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 church was built in Aston in 1838 on land given by Henry Hippisley, the cost met from subscriptions and from funds invested by C. L. Kerby, vicar of Bampton, and his predecessor George Richards, who reportedly initiated the scheme. In 1839 it was consecrated as a chapel of ease with its own burial ground, (fn. 1) and in 1857, under Order in Council of 1845, it became the parish church for Bampton Aston, serving Aston, Cote, and the parochial chapelry of Shifford. In 1976 it became part of the united benefice of Bampton with Clanfield. The advowson was vested in 1857 in the dean and chapter of Exeter, who remained joint patrons of the united benefice in 1990. (fn. 2) The endowment comprised tithe rents from Aston and Cote, Shifford, and Brighthampton, and one eighth of a Haddon corn rent formerly assigned to the vicars of Bampton; income in 1866 was reportedly c. £800 a year, but in 1899 gross income was only c. £560 and net income c. £400. (fn. 3)
Bampton's east vicarage house was at first assigned to the new living, but c. 1858 a new vicarage house was built in Aston south of High Street on land acquired from the Hippisleys, some of whose tithe rents were waived in return; the cost was met by mortgage and by temporary diversion of £60 from the Haddon corn rent. (fn. 4) The house, a large two-storeyed building of stone and slate with hoodmoulds over some of the windows, continued as a vicarage until 1963 and was demolished c. I968; (fn. 5) the east vicarage house in Bampton was sold in 1866. (fn. 6)
Until 1857 the church was served by vicars of Bampton or their curates. There was a single morning or afternoon service, and the number of communicants was 'small'. (fn. 7) Thereafter Ralph Barnes (d. 1884), non-resident east vicar of Bampton, became sole vicar of Bampton Aston, installing curates who lived in the new vicarage house. George Sandham Griffith, curate 1858-74, who mostly served the parish alone and was for a time curate of Yelford also, complained that he had inadequate time for catechizing or for holding as many services as desired: throughout the later 19th century there were usually two Sunday services at Aston, the second held alternately in the afternoon or evening to allow time for a service at Shifford. Among his chief difficulties was long-established Baptist Dissent, though of an estimated half to two-thirds of the population who were habitual non-attenders only 50 per cent were thought to be Baptists. Other problems were the indifference and, in 1866, outright hostility of the absentee lord Henry Hippisley, though Griffith's disciplinarian and rather puritanical approach possibly did little to promote local harmony. In 1863 he quarrelled with his assistant at Shifford, whom the bishop accused of fomenting opposition to Griffith, and in 1866 the churchwardens refused to act following disagreements over a local charity. (fn. 8) Under A. T. C. Cowie (1884-1900), the first resident vicar, church attendance increased, and in the 1890s remained steady despite falling population; improvements were made to the church, and in 1890 Cowie claimed that his chief problem was past neglect, combined with non-resident landlords, poor housing, and low wages. (fn. 9) Vicars resided until the early 1960s, after which the benefice was held in plurality with Bampton Proper, and most vicars remained at Aston for ten years or more. (fn. 10)
The church of ST. JAMES, (fn. 11) designed by Thomas Greenshields of Oxford (fn. 12) in plain 13thcentury style, is of stone with a concrete-tiled roof; it comprises chancel, nave with north and south transepts, and a west tower to which a steeple was added in 1860, the cost met partly from a bequest of William Monk (d. 1848). (fn. 13) Restorations were carried out reportedly by Joseph Clarke in 1862, (fn. 14) and by H. G. W. Drinkwater between 1885 and 1889, when the chancel was remodelled and refitted, a new altar, lectern, and seating were provided, and the octagonal stone font, given by the Revd. John Nelson in 1839, was moved to a 'more suitable' position. Plans to enlarge the chancel and add a new south vestry seem to have been abandoned. (fn. 15) The original Stonesfield- slated roofs, of poor quality, were replaced in 1962. (fn. 16) A 'new' organ bought in 1870 was replaced in 1896; that was electrified in 1949, (fn. 17) and stood in 1992 at the angle of the chancel and north transept, the latter used then, as in 1848, (fn. 18) as a vestry. The hexagonal oak pulpit and other fittings are 19thcentury. Commemorative stained glass in the east window was given in 1948, when the altar was lowered and a reredos removed; more commemorative glass was given in 1955, and new windows with coloured medallions were inserted in 1969. Electric lighting was introduced in 1949. (fn. 19) The ring of 6 bells, acquired partly from Monk's bequest, is of 1883, by J. Taylor of Loughborough, and the plate includes 4 pieces of silver donated by Henry Hippisley in 1839. (fn. 20) The churchyard was extended northwards in 1939. (fn. 21)