Crawley : Church, nonconformity

Pages 188-190

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 14, Bampton Hundred (Part Two). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2004.

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Origins, Status, and Services

Crawley's inhabitants attended Witney church until 1761 and Hailey chapel from then until 1837, (fn. 1) when a small chapel of ease was built at Crawley near Uphill Farm. The initiative and part of the funding came from Charles Jerram, rector of Witney 1834–53, who for three years or so had held weekly lectures in rented cottages both at Crawley and at Curbridge; the remaining cost was shared by local landowners, and the duke of Marlborough, as lord, converted the site from copyhold to freehold. The chapel, at first licensed only for divine service, acquired burial and baptismal rights at its consecration in 1847, but remained subordinate to Hailey chapel, which in 1854 became the church for the new parish of Hailey-cum-Crawley. (fn. 2) The chapel had no endowment, and was served by the perpetual curate and later by the vicar of Hailey until 1982, when the parish was reunited with that of Witney. (fn. 3) The chapel was closed in 1984 (fn. 4) and became a private house.

In 1851 the average congregation was 50–60. (fn. 5) Then as later in the 19th century there was presumably an alternate morning or evening service with a sermon, the sacrament being administered perhaps eight times a year as at Hailey. In the 1860s and probably earlier there was a Sunday school, and by the 1870s there was a monthly sacrament. (fn. 6) Services continued throughout the 20th century, but falling congregations, combined with financial and staffing problems, were cited as reasons for the closure in 1984. (fn. 7)

Church Architecture

The small, plain chapel of St Peter, (fn. 8) of stone rubble with a stone-slated roof, comprised an undivided chancel and nave aligned almost north-south, with an attached schoolroom at the north-east corner forming an L; it retains plain lancet windows and a pointed south doorway. (fn. 9) In the 1850s it had 100–150 sittings, most of them free. (fn. 10) A trust established by Jerram towards its upkeep yielded some £2 a year in the early 20th century. (fn. 11) Fittings at the chancel end were improved in 1896, but in 1899 the chapel was dismissed as a 'miserable povertystricken structure'; (fn. 12) repairs were carried out in 1901, when parishioners provided a harmonium, and in 1904 other furnishings included a stone font, a pulpit and reading desk, and a table in the 'vestry', besides a silver paten of 1874 and an electroplate chalice. (fn. 13) The chapel was further repaired in 1937 and electrified in 1952. (fn. 14) A bell dated 1812, which hung in a small stone bellcot over the south gable, came perhaps from Hailey church at its rebuilding in 1868. (fn. 15) The chapelyard, full by 1873, was extended in 1910–11 and 1931. (fn. 16)

Separate burial and baptism registers were kept from 1847 to 1873 and 1954 respectively. (fn. 17)


Christian, wife of John Hampshire of Crawley, was fined for recusancy in the 1620s, (fn. 18) but no recusants were noted later. One or two Quakers from Crawley attended the Witney meeting house at Woodgreen in the late 17th century, (fn. 19) and in the 1770s and 1780s there were two families of Quakers and a family of Anabaptists; (fn. 20) by 1802, however, there were said to be no Dissenters. (fn. 21)

Buildings licensed for worship in 1816 and 1819 (fn. 22) may have been for Wesleyan Methodists. One licence related possibly to a stone and thatched hovel and stable attached to Crawley Farm, which from the early 1820s housed a Wesleyan Sunday school, evidently with the approval both of the farm's owner William Townsend, a prominent Congregationalist, and of the tenant farmer. (fn. 23) After attendance fell it lay empty for two years before being given by Townsend about 1830 to the Witney Congregationalists, who refitted it and installed a fireplace and chimney. (fn. 24) In 1851 it had 60 sittings, but was then leased by the Congregationalists to local Quakers, who reportedly had an average afternoon congregation of twenty. (fn. 25) The Congregationalists reopened it before 1854, and recruited five new Crawley members (all labourers and tradesmen) in 1857. (fn. 26) The Cooks, tenant farmers at Crawley Farm, remained strong supporters, but attended Witney Congregational chapel. Doubts over the Congregationalists' right to the building at the farm's sale in 1872 were evidently resolved, and the same year the Witney Congregationalist minister John Brantom renovated the chapel, subsequently achieving a 'good congregation'. A branch church was formed at Crawley in 1878. In the earlier 1880s Brantom's successor allowed the building to decay, and it was demolished probably about 1890 with other derelict farm buildings. (fn. 27)

Primitive Methodists made sporadic attempts to establish themselves at Crawley during the 19th century and early 20th, (fn. 28) and a Quaker adult school there was mentioned in 1900. (fn. 29)


  • 1. Above, Witney, churches; below, Hailey, church. For pews in Witney church reserved for Crawley inhabitants, ORO, MS Oxf. Archd. Oxon. c 119, ff. 2 sqq.
  • 2. Memoirs of C. Jerram, ed. J. Jerram (1855), 326–8, 351; Oxf. Chron. 9 Mar. 1839; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 126; ORO, MSS Oxf. Dioc. c 746, ff. 171v.–178; c 1836, Order in Council 11 Aug. 1854; ibid. tithe award, no. 72; below, Hailey, church.
  • 3. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 126; below, Hailey, church.
  • 4. ORO, MS Oxf. Dioc. c 2075/3, Order in Council 30 Oct. 1984.
  • 5. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 126.
  • 6. ORO, MSS Oxf. Dioc. c 332, ff. 203–4; c 341, ff. 202–3; c 359, ff. 189–90.
  • 7. W. Oxon. Standard, 24 June 1983; 'Witney Par. Diary', p. 190.
  • 8. So called from 1847: ORO, MS Oxf. Dioc. c 746, f. 177v.
  • 9. Ibid. ff. 171v.–173v., plan; ibid. PAR 117/10/E1/1, p. 7; Bodl. MS Top. Oxon. d 218, f. 121v.
  • 10. ORO, MSS Oxf. Dioc. c 746, f. 175v.; c 1836, Order in Council 11 Aug. 1854; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 126.
  • 11. ORO, PAR 117/10/E1/1, p. 9.
  • 12. Ibid. PAR 117/2/A1/1, s.a. 1896; ibid. MS Oxf. Dioc. c 1836, corresp. re liability for chancel (1899).
  • 13. Ducklington Par. Mag. (Aug. 1901): copy in Magd. Coll. Mun., 799 (iv); ORO, PAR 117/10/E1/1, pp. 12–14.
  • 14. ORO, PAR 117/2/A1/1, s.a. 1937; ibid. MS Oxf. Dioc. c 1836, faculty (1952).
  • 15. Ch. Bells Oxon. i, p. 106; below, Hailey, church. The bell had gone by 1999.
  • 16. ORO, PAR 117/10/E1/1, p. 8; ibid. MS Oxf. Dioc. c 1836, pps. re extensions.
  • 17. Ibid. PAR 77/1/R2/1; PAR 117/1/R5/2, containing Crawley and Hailey burials from 1873.
  • 18. H. E. Salter, 'Oxon. Recusants', OAS Rep. (1924), 44, 56; cf. ibid. 54, 58.
  • 19. ORO, BOQM I/ii/1, s.a. 1681, 1691; above, Witney, nonconf.
  • 20. ORO, MS Oxf. Dioc. c 327, p. 153.
  • 21. Ibid. d 566, f. 146.
  • 22. Ibid. c 644, ff. 167, 205.
  • 23. Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, box of 18th and 19th-cent. pps., depositions re chapel c. 1872; cf. Educ. Enq. Abstract (Parl. Papers 1835 (62), xlii), p. 758. For location (wrongly given in COS, PRN 772), Sale Cat., Manor and Showell Farms (1872): copy in Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, box of 18th and 19th-cent. pps.; ibid. shelf A6, box 2, plans re farm bldgs at Mrs Cook's 1890.
  • 24. Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, box of 18th and 19th-cent. pps., deposns. re chapel; for Wesleyans, ORO, NM2/A/A2/1, s.a. 1837–8; NM2/A/A5/1, 27 Dec. 1841.
  • 25. Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 127.
  • 26. ORO, WCC I/i, pp. 136, 144, and lists at end of vol.; cf. PRO, RG 9/906.
  • 27. Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, box of 18th and 19th-cent. pps., depositions re chapel c. 1872; ibid. shelf A6, box 2, plans re farm bldgs at Mrs Cook's 1890; ORO, WCC I/ii, s.a. 1872, 1875; WCC I/iii, pp. 6, 28, 33; WCC X/1b–c; OS Map, 1:2500, Oxon. XXXI. 4 (1876 and 1899 edns).
  • 28. ORO, NM2/B/A5/2, s.a. 1842–4; NM2/B/A5/4, June 1862; NM2/B/A5/7, s.a. 1901, 1903, 1908; NM2/B/A2/10, s.a. 1860.
  • 29. Ibid. BOQM I/ii/11, 3 Apr. 1900.