Lew: Churches

Pages 97-98

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 'free chapel' in the patronage of the Belet family and endowed with tithes from their lands existed by 1224, when Exeter cathedral unsuccessfully challenged the arrangement. (fn. 1) Before 1303 the chapel acquired some glebe, said to be 15 a. in 1399. (fn. 2) The advowson passed in the 14th century to a succession of owners, including members of the Talbot and Laundels families and, in 1399, Thomas Dyer, a vicar of Bampton, who as patron was to offer 1 lb. of wax before the image of the Blessed Virgin at Lew on the feast of the Assumption. (fn. 3) No appointments are known, though Robert of Cokethorpe, chaplain, involved in the suit of 1224, (fn. 4) perhaps served the chapel. In 1549, following suppression of chantries, the chapel was sold as the chantry- or free chapel of Lew 'founded' by Thomas Dyer, with 7 a. of openfield arable and corn tithes from 7 yardlands and 7 a., together yielding 6s. 8d. a year; in 1575 it was bought by London speculators as a 'cottage or tenement' formerly given for maintenance of a light. (fn. 5) Chapel orchard, adjoining Witney road, was mentioned in the later 18th century, (fn. 6) but the chapel's location is otherwise unknown.

The later church, built by subscription in 1841 on land donated by Jonathan Arnatt, was consecrated in 1842 as a chapel of ease with its own burial ground. In 1857 it became, under Order in Council of 1845, the parish church for Bampton Lew, conterminous with Lew township, and the advowson was vested in the dean and chapter of Exeter; (fn. 7) the church was licensed for marriages c. 1858. The benefice was united by Order in Council of 1917 with Bampton Proper, from 1976 part of the united benefice of Bampton with Clanfield. (fn. 8) The endowment comprised c. 216 a. formerly attached to Bampton's east vicarage, tithe rents in Clanfield worth c. £90 a year, and the south vicarage house in Bampton; (fn. 9) net income fell from c. £300 in 1866 to £200 in 1917, and both the small endowment and the house's distance from the church were repeatedly cited by vicars as their chief impediments, making it difficult to find incumbents. (fn. 10) After 1917 the vicarage house was sold, and vicars of the joint benefice lived in the house at Bampton formerly assigned to Bampton Proper. (fn. 11)

Until 1857 the church was served from Bampton, and in 1854 the number of communicants was 'small'. (fn. 12) Thereafter all Bampton Lew's vicars resided and seem to have been active in parish life, serving the cure alone. Henry Joy (1869-80) and Joseph Jackson (1887-1917) raised funds for church repairs and for new schools, difficult in a parish with few inhabitants and resident landowners, and in 1894 Jackson intervened on behalf of parishioners seeking a rent reduction. There were two Sunday services and a monthly sacrament. Average attendance in 1869 was 75-100, with about a dozen habitual absentees who were thought in 1872 to be dissenters; communicants numbered usually between 10 and 15, and children were catechized or otherwise instructed regularly. (fn. 13)

The small, stone-built church of HOLY TRINITY, (fn. 14) designed by William Wilkinson (fn. 15) in 13th-century style, comprises chancel, nave with south porch and north vestry, and, over the porch, an octagonal turret apparently modelled on that of Cogges church. In 1851 there were 100 free and 60 other sittings. (fn. 16) Subsidence necessitated underpinning and buttressing in the 1870s and in 1896, and in 1920-1 a restoration by N. W. Harrison included underpinning, reroofing, and redraining. The pews were then rebuilt without their doors, and the pulpit was lowered. In 1963 the bell turret was reroofed with copper. (fn. 17) Stained glass includes a window to the memory of F. E. Lott, vicar 1857-69; the bell, by Thomas Mears of London, is dated 1841, and the plate includes a silver chalice, a pair of patens, and a flagon, given in 1841 by Thomas Denton. (fn. 18) A lych-gate was added in 1892. (fn. 19)


  • 1. Cur. Reg. R. xi, pp. 534-5.
  • 2. Exeter Coll. Mun., M.II.I.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Cur. Reg. R. xi, pp. 534-5.
  • 5. Bodl. MS. Top. Oxon. c 60, f. 208; P.R.O., C 66/1125, m. 23.
  • 6. O.R.O., P4/2/MS 1/5, f. 4, asserting, without evidence, that vicars of Bampton officiated in the chapel during the Interregnum.
  • 7. Oxf. Chron. 29 May 1841; Lond. Gaz. 30 Dec. 1845, pp. 7353-4; O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 746, ff. 12-17; c 1711, presentations; Lew church bk. 1842-88 (in custody of vicar and par. officers), s.a. 1857.
  • 8. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 1713/1, Order in Council 1917; c 1713/2, Order in Council 1976.
  • 9. Lond. Gaz. 30 Dec. 1845, pp. 7353-4; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Oxon. XXXVII. 6 (1876 and later edns.); cf. O.R.O., Bampton incl. award, s.v. Thos. Burrows.
  • 10. Ch. Com. Rec. L 7, pp. 438-9; O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 1713/1, corresp. and docs. re union 1917; ibid. c 335, ff. 25-6; c 341, ff. 48-9; c 344, ff. 33-4; c 356, ff. 33-4; c 362, ff. 33-4.
  • 11. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 1713/1, Order in Council 1917; above, Bampton and Weald, churches.
  • 12. Wilb. Visit. 10-12.
  • 13. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 332, pp. 54-6; c 335, ff. 25-6; c 338, ff. 29-30; c 341, ff. 48-9; c 344, ff. 33-4; c 347, ff. 31-2; c 350, ff. 32-3; c 356, ff. 33-4; c 359, ff. 31-2; c 362, ff. 33-4; c 365, ff. 33-4; Ch. Ch. Arch., MS. Estates 74, ff. 147 and v., 169-70, 173-5, 189-95.
  • 14. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 264, giving wrong erection date; Oxf. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1990), 87.
  • 15. Oxf. Chron. 29 May 1841.
  • 16. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 264; below, plate 15; cf. Pevsner, Oxon. 682-3.
  • 17. O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. c 338, f. 30; c 341, ff. 48-9; c 1713/1, faculties; ibid. MS. d.d. Par. Bampton c 10, item c; Ch. Ch. Arch., MS. Estates 74, ff. 194-5.
  • 18. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 344, ff. 33-4; Ch. Bells Oxon. ii, p. 202; Evans, Ch. Plate Oxon. 12.
  • 19. Date on gate.