A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The ecclesiastical history of Oxfordshire begins at the year 634, the date of the coming of Birinus. The account of him that is given us in Bede is that, on his journey from Italy, Wessex was the first part of Britain that he reached; that, finding it to be most pagan, he preached the gospel there, and Cynegils, the king, became a catechumen. When the time came for his baptism, Oswald, king of Northumbria, who happened to be in Wessex at the time and was shortly to be his son-in-law, stood to him as godfather; and the two kings joined in giving Birinus, who was already a bishop, the 'city' called Dorcic as his episcopal seat. There, after building churches and converting much people, he died and was buried, but many years later his bones were translated to Winchester by Bishop Haeddi. To this the Anglo-Saxon chronicle adds, that it was at Dorchester that Cynegils was baptized, that in the following year (636) Cwichelm his son was baptized there, dying soon after, and that Cuthred, son of Cwichelm, was baptized at the same place in 639.
Why the bishop's seat was fixed at Dorchester, rather than at, or near, Winchester, the capital of Wessex, we cannot tell. It may be that, as the chronicle implies, Cynegils was not king of the whole of Wessex; or that a spot towards the north was selected with a view to the conversion of Mercia; or that a meeting between the kings of Wessex and Northumbria would naturally take place near the northern boundary of Wessex, and the accident that the king was baptized at that spot was the cause why the cathedral was fixed there. How the king of Northumbria could join in the donation of the site is not easy to understand.
Although Birinus was reckoned the apostle of Wessex and must have worked mainly south of the Thames, yet his name is commemorated in Oxfordshire only. The church of Dorchester bears the invocation of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Birinus, and the village of Bicester, formerly spelt Beren-cestre or Biren-cestre, connected with Dorchester by a small Roman road, is generally supposed to bear his name. There is also in the parish of Ipsden a place called Birin's Hill, and the word Ipsden, originally spelt Bispesden, is said to mean 'hill of the bishop.'
About the year 642 Birinus died, and as the king died shortly after (fn. 1) and his son and successor, Cenwalh, was a heathen, the bishopric remained vacant. Ultimately after being in exile three years, Cenwalh returned to Wessex as a Christian about 648, and being joined by Agilbert, a bishop from Gaul, but without a diocese, who after studying in Ireland, preached the Gospel in Wessex, he asked him to be bishop of Dorchester. But 'after many years,' probably in 663, the king, who could talk nothing but Saxon, wearied with the bishop's outlandish language, divided Wessex into two provinces, and set up a new see at Winchester with a bishop named Wine, who knew the king's language. Agilbert, in disgust, retired to Gaul and the bishopric of Dorchester came to an end. It may, however, have been revived some fifteen years later; for Bede (fn. 2) mentions a certain Ætla, who was bishop of Dorchester, and his latest editor thinks that about 679 the king of Mercia, having extended his kingdom so as to include Oxfordshire, set up a Mercian see at Dorchester, but that it came to an end in 686, when Caedwalla, king of Wessex, recovered this district. The bones of Birinus were moved to Winchester by Haeddi, bishop of Winchester (676–703), though in later ages Dorchester claimed to have them still. (fn. 3)
About two centuries later the bishopric was revived. It is true that the tradition at Dorchester in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was that there had been an unbroken succession of bishops from the time of Birinus, and even their names were given, Bertinus being the tenth (fn. 4) : but had it been so, we could not have failed to find mention of them in history or as witnesses to charters. It is not until we come to Bishop Ealheard, about 886, that we meet the see of Dorchester once more. By the battle of Bensington in 777 Oxfordshire had passed finally under the kings of Mercia, and became part of the diocese of Leicester, having previously been in the diocese of Sherborne; and a century later, when the Danes overran the eastern and midland counties, the bishop of Leicester removed his see, no doubt for safety, to Dorchester. This change took place in the time of Bishop Ealheard (886–97); and as the line of the bishops of Lindsey came to an end in 873 the jurisdiction of the bishop of Dorchester reached to the Humber. When the conversion of the Danes took place, the bishop of Dorchester was able to extend his see once more, first over Leicestershire and then over Lincolnshire. When we are told of Leofwine, bishop of Dorchester (953–65) (fn. 5), that he united the sees of Lindsey and Leicester, the meaning may be that he was the first after the Danish invasion who was able to exercise episcopal functions in Lincolnshire.
Little is known of these bishops of Dorchester. We hear of a council in 977 held at Kyrtlington, which there is good reason to think was Kirtlington in Oxfordshire, (fn. 6) but we are not given the names of those that were present. In 1004 and 1005 we have the establishment of secular canons at St. Frideswide's, and of Benedictine monks at Eynsham. (fn. 7) Also we know one undoubted fact about Eadnoth I, bishop of Dorchester (1005–17), which shows that Lincolnshire was part of his see. Hoveden mentions (fn. 8) that Eadnoth, 'bishop of Lincoln,' (sic) founded a monastery at Stow in Lincolnshire. Freeman (fn. 9) thought the reference was to Eadnoth II (1034–50); but a charter in the Eynsham Cartulary (fn. 10) not only mentions the monastery, but asserts that it was founded before the time of Bishop Æthelric (1017–34), and that he and his successor received two-thirds of the offerings that were made there. This fact is interesting in view of the claim that was subsequently put forward by the archbishop of York, that Lincoln and Lindsey, and in particular Stow and Louth, were by right part of his diocese. (fn. 11) Because these claims were bought off by William Rufus, (fn. 12) it has been assumed that they were valid: but the ecclesiastical authorities always decided that they were untenable. Pope Nicholas in 1061 in a confirmation charter to Bishop Wulfwig specially mentioned the district (parochia) of Lindsey and the church of Stow, (fn. 13) and the action of Eadnoth in founding a monastery at Stow makes it improbable that it was in the diocese of York at that time.
From the invocations of Oxfordshire churches little can be deduced about the early history of Christianity in the county. The patron saint of Bicester church, doubtless founded in early times, is Saint Edburga, but whether she is the Edburga of Kent, or a local saint, commemorated also in the name Adderbury (originally Edburg-bury), is uncertain. On the southern slope of the site of Oxford there were five adjacent parishes with unusual invocations; south of the castle was the parish of St. Budoc or Buoc, a saint of Cornwall and Brittany, now only commemorated at two churches in Devonshire and Cornwall; next was the parish of St. Ebbe's, a saint found also at Shelswell, Oxfordshire, and at two northern churches; next is St. Aldate, an unknown saint, who has also a church in Gloucestershire; next was St. Frideswide to whose honour there was dedicated only one other church in England; and lastly, St. Edward King and Martyr, to whom there are three other churches. St. Frideswide was undoubtedly a person who played some part in the ecclesiastical history of the county, but the details of her parentage and adventures date only from the middle or end of the twelfth century, when she had been made in a certain sense the tutelary saint of Oxford. Until the priory of St. Frideswide was founded, she seems to have been of little fame; prominent people desired to be buried at Abingdon, not at St. Frideswide's as far as we know, (fn. 14) and the annual Oxford fair was not kept on her day but on the day of St. Benedict even as late as the year 1228. (fn. 15) But we may credit the short account given by William of Malmesbury, who wrote before, or about the time of the foundation of the Augustinian canons of St. Frideswide, that she was the daughter of a king or prince and founded a convent at Oxford. (fn. 16)
One record of the church in Oxfordshire during the Saxon period is to be found in a manuscript of ecclesiastical canons, written about 1020, now preserved in the Bodleian Library. (fn. 17) From the fact that there are notes on one of the leaves in a contemporary hand, indicating that its owner had property at Thame, Banbury, and Aylesbury, localities where in later days the bishops of Lincoln had possessions, it has been concluded that it belonged to a bishop of Dorchester.
The Norman Conquest did not cause any violent change in the ecclesiastical affairs of the county. The Saxon bishop, Wulfwig, was not deposed; and the lands which belonged to the see of Dorchester were not confiscated, but the king treated them as he treated the lands of the great abbeys. He imposed a certain amount of knight-service, and from the lands of the bishop throughout the diocese the service of sixty knights could be demanded. The bishop died in 1067 and the see was given to a Norman, named Remigius, who had helped the Conqueror with men and money at the time of the invasion.
Domesday Book shows how extensive were the possessions of the Church in this county at the end of the reign of William I. The archbishop of Canterbury had seven burgages in the town of Oxford, and 15 hides of land in the county, being the manors of Newington and Britwell, given to his see in 997 by Queen Emma. (fn. 18) The bishop of Winchester had similarly nine burgages and the manors of Witney and Adderbury, containing 45 hides. The bishop of the diocese had the three hundreds of Thame, Banbury, and Dorchester, being 290 hides. Thame and Banbury were normal hundreds, consisting of 100 hides, the manors in each hundred being adjacent; but the hundred of Dorchester was composed of detached manors, viz. Epwell in the north of the county, Waterstock (5 hides), a manor in Baldon (7½ hides), South Stoke (17¼ hides), Dorchester, including Clifton Hampden, Drayton, Stadhampton, and Chislehampton, and lastly a manor in Benson called Fifhide, which is not actually mentioned in Domesday, but was possessed by the bishop as early as we have any records about the parish; these manors were thrown together into a hundred of 90 hides. The bishop also had thirty houses in Oxford. But perhaps a better idea of the extent of the bishop's holding is given by the number of his knights that were enfeoffed in this county. In the year 1166 it was found that on his properties throughout the diocese the bishop had enfeoffed as many as 102 knights. (fn. 19) Of this number thirty-two were reckoned to be within the hundreds of Banbury, Thame, and Dorchester; (fn. 20) and yet in each hundred the bishop had retained for himself a manor, which belonged to the see until the Reformation, and he had also provided land for the foundation of the monasteries of Thame, Dorchester, and Clattercote. (fn. 21) Although Oxfordshire was only oneeighth of the diocese, it supported more than a quarter of the knights of the bishop.
In the year 1070 it was decided that the bishop's seat should be transferred from Dorchester to Lincoln. The Saxon system by which cathedrals were erected in remote places had for some years been seen to be inconvenient, and on this ground it was decided that Remigius should remove to Lincoln. It has generally been thought that this step was taken in consequence of the decision of the Council of London, in 1075, that episcopal sees should be removed from insignificant towns; but a writ of William I (fn. 22) asserts that he had moved the see with the counsel of Pope Alexander (1061–73), and a charter of William II mentions that the transference of the see from Dorchester 'where it had been founded of old without convenience or adequate dignity,' was made 'with the authority of Pope Alexander and the legates whom he sent hither especially to settle this matter.' (fn. 23) As the visit of the legates was in 1070, we know the date when the decision was taken.
But, of course, it took many years before Lincoln was ready for the bishop: a cathedral and other buildings had to be erected, and it was only in 1092 that the cathedral was sufficiently advanced for its dedication. Not only was the cathedral to be transferred from Oxfordshire, but also the monastery of Eynsham, which had been refounded by Remigius. (fn. 24) He did not, however, live to see his plans completed, as he died in 1092, just before the date fixed for the dedication.
The natural result of this removal was that Oxfordshire, which had been the most episcopal county in the diocese, became the county least interested in the see. It would not be true to say that it was in any way neglected by the bishop, who, in spite of its distance from Lincoln, every year seems to have paid visits to his manors of Banbury, Thame, and Dorchester; but the cathedral, the choir, and the support of residentiary canons did not appeal to the laity of Oxfordshire. Among the 1,500 charters in the muniment room of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln, conveying to the cathedral virgates, rents, mills, and houses in the different counties of the diocese, there is no gift from Oxfordshire, except that of the manor and church of Langford given to the bishop by King Stephen, and 5s. in Langford given by a private individual to the communa of the canons. Devout folk enriched the monasteries or hospitals in the county, but gave nothing to the cathedral.
The history of the bishops of the diocese will be found under 'Ecclesiastical History' in the Victoria County History of Lincolnshire, but something may be said about the early archdeacons of Oxfordshire. Of the first, named Alfred, nothing is known; but Walter, who succeeded him, was a man of importance. He is described by Henry of Huntingdon (fn. 25) as a magnificent orator (superlative rhetoricus), while Geoffrey of Monmouth (fn. 26) says 'he was accomplished in the art of oratory and foreign history.' He is specially famous as the patron and helper of Geoffrey, having provided him with a book brought from Wales (ex Britannia), written in the Welsh language, containing deeds of British kings. (fn. 27) Gaimar also, writing about the same time, says that he had obtained 'the good book of Oxford, which belonged to Walter the archdeacon.' (fn. 28) He was in office in 1112, (fn. 29) and was alive in 1149 (fn. 30) or later. Le Neve assigns his death to 1151, and he was certainly dead by 12 May, 1151; for a deed of that date is attested by his successor, Robert Foliot. (fn. 31) From a confirmation by Pope Eugenius (fn. 32) in 1145 we learn that he was the provost or head of the secular canons of St. George's; and therefore it was natural that when, in 1147, the canons of St. Frideswide's claimed the church of St. Mary Magdalen, Oxford, against the canons of St. George's, it fell to him to resist them. (fn. 33) Two years later all the possessions of St. George's were given by the patrons to Oseney Abbey, saving the life interest of each canon. Perhaps this step displeased him; for we are informed (fn. 34) that he proceeded to erect on his prebend (fn. 35) a building, which he called a church, in spite of the prohibition of the bishop of Lincoln, and gave it to St. Frideswide's, whereby, in 1151, the latter house after his death laid claim to his prebend, and apparently to the church of St. George's. (fn. 36) Both Oseney and St. Frideswide's appealed to the pope, and the decision was given against the latter, as had also been the case in 1147. Walter was probably more prominent as a lawyer than as an ecclesiastic, and we find him one of the judges in an important suit at Winchester in 1114 or earlier, (fn. 37) and justiciar at Peterborough in 1125. (fn. 38) In 1129 the first witness to the foundation charter of the abbey of Oseney is Walter the archdeacon, another being Geoffrey of Monmouth; and the two names occur in a charter in the Godstow Cartulary, a grant by the archdeacon being witnessed by 'magister Galfridus Artour.' (fn. 39) He was a benefactor to Godstow, leaving it his land at Shillingford, that had belonged to his wife (amica), by name Brityna, which she had left to him. (fn. 40)
Of his successors it need only be said that Walter de Constantiis, who was much employed at court, seems to have delegated his work as archdeacon to subordinates; for we hear of a Philip, who was 'vice-archidiaconus' in 1175, while Nicholas of Lewknor held the same post in 1182. In the same way Richard Grim of Aylesbury, canon of Lincoln, was vice-archdeacon to John de Constantiis (1186–96), the reason in this case being that he was taking a degree, 'dum in scolis moratur,' (fn. 41) and therefore unable to do his work. His successor, Walter Map, appointed in 1196, was in possession of the office in 1204 (fn. 42) and 1208. (fn. 43) When, therefore, we read (fn. 44) that John de Gray was archdeacon of Oxford in 1200, we must conjecture 'Exoniae' for 'Oxoniae,' and substitute Exeter for Oxford. John de Tinemue, (fn. 45) the next archdeacon, was in office in 1215 and 1220, (fn. 46) and is said to have died in 1221. (fn. 47)
Some of these earlier archdeacons seem to have held the prebend of Langford Ecclesia in Lincoln Cathedral. There is an original charter preserved at Lincoln, (fn. 48) no doubt of the year 1151, by which the Chapter gives notification that
Robert, bishop of Lincoln, with our advice and assent, has granted to Robert, archdeacon of Oxford, the church of Langford for his prebend, to be held with all its appurtenances as freely as Ralph, dean of London, held it; so that this prebend should for ever be joined to the archdeaconry of Oxford, and from henceforth every archdeacon of Oxford shall be a canon of the church of Lincoln by means of this prebend.
Some such provision was necessary in 1151, on the death of Walter, the late archdeacon, who having his canonry in the chapel of St. George's, Oxford, would have required no provision from the cathedral of Lincoln. The new arrangement, like many other schemes in connexion with the prebends of Lincoln, was soon abandoned. The prebendary of Langford ecclesia about 1205–10, described (fn. 49) as 'magister W.,' may have been Walter Map, archdeacon of Oxford; in 1233 another archdeacon held the same prebend, (fn. 50) and his predecessor therein was John de Tynemue, (fn. 51) who was also among the archdeacons of Oxford. But in June, 1249, and October, 1275, it was held by William de Pokelinton and William de Merleberge, (fn. 52) neither of whom were archdeacons, and from 1330, at which date Le Neve begins his list of the prebendaries of Langford Ecclesia, the archdeacons of Oxford rarely, if ever, held this prebend.
Besides this prebend of Langford Ecclesia, Oxfordshire supplied the maintenance for six other canons. As is well known, the number of prebends at Lincoln Cathedral was gradually increased. Bishop Remigius founded twenty-one, his successor, Robert Bloett, increased them to forty-two, Bishop Alexander added 'several'; and Robert de Chesney added one, raising the number to fifty-four. (fn. 53) This last addition we can identify with the prebend of Langford Manor, a charter in the Godstow Cartulary (fn. 54) definitely stating that Robert de Chesney turned his manor into a prebend. It had originally been the property of Roger bishop of Salisbury, (fn. 55) and may have passed from him to his nephew, Bishop Alexander. It was at first one of the demesne manors of the bishop, but about 1152 was, as we have seen, made a prebend.
Langford Ecclesia was granted (fn. 56) to Bishop Alexander by King Stephen, probably in 1142, and seems to have been made a prebend at once, being given to Ralph, who is distinguished in the list of deans of St. Paul's as Ralph of Langford.
The churches of Thame, Banbury, and Cropredy supplied the maintenance for three more canons, but as we find Bishop Robert Bloett granting portions of tithe in these churches to the monastery of Eynsham, (fn. 57) it is clear that these three were not among the twenty-one prebends instituted by Bishop Remigius, his predecessor.
Milton manor, which formed a sixth prebend, was probably set aside in early times; perhaps by Remigius. A confirmation by Pope Eugenius in 1146 defines it as 'half the manor of Milton,' i.e. twenty hides, the remainder being held by one of the knights of the bishop. In some of the Lincoln deeds the prebend is described as 'Milton cum Binbrook,' no doubt because land at Binbrooke, Lincolnshire, was attached to augment this prebend.
The last prebend, Milton Ecclesia, dates from 1290. The church of Milton with several other churches had previously been attached to the rich prebend of Aylesbury, but after the monks of Eynsham had surrendered (fn. 58) their portion of tithes in Milton, there was sufficient maintenance for a canon, and thus Bishop Oliver Sutton, with the consent of Pope Nicholas, constituted a new prebend.
There were also in this county ten hides in Horley and Hornton attached to the prebend of King's Sutton held with that prebend by the archdeacon of Bucks about the year 1219, (fn. 59) and also in 1239. (fn. 60) Oxfordshire therefore, though in size only one-eighth of the diocese of Lincoln, supplied more than seven prebends to the cathedral out of a total of fifty-six.
Passing now to the early ecclesiastical history of the parishes of the county, when we ask at what date they were organized, and how many parish churches there were in early times, we find that we have no complete ecclesiastical survey of the county before the 'Taxatio' of 1291. Domesday Book, which mentions churches in some counties, pays no attention to them in Oxfordshire, but such evidence as there is suggests that there were more than 150 churches in the county when the book was compiled. The number has not usually been estimated as high as this, and because the 'Taxatio' mentions only 188 churches, it is assumed that the number in 1086 would not have been more than 100; but it is easy to prove from the Institutions of the bishops of Lincoln, which begin in 1215, and from attestations to early charters, that the 'Taxatio' is incomplete; for one reason or another, sometimes because the churches were too poor to be taxed, sometimes because they were appropriated to the Templars or the Hospitallers, it omits more than a quarter of the churches that existed in 1291; and it would be safe to say that there were as many churches and chapels-of-ease in the county in the year 1200 as there were six centuries later. To constitute a new parish was a difficult matter after the beginning of the thirteenth century, or even earlier; the mother-church, without whose consent it could not be done, was unwilling to part with its tithes; and it may be assumed as a general rule that any parish mentioned in the Valor of 1535 was in existence in the year 1200; at all events in Oxfordshire we have sufficient evidence to show that this was the case.
The result of a survey of the county is to show that the number of churches and chapels in 1291 must be raised to 260 or 265; and although Milcombe Chapel and some others may have been built in the thirteenth century, yet the evidence of charters and of the rolls of institutions proves that in the year 1200 we cannot place the number lower than 250. In the previous century the building of churches and the formation of parishes was more rapid; but the cartularies of monastic houses of Oxfordshire which carry us back to 1130 or 1140 show that there was no radical difference in the last sixty years of the twelfth century; and it would be unwise to estimate the number of churches in the county at the time of the Domesday Survey at much less than 180, of which 150 would be parish churches.
The foundation of religious houses in Oxfordshire followed the usual lines: first came Benedictine houses, then in the reigns of Henry I and Stephen the Austin and Cistercian rules became more popular. The earliest monastery of the county was Eynsham, a Benedictine house, dating from the reign of William II. In the reign of Henry I the Austin houses of St. Frideswide and Oseney were founded; Dorchester and Cold Norton in the reign of Stephen; Bicester in the reign of Henry II; and Wroxton, the last, in 1217. It must not be forgotten that those who followed the Austin rule were not monks, and though their houses were called monasteries in later days, and became much the same as houses of monks, this was not the original intention. It was meant at first that the canons should take charge of parish churches, living together in scattered clergy-houses, and as late as 1220 (fn. 61) it was expected that the canons of Oseney would, as a rule, be living in parishes that were appropriated to their house, though there would be vicars to do the parish work. All the Austin houses of Oxfordshire, except Cold Norton, show in their foundation this feature of the Austin rule, in that they were all endowed with churches. St. Frideswide's was given six or seven churches at its foundation; Oseney was given five or six; Dorchester was granted all the daughter churches of the old cathedral; Bicester was given three or four churches; and even Wroxton was granted one church at its foundation. But the Cistercian houses on the other hand—Thame and Bruern—were given no churches, though they obtained a few rectories in later days.
Although the Benedictine rule for men seemed to lose its popularity early in the twelfth century, so that after that time the stricter Cistercian rule superseded it, this did not apply to houses for women. There were no Cistercian houses for women in the county, and though one of the earliest of the nunneries, Goring, was of the Austin order, Godstow, Littlemore, and Studley, which were founded in the reigns of Henry I, Stephen, and Henry II, adhered to the Benedictine rule. But a fuller account of the foundation and growth of the religious houses will be found elsewhere.
Besides monks and canons there were also in the county several anchorites at various times and a few hermits. The former, who were also called incluses or recluses, were men or women who had attached themselves to some church, living in an annexed building like a vestry, with a window, if not a door, opening into the church. One of the earliest is the Mathew inclusus of Holywell Church of whom we hear about 1180. (fn. 62) At Iffley there was a reclusa named Annora, to whom the king made grants of firewood in 1233 and 1234 (fn. 63) and of a pension of 100s. a year. (fn. 64) From these entries we see that anchorites did not always lead a life of great discomfort or destitution; and we hear in several Oseney charters of an inclusa of Faringdon in Berkshire, who owned house property in Oxford. In 1242 the king 'grants to Alice, who has taken a vow to serve God in some solitary place, that she may build a reclusorium on the north side of the church of St. Budhoc in Oxford'; (fn. 65) and in 1271 Nicholas de Weston (fn. 66) leaves by will the sums of 3s. to the anchorite of St. Budoc's; 2s. to those of Crowmarsh and Faringdon (Berkshire); 1s. to those of Horsepath, Hinxey, Seacourt (Berkshire), St. Giles's (Oxford), St. Peter's and St. John's; and as the will contains legacies to all religious houses in or near Oxford, it is probable that this is a complete list of the anchorites of the neighbourhood. The word anachorita, which is used, need not imply that they were men; probably the majority were women. Besides joining in the service of the church, they were useful as caretakers of churches; for it is by no means the case that they were immured in their cells. Of one, probably the recluse of the church of St. Thomas, Oxford, we read (fn. 67) that while she hardly ever left the building, most of her time was spent within the church, and the young clerk, there mentioned, conversed with her, apparently as she was coming into the church. From the entry in the Patent Rolls concerning the church of St. Budoc, and from entries about anchorites in other counties, it is clear that an anchor-hold could not be erected without the consent of the patron of the church.
Hermits, who were fewer in number than anchorites, lived in secluded places, and generally, if not always, had a chapel in which they ministered. Such was Ralph, the hermit of Musewell Hill in the parish of Piddington, who built there the chapel of St. Cross about 1140, and about 1153 gave it with its endowments to Missenden Abbey. (fn. 68) In a Bruern deed, (fn. 69) certainly earlier than 1175, one of the witnesses is Robert 'heremita, diaconus de Holawella,' probably Holwell in Bradwell parish; and possibly this chapel, which served an outlying part of the parish, was first constructed by or for him. A third hermit was Simon Kirton, hermit of the chapel of Newelme in Wychwood, who in 1403 had licence from the king to enclose two crofts in the forest. (fn. 70) A successor of his was Thomas Wylkys, hermit of Newelme, who made his will 23 September, 1458, leaving 3s. 4d. to the repair of the chapel of Newelme, where he wished to be buried; 3s. 4d. to the abbey of Bruern; money, a cow, and a horse to various relations; and vestments to the chapel of Leafield. (fn. 71) Subsequently the chapel of Newelme must have been granted to Bruern Abbey, but in the Valor of 1535 it was asserted that the king did not allow the abbey to obtain possession of it. (fn. 72) At Finmere also there was a hermit, apparently a monk from Bradwell in Buckinghamshire, about whom we have the curious notice in the Close Rolls of 1228, that the forester of Shotover Forest was to take the hermitage of Finmere into the king's hand, and make provision for the celebration of divine service there, enjoining William the monk of Bradwell to return to his monastery and remain there. (fn. 73) As a hermit's life was considered to be more strict than life in a monastery, those who had entered religion would occasionally become hermits. Thus in the time of Abbot Clement (1205–21) a canon of Oseney named Wiger retired with the consent of his superiors to a life of solitude 'at a place called Kibbeclive.' (fn. 74)
Concerning the origin of vicarages and their extent in early times, we have in Oxfordshire, in common with the other archdeaconries of the diocese of Lincoln, unusually full evidence. The Liber Antiquus (fn. 75) gives the vicarages that were in existence towards the end of the time of Bishop Hugh, and the rolls of institution of himself (fn. 76) and his successors give us some additional information. We are here using the word 'vicarage' as it was applied to parishes where the church was held by a monastery; for, as the rolls of institutions of Bishop Hugh reveal, there were in early days a large number of vicarages of a different kind, where the rector of a parish presented a vicar, either because he himself was not in holy orders, or because he was an official of the church and unable to reside on his cure. In these cases the vicar was more than a chaplain as he held his post for life, but on his cession or death, the vicarage and rectory might be united, or, to use the technical term, consolidated. Probably the words vicar and vicarage were first used in such cases, and there is mention of a vicar of this kind as early as 1183 in Mickleton in Gloucestershire. (fn. 77) In Oxfordshire we find several parishes with both rectors and vicars: Haseley, Albury, Launton, Tackley, Islip, Godington, Swalcliffe, Chesterton, Drayton, Swerford; (fn. 78) but when opportunity offered the rectory and vicarage were consolidated. In most of these cases the rectory was of less value than the vicarage, and at St. John's, Oxford, was worth only 2s. a year, (fn. 79) and the vicars were in some cases men of position; thus the rural dean of Woodstock, 'Thomas de Bertona,' a witness to several charters, proves to have been not the rector, but the vicar, of Westcot Barton. (fn. 80) Rectories of this kind were created for the benefit of clerks of good family or high official position, who by this means were enabled either to receive some of the emoluments of a church without proceeding to holy orders, or to evade the rule of the church that no one should hold more than one benefice with cure of souls; for if the cure of souls was attached to the vicarage, it was legitimate to hold more than one rectory. Among these absentee rectors we find Giraldus Cambrensis, rector of Chesterton, but with a resident vicar. (fn. 81) These irregular vicarages were gradually suppressed, and the purposes for which they were originated were in later ages secured by obtaining a papal dispensation. Thus Ralf Despencer, whose father, Almaric, held six or eight knight's fees, obtained a papal dispensation in 1234, that though he was already rector of Ewelme (and apparently also canon of Southwell), he might hold in addition the rectory of Great Rollright, because of his 'good birth, high character, and scholarship.' (fn. 82)
Perpetual vicarages in Oxfordshire, with the rectory appropriated to some monastic house, were as many as forty-six before 1235, (fn. 83) and this without reckoning Benson, Warborough and the other daughter-churches of Dorchester, which were treated as chapels rather than vicarages. And the custom of appropriations continued down to the eve of the dissolution of the monasteries. Under Bishop Grosteste vicarages were established at Cuddesdon in 1237 and Fulwell in 1238; (fn. 84) under Bishop Gravesend at Clanfield in 1267, Bix Brand in 1275, (fn. 85) Brize Norton about 1268, (fn. 86) and St. Peter's in the East in 1266. (fn. 87) In 1295 the church of Charlbury was appropriated to Eynsham; (fn. 88) Northleigh to Hailes Abbey in 1304; (fn. 89) Great Tew to Godstow in 1309; (fn. 90) Enstone to Winchcombe Abbey in 1310; (fn. 91) and Chalgrove to Thame Abbey in 1319. (fn. 92) Under Bishop Burghersh we have two appropriations—St. Mary, Oxford, appropriated to Oriel College in 1326, (fn. 93) and Ambrosden to the house of Ashridge in 1334. (fn. 94) Immediately after the Black Death we find Beckley appropriated to the nuns of Studley in 1352, Deddington to the canons of Windsor in 1353, and Merton to the monks of Eynsham in 1354; (fn. 95) while Steeple Aston was obtained by Cold Norton in 1382, North Stoke by the nuns of Bromhall about 1392, and Adderbury by New College in 1396. (fn. 96) In 1398 St. Frideswide's was allowed to appropriate Churchill, and Eynsham the churches of South Stoke, South Newington, and Combe. (fn. 97) In 1412 the canons of Chalcombe appropriated the church of Barford, (fn. 98) but the troubles of the fifteenth century seem to have reduced most churches to such poverty that it was impossible to allow an appropriation, and the only other case is in 1506 when Stanton Harcourt with the chapel of Southleigh was appropriated to Reading Abbey. (fn. 99) But though the monasteries drew large sums from parish churches, they were not without conscience, and occasionally when a vicarage sank in value would surrender the rectory which had been appropriated to them. Thus in 1465 the abbey of Eynsham consolidated the rectory and vicarage of Combe; (fn. 100) and Oseney Abbey did the same at Chastleton in 1459. (fn. 101) Four years earlier the canon of Salisbury who held the prebend of Shipton-under-Wychwood endowed the vicarage anew because of its poverty. (fn. 102)
It is sometimes assumed that perpetual vicarages were first instituted by Bishop Hugh Wells of Lincoln (1209–35), but several were settled by his great predecessor, St. Hugh (1186–1200). Thus in 1197 he allowed Eynsham to appropriate the church of Cassington, reserving for the vicar a portion of 5 marks; (fn. 103) and shortly afterwards he instituted 'to the perpetual vicarage' of Souldern. (fn. 104) The language used in this case is noticeable, for in later times the incumbent of Souldern was called rector, not vicar. The explanation is that as Eynsham took an annual payment from the church of Souldern, it was undecided at first in this and other instances, whether this payment was to be considered the rector's share, in which case the incumbent would be the vicar; and it is not easy to draw a sharp distinction between an appropriated church and a church which paid a pension, except that in the former case there was always a rectorial manse as well as a house for the vicar, and the monastic rector collected his share of the tithes and stored them at the rectory. At all events it was settled by the year 1220 that the churches which paid pensions to Eynsham were to be reckoned rectories, not vicarages.
In Oxfordshire we can illustrate—what was true of all other counties— how great was the difference in wealth and social position between the higher and the lower clergy. Whatever may have been the gulf between the wealth of bishops and the poverty of the parish clergy in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, it is as nothing to what we find in the Middle Ages. From the rules of the Council of Oxford in 1222, and from the vicarages appointed by Bishop Hugh we learn that 5 marks a year was a minimum stipend for the parish clergy, while £5 was ample; and so little did prices vary for the next three centuries that in the collection for the subsidy of 1526 we find that £5 a year was the average pay of a curate at that time, while a chantry was adequately endowed with £6 or £7 a year. Nor must it be thought that these were any casual emoluments to eke out the stipend; for in estimating the value of a vicarage allowance was evidently made for all that might be expected from legacies and offerings. (fn. 105) It may be estimated that a vicar received nearly the same pay as an artisan or double the pay of a labourer. When the buildings of Magdalen College were being erected in 1467 the labourers received about 20d. a week (fn. 106) and skilled masons 3s.; two and a half centuries earlier 2d. a day was the pension of old servants of the king; (fn. 107) and the current allowance for anchorites was 1½d. a day and 10s. a year for clothes. (fn. 108) But if it is true that the parish clergy were not in actual want, their position was very different from that of those who by high birth or abilities became prebendaries or archdeacons. In Oxfordshire we find prebends ranging from that of Banbury worth £30 a year to Thame worth £112; (fn. 109) and pluralism was so developed in the Middle Ages, that few were content with one prebend. A return (fn. 110) made in 1366 of the benefices held by some of the higher clergy of the diocese of Lincoln shows that one of the canons held prebends in four cathedrals together with two rectories, that his income from all sources was about £150, and that many others had as much. Archdeacons were even more wealthy, the archdeacon of Oxford obtaining from procurations and synodals the sum of £131, (fn. 111) his outgoings being reckoned at only £30; in addition to this he always held the rectory of Iffley and one of the prebends of Lincoln. More wealthy still was the bishop, with an income of £1,008 in 1168, (fn. 112) reckoned at £1,340 in the year 1225, (fn. 113) more than two hundred times the income of a vicar.
Of the inner life of the Church in this county during the Middle Ages, of its working and influence in town or country it is difficult to form any estimate. We know that during the century (1135–1220) when England was seething with religious excitement, a century of miracles and visions, of crusades and interdicts, Oxford felt the movement as much as any place. In 1180 after a succession of miracles, the bones of St. Frideswide were translated with the king's consent and in the presence of many bishops, and a manuscript (fn. 114) describes how from parishes throughout the county those that were sick journeyed to her tomb and recovered; one even that had obtained no benefit at the shrine of St. Thomas was healed at hers. Sixteen years later a vision (fn. 115) seen by Edmund, a monk of Eynsham, created no little stir, and is doubly interesting if, as seems probable, the monk was a native of the town of Oxford, and the instances he gives of virtue and vice rewarded in the other world were taken by him from among his neighbours and acquaintances. The work as a whole gives the impression that there was much intellectual and religious activity at Oxford at the end of the twelfth century, the period when St. Edmund and Grosteste were studying and lecturing there. It was a time when Oxford was specially prominent; in 1166 a council was gathered there to condemn a certain heresy, the king himself being present. (fn. 116)
In 1180 he was in Oxford again when the bones of St. Frideswide were translated, though he was unable to attend the ceremony; his son Richard I was born at the palace of Beaumont, in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen; the court was frequently at Woodstock, and a council was held there in 1186, attended by five bishops; (fn. 117) while in 1197 there was a gathering (fn. 118) of bishops and statesmen at Oxford to discuss the demands of Richard I. Probably the town has never seen so much of kings and bishops as during those forty years. Finally in 1222 there was a great council at Oseney Abbey under Stephen Langton.
With the year 1215 the episcopal registers commence, but unfortunately for the first seventy-five years only the rolls of institutions survive. The other, and for our purpose more valuable, records of the general business of the diocese, which certainly were at one time in existence, have been missing for the last 300 years. But incomplete as they are, the registers throw some light on the church history of the county. As the enthusiasm for monasteries subsided we find new kinds of religious foundations coming to the fore. Apart from support given to the friars, of which the episcopal registers give us no information, much money was spent in the thirteenth and following centuries on the erection and maintenance of private chapels, to be served by private chaplains. These chapels were of every variety of status, and had no uniformity or fixed type. Some were temporary, some were permanent; in a few cases there were endowments, generally none; sometimes there was no separate building but only an oratory in the house. An early private chapel was that of Roger de St. John, established by him at Great Barton about 1205–15 with the consent of Oseney Abbey, to whom the church of the parish was appropriated. (fn. 119) The same house granted the right of a private chapel to Ralf Hareng (fn. 120) (1221–8) at Thrup in the parish of Kidlington, and at a later date to Hugh de Plecy on his manor of Kidlington; (fn. 121) in the former case the privilege was temporary, lasting only for the life of the recipient, in the latter case it was permanent and was to descend to Hugh's heirs, Oseney receiving in return an annual payment of 5s. Matthew de Bixtrop (1221–8) obtained a similar grant from Eynsham for his chapel at Forest Hill, and the roll of Bishop Grosteste mentions the establishment of such chapels at Ewelme in 1237 and at Hide in Whitchurch in 1244. In this last case the privilege was to be permanent, and the chapel was to be endowed, but it might not possess either bell or font; the chaplain, to be nominated by the patron, was to be presented to the bishop and was called the rector of the chapel. Sometimes, in cases where the chapel was endowed, the rector or vicar of the parish was willing to take charge of it, as at Little Haseley (fn. 122) or at Standhill in the parish of Pyrton, so that though erected for the convenience of the resident lord they became parochial chapels-at-ease. Standhill chapel, which has long been destroyed, had good endowments, which still survive. (fn. 123) Sometimes the inhabitants of an outlying hamlet would build a chapel for themselves and engage a chaplain, as at Wheatley, where in 1523 the chapel was served by a friar who celebrated mass on festivals for a stipend of 40s. paid by the parishioners. (fn. 124) All such chapels could only be established with the consent of the parson or the monastic house to which the church had been appropriated, and the terms that could be obtained from them varied in different cases, but it was generally stipulated that the chapel should not be used by the parishioners at large, at all events for rites and ceremonies to which a payment was attached, and that the lord and his family should use the parish church for baptisms, churchings, burials, and certain occasions on which special offerings would be made. Sometimes it was laid down that he should attend on the great festivals and make his confession there. At Kidlington (fn. 125) it was also agreed that 'if a new knight was made at the manor house, he should offer and redeem his sword, according to custom, at the parish church,' not in the private chapel. These agreements were altered from time to time, and more favourable conditions might be granted by the parson in return for some benefit to the parish church.
Few of these private chapels survive, and probably there is only one which has been in continual use from the fourteenth century—the chapel at Stonor near Henley. This was probably erected in the reign of Edward II; for it is recorded that with the consent of the bishop two of the daughters of Sir John de Stonor were married there in 1331 by the vicar of Pyrton. (fn. 126)
Besides chapels, there were oratories licensed by the bishop for one or two or five years, or sometimes for the life of the petitioner. Such licences were given, it seems, only to a lord of a manor or to priests who for some reason desired to have a private oratory. They were renewed from time to time and occur in great numbers in the episcopal registers. In one case a nobleman, Adam de Shareshulle, in 1338 obtained leave for one year to have divine service said by his chaplain in two parochial chapels, at Lyneham and Ascot respectively (fn. 127); and six years earlier the abbey of Dorchester had a similar licence for a chapel they had erected at Huntercombe, (fn. 128) but as it was not renewed at the termination of the year we may perhaps conclude that Dorchester did not find it to be a satisfactory arrangement.
Towards the end of the thirteenth century we meet with another kind of foundation, of more expense and wider benefit, namely chantries. They were endowments of land or rent sufficient to maintain at least one priest, whose work was to say mass and the hours daily in the parish church with certain additional devotions at special seasons; in most cases a special chapel was built for his use. The main purpose of those who founded them was, according to their own assertions, the increase of the dignity of divine worship; a secondary purpose was connected with the doctrine of purgatory; a third was to supply the parish priest with an assistant; for though the chantry priest had no share in the work of the parish, he was in some cases to assist at mass according to the directions of the parish priest, and in all cases it must have been a convenience to the parishioners to have a second mass at which they could make their communions on the great festivals. The first chantry to be instituted was apparently that at Minster Lovell, founded and endowed by John Lovel in or about 1273 'in the chapel of St. Cecilia in the cemetery of the church of Minster.' (fn. 129) In 1307 a chantry was founded in a chapel of the church of Rousham by Walter de Ailesbury, lord of the manor, and endowed with rents to the value of five marks; and the rector of the parish considering that the said chantry would be useful to his church granted a house for the use of the chaplain. (fn. 130) Earlier than this, in fact before 1290, the chantry of St. Mary had been founded by Richard Wale in the parish church of Chipping Norton, at the altar of St. James 'which was erected in the old chapel of Norton' (fn. 131); he endowed it with 60s. of rent annually, and presented William Wale. In 1307 its establishment is attributed to the late 'magister' William Wale, and the late rector of Chipping Norton had augmented its income by 20s. a year. (fn. 132) At Chastleton there was a chantry in the chapel of St. Mary, adjoining the parish church, founded in 1336 by John de Trillowe, lord of the manor; (fn. 133) and at Standlake a chantry at the altar of the Holy Cross, established in 1354 by Simon de Evesham, rector of Standlake. (fn. 134) The regulations of this foundation forbade the chantry priest to undertake a parochial chaplaincy for more than fifteen days in the year, or any secular office which involved the rendering of accounts; besides his duties of prayer and mass, he was to choose one of the boys of the village and teach him the scriptures and singing for a period of ten years, paying him 6d. a week for his maintenance; the patronage of this chantry was to belong to the rectors of Standlake. But it was at Oxford that chantries were chiefly founded, most of the leading burgesses of the fourteenth century being commemorated in that way. In 1323 Robert de Wormenhale endowed a chantry at the altar of St. Andrew in the church of St. Peter le Bailey with rents worth 70s. a year, and presented a missal worth 40s., a chalice worth 16s., 'four towels for covering the altar while service is being celebrated,' and two sets of vestments. (fn. 135) In 1336 John de Dokelinton, who had been mayor nine times, ordained a chantry in St. Aldate's church 'in the chapel which is of my own building' and endowed it with 5 marks a year. (fn. 136) Four years later a similar foundation was made by Thomas de Leigh at the altar of St. Mary in the church of St. Michael outside the south gate; the chaplain was to receive 5 marks a year and live as far as possible among 'scholars'; he was even assigned some parochial work, and with the consent of the rector of the parish might hear the confessions of those who, residing outside the city, were seized with sudden illness at night, when the gates were shut, so that the rector could not come to them. (fn. 137) But in 1357 it was found that rents had fallen so much owing to the pestilence that the original endowments no longer sufficed to maintain a chaplain, and at the request of the founder's son the chantry was granted to Oriel College. In 1350 Nicholas de Burcester, son of the William de Burcester who was mayor twelve times, left endowments for a chantry in All Saints' church, in the chapel of St. Anne, which was 'founded and built by his progenitors.' (fn. 138) Finally, a chantry in memory of John de Stodley, mayor eight times, was established by his widow in 1379 in the chapel which he had founded in All Saints' church in honour of the Holy Trinity. (fn. 139) In all these cases the patronage belonged to the heirs of the founder, and the chaplain was presented to the bishop and instituted as though to a cure of souls. But there were other chantries of which there is no mention in the bishop's lists of institutions, where the endowments were either not sufficient to maintain a priest, or were administered by wardens who engaged a chaplain temporarily to perform the work of the chantry. Of the latter kind were chantries connected with guilds, of which there were instances at Oxford and Chipping Norton; of the former kind we hear of several in early Oxford wills, and in many churches there was a chantry managed by special wardens, but unable to keep a chaplain. Where the funds would only suffice for a certain number of masses, the parish priest was generally engaged to say them. After the beginning of the fifteenth century, we hear of the foundation of only one chantry, the richest of all, which was founded at Banbury by Henry V in 1413. (fn. 140)
In the bishops' registers some interesting details of church life may be discovered, but it must be remembered that for the most part they deal with what was exceptional rather than what was normal. When we find the archdeacon commanded in 1290 and 1304 to put a stop to the veneration shown by certain people in Oxford to a well in the parish of St. Clement, (fn. 141) commonly called the well of St. Edmund, we must not think that such superstition was general, any more than that all rectors were like that of Stanton Harcourt, who would not allow the bells to be rung on anniversaries, cut down trees in the churchyard, and hindered the chaplains who were paid by the parishioners. (fn. 142) Another exceptional case was Robert Patteshulle, vicar of Pyrton in 1385, of whom the parishioners complained that he lived far away, that there was no service in church, and that they were deprived of the sacraments and their rights of divine worship. The bishop decreed that the living should be sequestrated; the vicar was to be allowed a maintenance; if what remained was not sufficient to pay a chaplain, the parishioners and the monastery to which the church was appropriated were to contribute. (fn. 143) Of church building we have some notices; in 1292 the bishop issued an instruction that while the church of Sydenham, which had fallen into ruins, was being repaired, a wooden chapel which the parishioners had built for service might be licensed, if it were found to be decent. (fn. 144) The playing of such games in churchyards as led to effusion of blood had to be prohibited, (fn. 145) and cases of assaults in church were not uncommon; in 1364 a tailor who took sanctuary in Charlbury church was assaulted and left half dead; (fn. 146) and it is curious that the possibility of such pollution of the church had been provided for when a vicarage was ordained in Charlbury in 1296; for it was then settled (fn. 147) that if it were necessary to have a dedication or reconciliation of the church the expense should not fall on the vicar, unless it had been brought about through his fault, and in the case just mentioned such a reconciliation would be necessary, blood having been shed within the building.
The Black Death of 1349 has left curiously little trace in the registers. The diocesan business was continued as usual, and it is only when the institutions for the year are counted and found to be 103 instead of thirteen or fourteen, that we realize what was happening. It need not, of course, be the case that 103 of the parish clergy of the county died in that year; many of the institutions may have been cases of promotion from one cure to another; but it is safe to say that the death-rate during that year was seven times what it usually was. Perhaps the only reference to the stress of the time is when the bishop says that he was 'busy as all men know' (notorie impeditus).
In the fifteenth century we have a few cases of the union of parishes. In 1466 Asterley was united with Kiddington, (fn. 148) and in 1453 Boulney with Harpsden. (fn. 149) In each case it was ordered that the churchyard should be maintained, though the church was pulled down. The pestilences of the last half of the fourteenth century lessened the numbers, while the progress of inclosures, as sheep-farming was found profitable, diminished the need of labourers, and villages ceased to be inhabited.
Fulwell, originally an independent parish, the church of which was given to Oseney in 1205, had so sunk by the year 1434 that its population consisted only of the family and servants of Robert Ardern, and the church was served from Mixbury, as it had been for many years. (fn. 150) Warpsgrove seems to have had no inhabitants by the year 1453, (fn. 151) but none the less rectors were presented and instituted for the next hundred years. Woodperry was another parish where the church came to an end before the Reformation. To judge from the remains that have been found, the church must have been burnt, and as early as 1452 the parish had been united with Stanton St. John, (fn. 152) but the outer walls of the church were standing as late as 1520. (fn. 153)
Though the first home of the teaching of Wycliffe was in the town of Oxford, it had very little permanent influence there or in the county. The devotion of the university to the new doctrines was very short-lived, (fn. 154) and when once it had submitted to the authority of the bishops it showed its zeal by rejecting all traces of Lollardism. Nor did the movement take root in the county; we hear of it in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, but not in Oxfordshire. When we hear that a solemn inquiry was held at Oxford in 1413 concerning heretical depravity, (fn. 155) it only means that the bishop summoned all the leaders of the university and warned them to avoid the new errors. But it seems that Lollardism had a hold in south Buckinghamshire all through the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, especially at Wycombe, Marlow, and Amersham, and occasionally it spread across the border into Oxfordshire. We hear of heretics at Chinnor and Thame in 1464, and have a full record (fn. 156) of one at Henley, named James Wyllys, aged fifty-nine, a weaver and 'lettred.' He was born and brought up at Bristol, where he learnt his heresy and bought his books from one William Smith, who was afterwards burnt in the diocese of Winchester. He had moved to London, and had there been imprisoned for heresy and had abjured. Now he was arrested at Henley in 1462 on the charge of having taught the following doctrines: That after consecration in the Sacrament of the Altar there remains the substance of bread, and that the true body of Christ is not there; that one baptized by a priest in a river or pond in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is as well baptized as if all the solemnities of the Church had been used; that priests living in sin, such as fornication, cannot absolve; that it is vain to burn candles before images, they are but 'stokkes and stonys'; offerings should not be made to them but given to the poor; saints do not need our offerings; there is no purgatory, but after death souls go at once to heaven or hell. He said 'making fun of the matter, as it seemed' (ut apparuit, modo protervo) that he was sorry he had ever made offerings to images in honour of saints. He also had taught that singing of the office, organs, and bell-ringing were not necessary, but rather blameworthy (vituperanda). He said he was ready to maintain his opinions till death and to defend them before any judges. The bishop, seeing that he was obstinately fixed, pronounced a sentence of excommunication against him; whereupon, 'touched by the grace of God and, as it seemed, with a contrite heart, he recalled his learned errors' (sapientes errores), declared them to be false and with tears asked for absolution. The bishop, rejoicing at his contrition, withdrew the sentence of excommunication; but he was, of course, a relapsed heretic, and as such there was but one fate for him. If there was any doubt what it was, it is set at rest by the heading of the record, 'Articuli Jacobi Wyllys combusti.' Some of his associates were also arrested: one John Qwyrk, a labourer, 'not lettred,' who had learned from Wyllys the Epistles of St. Paul in English, and besides the heresies of his master had maintained that an ecclesiastical judge cannot separate man and wife, for 'what God hath joined let no man put asunder'; and that the Apostles voluntarily submitted themselves to poverty, whereas bishops now had excessive possessions. He abjured these errors, and as he had not been in trouble before, escaped with a penance. Another pupil of Wyllys, who also abjured, had maintained that a man might have two wives at once, 'even as a priest holds two churches.' Another man of Henley, named John Polley, abjured, and promised that he would not receive 'doctrine books and qwayres concerning heresies,' while two years later there is a long record (fn. 157) in English of the abjurations of William Ayleward of Henley, who had taught—
that our holy Fadre, the Pope of Rome, is a grete best, and a devyll of hell and a synagogue, and that he shall lye depper in hell ix sithes (= times) than Lucyfer; that the blessed Sacrament of the Auter is a grete devyll of hell and a sinagogue, and that he can make as good a sacrament betwene ii yrons as the prest doth upon his auter; that the blode of Hayles is but the blode of a dog or a drake; that the king and all those that maynteyne the churche shall go the devyll, and inespeciall the king, because of his grete supportacion of the churche; that ther owte no man be baptized to (= till) he cam to olde age.
Seeing pilgrims going towards Canterbury, he had said they went 'offering their souls unto the devil.' He had 'talked of the Gospellys and holy scriptures, declaring in Englisch the Gospell of Nichodemus after the lettir.' He confessed that he had been before the bishop of Salisbury, not for heresy but for using a charm to cure children of 'the chinkow' (whooping-cough). He therefore abjured his errors and escaped.
In 1522 King Henry VIII issued a writ to all mayors, sheriffs, &c. that forasmuch as the bishop of Lincoln had within his diocese no small number of heretics, to his no little discomfort and heaviness, they were to protect him and his officers 'that they, ne none of them, shall bodily be hurt or damaged by any of the said heretics or thair fautors, in the executing and ministering of justice unto the said heretics, according to the laws of Holy Church.' (fn. 158) Foxe in his Book of Martyrs has given us some account of the dealings of the bishop with the heretics of his diocese both before and after this writ; he derived his information from a register of Bishop Longland, and fortunately has mentioned in particular the cases of heretics in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. (fn. 159) It is clear that it was not a new movement with which the bishop had to deal; it was a survival of Lollardism, and though in certain points it agreed with the Zwinglianism of the continent, there was no connexion between the two; the books found among the heretics did not come from Holland, Germany, or Switzerland, but were Wickliffe's Wicket, The Shepherd's Kalendar, and a book called The King of Beeme (? Bohemia). One of the chief offenders, the head of the family of Collins of Burford, said that 'he had been of this doctrine since the year of our Lord 1480.' The chief centre of the Lollards in Buckinghamshire seems to have been at Wycombe and Amersham, as it was sixty years before; but in Oxfordshire they were strong at Burford, where they had a secret conventicle at the house of John Burgess; we also hear of several of the sect at Asthall, Witney, Stanlake, and Henley, with isolated cases at Wheatley, Checkendon, South Stoke, and Clanfield. They were not for the most part of the peasant class, but artisans; several of them were weavers, one was the bailiff of Witney, another a schoolmaster, and many of them were of sufficient position to have their own servants. One of the charges against Robert Collins of Burford was that he bought an English Bible for 20s., a large sum in those days, and of many we are told that they were able to read. Whether the inquiry was limited to the south of the county we have no means of saying, but all the localities mentioned were in the valley of the Thames, and perhaps Lollardism followed the trade route from London to Bristol. The doings and words that were 'detected' were of a curiously mixed kind; there was a certain element of Millenarianism or fanaticism in the movement, and one John Hackar 'who could tell of diverse prophecies which should happen in the realm' (fn. 160) was accused of speaking of 'a battle that should be, when all priests should be slain, and then should be a merry world.' With such men the Apocalypse was a favourite book, and at the house of Mr. Burgess of Burford they 'communed concerning the opening of the book with the seven clasps,' while Sir John Drury, vicar of Windrush, was accused of teaching his servant 'the A, B, C, to the intent he should have understanding in the Apocalypse.' In other cases Lollardism was merely the carping of sour and censorious natures; the grumbling at holy days, at tithes, at bell-ringing, did not spring from any conscientious principles, and would never have been satisfied, whatever had been the reforms in the Church. But it must in fairness be said that these two classes cover only a small portion of the cases enumerated, and that Lollardism was not merely fanatical or critical, but had also a positive side. Their favourite parts of the Bible were the Gospels and the Epistles of St. James and St. Peter, epistles which enforce practical righteousness. Alice Collins of Burford was accused of reciting by heart the Epistles of St. James and St. Peter in English, and her daughter Joan had committed the crime of learning the Ten Commandments in English, beginning 'I am thy Lord God, which led thee out of the land of Egypt and brought thee out of the house of thraldom: thou shalt have no alien gods before me.' There was some kind of discipline among the Lollards and examination by themselves into the uprightness of the lives of the members, and Thomas Rowland was accused of saying to his master, 'If I lie, curse, storm, swear, chide, fight, or threat, then am I worthy to be beat.'
Pilgrimages and Transubstantiation were the two points which they specially spoke against. The true pilgrimage was, they said, 'barefoot to go and visit the poor, weak, and sick.' Perhaps for this reason part of the penance imposed on them by the bishop was to go on pilgrimage every year to Lincoln. The doctrine of the Material Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar was too often denied in a blasphemous and offensive way, as when one said that he had been threshing out God Almighty in the barn; but it was not so in all cases. The words of one of them were 'that the Sacrament of the Altar is an holy thing, yet is it not the same body of the Lord which suffered for us on the Cross.' On the whole we cannot resist the verdict that the Church was culpable in dealing so severely with these people whose lives were morally upright, while those who were orthodox but immoral were let go with a reprimand. If it were contrary to the ancient laws of the Church to read the Sermon on the Mount in English, churchmen ought to have perceived that the time had come when the laws of the Church should be relaxed.
Among the Lollards there is only one person mentioned of gentle blood, Mistress Cottesmore alias Doiley. Her first husband was Sir William Cottesmore of Baldwin Brightwell, Oxfordshire; her second, Thomas Doiley of Hambledon, Buckinghamshire. (fn. 161) Witnesses against her were brought before Dr. London at the parsonage of Stanton Harcourt, and accused her of having a book which spoke against pilgrimages; (fn. 162) of saying that John Hacker of Coleman Street, London, 'water bearer,' (fn. 163) was very expert in the Gospels and could explain 'the Pater Noster as well as any priest, and that it would do one good to hear him'; of refusing to let her servant go on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Walsingham, in fulfilment of a vow made by her husband Sir William Cottesmore in his last illness. It was also deposed that one day on a visit to Sir William Barrantine of Hazeley Court, about four miles from Brightwell, seeing some images, she said to her servant, 'Look here be my lady Barrantine's gods.' In the index to his book Foxe describes her as 'martyr,' but there is no evidence what befell her. It may be assumed that if she had been put to death the fact would have been recorded. The penance imposed on those of Burford and that neighbourhood was that on a market day they should stand on the highest 'greece' (i.e. step) of the cross of Burford for a quarter of an hour with a faggot on their shoulders, and on a Sunday go in front of the procession before high mass, bearing a faggot, and so to kneel on the step of the altar throughout the service; they were to be branded on the cheek, and some of them were sent to monasteries, condemned to 'perpetual penance' there—a sentence which no doubt would shortly be remitted, if they behaved well. (fn. 164) It seems that in all cases the heretics abjured their errors, but if they returned to them, the punishment would be death by burning at the stake.
Again in 1526 there was a search for heretics in Oxford itself, but at this time not so much for Lollards as for those who were followers of the foreign reformers. One Garret brought copies of Tyndale's New Testament from London to Oxford, where he sold them secretly with other such books. The graphic and affecting story of his arrest and of the examination of Dalaber, his friend, by Dr. London, 'the rankest Papistical Pharisee' as Dalaber puts it, may be read in Foxe's Martyrs. (fn. 165) For this reason, and for the fact that those accused were not Oxfordshire men, and that their movement had no influence on the county, nothing more need be said here.
A return (fn. 166) made for the subsidy of 1526 throws not a little light on the numbers and status of the clergy in the archdeaconry at that time. Unlike the Valor of 1535, it gives the names of the curates (curati), chaplains and stipendiaries, and the amount of their stipends. It appears that there were 6 prebendaries, and 170 rectors and vicars, beneficed in the county; beneath them were 139 curati, or, as we should say, curates in charge; there were also 38 who are described as chaplains or stipendiaries, and answer to our curates or assistant priests; most of them were engaged to assist the parish priests, but in six or seven cases they seem to have been engaged by the wardens of chantries; 10 more are definitely described as chantry priests; 14 more have no designation to show what their position was; and lastly there were 13 retired incumbents in receipt of pensions. This gives the large total of 390 clergy who were in receipt of stipends from spiritual property and liable to be taxed for the subsidy. If a similar return were made now, the number of clergy would be a hundred less, although the population of the county must be twice what it was in 1526.
In addition to these parochial clergy, there were the private chaplains of nobles, and priests either engaged in teaching or earning a precarious livelihood by the saying of masses for the dead; there were also the fellows of colleges at Oxford, for they are not included in the return for the subsidy of 1526. Reckoning must also be made of the regulars, whether friars, monks, or canons. Of the number of the friars it is difficult to form an estimate; but the numbers in the monasteries can be made out. The nine Oxfordshire houses for men which remained after St. Frideswide's and Cold Norton had come to an end contained about 100 members. From the returns made in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, or in 1534 at the recognition of the royal supremacy, we learn that Oseney contained 20 members, Eynsham 16, Thame 13, Bruern 12, Wroxton 10, Bicester 8, Dorchester 7, Clattercote 4, and Rewley probably 15: total 105. This estimate makes no reckoning of novices, who were about 25 in number. The inmates of the nunneries were about 30: Godstow 16 or 17, Studley 8 or 9, Goring 6 or 7.
Of the 176 incumbents of parishes it is certain that a large number were absentees; in some cases this is stated in the return for 1526, in other cases it may be assumed. Thus the rectors of Easington and Albury are described as scholares, or undergraduates at Oxford. They had curates in the charge of their parishes, who were practically the incumbents, paying to the absentee rectors a portion of the income. And when we meet with curates at such small places as Stoke Talmage (population ninety-seven) or Shipton-on-Cherwell (population seventy-one), and in nearly one hundred other small country parishes, we know that it cannot have been the amount of work or the ill-health of the incumbent, but his absence, that made their presence necessary. If curatus is rightly explained as meaning 'curate in charge,' it is clear that two-thirds of the incumbents were absentees. The duties of the cure were no doubt adequately performed by a substitute, who received a stipend of £5 to £7; but the evil of pluralism and absenteeism, against which the authorities of the Church had been faintly struggling for three centuries, seems to have been at its worst shortly before the Reformation, and in the darkest days of the subsequent centuries never reached such a pitch.
When the lot of country curates was so low, it is not surprising to find that the parish clergy taken from them had in many cases a low standard. The vicar of Thame was busy in 1536 with the issue of counterfeit coin, his accomplice having interviews with him in the church while he was at mattins. (fn. 167) In 1534 an incumbent beneficed in Suffolk, by name John Billingford, had the idea to leave his parish and ride round to the smaller monasteries of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, pretending to be a chaplain of the queen, demanding and obtaining money from simple-minded priors. Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell, when he heard about it, arrested him. (fn. 168) If, as was often the case, the post-Reformation parochial clergy were ignorant and unsatisfactory, it can hardly be denied that some were so before.
There is another record at Lincoln which makes it difficult to take a rosy view of the eve of the Reformation. It is an episcopal visitation in 1517, and deals with every parish in the county, giving the presentments made by the churchwardens. As a specimen, the beginning of the Aston rural deanery may be taken:—
Wheatfield: the rectory is ruinous (ruinosa); (fn. 169) the rector does not say service at the proper hours. Emmington: the chancel is out of repair above the altar, and also the floor, through the fault of the rector; the walls of the churchyard have fallen to the ground through the negligence of the rector; the rector is non-resident; the roof of the nave is ruinous. Also the cure is neglected; for the parishioners have not had divine service since Easter. Brightwell Baldwin: the chancel is ruinous; the glass windows of the chancel have not been made; the rectory is ruinous. Ibstone: the walls of the rectory are ruinous; the seats of the church are broken; the rector is non-resident; he is too old and infirm. Adwell: the abbot of Reading withholds 2s., with which he used to find two lamps in the church; John Chacobbe, churchwarden, has produced no accounts for seven years; the chancel is ruinous; John Ewstace does not come to his parish church, nor does he pay stipendium; the seats in the church are broken. Stokenchurch: Juliana Everton owes the church 16d.; the church house is ruinous; William Rutt and John Penny have given no account of the 10s. they received when they were churchwardens; Richard Sore owes the church 5s.; John Shoer owes the church 12d.; Robert Hore owes the church a quarter of malt, the legacy of John Croxford. Crowell: the walls of the chancel are ruinous; Agnes Bride owes the church 7s. Chinnor: the rector is non-resident; the rectory (i.e. the rectorial tithe) is leased to a layman; there are no distributions. (fn. 170) South Weston: the oil and chrism are not kept under lock and key; Thomas Reynold owes the church 3s. 4d. Shirburn: the roof of the chancel needs repair; the seats in the chancel are broken; there are no distributions; the glass windows of the chancel are ruinous. Watlington: the rectory is ruinous; the vicar is non-resident. Letice Dorham is a witch. Cuxham: the chancel is out of repair. Richard Falle withholds two lamps which should burn in church during divine service. Stoke Talmage: the chancel needs repair; the glass windows are broken; the seats are broken; there is no door to the chancel to close it; the stone walls of the church are ruinous. The rector is non-resident; he lives at Haseley. Britwell Salome: the chancel is ruinous; the rector does not sleep within the parish, but at the house of the lady Cotismore; (fn. 171) for what cause is unknown. Chalgrove: there are no distributions; the chancel is out of repair in roof, walls, and floor; the churchyard is not sufficiently fenced.
When this is compared with presentments of the eighteenth century the difference is striking. Of course it must be remembered that in the sixteenth century, when manorial courts still survived, the art of complaining was highly developed; in later centuries the faculty remained, but not the art: men could grumble but could not make presentments. Further, in all that the churchwardens of 1517 mention in their presentments there is nothing very scandalous; the parishioners seem to have kept their part of the church in repair for the most part, and if incumbents did not make good the dilapidations of their rectories it has been so in all ages; but the general neglect of the chancels, though as nothing in comparison with what was found fifty years later, is certainly astonishing, and bespeaks little religious zeal on the part of rectors, whether they were private persons or monastic corporations. In all times it would be possible to find some churches that were out of repair, but it will be noticed that this return goes through all the churches in order, and all are defective. And if the parishioners repaired the nave, whether from love of their church or the threats of the archdeacon, they would not proceed to help the rector in making the chancel decent. It seems that the same selfishness and callousness which was noticeable in political and social matters during the Tudor days was also shown in ecclesiastical matters, and that it was not a noble age either in state or church.
On the vexed question whether there was anything in the state of the monasteries to justify their dissolution, we have in Oxfordshire, in common with the other counties of the diocese of Lincoln, less meagre evidence than in many parts of England, for besides the bishop's registers, we have visitations made in 1445, 1520, and 1530. (fn. 172) The impression derived from these sources is that there was something unsatisfactory, especially in the religious houses for men. For a century and a half it had been discussed whether the endowments of monasteries should be taken away, and a precedent had long been set of transferring them to other branches of church work. In Oxfordshire we find a devout churchman such as Henry VI granting the alien priories of Minster Lovell and Cogges to endow his college at Eton; in 1496, when the priory of Cold Norton became extinct for want of members, and the bishop of Lincoln had acquired it by purchase, he made no effort to restore it, but transferred it to his foundation of Brasenose. In 1524 there is the suppression of St. Frideswide's, Littlemore, and other monasteries for the foundation of Christ Church; and if Wolsey, because of his subsequent attitude about the divorce, is accused by some of enmity to the Church, the same cannot be said of Foxe, bishop of Winchester, founder of Corpus Christi College, who deliberately refrained from establishing a monastic institution at Oxford. Though he was a benefactor to the abbeys of Glastonbury and Netley, his chief benefaction was a college for secular, not regular clergy. 'What, my lord,' said his friend, Bishop Oldham of Exeter, co-founder of the College, 'shall we build houses and provide livelihoods for a company of "bussing" (fn. 173) monks, whose end and fall we ourselves may live to see?' And a few years later Foxe, in writing to Wolsey, complains how depraved and licentious the clergy were, and particularly (what he had not at first suspected) the monks. (fn. 174) Just as striking is the language of Bishop Longland in 1525, about the monastery of Thame; (fn. 175) when the abbot of Waverley had made an unsatisfactory visitation and punished none of the faults of which there had been complaint, the bishop wrote that unless a reformation took place, he, as patron and founder of the monastery, would seize its possessions and apply them to a use more acceptable to God.
It is not difficult to indicate what was amiss with monasteries in the sixteenth century. It was not debt, which on the whole was much less than two centuries earlier. And if monks in the sixteenth century were ignorant, it must be remembered that it was the recognized career for those who lacked ability; clever scholars became jurists and rose to be prebendaries and bishops. And it must be confessed that noble efforts were made to advance the education of the religious. Within a century before the dissolution of the monasteries, St. Mary's College at Oxford had been founded for the benefit of Augustinian canons, and Bernard College for Cistercians. That there was not a little vice among the religious houses is certain, if the Oxfordshire houses are a fair sample; and to those who form their ideas of monasticism from what it was in the days of Bede or from our own times, the cases are astonishingly frequent; but visitations of the colleges of Oxford, and of colleges of seculars like Southwell, show that monks, if not better, were no worse than the secular clergy, and probably less bad than the laity. But the main failing was that in monasteries there was such a large proportion of monks who cared little for monasticism and disliked the rule. In the records of visitations the bishops or other visitors remind us of patient schoolmasters dealing with schoolboys bent on evading the school regulations. At Dorchester in 1530 sometimes no more than two of the canons would rise to mattins, and in most monasteries we hear of some who would not be present more than once or twice in a month. The rule of silence was offensive to many and was observed by few, while fasting and the rule of seclusion within the cloister did not fare much better. In short, that which was distinctive of the monastic life, for the sake of which men of other ages entered monasteries, the very things which were considered the chief advantages of the place, were now regarded as a drawback; and it seems as if half the monks would have liked their monasteries better if there had been no monastic rule. If there were men of religious earnestness in England the monasteries no longer attracted them, or at all events attracted many others of quite a different character. When the dissolution came, it was said by Cromwell's agents that in many places the monks were glad to escape; this statement is generally discredited, but there may be some truth in it. When St. Frideswide's was visited in 1520 complaint was made that the prior was hoarding for himself the money of the monastery, because he had hopes of withdrawing; both statements seem to have been untrue, but they show what was in men's minds.
Certain new practices that arose in the Oxfordshire monasteries towards the end of the fifteenth century are instructive. When the lists of institutions are studied it is found that about that time religious houses granted to laymen the next presentations to livings in their gift. Thus in 1502 the vicar of Watlington was presented by Sir Reginald Bray, to whom Oseney had granted the next presentation; and when the next vicar was appointed in 1538, we are informed that the abbey had granted the next presentation to William Symcok, brewer, of Oxford; he to Silvester Todde, goldsmith, of London; he to Charles, duke of Suffolk. (fn. 176) For Eynsham we have similar evidence. As the laymen were men with no claims on the monasteries, as far as can be seen, it is natural to surmise that it was a monetary bargain. A similar indifference to the duties of patronage is shown by the Knights Hospitallers in 1520, when in granting a lease of all their lands in Oxfordshire, they mention that the tenant is bound to perform all necessary repairs, 'and find a priest to say mass daily in Sandford Chapel and priests to say mass in Temple Cowley and Sibford Gower three times a week.' (fn. 177) There is no stipulation what kind of man is to be secured, or that he is to be adequately paid. It would be hard to find grosser callousness in lay patrons of any age. Another new feature, whatever it may betoken, was the custom of turning abbots and priors into bishops; Miles, abbot of Eynsham, was also bishop of Llandaff (1500–16), Roger Smith, abbot of Dorchester, was suffragan bishop of Lydda (1513–18), and Robert King, abbot of Thame, was suffragan bishop of Rheon. Whether this is a proof of the unusual ability of these abbots, or an indication that the governing of a monastery was not considered work of sufficient importance for a clever man, it cannot have been conducive to the maintenance of strict discipline. We may notice also during this period a difficulty in finding men fit to be at the head of a monastery. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the rule was that the head of the monastery was chosen by the members of the house, and generally, almost universally, they could find a fit person from among themselves. But in the sixteenth century it appears as if the monasteries often had no one with what is called the 'gift of leadership,' able to be the head of a house. The last two priors of Bicester had never been of that priory, and at each vacancy the canons, as if distrusting themselves, left the appointment to the bishop. Of the last three abbots of Eynsham two, if not all three, came from without, and the last was not chosen by the monks, but by the bishop. When the post of abbot was vacant at Dorchester in 1533, the choice was left to Henry Morgan, 'legum doctor.' Even in the case of Cistercian houses such as Thame, we find the bishop using his influence with the abbot of Citeaux about the appointment of an abbot, and asserting that among the monks of Thame there was no one fit to succeed. With nunneries there was not the same difficulty; and we can understand that, as they did not depend for their numbers so much on the power of attracting volunteers as on offering a quiet home for widows and unmarried women, the spirit of the age would have less effect on them. But it is not unfair to say that in too many cases houses for men in the sixteenth century were places where the dull, unambitious, or even slothful might live a life of no luxury, but of no hardship, giving in return for their maintenance a grudging obedience to the rules of their order. There were bright exceptions like Winchcombe Abbey, but we hear of no house in Oxfordshire which showed a similar zeal for learning.
Of the way in which the dissolution of the monasteries was carried out many hard things have been said of late years. It was certainly not done with sympathy; but in fairness it must be remarked that the pensions granted were liberal. The heads of small houses like Bicester, Bruern, or Rewley received £22 or £24 a year, (fn. 178) and the monks or canons about £5, sums which represented the full pay they would have been earning had they been secular instead of regular clergy. The chief agent in the suppression of the Oxfordshire houses was Dr. John London, a typical specimen of the much-beneficed ecclesiastic of the Middle Ages. He held canonries at Lincoln, York, Salisbury, and Windsor, the deanery of the collegiate church of Wallingford, the wardenship of New College, and the rectories of Stanton St. John and Adderbury. He was a man 'of no particular animosity against the monks,' (fn. 179) ready to serve his employers whether by confiscating images or enforcing the Six Articles, intent only on his own advancement. From the fact that he was an enemy of Cranmer, and from the advice he is known to have given to his nephew, (fn. 180) his opinions, as far as he had any, seem to have been on the Papal side; but it is clear that in his case, and in most cases, religious opinions had very little to do with the suppression of the monasteries. Even those who were afterwards of the Papal party were not unwilling to enrich themselves by the acquisition of monastic lands; Sir Leonard Chamberlain of Shirburn, afterwards a strong supporter of Queen Mary, (fn. 181) whose descendants were recusants under Elizabeth, bought and sold monastic property on a large scale, (fn. 182) while Sir Thomas Pope, founder of Trinity College, was another instance. Dr. London had special knowledge of the religious houses of the diocese, as he was archdeacon's official as early as 1518, (fn. 183) and we find him helping at the episcopal visitation of Oseney in 1520. (fn. 184) As he was imprisoned for perjury and came to a bad end, he has served to point a moral for historians of all parties, and has been found useful to bring discredit whether on the persecution of Protestants in 1526, or the suppression of monasteries, or the enforcement of the Six Articles.
The suppression of the Oxfordshire monasteries seems to have been effected without resistance or protest. As the three houses of St. Frideswide's, Littlemore and Cold Norton existed no longer, omitting the friaries and hospitals, there remained twelve, of which eight had incomes under £200 —Rewley, Bruern, Dorchester, Clattercote, Wroxton, Bicester, Goring, and Studley, the total of their incomes being £902 3s. 2½d.; the four larger houses were Thame, Oseney, Eynsham, and Godstow.
The report of John Tregonwell to Cromwell, who employed him as visitor of the Oxfordshire houses in 1535, shows that their state was not unsatisfactory, (fn. 185) as appears under the separate accounts of Godstow, Eynsham, Bruern, Wroxton, and Bicester.
At Oseney the visitor had commanded that none of the canons should go outside the precincts of the monastery. In like manner orders had been given at Godstow that a back entrance should be closed, evidently to prevent the nuns from going abroad. (fn. 186) This strict enforcement of the monastic rule, in a way that had not been observed for at least two centuries, made the life of monks so burdensome that many were glad to surrender their houses, and recover their freedom together with a pension. In the course of 1536 most of the small houses were surrendered to the king, Bruern in October, (fn. 187) and some of them earlier. By June 1538, the heads of six out of the eight smaller houses were in receipt of pensions, (fn. 188) Clattercote and Studley not being among them. The former house was surrendered shortly after by Robert, bishop of Llandaff, 'commendatory master of the order of Sempringham.' (fn. 189) The case of Studley is exceptional. In June, 1536, we find the king making a grant of Corsley in Wiltshire 'parcel of the late priory of Studley, Oxon, dissolved by Parliament'; (fn. 190) but it seems that it must have been refounded, for the house was surrendered to the king on 19 November, 1539, and all the possessions of the house, with the exception of Corsley, were sold in February, 1540. (fn. 191)
When the turn of the larger monasteries came there was no difficulty. Eynsham was under the rule of Anthony Dunstan alias Kitchin, who was afterwards made bishop of Llandaff in 1545, and held that post through all the changes of religion until 1565. He was a learned and upright man, but evidently one able to comply with the powers of the day. Oseney and Thame were both under Robert King, who had been suffragan of the bishop of Lincoln since 1528 with the title 'Rheonensis.' Like most Englishmen of the time he was in favour of nothing more than a mild reformation. Preaching at Stamford on 19 September, 1535, he is reported to have 'accused of hideous sin those who explained the New Testament in taverns (i.e. Cromwell's hired preachers); to have inveighed against those who try to overturn the order which had lasted for 1500 years, and pull down the images of saints, and who deny the Virgin and saints are mediators.' (fn. 192) But he was ready to punish one of his monks who, preaching at St. Mary Magdalen, Oxford, 'without leave of the curate or of his abbot,' asserted that there was a purgatory. (fn. 193) He was a good administrator, and had been appointed for this reason to the abbey of Thame, through the influence of the bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 194) When the abbey of Oseney was vacant by the death of John Burton on 22 November, 1537, the prior wrote to Cromwell, asking him to procure from the king that the new abbot might be one of the brethren. (fn. 195) As we have already seen, the heads of monastic houses, though nominally elected by the brethren, had for some time been chosen by authorities from outside. In this case Cromwell nominated Robert King; and on 22 December, Dr. London wrote to Cromwell that the canons of Oseney had elected 'the abbot of Thame according to your instructions'; (fn. 196) two months later he writes again thanking him for his goodness to 'your' abbot of Oseney, 'by whose preferment you have done a great benefit to that ruinous house.' (fn. 197) Naturally, under these circumstances, there was no difficulty about the surrender of Oseney and Thame. In the same manner the abbess of Godstow was a nominee of Cromwell. On 26 February, 1535, leave was given to the convent to elect an abbess, on the resignation of Margaret Tewkesbury, on account of old age. (fn. 198) Katherine Bulkeley alias Bewmarys was elected, (fn. 199) evidently through the influence of Cromwell. In her letters to him she says 'Of your mere goodness you have of nothing brought me to all I have,' (fn. 200) and that the opposition of Dr. London had been overcome by Cromwell's aid: (fn. 201) she grants him the post of steward of the monastery, worth 40s. a year; (fn. 202) she doubles his pension of £2 a year granted by her predecessor, and offers to settle it on himself and his son Gregory for their lives; (fn. 203) she thanks him for his help against the encroachments of the citizens of Oxford, (fn. 204) and for relieving her from the indignity of surrendering her house to her 'ancient enemy,' Dr. London. But she adds that she was ready to surrender whenever the king or Cromwell wished; that she and her nuns 'had no regard for Pope, purgatory, or praying to dead saints,' and did not value highly the monastic life. (fn. 205) This was written in December, 1538; the house was surrendered the following November, and Oseney at the same time; (fn. 206) Eynsham had been surrendered 4 December, 1538. (fn. 207) It is noticeable that at Eynsham the number of inmates, which was sixteen in 1534, had dropped to ten; at Oseney from twenty to seventeen; (fn. 208) and Godstow from twenty in 1535 (fn. 209) to seventeen. Large pensions were given to the abbess of Godstow and the abbot of Eynsham, £50 to the former, £133 to the latter. The abbot of Oseney was reserved for a higher post. In 1539 we hear of a scheme for a bishopric of 'Oseney and Thame' with a cathedral at Oseney; (fn. 210) and in 1542 it was carried into effect, but the title was 'bishop of Oxford,' (fn. 211) though his cathedral was at Oseney; Robert King was appointed bishop, and was assigned Gloucester College for his palace. The chapter consisted of John London as dean, and six prebendaries nominated by the king; for their residences the king gave them all the buildings of Oseney Abbey.
By the dissolution of the monasteries those tithes which had come into the hands of religious houses by appropriations were finally lost to the Church. A minute survey, (fn. 212) made about 1460, shows what a large proportion it was. It records that omitting the property of the Hospitallers and of the poor nunneries, such as Littlemore and Studley, the total value of church property within the county, whether land or tithes, that was liable to pay to a royal subsidy, amounted to £3,580 a year. Of this amount £1,930 belonged to religious houses, £1,130 being derived from temporal possessions and £800 from tithes in various Oxfordshire parishes; while £1,650 represented the stipends of prebendaries, rectors, and vicars. The reckoning, however, is not quite accurate, as six or seven churches which had been appropriated to monasteries in the fifteenth century are enumerated as if they were unappropriated; and it would be safe to say that by the year 1535 the religious houses held as much as £900 of the tithe of this county, leaving about £1,200 for rectors and vicars, while the income of prebendaries, amounting to £370, was derived partly from tithe and partly from land. If it is remembered that several of the prebends were ultimately seized by the crown, it will be seen that about two-fifths of the tithes of the county were lost by the suppression of the monasteries.
Local charities, also, were robbed at the same time. Many of the monasteries were practically trustees of charities, being bound to distribute so much to the poor in bread or money on certain days. In the Valor of 1535 these various 'distributiones' are enumerated, amounting for the whole county to almost £100 a year. When the monastic lands were dispersed, this charge on the monastic lands ought to have been maintained, like the other fixed charges, but it has not been possible to find a case where this was done, and there can be no doubt that the charities were seized with the monasteries. (fn. 213) It has been said that the rise of pauperism was the result of this robbery. This indeed is absurd; for by the suppressions of the hospitals of St. Bartholomew and St. John at Oxford in previous centuries the poor had been deprived of more than they were by the suppression of the monasteries, yet pauperism had not resulted from that diversion of endowments. But whatever may have been the results, our indignation at the robbery of the poor is not lessened.
To all this confiscation no opposition was offered in Oxfordshire, and the changes in religion seem to have been accepted with greater calmness than might be expected. Here and there we find traces of discontent. In 1534 it is reported to Cromwell that one at Henley had declared that he was for the Princess Mary against any issue of Anne Boleyn, (fn. 214) and several truthful but coarse remarks were made about the queen. But when she fell there was sympathy for her, and we hear of murmuring against the king at Eynsham because of her execution. (fn. 215) In 1537 Sir Richard Crowley, priest of Broughton, was accused of preaching 'the authority of the bishop of Rome by the name of Pope,' and of asserting that Sir Thomas More died for the true faith; but when examined by Sir William Fermour of Somerton, he denied the words. (fn. 216) In July, 1537, it was reported of a certain Robert Johns of Thame that he had said that he 'feared the king would have the crosses and jewels of their church,' and that it would be better that they themselves should sell their jewels; and when the conversation turned on the recent rebellion in the north, he said: 'Let us speak no more of this matter, for men may be blamed for speaking the truth.' (fn. 217) The people also of Thame observed the feast of St. Thomas the Martyr in spite of the commands of the king. As we have proof that there was discontent in the county, especially in the country districts, in the year 1547, it is safe to assume that ten years earlier many did not approve of the action of the king; but the county made no move at the time of the Northern Rebellion. In fact, all through the reign of Henry VIII there was curiously little opposition; if a man deviated into courage, it was only for a moment, and straightway he was anxious to recall what he had done or said, whereas a few years later the same men showed a very different constancy, as martyrs under Mary or Elizabeth.
But among the few who resisted the king concerning the rejection of the papal supremacy, and refused to take the oath of the royal supremacy, was a leading Oxfordshire nobleman, Sir Adrian Fortescue of Stonor, Shirburn, and Brightwell. As his first wife was Anne, daughter of Sir William Stonor, and his second Anne, daughter of Sir William Rede of Boarstall, he was connected by marriage with two of the most prominent of the county families; he was also a cousin of Anne Boleyn. He seems to have made no objection to the divorce proceedings; and, in fact, so many discreditable divorces had been allowed by the authorities of the Church for many years past, that it is easy to understand that even a good man might not be shocked by the doings of the king; but on the rejection of the papal supremacy he took a different line. By having himself enrolled among the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who were known to be strongly on the papal side, and were accused of stirring up enemies against the king of England, he became a marked man; he was imprisoned in 1536 and 1537, then released for a while; finally arrested again, and after a Bill of attainder for sedition had been passed in April, 1539, he was beheaded on Tower Hill on 10 July. (fn. 218) Probably it is not fanciful to trace the result of his example in the line taken by his relatives the Stonors twenty years later. At the time they showed no inclination to follow him, and among Cromwell's correspondents Sir Walter Stonor was as anxious as any to oblige him, and to report to him the least trace of treason. But in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, not only did the family become recusant, but induced other county families that were related to them (e.g. the Symeons and the Chamberlains) to take the same step. It is possible, therefore, that it was Sir Adrian Fortescue who originally was the cause of the strength of the Roman Catholics in Oxfordshire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The final establishment of the bishopric of Oxford dates from 4 November, 1546. The arrangements made in 1542 came to an end on 20 May, 1545, when the dean and chapter surrendered their property into the king's hands; on the same day the dean and chapter of the King's College of Christ Church, under which title Cardinal Wolsey's College had been refounded in 1532, also surrendered their house to the king. After a delay of nearly eighteen months the college and cathedral, now united, were founded again. The bishop ceased to hold Gloucester College as a residence, and built for himself the house in St. Aldate's Street, now known as Bishop King's house. The new chapter was to consist of a dean and eight canons; the dean was Dr. Cox, who had been dean at Oseney since 1 January, 1544, after the death of Dr. London; (fn. 219) and of the eight canons that were nominated, four had been of the chapter of Oseney Cathedral. (fn. 220)
After the suppression of the monasteries there remained a scant gleaning from the endowments of chantries, guilds, obits, and lamps. The commissioners for Oxfordshire—Sir John Williams, John Doyly, and Edward Chamberlain—who were appointed 6 February, 1547, reported (fn. 221) that there were endowments for obits and lamps in eighty parishes, with an annual income of about £45 from rents and 'the profits of cattle.' (fn. 222) There were also twenty-three chantries, guilds, or fraternities in seventeen different parishes. In Oxford there was 'the taylors' stipendiary' at St. Martin's, worth 62s. a year; at St. Mary Magdalen's a stipendiary with an income of 47s., and 'our Lady chantry,' value nearly £13, of which the incumbent received £4; at St. Michael's there was a stipendiary with 50s. a year, a chantry which had been founded only about twenty years; at St. Giles's a stipendiary with an income of 75s.; at St. Mary's the fraternity of St. Nicholas had endowments of more than £4, of which they paid £3 to the curate of the parish to serve as their chaplain; at St. Aldate's there was Aldaster's chantry, worth 76s. At Thame the chantry of St. Christopher (fn. 223) had an income of £10; at Witney there was 'the free chapel or chantry of our Lady,' value £7 7s., and Farmer's chantry, founded by Thomas Farmer, value £6 13s. 4d.; at Standlake there was an old chantry, worth 117s.; and the chantry in St. Cecilia's chapel at Minster Lovell, worth 40s., and Alysbury's chantry at Rousham, worth £3, were also ancient foundations; at Burford there was the guild of our Lady, with an income of about £14, of which £8 was paid to the chaplain, and the rest expended on the repair of highways and bridges; and there was the chantry of our Lady, value £8. At Chipping Norton there were three foundations—the Trinity Guild, with an income of £14, which supported a priest and also a schoolmaster, 'Sir Hamlet Malban,' and the two chantries of St. James and St. John, each with an income of about £7. At Banbury the Guild of our Lady, founded by Henry V, had an income of nearly £45, and supported three stipendiary priests, a clerk, and a sexton, whose salaries came to £25; this was far the richest foundation in the county. At Henley there was St. Katherine's chantry, worth £6; and there had been another, called Elmes' chantry, 'which one Elmes hath withdrawn more than four or five years past, which was founded by his ancestors.' At Woodstock the chantries of St. Margaret and our Lady had incomes of nearly £8 and £11; and, lastly, there was Newes chantry at Tackley, worth £4 10s. This must not be taken as a complete list of the chantries that had once been in existence. Elmes of Henley was not the only person who had been 'withdrawing' what his ancestors had given. At Deddington there had been a chantry which in 1526 (fn. 224) supported two priests, and was still in existence in 1543. (fn. 225) In this case the crown was the patron, and no doubt had 'withdrawn' the endowments. Again, in 1526 there were four chantry priests at Henley, so that two foundations must have been withdrawn besides the Elmes chantry. (fn. 226) Others had been granted by the patrons to various religious foundations: Leigh's chantry in the church of St. Michael's South, at Oxford, had been granted to Oriel College; Montacute's chantry to St. Frideswide's. A chantry at St. Peter-le-Bailey disappeared early. (fn. 227) But, as has been said, there remained twenty-three in the year 1547, with a clear income of £192.
In most cases petitions were made by the inhabitants that the chantries might not be suppressed. If, as we have seen, there was no great eagerness for the dignity of divine worship in Tudor times, yet Oxfordshire people had no wish that their endowments should be seized by the crown, and certainly had no objection to the doctrine of prayers for the dead. As grounds for the continuance of these foundations it is stated that out of twenty-six chantry priests twenty-two held no other posts and had no other means of livelihood, and that there were in many parishes so many 'howseling people,' that the parish priest without the assistance of the chantry priest would have difficulty in administering to them the Holy Communion at the great festivals. The numbers given would be very useful as a guide to the populations of the parishes, if they could be trusted; but in some cases they are certainly too low, in others too high. In days when a person was likely to be presented in the archdeacon's court if he did not make his Communion, there must have been more than 144 howseling folk at Burford, however strong Lollardism might be. Again, there must have been more than 140 at Chipping Norton; and on the other hand, the number of 203 given for a small village like Rousham seems impossible.
In two respects this act of confiscation has been misunderstood: it has been represented as a general dismantling of parish churches, and as a robbing of parochial charities. It is true that the plate and jewels of the chantries were seized, but the amount was only 167 ounces. Several of the chantries had no plate, and probably not more than ten churches in the whole county were affected. When it is remembered that the parish church of Thame sold more than 170 ounces of plate in the years 1549 and 1550, and apparently more than 100 ounces in 1548, (fn. 228) and that the monastery of St. Frideswide produced more than 600 ounces, (fn. 229) the confiscation of the ornaments of the chantries becomes a small thing. Furthermore, the doles for the poor, which were often associated with obits and chantries, were not, or were not meant to be, seized. This is clear from the wording of the return made by the commissioners:—
Sum total of all lands, &c., of chantries, guilds, stipendaries, obits, lamps, &c., £275 12s. 8d.; reprises yearly (with £24 7s. 5½d. given to the poor) £40 8s. 2½d.: so remaineth clear £236 4s. 10½d.
Even of this amount the king did not receive the whole. One of the injunctions of 1547 ordained that the profit of cattle, and money bequeathed to the finding of lamps, should be put in the poor-box or spent on the highways, or even in the repairing of churches. (fn. 230) The return of the commissioners was that for the support of lamps and obits there were £45 in annual rent, 'stocks in money 105s.; stocks in cattle, priced at 84s.; stocks in cattle, unpriced, kyne 7, sheep 72.' In the parish of Pyrton the churchwardens' accounts show that the 'lampe cowe' was sold in 1548 for 15s., and next year that amount was spent upon repairing the roads.
There was no doubt much robbing of churches, but the culprits were the churchwardens and other parishioners. In 1552 the inhabitants of Thame asserted that within the last few years the churchwardens had sold 'four chalices of silver, two crosses of silver, two basons of silver,' &c., including the great bell and the fore bell, that almost nothing was left, that no account had been rendered for three years, that what had been sold was worth £300 and more, and that the money had been divided among the churchwardens and their friends. (fn. 231) The accounts, which are still extant, prove that there was not much exaggeration in this statement. In 1548 they sold plate to the value of £70, in 1549 the great silver cross worth £22, in 1550 a pix, two chalices, and two censers worth £28, while in 1551, the second silver cross produced £19 10s. and the great bell £23. There is nothing to show what became of the money; though the church expenses did not require a quarter of this sum, there is no appearance of any balance carried on to the next year. (fn. 232)
To put a stop to this certain commissioners, Sir Francis Knollys, Leonard Chamberlain, and Edmund Ashefield, were sent round the county in 1552 to make inventories of church goods, and the returns for fifty-eight parishes which have come down to us show what had been happening. (fn. 233) At Baldon St. Lawrence the churchwardens declare that since the last inventory there have been stolen 'two vestments of whyte silk, and ii surplese: item, ii crosses, one of copper and thother of brasse: item, ii candlesticks of brasse, and ii hand-bells: item, iiii alter clothes and one towell.' At Beckley 'a chalyce, a cope of whyte damask, ii owld coops of redd sylke, ii vestments of sylke' were missing. At Piddington a vestment had been sold by the churchwardens for 9d. In several places 'the residewe of the old inventory was stolen.' Many churchwardens assert that as no inventory had ever been taken, they did not know what the church ought to possess; but where we find there was no paten or no chalice, we feel sure there had been recent theft. At Rotherfield Peppard 'my lady Stoner syns ye deathe of Sir Walter Stoner, hyr husbond, toke away another great chalyce, abowt ye value of ten poundes in to hyr owne keapyng, and hath not delyvered it agayn.' In several cases the spoiling was done in a straightforward way by churchwardens and parishioners, as a simple means of raising money for church expenses. At Bix a chalice had been sold for 40s., and the Paraphrase of Erasmus and the Book of Common Prayer had been bought for 15s., a Bible for 13s. 4d., books they were ordered to purchase by the injunctions, and the residue spent on 'pewing of the churches' (i.e., the two churches of Bix Brand and Bix Gibwin). In the same way at St. Thomas's, Oxford, 'with the whole concent of the paryshyoners,' a chalice and two pyxes, weighing in all 24 ounces, had been sold for £7 16s., and the money spent on buying land 'for the relief of the poore people.' The authorities of the church either made no effort or were powerless to stop it, but it seems that it was hoped to effect this by the taking of inventories by royal commissioners every year. There are returns of thirty-eight inventories taken in spring, 1553, in many cases from the same parishes as in 1552. But ornaments that were unnecessary were carelessly kept and soon disappeared, and all through the reign of Elizabeth this process was going on. In 1584 William Lucas of Churchill, cited in the archdeacon's court, says 'he knoweth not wheare there challice is become, or in whose custodie it remayneth, nether doth he know of any other reliques of superstition to remayne in anye man's hands within there parishe, and saith that he receyved the parcels exhibited from Henry Medecroft.' Medecroft in his turn said he had received 'the relicks' from one Kerne about seven years before, and that there had also been two crosses, one of which 'they put to the belfounder's in Oxford to make there sauncebell withall.' (fn. 234)
At the time of the rebellion in Devon and Cornwall early in 1549 there was evidently some serious outbreak in Oxfordshire, but our knowledge of the events is slight. Foxe says, (fn. 235) 'During this Hurly-burly among the Popish rebels in Cornwall and Devonshire, the like commotion at the same time by such like Popish priests as Homes and his fellows began to gender in the parts of Oxford and Buckingham, but that was soon appeased by the Lord Gray. . . . Of the rebels 200 were taken and a dozen of the ringleaders delivered unto him, whereof certain were after executed.' The State Papers show that Foxe has minimized what happened, and that those executed were considerably more than a dozen. The document is entitled (fn. 236)
The order devised by the Lord Gray with the advice and consent of the gentlemen of the county of Oxford at Witney, July 19, for appointing the said gentlemen, whose names be under written, to cause further execution to be done in sundry towns within the said county of certain traitorous persons. . . . First it is thought good by the said Lord Gray and the rest that these traitorous persons whose names be under written shall suffer execution in these several towns under written immediately, or else the next market days following in any of the same towns to be kept, according as the other like offenders have in other places suffered, and after execution done the heads of every of them in the said towns severally to be set up in the highest place in the same, for the more terror of the said evil people. It is also ordered by the said Lord Gray that . . . the said gentlemen shall cause the said traitorous persons to be safely conveyed to the said towns and to be present with their aide to cause the execution to be done accordingly. The names of the gentlemen appointed by the said Lord Gray:—Sir Anthony Cope, Sir John Williams, Sir William Barandyne, Sir William Raynsford, Leonard Chamberlain, esq., Richard Fyner, esq., William Fermor, esq., &c., &c.
The names of the prisoners appointed and ordered to suffer:—John White, of Combe, Richard Tompson, vicar of Dunstew, to be hanged at Banbury. Sir Henry Mathew, parish priest of Deddington, to be hanged at Deddington. John Brookyns, a craftsman, to be hanged at Islip. William Boolar, of Watlington, to be hanged at Watlington. Two of the most seditious, which are not yet apprehended, to suffer at Thame. Two other of the most seditious to be hanged at Oxford. Richard Whittington, of Deddington, weaver, to be hanged at Bicester. The vicar of Chipping Norton to be hanged there upon the steeple there. John Wade, parish priest of Bloxham, to be hanged on the steeple there. Bowldry, of Haseley, to be hanged at Oxford.
The last is known from local deeds to have been a small freeholder of the yeoman class. (fn. 237) The ferocity of this order shows how nervous the Government was. From the fact that so many parish priests were executed, we gather that the rebellion in Oxfordshire was more on religious than socialistic grounds; but it is noticeable that none of the gentry joined it, and among those who took part in the execution of the priests we find the heads of the Barantine, Chamberlain, and Fermor families, which in Queen Elizabeth's reign were leading recusants in the county.
During the reigns of Edward VI and Mary several events, important in connexion with the religious history of the country, took place at Oxford. In 1548 Peter Martyr, brought from the Continent by Cranmer to propagate Reforming doctrine, was installed as Regius Professor of Divinity at Christ Church and began to deliver theological lectures on semi-Zwinglian lines. But this belongs rather to the general history of the nation than to the history of the county; and the same is true of the great event of the reign of Mary, the martyrdom of Hooper, Latimer, and Cranmer. They did not belong to the county nor had they much connexion with the town of Oxford; and a full account of the matter will be found in any history of the Church. (fn. 238) The county itself seems to have been free from persecution during the reign of Mary, and the bishop, Robert King, who survived until 1557, had a reputation for being a man of peace and tolerance.
The various changes in church services between 1547 and 1558 can be traced in some of the parish accounts that have survived, and if we may judge by the language of the entries, and by the regular succession of churchwardens and of incumbents, they were accepted with a curious calmness, without enthusiasm or regret. In the churchwardens' account of Pyrton (fn. 239) we find that they purchased the Homilies and the King's Injunctions for 1s. 2d. in the autumn of 1547, and shortly before May, 1548, 'a copy of the King's Injunctions,' price 4d., by which may be meant the Order of the Communion, which came into use on 10 April, 1548, and might be described as the King's Injunctions because it was issued by the king's authority like the Injunctions; the church already possessed a Bible.
In 1548 'a boke for the churche' was bought, price 6s., no doubt the Paraphrase of Erasmus, which by the Injunctions of 1547 was to be acquired within twelve months. The cost for 'the delyveryng of the lamppe cow' was 4d., probably the expense of driving it to the appointed centre that it might be sold. By the Injunctions of 1547 all lands, rents, and cattle which had been given for the maintenance of lamps were to be surrendered, and the money given to the poor or applied to the mending of roads, 'except by the King's Majesty's authority it be otherwise appointed.' As regards lands and rents the king did appoint otherwise, but the price of the cattle seems to have been left; Pyrton received 15s. for the cow, and next year spent that amount on repairing the roads. In the same year 18s. 8d. was received for 'olde brasse,' no doubt for the processional cross, and perhaps candlesticks as well. As the Injunctions ordered that processions in the church before high mass and at other times were to be discontinued, the cross and the banners were unnecessary; the 'banner clothys' were sold in 1551 for 1s. 8d.; at Thame (fn. 240) the two silver crosses were sold in 1549 and 1551, and the 'Banner clothes,' worth only 3s. 4d., in 1550. Also as the Injunctions laid down that no candles were to be set up except two on the altar, there was a selling of superfluous candlesticks. Between 22 May, 1549, and 16 May, 1550, 'the boke of the quere' (choir) was bought for 3s. 8d., no doubt the first Prayer Book of Edward VI, and later in the year 4d. was paid for 'carrying the boke to Oxford,' i.e. for carrying the old service books to the bishop to be destroyed, according to the king's order issued to the archbishop of Canterbury, in December, 1549. (fn. 241) The books at Thame (fn. 240) were carried 'to the Bysoppe to Thame Park,' which was at that time one of his manors. In 1550 there was a great white-washing of Pyrton church at a cost of 5s. 8d., no doubt to obliterate pictures of saints; and early in 1551 Injunctions were bought for 4d., possibly some injunctions issued by the bishop, like those which Ridley issued at London. (fn. 242) Between May, 1551 and May, 1552, we find 'paid for making of the Lord's Tabull 10s. 8d.,' this process being performed at Thame in December and January, (fn. 240) and during the next year, May, 1552, to May, 1553, the churchwardens of Pyrton bought for 4s. 'a boke of Common Praar sett forth by the Kynge,' i.e. the second Prayer Book of Edward VI. In July, 1553, Queen Mary ascended the throne, and in October, by the repeal of the ecclesiastical legislation of Edward VI, the state of religion at the end of the reign of Henry VIII was restored, and the churchwardens, who were elected in May, 1553, show in the accounts that were presented on 26 April, 1554, that they had paid 14s. 9d. for a chalice, 6s. 8d. for a mass book, 8d. for 'making of the superaltar,' and 1s. 6d. 'for making of the Paschal and Wantaper' (i.e. font-taper). Next year they bought a manual for 3s. 8d., a processioner for 4s., a cope and four vestments from the neighbouring vicar of Shirburn for 40s., while the rebuilding of the altar cost 3s. 4d.; it was evidently made of the local stone, and required 'a lode of chalk, a lode of earth and a bushell of lyme.' Next year a cross and a banner were purchased for 30s., and 3s. was paid as half the price of a 'portes' (i.e. breviary). The expenses of the year ending Whitsuntide, 1557, included 1s. 3d. for 'a heare (fn. 243) to the altar,' and 26s. 8d. for 'the Rode (i.e. rood) and the other images,' the work of a carpenter from a distance, who was boarded in the village; and besides the paschal and font-taper there were 'tapars for the Rode.' Next year 'the painting of the hy awter' cost 6s. 8d., and of the 'dowme' (? dome) 13s. 4d., and 'three quartans of say to hange over the peaks' (pix) cost 1s. 2d. In November, 1558, half way through the next account, Queen Mary died, but there seems to have been no alteration in ritual for the year ending Whitsuntide, 1559, and 'the Paschal' was lighted in Holy Week as usual; but during the next year 5d. was paid for the Injunctions of 1559, and in accordance with their directions the altar was pulled down by the clerk at a cost of 8d.; and a 'book of Common Prayer and a plaine book' were bought for 6s. 8d. What the second book was is uncertain; but at Thame the book of Homilies was bought for 12d., and three small 'processioners' (i.e. copies of the Litany). Next year 1s. 8½d. was paid at Pyrton 'for the tabels' (or as it is called at Thame 'the table of the Commandments'), 1s. 6d. 'for wipinge oute of the images,' no doubt painted above the altar. In the year ending 12 May, 1562, there is an entry of 2d. 'for making clene of the church, when the rood-loft was pulled down,' and 1d. 'for mending of the surplesses.' At Thame the rood-loft and the side altars were pulled down in 1560, but the high altar remained until 1564. The last ripple of the storm is an entry in 1565, 'for thinkes sold 11s. 8d.' Unfortunately there is no means of telling what were the wishes and feelings of the parishioners; the entries are colourless; the images are not called 'idols,' the 'thinkes sold' are not called relics of superstition; the language used shows no regret or enthusiasm, one way or the other. Further, when the church was beautified or defaced it is hard to tell whether it was of choice or compulsion, by the wish of the parishioners or at the order of the archdeacon; if the retention of the old ceremonies in the first months of the reign of Queen Elizabeth is taken to indicate a preference for that form of religion, we have on the other hand the alienation of church goods in the reign of Edward VI, often with the consent of the parishioners, not ordered by any authority; and in fact, as the returns of the commissioners in 1552 show, the churchwardens were expected to preserve them. The mending of bells and repairing of windows is the same in the reign of Edward VI as in the reign of Mary; the mode of raising money was the same in both reigns, namely the 'church ale' at Whitsuntide; but a large part of the money was spent on roads in the one reign, on church ornaments in the other.
The bishopric of Oxford, for the first century after its establishment, had a very broken history. On the death of Robert King, who occupied the see from 1542 to 1557, Queen Mary nominated Dr. Thomas Goldwell, the bishop of St. Asaph, to be his successor; but before he could be instituted Queen Elizabeth had ascended the throne, and he retired to the Continent. For ten years the see remained vacant, the revenues being appropriated by the queen; but in December, 1567, Hugh Curwen, archbishop of Dublin, who had petitioned the Queen that he might retire to a more quiet sphere, was translated to Oxford and settled himself at Swinbrook. He was one of those who had accepted all the changes of religion. He had first acquired notoriety by his defence of the king's marriage with Anne Boleyn; yet he had been a chaplain to Queen Mary, and had been promoted by her to the archbishopric of Dublin. He had the reputation of being an honest secular judge, but a negligent and indifferent bishop; but in his case it is not easy to say which party should be saddled with the discredit. He survived his appointment to Oxford less than one year, and another long vacancy followed, until in 1589, Sir Francis Walsingham urged the queen to appoint to the see. This step, we are told, was not suggested because he had any interest in the spiritual welfare of the county, but 'out of pure devotion to the leases, that would yield good fines.' (fn. 244) The custom at that time was to grant leases of farms and manors at a small annual rent, but with a heavy fine, to be paid every twentyone years, when the lease was renewed. As the vacancy of the see had lasted twenty-one years, a bishop was necessary to renew the leases, but apparently arrangements were made that he should not secure the temporalities until after the queen or her courtiers had secured the fines. The queen nominated Dr. John Underhill, rector of Lincoln College, and one of her chaplains; he was consecrated in December, 1589, but his tenure of the post was brief, as he died at London in 1592 'in much discontent and poverty,' (fn. 245) and there is a note in the diocesan registers that there was no ordination in his time, because he never entered his diocese from the day that he was appointed to it. (fn. 246) Again there was an interval of twelve years, and in 1604 Dr. John Bridges, dean of Salisbury, was elected to the see. He took up his residence at March Baldon, as there was no episcopal palace at that time, and there he was buried in 1618. His successor was John Howson, a canon of Christ Church, who as vice-chancellor of the university in 1602 resisted certain Puritan preachers, and in 1616 had preached a course of sermons against Bellarmine, Saunders, and the Papists. In 1628 he was translated to the see of Durham, leaving behind a reputation for 'learning and those virtues which were most proper for a bishop.' (fn. 247) The next to be appointed was Dr. Richard Corbet, dean of Christ Church, a noted wit, author of 'Poems, Jests, Romantic fancies and exploits, which he made and performed extempore,' renowned as a most quaint preacher, and for this reason highly esteemed by King James. (fn. 248) He was elected in 1629, but translated to Norwich in 1632. His successor, Dr. John Bancroft, nephew of Richard Bancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, at the persuasion of Laud, at that time archbishop, took the important step of building a palace at Cuddesdon, and nominated himself first rector, and subsequently vicar as well, of the parish; and until recent times the bishops of Oxford were the vicars of Cuddesdon. Before this time the bishops had no fixed residence, but each lived at the parsonage-house of whatever parish he held together with the bishopric. The palace was finished in 1632, but in 1644 it was burnt for strategic reasons by the Royalist soldiers, and was not rebuilt until 1679. Bancroft died in 1640, having been reputed by the Puritans 'a corrupt, unpreaching, Popish prelate,' and was succeeded by Robert Skinner, bishop of Bristol. He had been a successful tutor at Oxford, and subsequently for nine years had been preacher at St. Gregory's Church in the city of London, where he preached twice every Sunday (at that time a most unusual thing), and had 'obtained love, honour, and applause, especially from the Puritans.' None the less he was selected by Laud for preferment, and was made bishop of Bristol in 1636. In 1641 he was translated to Oxford, and shortly afterwards, with eleven other bishops, was imprisoned in the Tower for eighteen weeks. On his release he retired first to Cuddesdon, then joined the garrison of Oxford, and shortly before the city was surrendered retired to his rectory at Launton, Oxfordshire, to which he had been appointed before 1636, and which he had retained. There he lived unmolested until the Restoration, and according to his own statement as many as three or four hundred clergy were secretly ordained by him during those years, among them being the renowned Bishop Bull. On the return of the king there were those who cast in his teeth the fact that he had suffered no persecution under the Puritans, and that he had subscribed no more than £30 to the cause of Charles I; but he was able to make a satisfactory defence, and in 1663 was promoted to the richer see of Worcester.
During the first part of this period, when for forty-four years out of forty-seven the see was vacant, much of the work of the diocese devolved on the archdeacons, who received their authority from the archbishop of Canterbury. The first of these was Dr. Walter Wright, who held the post from 1543 to 1561, accepting all the changes of religion in turn; and on this point there can be little doubt he was typical of the vast majority of the beneficed clergy of Oxfordshire. He was one of Cardinal Pole's visitors of the University, and is said to have been particularly zealous at that time for the restored religion, but under Queen Elizabeth he was equally zealous on the other side, and according to Nicholas Saunders was stricken with mortal illness immediately after preaching a sermon against the supremacy of the pope. (fn. 249) His successor, John Kennall, held the post from 1561 to 1592, and John Drury from 1592 to 1614. They must have both played an important part in the management of the diocese during the long vacancies of the see, but unfortunately little or nothing is known about them.
But if the external history of the diocese is almost a blank from 1550 to 1640, a flood of light is thrown on the internal state of church affairs at that time by the records of the archdeacon's court for ecclesiastical offences in 1584, 1593, 1598, and other subsequent years. (fn. 250) It is at once apparent from them that the rejection of the supremacy of the pope and the prohibition of appeals to him, so far from putting an end to the ecclesiastical courts in England, had practically no effect at all. The archdeacon's court, as we see it in these records, is exactly as Chaucer describes it; (fn. 251) the offences tried are the same, the language and form of procedure are the same, and the penalties are the same. The offences which we find brought before it are blasphemy, brawling in church, non-payment of church dues, absence from church, neglecting to communicate at Easter, working on Sundays and holy days, keeping schools and practising medicine without the bishop's licence, witchcraft, and above all the two great offences of defamation or libel, and immorality. These were the matters which churchwardens would present at the archdeacon's visitation, and the court dealt with them after the Reformation exactly as before. The same technical language was retained, and that much-dreaded official of the Middle Ages, the archdeacon's summoner, was in full activity in Oxfordshire until the end of the seventeenth century. The penalties imposed were penance and fines, backed by excommunication, which had not lost all its terrors even as late as 1662. We have even in these records that abuse of the archdeacon's court mentioned by many mediaeval writers, the relaxation of penance in the case of the well-born in consideration of a payment of money. Thus in 1631 a gentleman and lady of Adderbury were allowed to escape the disgrace of public penance by the payment of 20s. (fn. 252) Just as the 'church ales' continued after the Reformation and the custom of making legacies to the Church, (fn. 253) so the traditional ecclesiastical law, as administered by the archdeacon, was not altered by the changes of doctrine.
The cases of defamation and immorality do not, of course, throw much light on the church life of the time. If they are numerous after the Reformation, there is reason to think it was the same before. In the presentments for 1517, already quoted, there are not a few cases of immorality reported, and the alteration of doctrine cannot be shown to have had much effect on this matter in one direction or the other. But the other charges brought before the court are at times most illuminating as regards church customs and ways of thought. As regards witchcraft, for instance, two women of Long Combe, presented on that charge in 1593, deny that 'they did ever commit any witchcraft, neither have they any such skyll, neither hath the devill tempted them to that.' The judge orders that they are to produce four compurgators to testify to their innocence. (fn. 254) In a similar case five years later the bare denial of the woman is adequate. (fn. 255) Although as late as 1812 the churchwardens were asked to present any who practised 'chirurgery' without the bishop's licence, it is evident that this regulation had not been enforced for centuries: in our records we have only one case in which certain women were forbidden in 1633 to 'practice physic.' (fn. 256) To work on Sunday and also on holy days was an ecclesiastical offence; this regulation had no connexion with Sabbatarianism or Calvinism, but was the same before the Reformation as after. John Ewer of Yarnton, cited in 1621 for working on holy days, confesses that he set his servant to work, not knowing that it was St. Mark's Day, but that as soon as he was told he 'discharged his servant from his work': he confesses that on an urgent occasion he had winnowed a little wheat on Candlemas Day. (fn. 257) Even as late as 1665 a man was cited for working on Michaelmas Day. (fn. 258) Saints' days were observed not only by absence from work, but also by divine service. John Ragnall of St. Aldate's, Oxford, cited in 1584 for bowling during divine service, confesses that he did bowl on Saturday, 24 June, at five o'clock in the afternoon. (fn. 259) In a case in 1584 where two women contended in church about a pew, the brawling occurred on Monday, 1 November, during the Gospel. (fn. 260) There was also service on Wednesday and Friday, and evidently it was fairly well attended; for in 1630 four men of Ledwell having a commission of rebellion against Richard Parsons of Nether Worton, hid in the chapel to arrest him when he appeared, 'it being Wednesday'; but he did not come. (fn. 261) The vicar of Mapledurham in 1598 confesses to negligence in that he has not always had service on Wednesday and Friday (fn. 262); and in 1633 the vicar of St. Peter in the East, Oxford, was commanded to have service always on those days. (fn. 263) Attendance at the parish church on Sunday was compulsory for all parishioners, as before the Reformation, but the judge was satisfied with an attendance once in three or four weeks. Absence from church was made a civil offence early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and as such was dealt with by the magistrates, but in the archdeacon's court it was treated as an ecclesiastical offence. There seems to have been no difficulty in enforcing this law except with recusants; all others promised amendment and were dismissed with a caution; but recusants who would not conform were ultimately excommunicated, and if they died unrepentant were liable to be refused burial in consecrated ground.
Of open Puritanism there is little trace, nor does history tell us of the organization of any classis in Oxfordshire, after the pattern used in Northants, Norfolk, Suffolk and elsewhere. It is true that we hear (fn. 264) of letters sent by Presbyterians in the reign of Queen Elizabeth to 'our brethren' at Oxford and Cambridge, but in each case this refers not to the counties or the towns, but to the universities. In the archdeacon's court there were some cases of neglecting to wear the surplice, but whether it was from idleness or done with an object is not easy to state. Mr. Lancaster, vicar of Bloxham, confessed in 1598 'that he doth not weare the surplysse, but he maketh not skropple of yt, but will were it.' (fn. 265) In 1633
Thomas Dilch of Alvescott saith that hee never is absent from the church, nor did he give him (Mr. Twilty) any reviling speeches; only this respondent tould him that if hee did make him leave the carryinge of his gunne, hee would make him weare the surplese—the said Mr. Twilty, not usinge to weare the surplesse. (fn. 266)
In 1667 the rector of Over Worton, (fn. 267) cited for 'administering the sacrament without a surplice' replied that he did not wear it 'for the foulness of it, it having been washed but once these three years.' The only clear instance of nonconformity is supplied by Mr. Dodd, the rector of Hanwell, in 1593, who was unwilling to conform to the wearing of the surplice and the use of the cross in baptism; and was granted six months by the archbishop in which to conform. (fn. 268) We have, too, in 1630 one who at all events, was accused of a Puritan temperament, in Richard Cotterell, who confessed that he had not 'gone procession' with the rest of his neighbours this last year, but
hereafter hee undertaketh for himself and his family that they shall conforme themselves. Hee denyeth that hee ever sayde that the readinge of the Gospel at the tyme of perambulation was a vayne thing, neither doth hee conceive it soe to bee. (fn. 269)
To judge from these records there was in Oxfordshire no dissent from the Church to the year 1640, except on the part of recusants; and the fact that when the courts begin again in 1660 they are full of the cases of Quaker dissent, proves that had there been any similar opposition to the Church in earlier times the records would have shown its existence. A few cases of blasphemy occur, as when some men at Henley baptized a cat in church, or when six men of Chipping Norton in 1631, 'drinking together on a Sabbath day, pretended to baptize all those whose names were not John', (fn. 270) but this was evidently a drunken frolic, not a protest against the doctrine of sacraments, and they were ordered to do penance on the next Sunday in their parish church 'between the first and second lesson,' each appearing with a paper on his head,
with capitall letters written in it to this effect:—I doe come to doe this penance for prophaning the Holy Sacrament of baptism on the Sabbath daye . . . by sprinkling drinke on the faces of those whose names were not John.'
Down to 1640 none refused to make their communion on Easter day except recusants.
If services were comparatively frequent sermons were somewhat rare. A sermon every three weeks was considered an adequate allowance, and the vicar of Mapledurham, cited in 1598 for not reading the homilies, 'saith that he is a preacher, and preacheth every other Sunday.' (fn. 271) In 1633, Martin Royse, curate of Bladon, when cited, makes answer 'that he doth preach a sermon commonly once in three weeks, but confesseth that in harvest time there was not a sermon preached in six weeks.' (fn. 272) Even at the end of the eighteenth century to be a preacher meant to preach once a Sunday.
Some ancient customs and ways of thought which dated from before the Reformation still survived. As late as 1633 a woman was accused of slandering the marrying of priests; she denied it, and said that 'she doth not dysteeme, nor revile, the same.' (fn. 273) But it is evident that some did. Again, in 1584, the curates of Charlbury and Chadlington were cited for celebrating marriages in Advent, which though not apparently illegal was contrary to old custom. (fn. 274)
But the outstanding feature of this period is the strength of the Roman Catholics, and the archdeacon's court was much occupied with their cases. Until the history of each parish has been written it is difficult to estimate how many there were, but among them were some of the highest and richest families, and probably they held one-third of the manors of the county. In the south of Oxfordshire in particular they were very strong, mainly no doubt through the influence of the Stonors. This family owned a large estate extending over, or into, the manors of Stonor, Bix, Rotherfield Peppard, North Stoke, Watlington, Nettlebed, and Highmore, and with their relatives, the Chamberlains of Shirburn and Clare, and the Symeons of Chilworth, Brightwell, and Britwell, owned or influenced a tract of land 15 miles long by 5 miles wide. Adjacent manors were held by other recusant families: Stokenchurch and Kingston Blount by the Belsons, Swyncombe by the Fettiplaces, Waterperry by the Cursons, Great and Little Haseley by the Lenthalls, Huddlestones, and Horsemans, Mapledurham by the Blounts; at Forest Hill and Sandford there were the Powells, at Thame the Wolfes and certain branches of the Wenmans and Dormers; at Whitchurch the Hides. Towards the north of the county were the old families of Fermor of Somerton and Browne of Kiddington. At Chastleton we meet with the names of Catesby and Ansley, and after the Restoration Mr. Sheldon of Great Barton and Sir Walter Mildmay of Ambrosden. (fn. 275) On the other side there were in the north of the county the strongly Puritan families of Fiennes of Broughton and Cope of Hanwell, but in the south only such minor gentry as Ellwood of Crowell, father of the well-known Quaker, or Colonel Scrope the regicide. In a list of the justices in 1574, it is stated that there were no resident justices in the hundreds of Binfield and Pyrton, apparently because all the gentry were recusants. (fn. 276) Out of the six gentry who in 1580 were in command of the musters from the Chiltern Hundreds three were recusants, Francis Stonor, Robert Belson, and Robert Chamberlain. (fn. 277) The great majority of the middle and lower classes accepted the reformed religion, but showed no enthusiasm for it, and if in Oxfordshire a poll of the gentry had been taken at any time during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it is likely that the decision would have been to return to the unreformed religion. According to Strype the university was full of recusants, and out of eighty members of Exeter College he asserts that all but four were secret or open 'Roman affectionaries.' (fn. 278)
Though the recusants lived under cruel laws, the records of the archdeacon's courts show they were usually administered somewhat leniently, and it is evident that among the ordinary folk of Oxfordshire there was no hostility or suspicion towards the Papists or their religion. Had it not been for pressure from above, exercised in the last resort by the king's council, there would have been no persecution. Churchwardens were unwilling to present their kindly landlords and squires for non-attendance at church, and tried to evade it. The churchwarden of Mapledurham, cited in 1630 for not presenting Sir Charles Blount for a recusant, replied 'that hee can neither write nor reade, but his intent was to present Sir Charles Blount for a recusant, but he knoweth not how to express it in forme.' (fn. 279) In 1633 the churchwardens of Somerton acknowledge that they should have presented Sir Richard Fermor, 'who had not been to church or received the Sacrament for a year.' (fn. 280) Also the authorities of the court were evidently not anxious to proceed to extremities. In July, 1630, Lady Elizabeth Stonor, cited to appear at Oxford, sends a servant who 'offereth to make faith that his Lady is so infirme and ill at ease that she is not able to come abroad,' and an adjournment for three months was granted. At the end of that time the servant appeared again, with the excuse that the coach of his mistress 'brake on Friday last,' and again the case was adjourned for three months; and though the lady herself was in the archdeacon's court, proving a will, only eight days later, it excited no remark, and the adjournment was not curtailed. Those recusants who desired delay because they were not yet satisfied in conscience about receiving the Communion were readily granted a year's respite, during which they might confer with some divine, though it was patent to all that their minds were fixed. Some of them conformed so far as to attend church: thus in 1593 William Lenthall of Wilcote says, 'that he has heretofore absented himself from church, but he hath reformed himself thereof, but for the receiving of the Communion he is not yet satisfied in his conscience,' and the same position was adopted by Edmund Ansley of Chastleton.
How much sympathy there was for the hard position of the recusants, and how few wished them harm, is shown by a curious case which came before the bishop's court in 1631. Mrs. Horseman of Wheatley and Holton, a recusant, died on 31 December excommunicate, no doubt for not attending church. Her friends had promised her that she should be buried in Holton church, but as their conscience would not allow them to say to the archdeacon that she had died penitent, he could not give permission for the burial. It is evident that the vicar was anxious that it should take place, but could not disobey the archdeacon's decision. On the morning of Thursday, 6 January, it was found that the door of the church had been forced in the night, a grave made 'under the Communion table,' and though all the village was aware that the body had been buried there, no one could be found to bear witness against the perpetrators. In the course of the inquiry it came to light that there had been a large gathering and supper at the house of Mrs. Horseman on the night of Wednesday, 5 January; and the story of the servants of the house was that for sanitary reasons they placed the coffin in the garden at night, and that unseen hands removed it. The feelings of the village were evidently expressed by a woman who was reported to have said 'God's blessing on the hands that buried the dead.' There was certainly no such tension and hostility towards the church of Rome at this time as there was in the days of Charles II; the clergy, so far from informing against their recusant parishioners, tried to shield them; and on the other hand, we find Mr. Thomas Stonor, a recusant, presenting a bell to the parish church of Watlington in 1660, and six years later, building and endowing there a free grammar school, where the master was to be of the Church of England.
That the persecution of Papists was more political than religious is proved by the fact that it was instigated by politicians, it varied with the state of the political barometer, and was directed against those who, rightly or wrongly, were accused of political intrigue, namely those who harboured Jesuits and the itinerating secular priests called seminarists. Thus in 1589 Thomas Belson of Aston Rowant was arrested at Oxford in the company of two seminarists, and all were condemned to death. (fn. 281) Again in 1610 George Napper, a seminarist, a native of Holywell, Oxford, was apprehended at Kirtlington and hanged at Oxford. (fn. 282) Also Campion himself, though arrested outside the county, had long been harboured at Stonor, where he and Parsons had a secret printing press. (fn. 283) On the other hand, the case of Edmund Reynolds, openly a Papist, who had conducted a public disputation against his younger brother, John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College, and lived in peace at Oxford and Wolvercote until 1630, shows that the persecution was not directed against certain doctrines, but against suspected individuals. Yet even at the best of times the recusants suffered many irritating restrictions and endured for 200 years what the Church of England had to endure for twenty years at the time of the Commonwealth. Excluded from political influence themselves, they had to own as masters over them those who were their inferiors in education, rank, and often in character. (fn. 284)
If the recusants were particularly strong in the south of the county, other opponents of the Church of England were strong in the north. Banbury and its neighbourhood was renowned for its Puritanism even in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, so that in the 1608 edition of Camden's Britannia the joke was made that Banbury was famous for its 'cakes and zeal' (i.e. Puritanism), (fn. 285) the previous edition reading 'cakes and ale.' Ben Jonson, in 1614, uses the phrase 'a Banbury man' for a 'Puritan,' and in the Journeys of Drunken Barnaby, of about 1616, the author makes fun of a Sabbatarian Puritan of Banbury:
I came to Banbury, O profane one, And there I found a Puritan one Hanging of his cat on Monday For killing of a mouse on Sunday. (fn. 286)
No doubt Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell, a staunch Puritan, was to some extent responsible for the strength of the movement. Though not as influential as the Stonors, the Copes were a rich and powerful family, and for three generations had been of ultra-reforming opinions. (fn. 285) In 1588 Sir Anthony composed a prayer book of his own, and moved in Parliament 'that all laws then in force touching ecclesiastical government should be void,' and that his own book should alone be used; but the queen stopped the matter by placing him in prison until Parliament was dissolved. (fn. 287) He appointed clergy at Hanwell of Nonconforming ways; first John Dodd, of whom we have spoken, and then Robert Harris, both of them energetic and conscientious men, but hostile to the arrangements of the church. (fn. 288) Possibly it was through his influence that Thomas Brasbridge was appointed by the crown to the vicarage of Banbury in 1581. He was deprived in 1590 for Nonconformity, or, as his supporters phrased it, 'for some matters of ceremonies'; but so popular was he that ninety-five of the leading inhabitants of the town made a petition to the Lord Treasurer on his behalf, and subscribed to provide him a salary, whether he was allowed to preach or not. He himself wrote to the Lord Treasurer for leave to preach, promising that in his sermons he will 'handle no matters but only Papistry,' asserting that many recusants sojourned hard by the town, and that many of the inhabitants were too much inclined to Papistry. (fn. 289) Another vicar of Banbury, William Whateley, who held the cure from 1610 to his death in 1638, an exemplary man, was a Puritan, though not a Nonconformist. (fn. 290) In the immediate neighbourhood Robert Cleaver, rector of Drayton, was suspended for Nonconformity about 1605, (fn. 291) and John Prime, fellow of New College and vicar of Adderbury about 1580, was a noted Puritan preacher. (fn. 292) It is noticeable that all these Puritan clergy were, unlike many of their clerical neighbours, men of learning and earnestness; that 'zeal' was considered synonymous with disloyalty to the Prayer Book, and that indifference was considered the correct attitude for the Church of England. There can be no doubt that, almost without exception, people of real religion in the days of Queen Elizabeth were either recusants or Puritans. (fn. 293)
When the Civil War broke out, the clergy of Oxfordshire were even more strongly on the king's side than the clergy throughout the country. After the dissolution of the monasteries, so many of the advowsons within the county came into the possession of Oxford colleges that the clergy were more closely connected with the university than before, and parishes were often held by fellows of colleges. If the University of Oxford adopted a strong attitude in defence of the crown, it was inevitable that the clergy of Oxfordshire would follow; but some of them of humbler position—vicars and curates—were less pronounced in their hostility to the Roundheads, as Anthony Wood noticed of the vicar of Thame. It was natural, therefore, that when the cause of Parliament was triumphant many incumbents who had been the most energetic on the side of the king should be dispossessed of their cures. It is computed that twenty-eight of the clergy, i.e. about one-sixth of them, suffered in this way, (fn. 294) being deprived of their preferments and allowed as a maintenance one-fifth of the stipend. It must, however, be remarked that others had reason to be thankful to the Parliament, which in at least five cases made grants to augment poor livings. (fn. 295) When the king returned, as many as twenty-four ministers were ejected from their parishes. As they were not, and would not be, episcopally ordained, it was impossible that they should retain their cures, but fairness demanded that some provision should be made for them, especially after the promises made by the king before his restoration.
The history of Nonconformity in Oxfordshire, as an organized body apart from the Church, dates from the Commonwealth, and the first to set up separate places of worship were the Quakers. (fn. 296) From the Autobiography of Thomas Ellwood, of Crowell, Oxfordshire, we gather that their chief focus was in Buckinghamshire, where they were supported by men of position, but in Oxfordshire also they were fairly numerous. Three Quaker tracts describe the first advent of the doctrine into the town of Oxford, and of the way it was received by the Presbyterians and Independents, who were then in power. (fn. 297) In 1654 two northern women, Elizabeth Heavens and Elizabeth Fletcher, came to Oxford in the month of April, and 'passed through streets and colleges, and steeple-houses, declaring the word of the Lord.' One Sunday they went into a church, and when 'the priest' (the preacher) had done, one of them began to answer him. For this they were at once carried to 'Buckerdo' (i.e. Bocardo, the prison), and 'the justices' and the vicechancellor ordered that they should be whipped as vagrants; the mayor was unwilling, but 'those who were zealous and thought that they had done God good service' agreed that they should be soundly whipped, and next day this was done, although the executioner was very reluctant. They had previously 'been mocked and buffeted at John's College, being tied together and jumped [upon] and kicked and thrust into a pool called Gileses pool.' 'Magistrates and scholars and they who pretend to be ministers of the Gospel are the chiefest actors in the persecution.' The second pamphlet deals with the ancient Calvinistic doctrine, that salvation is a matter of the next life, not of this, the Quakers emphasizing strongly the need and effect of grace. The third pamphlet, to which Wood has added the note 'some but not all of the things in this pamphlet are true,' deals in particular with attempts to break up the meetings at the house of Richard Betteris, a surgeon residing in New Inn Hall Street. Scholars had broken the windows of the house, had locked the door and removed the key: they 'which title themselves ministers of Christ' had tried to break up the gatherings by gunpowder and squibs, or had burst in, saying, 'Give us beer and tobacco,' and stamped up and down, and were 'more like swine than ministers.' Some had come in with beer and poured it down the necks and clothes of the Quakers. Scholars had come in and used indecent language, and because the Friends would not speak, had forced their mouths open with violence. 'The scholars of John's College' seem to have been the worst; and when complaint was made to the heads of Houses, no redress could be obtained; 'Doctor Owin' (dean of Christ Church) 'hath spewed up some things against the people of God called Quakers'; at Banbury also the Quakers endured similar ill-treatment in 1654 and 1655 at the hands of the Puritans. (fn. 298)
After the Restoration the church took up the persecuting work of the Presbyterians and Independents, but it may fairly be said, without the same violence, fury, and malignity. There is extant a letter to the lord chancellor, from Richard Baylis, the vice-chancellor, dated 12 May, 1662, which describes how he was
hasting homeward after the morning sermon at St. Mary's, when a complaint met me that the Quakers by scores were gathered together at one of their exercises in the house of Mr. Bettrice . . . I found them all hushed. What they had already said or intended to say, they would not confess. I fairly besought them to depart; they absolutely refused. I read the Act unto them, newly published for the suppression of such conventicles, and added another short sharp lecture unto it, that I would presently put the same into severe execution. The threat no whit moved them but to high terms of scorn, and vaunts that neither prison or gallows should make them change their resolution. Disquieted I was with such sottish impudence, and betwixt pity and just indignation forgot my duty; for stead of exacting the mulct prescribed in statute, I fell to intreaty and persuasion that they would have pity upon themselves, their proper goods and souls, and quietly depart: all in vain. Thus provoked to just execution according to the Act, yet foolish pity prevailed against my judgement and overcame me to dispense, where the law did not warrant me. In fine with some show of force I made a shift to clear the room and dissolve the congregation and to carry my old prisoner Bettrice to Bocardo.
He craved pardon for his remissness, and promised not to be seduced by foolish pity again. The lord chancellor replied that:
we have instruction from experience that these Quakers are a sort of people upon whom tenderness or lenity do not at all prevail, and that now the Act against them is made public, it is of absolute necessity to put it severely in execution against all or at least some of the principal of them, especially where you are, since it would be of very ill example that we should not be able to root them out of an University. (fn. 299)
About the same time we meet with them in abundance in the ecclesiastical courts. To the archdeacon they were a new feature, and one with which he was unable to cope; and as they were quite indifferent to the archdeacon's excommunication, they remained masters of the field. Thomas Dringe of Brize Norton, cited January, 1663, 'saith his conscience will not permit him to goe to the parishe church to theire prayers, for hee is a church himselfe and the Temple of the Lord'; Thomas Minchin of Burford 'doth not allowe of the prayers at the parishe church, using then scandalous speeches against Mr. Glyn, the vicar there. He is excommunicated for his obstinate and schismaticall answer.' Lawrence Wellyer of St. Giles', Oxford, wishing to argue, said 'wee could not prove that in ancient time Christians used any churches. The judge to avoyde argument, monished him to be better advised and to appeare the next court day.' Thomas Busby of Sandford, James Weaver of Enstone, and Henry Shodd of Charlbury, were summoned for absence from church; they refused to put off their hats in court; and the last, when 'inhibited from teaching schoole, said hee believed hee should not observe that command either.' (fn. 300) They had no hesitation, no doubt; they did not desire a year's delay, that they might consult a learned divine; they held out no prospect of alteration. With such the archdeacon was powerless; and when others who had separated from the Church showed a similar callousness to the punishment of excommunication, the court, though it was held as late as 1696, (fn. 301) was robbed of its main weapon.
A prominent figure among the early Quakers, Anne Downer, was by birth from Oxfordshire, having been born at Charlbury in 1624, where her father was vicar. She subsequently resided in London, where she became a Quaker in 1654, and was the first woman who preached in public in London. In 1656 she visited Charlbury and Chadlington, and preached there, and 'convinced many.' Soon after she married Robert Greenwell, who died in Newgate Prison in 1664; her second husband was George Whitehead. On her death, in 1686, an account of her was given in a work containing 'Testimonies concerning that true Servant of God, Ann Whitehead.' (fn. 302)
Some of the earliest, if not the earliest, meeting-places of dissenters were those of the Quakers at Banbury and Adderbury; the former dated from 1664, the latter seems to have been earlier. (fn. 303) About the same time the Independents and Presbyterians began to organize themselves. Wood describes (fn. 304) how those fellows of colleges that were banished from Oxford for attending conventicles became preachers in the country around—Dr. John Owen at Stadhampton, Thomas Cole at Nettlebed, Henry Cornish at Stanton Harcourt; others lived as guests or as tutors in those county families which were inclined to Puritanism. One of the earliest Nonconformist congregations was gathered at Bicester, where Mr. Troughton, fellow of St. John's College, when he was expelled from Oxford in 1662, acted as minister. On his death, in 1681, he was succeeded by Henry Cornish, who was a canon of Christ Church during the Commonwealth. Of the abilities of the former Wood speaks with great respect. The chapel was at first Presbyterian, subsequently Independent. (fn. 305)
Of the bishops of Oxford in the reign of Charles II the ablest and most active was Dr. John Fell, 1676–86. Having been a student of Christ Church in the reign of Charles I he was ejected by the Parliament and lived quietly in Oxford until 1660. He was then made dean of Christ Church, and proved himself an efficient ruler. Being a man of strong will and quick decision, and not very considerate of the feelings of the sensitive—'one who did not value what the generality said of him' (fn. 306) —he was unpopular; but no reader of Anthony Wood can fail to admire his liberality, love of scholarship, and genuine religion. Immediately on his appointment to the bishopric he began the rebuilding of Cuddesdon Palace. Dr. Paul, who occupied the see from 1663 to 1665, had collected timber for the work, but had done nothing more; Dr. Fell, at his own expense, completed the work in 1679. He also granted an endowment to St. Martin's Church, Oxford, for the maintenance of daily morning and evening service. Together with his bishopric he retained the office of dean of Christ Church, and as at the same time he took a leading part in the conduct of all University business it is not surprising that he shortened his life by overwork.
The latter part of the episcopate of Bishop Fell was a period of much bitterness and tension. The stories of popish conspiracies, and the attempts of the party of James II to secure converts, raised feelings against the recusants such as had never existed before, and Anthony Wood reveals in his diary with what suspicion he himself was regarded because he had Roman Catholic friends. At one time also the hostility of the Church towards Nonconformists was very sharp, and the regulation of the Act of Uniformity that those who failed to attend their parish church should be fined 1s. for each Sunday seems to have been put in force in some places. The churchwardens' book of Watlington, Oxon., records:—
Feb. 23, 1681, distrained by John East, churchwarden of Watlington, of William Marson, labourer, as followeth, viz., one brass porrige pot, weight 7 lbs., for seven Sundays absence from our parish church by his wife, appraised by the praisers at 12s. 10d. Distrained the same day of John Pocock one kittle, weight 15 lbs., at 8d. per pound, and one warming pan at 2s., for 15 Sundays absence from our parish church.
There are similar entries in 1682 and 1683, but none after or before.
It is said that the stringent laws passed against the recusants in the reign of William III reduced their numbers, but lists drawn up in 1706 and 1715 show that they were still numerous and influential in Oxfordshire. The former list, (fn. 307) which professes to give the names of all Roman Catholics in the county, the amount of their property, and in particular whether they possess any advowsons, is certainly very incomplete even for the parishes from which we have a return. (fn. 308) The other list, (fn. 309) which is complete for all properties of recusants that were in their own hands, though it seems to omit those that were in the hands of Protestant trustees, shows that the recusants of Oxfordshire had land of the annual value of approximately £10,000, whereas in Buckinghamshire, a county of equal acreage, population, and wealth, the amount was only £5,000.
No sooner was the Church safe from the schemes of James than another trouble arose. A considerable number of the most earnest churchmen refused to take the oath of allegiance to William III and the oath of abjuration of the Stuart line. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge produced many non-jurors, but it does not appear that among the clergy of Oxfordshire the proportion was any higher than in other counties. The rectors of Harpsden and Stanton St. John and the vicars of Charlbury and Pyrton surrendered their cures rather than take the oath; (fn. 310) but the university was full of sympathizers, and generally made some provision as far as possible for ejected fellows and incumbents. Thus at Pyrton, when Mr. Acworth the vicar resigned, the patrons, Christ Church, Oxford, appointed as successor a friend of his named William Howell, (fn. 311) who, as it is assumed by Hearne, (fn. 312) allowed his predecessor a portion from the vicarage of Pyrton sufficient for his maintenance.
In 1690 John Hough, who as president of Magdalen had played such a prominent part in resisting James II, was appointed bishop of Oxford. In 1699 he was followed by William Talbot, who had obtained the deanery of Worcester through the interest of the duke of Shrewsbury, (fn. 313) and according to Hearne was addicted to cards. (fn. 314) Unfortunately, owing to the attitude of so many of the clergy both in the time of William III and also under the Hanoverian kings, the choice of bishops was limited to the Whigs, who with all the virtues of reasonableness and moderation, were not men of enthusiasm or great strictness of life. In 1715 John Potter, Regius Professor of Divinity, was appointed bishop, a man of learning, whose edition of Clement of Alexandria is still the best. There is extant a charge that he delivered to the clergy in 1719, but it throws little light on the state of the diocese. He complains of the hostility to the clergy: 'our frailties and imperfections are highly aggravated'; he dwells on the great scandal that arises if any of the clergy are 'immersed in worldly cares and business,' an unfortunate topic to select in the age of courtier bishops.
The successor of Bishop Potter was Secker, who was translated from Bristol, and after holding the see from 1737 to 1758 was promoted to the archbishopric of Canterbury. From his triennial charges some idea may be formed of the state of religion in the diocese. In 1738, like his predecessor, he laments the laxity of the times: 'disregard to religion is become the distinguishing character of the present age,' and he implies that there was a malignant hostility to the Church and all Christianity. In 1741 he gives some rules about parochial matters: candidates for confirmation must not be under fourteen years old as a general rule; the clergy ought not to absent themselves from confirmations, but present their own candidates; there should be not less than four celebrations of the Holy Communion every year, and he hopes that ultimately a monthly celebration will be attained; it is not a proper custom that people should sit for the psalms; large numbers stay away from church, but if they will not alter for entreaties they must be presented by the churchwardens; communicants formed a very small proportion of the congregations; the clergy should make an effort to have service on Wednesdays, Fridays, and holy days; some had no service on Good Friday and Christmas Day; servants, who according to the canons ought to be brought to church for catechizing, displayed an unwillingness to say the catechism publicly. In 1753 he acknowledges that 'immorality and irreligion have grown almost beyond the reach of ecclesiastical power'; yet churchwardens must present gross offenders, and if the court pronounces excommunication they are to be publicly denounced as excommunicate, and the churchwardens are to see that they are not allowed within the church; he speaks too of the difficulty of persuading congregations to keep their churches in repair. Amid much which conveys an impression of gloom he mentions one brighter fact, that his diocese, omitting the university, contributed more than one-fortieth of the income of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; the proportion now is only about one-eightieth.
The Methodist movement, which started at Oxford, for some years made little progress in the town. It hardly needs to be said that one of the first works of Wesley and his circle was to visit the prisoners, apparently both in the Castle and Bocardo, which was done with the approval of the bishop; in fact, the bishop's chaplain, who had formerly undertaken the work, resigned it to them. At South Leigh in Oxfordshire John Wesley preached his first sermon in 1725; but when his diary begins, and for some years afterwards, he speaks of Oxford with much despondency. In 1741, when he had occasion to preach in St. Mary's, he was told that every one was so prejudiced against him that it did not matter what he said; and when his turn came to preach in August, 1744, the vice-chancellor immediately after the sermon sent his beadle for his notes, no doubt with a view to discover heresy; but Wesley was only delighted that some one should read his sermon. Next year he speaks of Oxford as 'poor and miserable and blind and naked'; but we must remember that he was one who found it difficult to see religion unless it took exactly his form. In 1751, when he came to Oxford for an election, he noticed an improvement; there was no laughter when he appeared, or pointing, or calling of names, and henceforth his visits were more frequent. In 1769 he speaks of a dissenting meetinghouse, which it seems he sometimes borrowed for his preaching; and in 1775 his society, which was now a numerous congregation, owned a large house that had formerly belonged to the Presbyterians. In 1780 there was a new chapel at Oxford, and he mentions with pleasure that many gentlemen and scholars came to hear him and behaved well. At Burford, as early as 1739, he preached to as many as 1,500 people; as it was a winter evening, this must have been in the parish church; but afterwards he seems to have paid few visits there. He had several followers at Finstock, and always enjoyed their company, but there is no doubt that Witney was the strongest centre of Methodism in the county, and in Wesley's eyes the most satisfactory in all England. He began his ministry there in 1764, and then, and on all subsequent occasions, praised the quietness, diligence, sobriety and civility of the people. Next year he again visited this 'congregation of late standing,' and by 1767 he describes his audience as 'huge.' In 1769 'we have a large and commodious house at Witney,' which however in a few years was too small. In 1783 another visit was paid to the town, and on Sunday Wesley, who always maintained that his followers were a society within the Church of England and should attend the parish church, was present there himself and the Methodists with him, so that the church was crowded, to 'the surprise and delight of the rector.' But it is evident from these words that unless Wesley was in the town it was not the custom for the Methodists to come to church; and seeing that as early as 1739, to Wesley's grief, some of his followers 'made a jest of going to church and to the sacrament,' (fn. 315) every one but Wesley must have realized in 1783 what had happened. He alone was blinded by his theory.
Whatever the causes may be, it is certain that church matters in Oxfordshire became more and more lifeless as the eighteenth century drew on. Whether it was from the dread of enthusiasm, or from a succession of bishops selected for moderate principles and political services, certain returns (fn. 316) made in 1781 and 1783 show how slovenly and meagre were the church services at that time. Out of 207 churches in the county, seventyfour had only one service on Sunday; and with the four exceptions of Bicester, Henley, Bampton and Chipping Norton, none had two sermons. The only church which according to the return had service on holy days was St. Mary's, Oxford, and one church, Adderbury, had service on Wednesdays and Fridays. It seems that no church had daily prayers, although St. Martin's, Oxford, had an endowment for that purpose. About one-third of the incumbents were not, and as they were pluralists could not be, resident on their cures. It is true that they kept curates, but as a curate in some cases was engaged by two or more different incumbents to serve their churches, there were some parishes with no resident clergy. Pluralism was rampant, and in the next century there was the crowning instance of Mr. Pretyman, son of the bishop of Lincoln, who from 1819 to 1866 held the rectory of Middleton Stoney with five other pieces of preferment, his total income from them being £4,006 per annum. (fn. 317)
Of the bishops of Oxford of the nineteenth century several were men of mark. Charles Lloyd, who occupied the see for only two years and died at the age of forty-four, was one who might have done great things if his life had been prolonged. After a brilliant career at Oxford, he became lecturer, tutor, and censor of Christ Church, and in 1822, when he was thirty-seven years old, was made Regius Professor of Divinity. Though he held the post for only five years, he accomplished some valuable work, and his text of the Greek Testament was the standard text in use at Oxford for sixty years or more. Besides his statutory lectures he had a class for some of the younger tutors, a precedent which was followed in later days by J. B. Mozley, and among those who attended were Newman, Pusey, Greswell, Churton, and Jelf. A description of one of these classes, written by Miss Mozley, (fn. 318) gives us a picture of Lloyd as one with somewhat unepiscopal manners—rough, hearty, and with little care for dignity, but fond of his pupils, and with a genuine zeal for learning. It was through him that Pusey went to Germany to study and was promoted to the Professorship of Hebrew; and when Newman began the study of the Fathers it was with his approval. He was a scholar of the type that was more common at Cambridge than at Oxford, with more belief in hard work than in brilliancy, distrustful of dialectic and philosophy, laying emphasis on accurate exegesis and historical evidence. Many of the Tractarians affirmed that they first learnt from him that the Prayer Book was to be understood from the point of view of those who first composed and accepted it, and that the mediaeval service books were to be used as a commentary to explain it—ideas which are common now but were novel then. Newman, who never felt strongly the appeal to history, and had a bent for philosophy, was not much influenced by him, though he felt strongly the vigour of his mind and his personal kindliness; (fn. 319) but Pusey and Sir William Palmer, and other Tractarians of the historical school, probably owed much to the training of Lloyd. In 1827 he was made bishop of Oxford, and died two years later while still quite young. Good judges have thought that if he had lived a few years longer he would have been of the greatest value in dealing with the rise of the Tractarian Movement. He certainly would not have allied himself with the dominant old High Church party in Oxford, who were content to remain in ignorance and condemned as erroneous all that was new to them; he would have been in sympathy with much of the theology of the Tractarians, but whether he would have been also in sympathy with the religious side of the movement remains uncertain.
His successor was Richard Bagot, sixth son of Lord Bagot. He had passed through the stages which were customary at the time for one of high birth and good abilities; he was B.A. in 1803, Fellow of All Souls in 1804, M.A. and ordained in 1806, a canon of Windsor and the holder of family livings in 1807, a canon of Worcester in 1817. He was appointed to the see of Oxford in 1829, and at his own request was translated to Bath and Wells in 1845. It was his misfortune to be called upon to decide some momentous questions in connexion with the rise of the Oxford Movement, and there can be no doubt that the responsibility weighed upon him, but he acquitted himself well in his difficult post. If he was unable to place himself at the head of the movement, he could appreciate well much of its practical side, and all the Tractarian leaders bore testimony to his courtesy, fairness, and personal goodness. Newman, who had a high opinion not only of his character, but also of his abilities, and described one of his charges as 'strong and bold,' (fn. 320) was grieved that he said in his charge in 1838 that there were points in the movement of which he did not approve, and asked what the points were; the bishop's reply was that nothing definite was meant, that he was thankful for the movement as a whole, but received many letters, anonymous and otherwise, disapproving of his friendliness to the Tractarians. (fn. 321) He continued to exhort Pusey and Newman to 'moderation' and to avoid 'superstition,' but in each case he meant what he himself was accustomed to consider superstition and moderation. He was not like Lloyd, a deep and original scholar, capable of judging whether the position of the Church of England needed to be re-stated; but he was unwilling to hinder the work of those whom he knew to be personally honest and earnest men, and it was only in 1841, as it seems in response to pressure put upon him, that he asked that the series of Tracts for the Times might be discontinued.
During his tenure of the see the extent of the diocese underwent a great change. Since the Reformation it had consisted of the county of Oxford, but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, about whom Bishop Bagot hazarded the gloomy prophecy that they would be more powerful than all the bishops, shortly after their establishment brought forward a scheme for the transference of Berkshire from the diocese of Salisbury and its union with Oxford. This was accomplished in 1837 by an order in Council; but when next year, in the same way, the county of Bucks, part of the old diocese of Lincoln, was also added, the bishop of Oxford refused this second addition on the ground that it would make the see larger than any one man could supervise. The scheme, therefore, was not carried into effect until he was succeeded in 1845 by Samuel Wilberforce.
This great bishop was appointed to the see when he was only forty years old. Born in 1805, he was archdeacon of Surrey in 1839, canon of Winchester in 1840, dean of Westminster in May, 1845, and six months later bishop of Oxford; in 1869 he was translated to Winchester. Few men have had more influence on the English Church than he, not so much by his teaching as by the example he gave. He was the first, at all events in the diocese of Oxford, to break with the old ideal of a bishop's life— courtly, dignified, and peaceful; he had marvellous powers of work, and by his energy and activity welded the three counties into one body and infused new energy into its church life. If modern English bishops are men of much labour, and for the most part of simplicity of life, it was Wilberforce who set the pattern; and what is now expected from all was originated by him when he came to the diocese of Oxford.
In another way his influence was equally great; he was one of the first to see clearly that other methods of worship and church organization were needed in the nineteenth century from those in use in the sixteenth. In studying the religious history of the county, nothing is more remarkable than the almost Oriental changelessness between the years 1560 and 1820, and in particular between 1700 and 1820. It is true that the Puritans between 1560 and 1600 had made one or two small experiments, such as the institution of lectureships; between 1620 and 1640, during the Laudian revival, there was no doubt a certain development in the dignity of worship, and churches were restored and embellished; also after the Restoration there were some innovations, especially in London and town parishes, such as more frequent services and the establishment of guilds and societies for church objects, culminating in the foundation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; but during the whole of the eighteenth century there was no alteration except the institution of Sunday schools. For the most part church matters in 1820 were exactly as they were two centuries earlier: the churches were kept in the same way, the service was said at the same hours, and with the same kind of ritual; Tate and Brady or Sternhold and Hopkins was still the Hymn Book; and during all that time the parish organization and modes of church-work remained unchanged. An awakening had already taken place, and some new churches had been built, when the Oxford Movement arose and added its force to the revival. The Tractarians laid stress not merely on doctrine and still less on ritual, but rather on personal religion, and soon saw the necessity of altering the customs of the sixteenth century. They saw the necessity of new churches, and indeed built many; Newman erected one at Littlemore in 1836, Pusey another at Leeds, and their followers imitated their example throughout the country. Existing churches were restored and beautified, services were more frequent and reverent, and church life found new openings in various directions. Although Bishop Wilberforce was never quite able to do justice to the Tractarian position, and remained to the end of his life a somewhat insular, rather than Catholic, High Churchman, yet he was at one with them in his desire to make religion a force in the life of individuals and the nation, and not a mere form. He set to work at once to procure the formation of new parishes and the erection and endowment of new churches; parsonages were built in order that there might be resident clergy in all parishes; and church restoration was taken in hand. In 1847 he founded the Oxford Diocesan Society for such objects, the immediate programme being the erection of twenty-two new churches and fifty parsonages, (fn. 322) and when he resigned the see, 250 churches had been restored and seventy parsonages built. It was estimated that during those twenty-two years the amount of money spent within the diocese on new churches, church endowments, church restoration, new parsonages, and houses of mercy amounted to over £2,000,000. (fn. 323) When it is remembered that during the 300 years from 1520 to 1820 there had been, it seems, no new church erected, and probably not twenty during the 600 years from 1220 to 1820, we see what an epoch the episcopate of Wilberforce was. In his extreme care about confirmations and ordinations he set a new example, and what is now the rule of every bishop was initiated by him. Other novelties in church life he was one of the first to encourage, if he did not originate them; for instance, missions, retreats, sisterhoods, and theological colleges. In 1850 he conducted missions in several parts of the diocese; in 1860 he instituted a retreat for clergy at Cuddesdon; sisterhoods were founded in 1849 at Wantage, in 1852 at Clewer, and though at first his evangelical training made it hard for him to appreciate this new development, he soon learnt to value it, and guided it with wisdom. Cuddesdon Theological College was founded by him in 1854, one of the first, though not quite the first, of such institutions; and the bishop appointed Liddon vice-principal, recognizing his genius for that work. When the college and its viceprincipal were violently attacked in the Press in 1858 the bishop defended them, and though Liddon subsequently resigned, it was in connexion with another matter. The bishop did much to encourage evening services and surpliced choirs; he urged the abolition of family pews and all that hindered the poor from taking their rightful place in worship. Though he was not without friends in high places, and had not to endure the continuous storm of insult and misrepresentation which fell on Pusey, yet he deserves to be reckoned among those who have suffered persecution for righteousness' sake; as he said himself, if he had not followed his convictions and left the evangelical school to which his father belonged, he would have been enthroned at Lambeth before he was fifty by the dominant evangelical party; (fn. 324) and any reference to the back numbers of the newspapers will show that like John Wesley he was called upon to endure much unpopularity with the unthinking public because of his zeal for religion.
John Fielder Mackarness, who was appointed in 1869, was in many points a contrast to his brilliant predecessor, but he was of equal industry and perhaps greater judgement. He had been an incumbent in two parishes for twenty-four years, and no bishop of Oxford had so much experience of parish work. During his episcopate St. Stephen's House at Oxford was opened in 1876 as a place of training for candidates for orders; in 1878 Dorchester Missionary College was founded, not indeed through the efforts of the bishop, but before long he became its visitor: Pusey House was established in 1884 at a cost of nearly £40,000, the bishop himself taking a leading part in the scheme; and in the same year the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley, at their first general chapter requested him to become their visitor. (fn. 325) He did not aim at ministering to a wider sphere than his own diocese, but in one matter he was brought forward more prominently. In 1879 when he was requested to allow proceedings to be taken against Canon Carter of Clewer for illegal practices in the conduct of divine service, he gave a refusal on the ground that the promoters of the suit were not parishioners. Application was then made in the Queen's Bench for a 'Writ of Mandamus,' and in the first instance the decision was that a bishop had no power to withhold his consent to legal proceedings under the Church Discipline Act; but in the two higher courts this judgement was reversed, so that it fell to Bishop Mackarness to be the first to secure the episcopal right of veto. There can be no doubt that his action has saved the Church from much strife, and that if he had not appealed from the first verdict, the position of a bishop would, as he said, have been intolerable. He resigned the see in 1888 through failing health, and died the next year. William Stubbs, bishop of Chester, the historian, was elected his successor 24 December, 1888, and occupied the see for more than twelve years. During 1889 and 1890 he served as an assessor to the archbishop of Canterbury during the Lincoln Judgement, but with this exception his episcopate was uneventful. He died 22 April, 1901, and Francis Paget, dean of Christ Church, was appointed.
Ecclesiastical Divisions Of The County
The connexion of Oxfordshire with the dioceses of Dorchester, Lincoln, and Oxford having been traced, there remains the question of the ecclesiastical subdivision of the county. Henry of Huntingdon states that the first archdeacon of Oxford was Alfred, appointed by Bishop Remigius, and that Walter, of whom we have evidence as early as 1112, was the second. (fn. 326) It appears certain that from the first the county and archdeaconry of Oxford have been co-terminous.
The Taxatio divides the county into nine rural deaneries, which had the same titles, and almost the same boundaries, as were in use in 1840. How old these divisions are, and how they originated, is uncertain, but the rural dean appears frequently among the witnesses in Oxfordshire charters in the twelfth century; and in some rural deaneries it is possible to recover the successions from the time of Henry I. Thus in Oxford we have 'Thomas le Den' about 1120; (fn. 327) William about 1138; (fn. 328) Odbrich 'decanus Oxenefordie' before 1151; (fn. 329) 'Johannes de Oxenford decanus ecclesie beate Marie de Oxenford' before 1165, (fn. 330) when he was promoted to the deanery of Salisbury; he was succeeded by 'Radulfus decanus de sancto Martino,' 1165 to c. 1183; (fn. 331) he was followed by his son Nigel de sancto Martino, who died in 1199. (fn. 332) That the rural deaneries were always nine in number, and contained the parishes which we find in 1291, cannot definitely be proved; but all the evidence, as far as it has been collected, agrees with this assumption. It is certain, however, that some of the names of the rural deaneries cannot be primitive; as Woodstock did not come into existence until the reign of Henry I, there could have been no rural deanery of Woodstock in Saxon times; and in fact the deaneries seem to have had no distinctive names at first; rural deans and ruridecanal chapters are in the twelfth century expressed by the phrases 'decanus loci' and 'capitulum loci,' or if the name of the place is added to decanus it is the parish where the rural dean was beneficed. This style has not always been understood, so that (to give an example) Anthony Wood drew the conclusion from the title 'decanus ecclesie sancte Marie' that the church of St. Mary in Oxford always had a dean, the true explanation being that the post of rural dean was held by the rector of St. Mary's, just as it was afterwards held by two successive rectors of St. Martin's. Perhaps the earliest instance of a rural deanery with a distinctive name is in 1192, when what is now known as the rural deanery of Henley is spoken of as the deanery of Chiltern, the title being 'Thomas decanus de Ciltra'; (fn. 333) again in 1240 a certain agreement is to be enforced for all time by the 'rural dean of Aston,' which evidently cannot mean 'the vicar of Aston Rowant, now rural dean.' (fn. 334) When soon after the middle of the thirteenth century it became the custom for rural deans to have a seal of office, it was inevitable that each rural deanery should have a fixed name, (fn. 335) but at what date they obtained the titles which we find in 1291 is uncertain. That this did not take place at the time of the Taxatio is proved by an Eynsham charter of 1270, (fn. 336) which mentions by name the deaneries of Witney, Woodstock, Deddington, Bicester, Cuddesdon, and Chipping Norton.
The boundaries of rural deaneries in Oxfordshire, as throughout southern Mercia, correspond in no way with the boundaries of the hundreds, and even the original parishes occasionally extended into two hundreds. Thus Pyrton parish originally included the manor of Easington in the hundred of Ewelme, besides the forty hides in the hundred of Pyrton. (fn. 337)
Traces of the subjection of one church to another are found even where for a long time they had been in independent parishes. Thus Launton, which figures in 1217 as a parish church with both a rector and a vicar, (fn. 338) had not obtained the right of sepulture even two centuries later, but brought the dead to Bicester church. (fn. 339) Sarsden church, which was given to Eynsham by its lord as early as 1180, made an annual payment to the church of Churchill until 1375, (fn. 340) and Cokethorpe made a similar payment to Ducklington. This last church had a curious position. An inquisition (fn. 341) held in 1290 decided that the church of Cokethorpe had existed from beyond all memory, that the incumbent was called rector of Cokethorpe, but that it was not certain whether the patron was the rector of Ducklington or the lord of Ducklington; the church was to serve the two hamlets of Cokethorpe and Hardwick, but the dead were buried in the former case at Ducklington, in the latter at Bampton.
Taking the rural deaneries in order, we find that in the deanery of Aston the Taxatio enumerates seventeen churches, but omits Tetsworth, Sydenham, Britwell Salome, Pishill, Stokenchurch, Ibstone, and Warpsgrove. Yet at that time there were churches at all these villages. Roger 'persona de Tetsworth' and William 'presbiter de Tettleswode' attest deeds of 1160–90; (fn. 342) Isaac, vicar of Sydenham, is mentioned about 1270; (fn. 343) and the reason why these two churches are omitted in 1291 is that they must have been given by the patrons to augment the prebend of Thame, and were served by curates appointed by the prebendary; in fact they remained curacies of Thame until recent times. Ibstone, which was reckoned to be in Oxfordshire, (fn. 344) and Britwell are both mentioned before 1235 in the Institutions of Bishop Hugh, and the former church was given to Oseney Abbey before 1160, (fn. 345) though afterwards surrendered. Pishill was given to Dorchester Abbey before 1189; (fn. 346) the rector of Warpsgrove is mentioned in 1279, (fn. 347) and the church occurs in 1216; (fn. 348) and Stokenchurch, though only a chapelry of Aston as late as the eighteenth century, had a chapel before 1206, and was even in possession of its own cemetery by that time. (fn. 349) There were also the following chapels in this deanery: one at Standhill in the parish of Pyrton, founded about 1200, (fn. 350) in existence in 1526, (fn. 351) but destroyed not long after; one at Ackhampstead or Chyssebech, then in the parish of Lewknor, but now in the county of Bucks, mentioned in 1242, (fn. 352) and still existing in the eighteenth century; a chapel of St. James at Henton in the parish of Chinnor, for the construction or repair of which the bishop granted an indulgence in 1308; (fn. 353) a chapel at Berwick in the parish of Chalgrove, mentioned as early as 1319, (fn. 354) and still in use; and a chapel at North Weston existing in 1526, and served by a curate under the prebendary of Thame. (fn. 355) At Britwell Prior there was a chapel of ease to Newington before 1200, (fn. 356) which was standing in 1846; but as Newington was a peculiar of the archbishop of Canterbury we have no records about it. It may be added that the church of Warpsgrove, which has long since disappeared, seems to have existed until after 1535. (fn. 357) It will therefore be seen that in 1291 there were twenty-three churches in the deanery and certainly three chapels of ease, probably four; and that as far as our evidence goes they were all in existence in 1215.
In the Henley deanery the Taxatio mentions seventeen churches, including Swyncombe (now in the deanery of Aston), and two chapels, Ipsden and Newnham Murren. To this list, however, we must add Lashbrook, a chapel to Shiplake, founded before 1230; (fn. 358) a chapel at Woodcote in South Stoke, which contains Norman work; (fn. 359) the parish church of Bolney, which is mentioned in 1235, and was destroyed in 1453, when the parish was united with Harpsden; (fn. 360) Nettlebed, reckoned to be a chapel of Benson in 1279; (fn. 361) Bix Gibwin, the ruins of which show that it was of Norman architecture, (fn. 362) of which there was a rector named Thomas in 1240, (fn. 363) and to which we find presentations as early as the rolls of institutions begin. It may be pointed out that though Newnham Murren was a chapel of Mongewell, yet the record of an inquisition (fn. 364) held in 1184 shows that both churches had at that time existed from beyond the memory of man. Thus in the deanery of Henley there were twenty-four churches and chapels in 1291, of which all, or all but one, date from before 1230.
In the deanery of Cuddesdon the Taxatio mentions twenty-two churches, one of them being Thame, and another 'Dorchester with its prebendal chapels.' In 1526 these chapels are enumerated as: Warborough, Stadham, Benson, Clifton Hampden, Drayton, and Toot Baldon; to which we must add Chislehampton, which was served by the chaplain of Stadham (= Stadhampton), (fn. 365) and two chapels at Burcot and Overe, close to Dorchester. (fn. 366) Whether some of these were built after 1291 we cannot say, but the churches of Benson, Warborough, Clifton Hampden, Drayton, and Toot Baldon prove (fn. 367) by their architecture that they existed by the year 1200. We must also add to the list given in the Taxatio the church of Albury, which had both a vicar and a rector in 1217; (fn. 368) of Sandford-on-Thames, built by Gerri de Planastre shortly after the Norman Conquest; (fn. 369) of Culham, which was confirmed to Abingdon Abbey in 1111; (fn. 370) of Newington, which shows Norman work; (fn. 371) of March Baldon, which certainly existed in 1219, (fn. 372) having, perhaps, been built not long before. (fn. 373) We may also safely add the churches of Noke (fn. 374) and Piddington, thus obtaining a total of thirty-five churches in this deanery at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Of these the church of Woodperry exists no longer, having apparently been burnt in the fifteenth century, but fragments of it have been found. (fn. 375) There was also a chapel of ease at Ascot in the parish of Great Milton, built in the thirteenth century and standing as late as 1800; (fn. 376) also another at Latchford in the parish of Haseley, built by Henry Fitz-Nigel, rector of Haseley, in 1300, (fn. 377) and according to the complaint of the parishioners destroyed in 1347 by the abbot of Thame, who was bound to provide a monk to serve the chapel. (fn. 378) There was also a chapel at Little Haseley in 1279, (fn. 379) one at Little Milton in 1542, (fn. 380) and another at Rycott, built and also endowed by Richard Quartermain (fn. 381) about 1450.
In the deanery of Oxford the Taxatio mentions ten churches, and four that are described as chapels—Binsey, St. Thomas's, Holywell, and Wolvercot—but this return is utterly inadequate; there were twenty-two churches in 1291, and the charters about Oxford are so abundant that we are able to assert with practical certainty that they all existed a hundred years earlier, and that more than three-quarters of them date from before the Norman Conquest. The charter of Henry I to St. Frideswide's in 1122 gives the names of seven churches and three chapels—the churches of St. Frideswide, All Saints, St. Mildred, St. Michael's North, St. Peter-le-Bailey, St. Aldate, and St. Edward; with the chapels of Holy Trinity, St. Michael's South, and St. Clement. (fn. 382) None of these are mentioned as though they were new churches, and a fact which we learn in charters of Bishop Roger (fn. 383) of the year 1139, that there had been legal proceedings about the possession of many of them in the reign of Henry I, proves that they cannot have been of recent foundation; for in that case there would have been no doubt who was the patron. Four other churches date from before the Conquest—St. Martin's given to Abingdon Abbey in 1032, (fn. 384) St. Ebbe's given to Eynsham in 1005, and St. Mary's and St. Peter's-in-the-East, both mentioned in Domesday Book; of the building of Holywell and Wolvercot, the two chapels belonging to St. Peter's-in-the-East, we have no information, but they both existed before the end of the twelfth century, (fn. 385) and there is no reason why their origin may not have been far earlier. The church of St. Budoc, which is mentioned as early as 1140, (fn. 386) must date from before the Conquest; for the patronage of it belonged to the king, (fn. 387) which would not have been the case if it had been founded after 1066. Of the church of St. John we have no definite mention before 1215, (fn. 388) but the parish of St. John is mentioned in charters at an earlier date. The chapel of Binsey or Margaretwell occurs in 1141, (fn. 389) and as it was a sacred spot where Edith the founder of Godstow settled about 1120, it was evidently not a recent foundation. The church of St. Mary Magdalen must also date from before the Conquest, as there was a dispute about its possession as early as the reign of Henry I, who confirmed it on one occasion to the canons of St. George's as granted them by Robert d'Oilly I, and on another occasion to the priory of St. Frideswide, as part of the possessions of the original secular canons. (fn. 390)
Only two churches out of the twenty-two were certainly later than 1066. The church of St. Giles was founded by Edwin Godegose in the reign of Henry I, and the advowson was subsequently granted by him to Godstow Abbey. (fn. 391) Also the chapel of St. George's was erected by Robert d'Oilly I in 1074 within the castle of Oxford. (fn. 392) At first it was a parish church, but in 1142, during the siege of Oxford, a chapel of St. Nicholas was built in the island of Oseney, within the parish of St. George's, and was licensed in 1186, if not earlier, to serve as a parish church for the residents in the island of Oseney. Finally, about 1220, its title was changed to St. Thomas's, and the whole of the parish of St. George's, excepting only the castle, was attached to it.
Of these old parish churches several have been suppressed. The church of St. Budoc about 1265 was given by the king to the Penitentiarian friars for their chapel, (fn. 393) and the parish was united with St. Ebbe's; in 1298 the parish of St. Frideswide was suppressed and united with St. Edward's; (fn. 394) and the church of St. Edward in its turn came to an end about 1450; (fn. 395) St. Mildred's Church was pulled down in 1437, and the parish united with St. Michael's. (fn. 396) The church of St. Michael's South was destroyed at the building of Cardinal College; and the chapel of Holy Trinity, the site of which is uncertain, never attained the rank of a parish church.
In the deanery of Woodstock we notice again that the Taxatio is incomplete, for it omits the churches of Begbroke, Stonesfield, and Wilcote, although we have institutions to them before 1224. (fn. 397) Against the modern parish and church of Freeland we can set several chapels which have been destroyed: one at Hensington, in Bladon, mentioned as early as 1200, and as late as 1545; (fn. 398) another at Ledwell, in the parish of Sandford St. Martin, existing in 1220; (fn. 399) two more at Ludwell and Hordley, in the parish of Wootton. (fn. 400) At Frees, in Kidlington, there was a chapel of St. Leonard granted to Oseney before 1195, (fn. 401) while the Hospitallers had a chapel at Goseford in the same parish in the year 1235. (fn. 402) Omitting Cogges and South Leigh, which have now been transferred from the Woodstock to the Witney deanery, there were thirty-one chapels and churches in the time of the Taxatio, but now only twenty-seven. Nor is there any reason to say that they had then been recently erected. From the institutions of the bishop of Lincoln we know that, with the possible exception of three of the chapels, they were all in existence in 1220. Of Cassington we are fortunate enough to know the date; for this village, which was originally part of the parish of Eynsham, a church was built about 1115–23, (fn. 403) and so badly that the tower had to be taken down within a few years. (fn. 404) Yarnton, which was also originally part of the parish of Eynsham, and paid tithes to that abbey, must have had a church before Cassington; otherwise the people of Yarnton would have been cut off from their church when Cassington was made into a parish.
Once more when we reach the Chipping Norton deanery we notice how incomplete is the Taxatio. It makes no mention of the churches of Cornwell, Sarsden, and Salford; yet the two former were given to Eynsham Abbey before the end of the twelfth century, (fn. 405) while in Salford church there is Norman work. Although the deanery contains four modern parishes and churches —Finstock, Leafield, Milton-under-Wychwood and Ramsden—yet it had more churches in 1200 than now. For the five following have disappeared: a chapel at Showell in Swerford, given to John, bishop of Norwich, before 1214 (fn. 406); a church at Asterleigh or Esterley, erected before 1216, (fn. 407) and destroyed in 1466, when the parish was transferred to the rural deanery of Woodstock and united with Kiddington (fn. 408); the parish church of Treton (in Domesday Drayton) was given to the monks of Bruern about 1160 and absorbed by them (fn. 409); at Pudlicot there was a chapel given to Eynsham before 1167, (fn. 410) but apparently destroyed soon after; and whereas Sarsden and Churchill are now served by one church, there were formerly two. The Taxatio also mentions a chapel at Linham, in the parish of Shipton (now Lyneham); but as we find no reference to it in a deed of 1226, concerning the parish church of Shipton (fn. 411) and its dependent chapels, it is doubtful whether it existed at that time. The case of Pudlicot in this deanery brings clearly before us the fact that the process of destroying churches and amalgamating parishes began as early as the end of the twelfth century, and that speaking generally there were more churches and parishes in the thirteenth century than in the sixteenth or eighteenth. Excluding Swinbrook, which was then in this deanery, the number of churches and chapels was twenty-seven, but now only twenty-five.
In the deanery of Witney the Taxatio omits the churches Asthall Leigh, Bradwell, Kelmscot, Fulbrook, Filkins, Little Faringdon, Hailey, Crawley, Holwell, Bampton Aston, Bampton Lew, Widford, and Yelford; but several of them were certainly in existence. The church of Yelford occurs in 1221 (fn. 412); Fulbrook in 1229 (fn. 413); Bradwell was given to the Templars before 1185, (fn. 414) and its two chapels of Kelmscot and Holwell are mentioned in 1220 (fn. 415); Widford and Little Faringdon are omitted because they were at that time in the counties of Gloucestershire and Berkshire respectively (fn. 416) : Filkins and Crawley, Aston and Bampton Lew are new churches. For Hailey and Asthall Leigh we have no evidence. Of these churches Widford is now disused; and while the deanery contained about thirty churches in 1291, it now has thirty-four.
In the deanery of Deddington, where there are now thirty-eight churches, the Taxatio gives no more than fifteen; but it is easy to show that the number should be much higher. The following churches, omitted by it, were in existence before the year 1200: Cropredy, which was a prebend of Lincoln from early times, and Sibford Gower, which was given to the Templars in 1153 (fn. 417); while the churches of Barford St. John, Claydon, Horley, Hornton, and Wardington all contain traces of Norman architecture. Balscote chapel and Milcombe were both in existence in 1220; (fn. 418) Over Worton in 1279 (fn. 419) and Epwell and Nether Worton show by their architecture that these were erected before 1291. For the same reason the churches of Bodicote and Great Bourton are certainly as early as the fourteenth century, and Mollington probably earlier. Shenington, which is now in this deanery, was in the diocese of Worcester in old days. In the year 1396, when a vicarage was ordained at Adderbury, we hear (fn. 420) of a chapel, now destroyed, at Milton, within that parish; and we are also told of similar chapels at Clifton in Deddington, and Prescot in Cropredy. (fn. 421) We have therefore good reason for thinking that the number of churches and chapels in 1291 was very little, if anything, short of the number there now is. Of the origin of these churches we can only fix the date for Milcombe; about the year 1200 it was in dispute (fn. 422) whether the church of Wigginton or the church of Bloxham could claim the tithes of Milcombe; but twenty years later there was a chapel at Milcombe, built no doubt by the nuns of Godstow, who had the appropriation of Bloxham church. It may be pointed out that the name Cyric-tiwa (i.e. Church Tew), used in Saxon times for Great Tew, (fn. 423) proves the high antiquity of that church.
In the deanery of Bicester the Taxatio gives a list of twenty-nine churches, some of which are now transferred to the modern deanery of Islip; yet even this is incomplete. It omits Merton church, given to Eynsham before 1140, (fn. 424) Newton Purcell, given to Bicester Priory about 1200, (fn. 425) and Shelswell, to which we have institutions from 1220 onwards (fn. 426); and as the church of Hampton Poyle is of early English architecture, it must have been standing by 1291. Early in the fourteenth century there was a chapel at Stratton Audley, (fn. 427) but it is not mentioned in the ordination of the vicarage of Bicester about 1220. (fn. 428) Two of the parishes and churches of this deanery have disappeared, Tusmore and Shelswell, the former before 1718, the latter about 1800. (fn. 429) The number therefore in 1291 should have been thirty-three, and we see that there were more churches then than now.
As at present constituted the county contains ten rural deaneries, a new deanery of Islip having been formed by the removal of Noke from the deanery of Oxford; Bletchingdon, Charlton, Hampton Gay, Hampton Poyle, Islip, Marston and Oddington from that of Bicester; and Beckley, Elsfield, Forest Hill, Headington, Stanton, Studley, and Woodeaton from that of Cuddesdon.