Bampton and Weald: Nonconformity

Pages 57-58

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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Some vicars in the mid 16th century were associated with the recusant Mores of Lower Haddon, (fn. 1) but no recusants were noted in Bampton in the earlier 17th century, only two or three in the late 17th century and early 18th, when they included a shoemaker and a labourer, and none in 1738. (fn. 2) Up to 8 papists, mostly tradesmen, were noted throughout the parish in the later 18th century, but there were none by the early 19th. (fn. 3) An oratory at Ham Court in the upper part of the former gatehouse, dedicated to the Virgin and served by a priest from Buckland (then Berks.), was established by Bertram Arthur Talbot in 1856, shortly before his death; it was closed the following year, and the fittings were removed to Oxford and later to Witney. (fn. 4)

In 1676 c. 45 undifferentiated nonconformists were noted in the whole parish. (fn. 5) The Presbyterian Samuel Birch, intruded into the south vicarage in 1658, instituted a lectureship, and held conventicles attended by friends from Witney, Alvescot, and Aston as well as Bampton; following his ejection he rented the south vicarage house for two years before being removed to Shilton in 1664. (fn. 6) A few Presbyterians were reported in the parish in the later 18th century, but none later. (fn. 7) Quaker families fined regularly in the later 17th century, and who attended a meeting at Alvescot, included at least four and probably more from Bampton and Weald. Though some were 'very poor', others included the relatively prosperous comb-maker John Hill, and Edward Bettres or Bettrice, perhaps related to the prominent Oxford Quaker Richard Bettrice. (fn. 8) Only two Quaker families were reported in the parish in 1738, (fn. 9) and in 1761 the Quaker wife of a Bampton blacksmith and possibly her brother were converted to Anglicanism. There were no Quakers by 1768. (fn. 10)

From the later 17th century members of four or five Bampton families, chiefly prosperous farmers and tradesmen, attended the Baptist meeting at Cote, (fn. 11) ministers for which seem to have lived in Bampton in the 1770s and c. 1798-1810. (fn. 12) A small stone-and-slated chapel with c. 100 sittings, served from Cote, was built south of High Street c. 1778. (fn. 13) Prominent members in the 19th century included the prosperous Duttons and Holloways, (fn. 14) and although sung services in Bampton church were claimed in 1814 to have virtually closed the meeting house, (fn. 15) attendance in 1850-1 averaged 80. (fn. 16) During the earlier 20th century numbers declined: by 1944 there was a Sunday school of only 12, and in the early 1950s morning services were discontinued. Membership rose slightly thereafter, and in 1971 the congregation was c. 20, but by 1991 the chapel, still dependent on Cote, was disused. (fn. 17) A Particular Baptist chapel on Buckland road, opened in 1861 with c. 90 sittings, had no connection with Cote. (fn. 18) It remained a chapel in 1950, but by 1955 was a private house. (fn. 19)

Three Methodist meeting houses were registered in Weald between 1826 and 1834, one of them a former stable, the others houses near the mill and on Cheyne Lane. In 1851 a cottage in Weald 'formerly for poor persons', presumably the former poor house on Weald Lane, was returned as a Wesleyan chapel with 60 sittings and had an average attendance of 20-25 for morning and evening services, though only 3-5 inhabitants were claimed as members of the Witney and Faringdon circuit. (fn. 20) Membership remained low or non-existent, (fn. 21) and although a mission room seating 100 was reported in 1891, the same year Bampton's 'spiritual destitution' prompted calls for establishment of a chapel. The Earlys of Witney donated £200, and in 1892 a stone-and-slated chapel in Gothic style, seating 130, was built on the north side of Bridge Street. (fn. 22) Membership doubled to over 30 by 1900 but fell to 16 by 1911, rising to 22 in the 1930s, (fn. 23) and the chapel remained open in 1992.

A Salvation Army meeting at Bampton in 1887, organized by Herbert Booth and c. 12 others who came from Witney on tricycles, was attended by c. 300-400 people. (fn. 24) No later references have been found.


  • 1. Above, churches.
  • 2. Protestation Rtns. and Tax. Assess. 6-7; Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 422; Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 5, 37, 51; Oxoniensia, xiii. 80; Seeker's Visit. 12.
  • 3. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 558, f. 33; d 561, f. 37; d 564, f. 29; d 566, f. 17; d 570, f. 21; c 327, p. 134; Rtn. Papists 1767, ii (Cath. Rec. Soc. occas. publ. no. 2), 114.
  • 4. Stapleton, Cath. Miss. 172-3; Oxf. Chron. 21 June 1856; cf. Complete Peerage, xi. 710 sqq.
  • 5. Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 417 n., 422.
  • 6. Mansfield Coll. Libr., S. Birch's 'Bk. of Prayers', pp. 183 sqq.; Calamy Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 56-7; Der Pietismus in Gestalten und Wirkungen, ed. H. Bornkamm, F. Heyer, and A. Schindler, 350-2; cf. Hearth Tax Oxon. 222, listing him under Bampton in 1665 apparently in error.
  • 7. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 558, ff. 33-6; d 564, ff. 29-31; c 327, p. 134.
  • 8. Ibid. BOQM 1/ii/1-3; ibid. MS. Wills Oxon. 35/1/40; P.R.O., PROB 11/434, f. 185 and v.; Bp. Fell and Nonconf. pp. xxiv, 5, 50; V.C.H. Oxon. iv. 415.
  • 9. Secker's Visit. 13.
  • 10. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 654, ff. 32-3; d 558, ff. 33-6.
  • 11. Regent's Park Coll., Cote Ch. Bk. 1647-1882; Bp. Fell and Nonconf. 5, 51; B. Williams, Memorials of the Fam. of Williams (1844), 33-4; below, Aston and Cote, nonconf.
  • 12. Baptist Union Corpn. file 1367/2, lease 9 May 1780; ibid. file 1367/4, lease 28 Apr. 1778; O.R.O., QSD L.22, s.v. Stennett; J. Stanley, Church in the Hop Garden [c. 1936], 170.
  • 13. Baptist Union Corpn. file 1367/4, lease and release 1778; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 24; cf. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1891).
  • 14. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 644, f. 185; Baptist Union Corpn. files 1367/1-4; Stanley, Hop Garden, 144-5, 169-70, 188-91.
  • 15. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 662, ff. 8-9V.
  • 16. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 24.
  • 17. Regent's Park Coll., Cote Ch. Bk. 1882-1972, passim; Baptist Union Dir. (1990-1); inf. from pastor.
  • 18. Oxf. Chron. 18 May 1861; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Oxon. XXXVII. 7 (1876 and later edns.); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1891).
  • 19. Gospel Standard (1950); O.R.O., electoral regs. (1955), s.v. D. L. Green; O.S. Map 1/2,500, SP 3003-3103 (1971 edn.).
  • 20. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 645, ff. 66, 225, 237; ibid. Witney and Faringdon Meth. Circuit 1/1b; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 471.
  • 21. O.R.O., Witney and Faringdon Meth. Circuit 1/1b-e.
  • 22. Ibid. I/4b, pp. 54-5; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1891 and 1895 edns.); O.S. Map 1/2,500, Oxon. XXXVII. 7 (1876 and 1899 edns.). Pevsner, Oxon. 431 misdates it.
  • 23. O.R.O., Witney and Faringdon Meth. Circuit 1/1f-1.
  • 24. Oxf. Chron. 30 Apr. 1887.