Rotherfield Peppard had its own Church by the 12thC and probably earlier. The relationship between the Church and the Lords of the Manor appears not to have been close: Medieval Lords were frequently non-resident, while after the Reformation the Stonors adhered to Roman Catholicism. In 1685 the Patronage was bought for Jesus College, Oxford, whose Nominees (until 1971) were mostly fellows or former Students of the College, many of them of Welsh Origin. The Living, a Rectory, was never rich, and experienced some neglect in the 16thC. Thereafter it attracted a range of both Resident & Absentee Rectors of varying conscientiousness, many of whom died in the Post. Roman Catholicism retained a strong presence in the Parish until the Stonors sold Blount’s Court in the early 18thC, after which Protestant Nonconformity became deeply entrenched. A Congregationalist Chapel (known also as Providence Chapel) was built in 1796, and frequently attracted attendances higher than those at the Parish Church. Both Churches remained active in 2007.
A Church was probably in existence when Miles Crispin (d.1107), the Domesday Holder of the Manor, Granted Tithes in the Parish to Bec Abbey. Architectural evidence suggests that the present Church, dedicated to All Saints, was built during the 12thC, by which time it had its own ‘Parson’ (persona) and was almost certainly fully independent. The building was probably paid for by the Pipard Family, as Lords of Rotherfield, who subsequently owned the Advowson.
The Ecclesiastical Parish remained unaltered until 1849, when c.80 acres were assigned to Henley Holy Trinity. The Land lay in the East of the Parish, and in 1871 comprised 11 Houses at New Mills & Gillotts, with a population of 68. Robert Prichard (Rector 1808–48) supported the change, which he claimed would be ‘a boon to the Rector as well as to the inhabitants of the lower end of the Parish’. A Grant of £50 was made to the Holy Trinity Building Fund, but an Endowment in the form of a Rent-charge on Peppard Rectory was not forthcoming.
In 1979 the Rector of Rotherfield Peppard became Priest-in-charge of Rotherfield Greys, holding both Rectories in Plurality until his Retirement in 2002. Thereafter the Vicar of Kidmore End & Sonning Common served as Priest-in-charge of Rotherfield Peppard, until the Benefices were formally united in 2003, the Rector being supported by 2 non-Stipendiary Ministers.
The Advowson belonged to the Lord of the Manor, and was 1st recorded in the possession of the Pipards in the early 13thC. Reginald, the earliest known incumbent, confirmed Walter Pipard’s Quitclaim of Pasturage Rights to Thame Abbey in 1211. Presentations during Pipard Minorities were made by Ralph FitzNicholas in 1233, his son Ralph in 1262, and by the King in 1308. In 1334 & 1338 James Butler, Earl of Ormond, delegated his Right to Present to his Attorney-general, John de Alveton, but following Ormond’s death in 1338 his Widow Eleanor Presented in person. In 1349 the Bishop of Lincoln Presented to the Church ‘by lapse of time’, suggesting neglect by Absentee Lords, while in 1350 Attorneys of Thomas de Dagworth acted as Patron. In 1383/4 the King Presented during the Earl of Ormond’s Absence in Ireland. The Patrons in 1396/8 were John & William Drayton, and Richard Drayton Presented on several occasions between 1431 & 1459.
Thereafter the Stonors were Patrons of the Church until 1685, when John Stonor (d. 1687) sold the Advowson to Jesus College, Oxford, for £330. Thomas Rowney, who also purchased the Advowson of Rotherfield Greys for Trinity College, Oxford, advised Jesus that it was ‘a very good bargain’. The Advowson was acquired in trust on behalf of its former Principal Sir Leoline Jenkins (d.1685), on whose death it passed to the College. Jesus College Presented every subsequent Rector, and in 2007 remained Joint Patron of the United Benefice.
Endowment & Rectory House
The Medieval Rectory was valued at the relatively low sum of £5 a year in 1254, and at £8 in 1291 & 1428, less 13s-4d for Tithes belonging to Bec Abbey. In 1341 a Jury reduced the valuation to £3, claiming that the Glebe was worth only 13s-4d because of the general Poverty of the Parish. In 1526–35 the Rectory was valued at around £10 a year, and in 1584 was Leased to Francis Stonor (d.1625), who was at that time a Conformist and not yet Lord of the Manor. In 1684 the Living was valued at £140 a year.
By the 17thC, and probably from the Middle Ages, the Glebe totalled around 56 acres, comprising the Rectory House & Garden, surrounding Arable Closes & Woods, and unlimited Rights of Common. In 1808 the Glebe & Tithes were Leased for £630 a year, and in 1839 the Tithes were commuted for a Rent-charge of £540-10s. Most of the Glebe continued to be Leased until 1919 when 47 acres were sold. Small pieces of Glebe were conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1900 and 1931 in order to enlarge the Churchyard, the last part of which was consecrated in 1973.
The Rectory House was rebuilt on at least 3 occasions between the 17th & 19thCs, but probably always occupied the same Site to the East of the Church. Presumably that was the Site of the Medieval House, which William Cheshire (Rector 1562–87) re-tiled. In 1635 the House included a hall, kitchen, nursery, 2 butteries & 2 other small rooms, and in 1662 it was Taxed on 3 Hearths. It was rebuilt in 1673 by Eldridge Jackson (Rector 1673–97), after which it was described as ‘3 Bays of Building with a large Entry & a Study over it’. When Timothy Huxley (Rector 1697–1727) died, his inventory listed goods in the hall, parlour, bedchamber, study & cellar. Further rebuilding was carried out by Thomas Pardo (Rector 1727–63), who added a new Brick Front to the House and provided additional Outbuildings, including a Brewhouse.
In 1815 the Rectory was said to be ‘very sufficient & in ample repair’, following Building work in 1808 on the appointment of Robert Prichard (Rector 1808–48); in 1849, however, Henry Reynolds (Rector 1848–70) claimed it was ‘Dilapidated and unfit for Residence’, and it was accordingly rebuilt. Further improvements were made in 1917–21 by Maurice Jones (Rector 1915–23) and in 1933 by Lewis Richardson (Rector 1925–39). The House was sold c.2003, following the Union with Kidmore End & Sonning Common.
Pastoral Care & Religious Life – The Middle Ages to the Reformation
Thirty Rectors of Rotherfield Peppard are known before the Reformation. Only 6 appear to have received a higher education, the earliest of whom was Walter of Wycombe (Rector 1293–1300). Four Rectors attended Oxford University in the 14th & 15thCs, including John Dumbleton (Rector 1332–4), Natural Philosopher and Fellow of Merton College & Queen’s College, while Thomas Farrant (appointed Rector in 1398) was Granted Licence for 3 years’ non-residence for study in 1405. For some incumbents the appointment to Rotherfield Peppard came at an early stage in their careers. Two were only acolytes at their Iinstitution, including the University Graduate Thomas of Kingston (Rector 1349–50), while John of Stowe (Rector 1308–13) was removed because he did not proceed to Priest’s Orders within a year. Also appointed as Rectors in the Middle Ages were. 2 sub-Deacons.
A number of Presentees in the late 13th & early-14thC seem to have been North Buckinghamshire men, a reflection perhaps of the Pipards‘ residence at Great Linford. Richard Seward (Rector 1300/8) was from Newport Pagnell, while John Dayrell (Rector 1262–93) was probably from Lillingstone Dayrell (near Buckingham), and John of Stowe from the neighbouring Parish of Stowe; Dayrell’s Family were Granted Land in Peppard by Ralph Pipard (d.1303). Other Clerical families also held Land in the Parish, notably those of Geoffrey de Alveton (Rector 1326–32), presumably a relative of John de Alveton, & John le Waleis (appointed Rector in 1350), who in 1360 was fined for allowing his Sheep in the Lord’s Park.
Though the length of Medieval incumbencies varied greatly – from a few months to 43-yrs in the case of John Frythyon (Rector 1459–1502) – most tended to be short. Of the 23 Rectors for whom information is available, 15 served for less than 10-yrs, and only 4 for more than 20-yrs. Many of those who served for a short time Resigned their Living or exchanged it for another: 14 Medieval Rectors resigned compared to 9 who died in Post. Evidence of pluralism is scarce: James de Kaworth (Rector 1233–62) was also for a few years Rector of the Pipards’ Church at Great Linford, while Roger de Drax (Rector 1334–38) was nominated in 1336 to a Benefice in Suffolk. Assistants may have been employed, but information is generally lacking. In 1297 a Chaplain of Rotherfield Peppard was violently attacked by the Parish Clerk, while John Griffith (Rector 1525–31) seems to have employed his predecessor James Johnson (Rector 1506–25) as Curate; Johnson also received a pension of £3. Some Medieval Rectors fell into Debt, while Robert Bateman (appointed Rector in 1431) lent money to a Parishioner which had to be recovered in Court.
Little evidence survives of popular Religion, though the Parishioners may have contributed to the rebuilding of the Church in the 13thC and to the cost of the surviving 14thC Bell. Some small Bequests to the Church were made in the late 15th and early 16thC, but in 1530 the windows in the Nave were said to be broken, suggesting neglect.
The Reformation to the Late 17thC
In 1552 the Churchwardens reported that a great Chalice worth £10 had been taken from the Church by Lady Stonor following the death of her husband in 1550, presumably for safe-keeping. Other Church goods, including Vestments & Candlesticks, were removed in accordance with Edwardian Legislation. The Stonors’ Catholicism may have compelled their surrender of the right of Presentation in 1555 & 1562, and probably contributed to their failure to institute Richard Clark as Rector in 1583. However, Francis Stonor (d. 1564) was able to present John Thomson (who was also Rector of nearby North Stoke) in 1558, while his son Francis (d.1625), then a Conformist, Presented Richard Tynney in 1587.
No recusants were recorded in the late 16thC, possibly because the Stonors were not Rsident, but at least 10 were known in the early 17thC. Among them were the Yeoman Henry Curtis and his wife, fined on several occasions in the 1620s. The Stonors’ influence almost certainly lay behind a dispute in 1606 when John Knapp was elected Churchwarden at Henry Stonor’s house: ‘since then there had been little quietness in the Church because Knapp had troubled the neighbours with unquietness and had given cause for offence to the Parishioners and to other Parishes adjoining. He and his Family either did not come to Church or came negligently to the end of the Service and the Sermon’. Henry Stonor (d.1637) lived at Blount’s Court with his wife Elizabeth, who was indicted for Recusancy in 1638, but ‘being a weak & sickly woman’ was Granted Respite by the King. Arthur Pitts (1557–c. 1634), a Roman Catholic Priest, lived with them at Blount’s Court for some years and was buried in Peppard Parish Church. The number of Catholics appears not to have diminished much by the late 17thC, when 6 were recorded including Henry Stonor (d.1705) and his wife. Three other women were called fanatics.
Although Patrons of the Parish Church, the Stonors may not have been inclined to support it financially after the Reformation. Indeed, the broken windows recorded in 1530 seem to have been symptomatic of a wider neglect which continued until the late 16thC and possibly until the late 17th. Both Roger Ponsonby (Rector 1531–55) and John Thomson (Rector 1558–62) were Pluralists, Ponsonby holding neighbouring Checkendon from 1546, and Thomson probably living at North Stoke, where he was Rector from 1554 until his death in 1571. Church, Rectory, & Outbuildings were dilapidated at William Cheshire’s induction in 1562, when repairs were carried out, though he too may have resided only occasionally. Some Parishioners evidently took advantage of Absentee Rectors to avoid paying Tithes, prompting Richard Tynney (Rector 1587–1625) to seek remedy in the Courts. His successor John South (Rector Pluralist, but was removed from his other Livings during the Civil War and restored only in 1660. Things may have improved under Eldridge Jackson (Rector 1673–97), who rebuilt the Rectory House and was buried in the Parish. Curates were probably employed throughout the period. One, William Grey, was buried in the Parish in 1643, and others were recorded later in the 17thC.
Despite the apparent neglect by some Rectors many Parishioners supported the Fabric & Ministry of the Church. Late 16th & 17thC Wills record numerous small Bequests for the Church’s maintenance, ranging from 1s to 10s, while the Husbandman Henry Young (d.1619) left 2 Bushels of Rye. A Silver Chalice was donated to the Church in 1640, and in the late 17thC one of the Bells was replaced. Wills also record Bequests to the Poor of the Parish, notably those of Augustine Knapp, John Clark & the Rector Eldridge Jackson, who established Charities. Jackson, a Graduate of Queen’s College, Oxford, was the last of Peppard’s Rectors to be appointed before Jesus College acquired the Advowson.
The 18th & 19thCs
Throughout this period Jesus College Presented Fellows or former Fellows of the College to Peppard Rectory. The one exception was the College’s 1st Appointment, Timothy Huxley (Rector 1697–1727), a Shropshire Gaduate of the College whom an acquaintance judged ’empty, proud, peevish, pragmatical, spleenetick & mistrustful’, and whose Living, worth £200 a year, ‘ought to have been bestowed where there was more desert’.
Huxley’s appointment certainly calls for explanation, since according to Leoline Jenkins’s Bequest Peppard Rectory was meant to enhance the Stipend of the Principal of Jesus College. The following 3 Rectors (from 1727 to 1768) were all instituted after their appointment as Principal, including Humphrey Owen (Rector 1763/8), Bodley’s Librarian. Thereafter, this restriction was relaxed and Fellows of the College were appointed until 1848, when Henry Reynolds (Rector 1848–70) resigned his Fellowship on being instituted to the Rectory. The association with Jesus College brought a succession of Welshmen to the Rectory at Peppard, several of whom were only occasionally Resident. Thomas Pardo (Rector 1727–63) lived mostly at College and employed a Curate, who in 1738 lived about 2 miles from the Church, while in 1768 a later Curate reported that he too was unable to reside constantly because of the demands of a College Office. Later Rectors were more likely to be Resident, although Robert Prichard (Rector 1808–48) also served a Benefice in Wales and was increasingly absent, leaving a Curate to Minister at Peppard.
Despite the inconvenient shape of the Parish, few Rectors considered attendance a serious problem during the 18th & early 19thC. In 1799 & 1802 the Rector suggested that ‘the lower sort of people’ frequently failed to attend, perhaps because the Public Houses were open during divine Service; however, compared to those in Greys, the Rectors of Peppard seem to have been remarkably sanguine about the state of their Ministry. In 1834 Robert Prichard reported that ‘at morning prayers the Church is commonly full’, claiming that the Church’s central position attracted Worshippers from 3 neighbouring Parishes, ‘even occasionally incommoding the Parishioners’. In view of the area’s scattered Settlement he suggested a new Church or Chapel ‘where the above Parishes meet’, though he acknowledged that some Parishioners living near Henley attended the Town Church.
Throughout the 18thC and earlier 19thC there were usually 2 Sunday Services with one sermon, & Communion 3 (later 4) times a year attended by 10–20 Communicants, rising to more than 30 after 1815. Children were catechised in Lent. The number of Services was increased by Thomas Williams (Rector 1870–81), who requested the Living from Jesus College in order to escape a Teaching Career; the Congregation responded positively, increasing from c.50 in 1860 to almost 200 in 1884, when Robert Price Williams (Rector 1881–90) noted that it was ‘not known before to be so large’. Much, however, depended on the quality of the incumbent, and Williams’s long illness and a subsequent vacancy were acknowledged to be a problem in 1890. Until the 1870s Offertories were not usually made during Services because of local poverty; as a result, apart from work on the Chancel in 1834, there was little money for repairs, so that by 1874 the Church had fallen into a ‘serious state of dilapidation’. Few gifts or bequests were made during this period, except for a Pewter Flagon donated by the Churchwardens in 1713 & 2 Salvers given by Rev Prichard in 1842.
Following the sale of Blount’s Court by the Stonors in the early 18thC, no Roman Catholics were reported in the Parish for more than a Century. However, in 1814 the Rector observed that ‘a family of Papists is lately come to reside within the Parish consisting of a gentleman, his lady & 2 infants’; they were thought to attend ‘Mr Stonor’s Chapel’, presumably at Stonor Park. Though still resident in 1817 they planned to emigrate to the Netherlands, after which no Catholics were recorded. By contrast Protestant Nonconformity, of which there was little sign before 1700, became deeply entrenched during the 18thC. In 1738 the Rector reported 3 families of ‘Presbyterians’ headed by substantial Farmers, who attended the Congregationalist Meeting House at Henley; in all they numbered around 18, ‘the same as … for many years’. One was William Benwell (d.1739) of Cowfields, who left money to support the Congregationalist Minister in the Greys District of Henley.
The Chapel built in 1796, set back from Blount’s Court Road, is of Brick with a hipped tiled Roof. An Aisle was added to the West in the early 19thC, separated internally from the Chapel by a colonnade of 3 timber Columns with moulded Caps & Bases. A Schoolroom was added to the East in 1879, replacing an earlier structure; the original Glass Partition has since been replaced by modern folding-doors. The Chapel Interior includes a Gallery at the South end. The Brick-built, 2-Storeyed Manse was erected soon after the Chapel, directly in front of it and facing the Road.
Later support appears to have fluctuated, but in 1796 a Congregationalist (or Independent) Chapel was built in the Parish, paid for by Peter French of Reading. A manse constructed shortly afterwards was occupied by a succession of long-serving ministers, including Joseph Walker (1797–1828) and Isaac Caterer (1828–68). Walker found Peppard to be in a ‘wild, dark & benighted condition’, and sought to dissuade his Congregation from attending the Whit Monday Revels on Peppard Common. Although Rev Prichard was ‘inclined’ to think that their number was decreasing (or at least not increasing), in 1851 the general congregation in the morning was said to be about 70 and in the afternoon 108, far more than at the Parish Church. By 1860 Henry Reynolds (Rector 1848–70) considered that about half the inhabitants were Dissenters, while in 1881 Thomas Williams reported that ‘Dissent has gained new life from a new active Preacher and revivalism helped from Reading’.
Of other denominations, the Rector observed in 1823 that some Wesleyans ‘who come principally from the adjoining Parishes frequently meet at an unlicensed House’. In later years Resident Wesleyans who attended the Parish Church in the morning met in a neighbouring Parish in the evening.
Following the death of Morris Price Williams (rector 1890–1901), Jesus College no longer presented former fellows to Peppard Rectory, possibly because none were willing to accept it. Although most rectors (until 1971) were educated at the College, even that was not a requirement: Charles Adams (Rector 1904–15) was a Graduate of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. The living was undoubtedly attractive, with a net yearly value of £600 in 1924 and a reputation for relative calm: when Maurice Jones (Rector 1915–23) died in 1957 his Obituary recalled that he had been ‘happy in the peace & quiet of Henley’. On Jones’s removal elsewhere a former scholar of Jesus College put himself forward, and was advised to emphasize his experience of parochial work and his Oxfordshire family connections.
Many improvements were made to the Church during the 20thC. In 1907 there was discussion about the proposed new Tower (built 1908), and in the following year the Rector insisted that a new Vestry should have priority over a new Clock & Bells. Subscriptions were raised in 1913 to install new heating, in 1919 to build a War Memorial, and in 1938 to erect a Lychgate. A number of new windows were paid for privately to serve as Memorials, and gifts were made of Churchwardens’ Staves and a Jacobean Chest. The Organ was replaced in 1949 and again in 1993, and the Church was rewired in 1956, the cost of the latter met from the proceeds of the Church Fête.
The Congregationalist Chapel continued to thrive under the long Ministries of Benjamin Summersby (1878–1922), Arthur Hill (1923–33), & Thomas Wilson (1934–76). Wilson also served as Chaplain at Peppard Chest Hospital and was Chairman of the Parish Council from 1938 to 1968. He worked closely with Rectors of Peppard Church, establishing a united church worship. A meeting house of Plymouth Brethren was recorded from 1907 to 1939, presumably the Mission Hall built on Stoke Row Road.
Religious Buildings – Parish Church
The Medieval Church was heavily restored in 1875, resulting in a plain building of Stone & Flint with a Slate Roof. The present Church has a 2-Bayed Chancel and a 4-Bayed Nave with a 3-Bayed North Aisle. The Gabled South Porch is Timber-framed with decorative Barge-boards, and the Stone & Flint Bell Tower with tiled Roof is supported from within the West end of the Nave. A Vestry was added at right angles to the North side of the Chancel in 1965, while a Parish Room (built 1981–2) adjoins the West end of the North Aisle at an angle.
A few pieces of 12thC Stonework survive in the Chancel, notably 2 Norman windows on the North side and one on the South, with internal roll sill-moulding. During the 1875 restoration, the outer Jambs with scalloped Capitals and the springing of 2 Arches of a Norman Arcade were discovered flanking the East window, variously interpreted as the remains of blind Arches or of windows blocked during the 14thC. The pointed chancel arch on Romanesque Shafts with carved Capitals is of early 13thC design, suggesting that the Church was extended at that date. The Norman Font, of Corallian Freestone from Wheatley, is Tub-shaped with a band of cable-moulding.
Wheatley Limestone – This is a pale grey, well-cemented, Bioclastic Limestone, up to 15M thick. It is equivalent in age & transitional to the Coral Rag, and represents a shelf slope facies of broken shells, coral debris & sparse ooids. It is more versatile than the Coral Rag as a Building Stone, and was Quarried from the Wheatley & Oxford areas from the end of the 13thC. The rubble weathering Stone was used for the Walls of New College 1st Quad (c.1380) in Oxford, and in Villages to the South & East of Oxford. Much was sent to Windsor Castle, but after the 14thC use of the Headington Stones became more prevalent.
The Medieval Chancel was re-roofed by William Cheshire (Rector 1562–87), while in 1759 orders were issued to repair the Roof Tiles and various internal furnishings. In the early 19thC the Church was said to be 80 ft (24M) long and 20 ft (6M) wide, in good repair, and able to seat 150 people. It was described as ‘a neat and rather spacious structure with a wooden Turret. The walls are whitened on the outer side, and gain much pictorial effect from a partial but umbrageous screen of Ivy’. Robert Prichard (rector 1808–48) repaired and re-roofed the Chancel c.1830, and his successor Henry Reynolds (Rector 1848–70) agreed that the Church was in good condition. However, in 1872 Thomas Williams (Rector 1870–81) described the Church as ‘in tolerable repair but very shabby’, and was already seeking funds to remove the ‘tall white Pews with Vast Pulpit’ and to restore the Choir.
Rotherfield Peppard All Saints Church after heavy restoration in 1875, and the later addition of a Tower, Porch & Vestry in 1908/9.
In 1874 Plans for a more thorough restoration were well advanced. An appeal for funds described ‘the serious state of dilapidation into which Peppard Church has fallen from age & decay, the perished state of much of the woodwork, and the consequent dangerous condition of the Gallery & Bell Turret‘. About £700 of the estimated cost of £1,600 was still wanting when work began. The Architect, William Scott Champion, proposed to remove the Gallery and rebuild the wooden Bell Turret, to add a new Roof, new Floor & new Seats, to insert new windows in the Nave and at the East end, to build a North Aisle, and to add a Vestry at right angles to the South side of the Chancel. Much of this work was carried out during 1875, although neither Vestry nor Bell Turret were built because of a lack of funds.
A temporary wooden Belfry was constructed at the West end of the Nave, until Plans for a new Tower (under discussion by 1905) were adopted in 1908. The original Plans of the Architect, Edmund Sedding, which included room for a Vestry at the Base of the Tower, were not accepted. Instead a separate Vestry was proposed adjoining the West end of the North Aisle and extending beyond the West end of the Nave. The Tower was built 1st, the cost met by subscriptions & grants, although the Rector insisted that the new Vestry (built in 1909) should take precedence over the addition of a Clock and the hanging of the Bells. The Tower was erected by local Builder Charles Butler, and funds were needed for its repair in 1930. The present Porch was also built in 1908.
A separate Clergy Vestry, built in 1965, was the gift of a local resident. The Choir Vestry of 1909 was replaced by a Parish Room in 1981/2 at a cost of £38,000, met by general fund-raising. The Church was redecorated in 1960, and repairs to the Exterior were carried out in 1985 and during the 1990s, including re-Slating the Chancel Roof. The Lychgate at the entrance to the Church, of Oak on Brick Foundations with a tiled Roof, was built in 1938.