling to meet the cost of renovation. (fn. 20) By 1787 repairs were complete, but there continued to be only one Sunday service and sermon, with the sacrament administered three times a year to 18-20 communicants in 1790, and by 1808 four times a year to 20 or 30. Average attendance in 1851 was 50 for the weekly service. During the earlier 19th century the chapel continued to be served in rota by the vicars or their curates and occasionally by outsiders; (fn. 21) it briefly had its own curate c. 1863, but from 1857 was served usually by the curate and later by the vicar of Aston, who conducted a morning or afternoon service with a sermon to fit in with his Aston duty. (fn. 22) In 1896 there were 2 services a month but in the 1960s only one, and in 1991 there were monthly evening prayers and a monthly communion. (fn. 23)
The chapel of ST. MARY, so called by 1891 (fn. 24) but dedicated in the Middle Ages to St. Laurence, (fn. 25) is of 1861-2. Nothing remains of its medieval predecessor except a rehung, possibly 13th-century bell, and the base of an apparently medieval cross in the churchyard. (fn. 26) Window glass needed repair in 1510, and in the early 18th century a south window contained figures reportedly of the Virgin, St. James, and St. Anthony; (fn. 27) a testator in 1605 requested burial in the south aisle near his seat, and made bequests towards building two pillars or buttresses against the chapel's north wall. (fn. 28) The chancel of the 'ancient', presumably medieval, building was in disrepair in 1770, and by 1772 the 'greatest part' of the chapel was ruinous, the rest being 'in a very bad condition and not fit to, stand'. Rebuilding began c. 1781 and the chapel was serviceable by 1784, though the chancel remained 'much dilapidated by the long ruin of the church' until c. 1787, confirming that the chapel was rebuilt on the same site probably incorporating parts of the medieval fabric. (fn. 29) In the early 19th century it was of stone and slate and comprised a gabled, evidently aisleless nave with a plain south porch, and a lower, gabled chancel with a round-headed south door and a large, pointed east window, possibly of 14th- century origin. In the west gable of the nave were two small circular openings with, below, a central, possibly round-headed window. All other fenestration was modern, including two Venetian windows in the nave south wall flanking the central porch. (fn. 30) The chancel arch, said in the later 19th century to have been 'Saxon', (fn. 31) was presumably rounded. There was a gallery by the mid 19th century, when the chapel, said to be 'hardly distinguishable from the cottages', had 109 sittings, only 31 of them free. (fn. 32)
In 1861 it was decided to rebuild rather than repair the chapel, the cost being met by mortgage, subscriptions, and other donations, and work was completed early in 1862. (fn. 33) The building, (fn. 34) designed in Gothic style by Joseph Clarke and built on its predecessor's foundations, (fn. 35) is of stone with Stonesfield-slated roofs, and comprises a small chancel with a vestry on the north, and a nave with south porch and west bellcote; it is lit by plain lancets and by a small quadripartite circular east window. New glass with coloured medallions, and stained glass in the circular east window, was inserted in 1971. (fn. 36) The larger bell, similar to products of the Burford foundry, is of 1685 and is inscribed 'H. Allen', probably a chapelwarden; (fn. 37) the font and pulpit are modern. Electric heating replaced a coke stove in 1964, but lighting was partly from candles until 1976. (fn. 38)
Reset against the inside west wall of the nave are a grave slab to Thomas Brown (d. 1799) and his wife Mary, and a black slate tablet to Susan Blithe (d. 1645), related by marriage to the Veyseys of Chimney. (fn. 39) Several 18th-century monuments survive in the churchyard, among them a large tomb-chest to Robert Darby (d. 1772) of Cote and his wife Mary (d. 1801). (fn. 40) The plate includes a silver chalice given by Robert Veysey (d. 1666) and repaired by his relict Christian in 1688-9, and a silver paten given in 1706 by Thomas Horde (d. 1715)53 silver chalice and paten of 1855 were given by the widow of W. M. Birch, vicar of Bampton Aston 1900-12. (fn. 41) Registers survive from 1783, earlier ones having apparently been irreparably damaged while the chapel was derelict. (fn. 42) The churchyard was closed for burials c. 1969. (fn. 43)