Cuddesdon, standing on the Uplands in the Centre of the Parish, overlooks the surrounding Hamlets and commands views as far as Brill in the North, the Chilterns in the South-east, and Wittenham Clumps. There is evidence of a Roman Villa on the Hill, and Roman Pottery has been found in Cuddesdon Wood. The name Cuddesdon, ‘hill of Cuthwine‘, points to early Saxon Settlement, which has been confirmed by the finding of an Anglo-Saxon Cemetery & other remains.
Cuddesdon Village, long outgrown by Wheatley, comprises groups of Cottages of rubble & Brick, with Thatch, Tile, or Slate Roofs, which line the Wheatley Road as it curves down the Hill from the Church towards Denton. Some, like the Old Vicarage, are of 18thC date. The Bishop’s Palace and the Theological College (see below) stand at the crest of the Road before it descends through the Village. The Village Cross, now removed to the Churchyard, once stood near the point where the Road forks to the Church. The latter stands in a commanding position off the Main Road. The Vicarage lies to the North and Manor Farm (see below) to the South. Opposite Manor Farm is another freehold Farm, Dovehouse Farm, an 18thC Ashlar building with Tiled Roof and a large walled Garden.
The ‘Bat & Ball‘, also an 18thC building, is on the South side of the Main Street; it acquired the Licence of the ‘Three Compasses‘, destroyed in 1929.
The Bishop’s Palace was built by Bishop John Bancroft (1632-41), the 1st Bishop of Oxford to reside at Cuddesdon, and replaced the Parsonage, described as ‘old & mean’. It was completed by 1634 at an alleged cost of £2,400. It was ‘a fair House of Stone’, the Gables of which are shown in the background of contemporary Portraits of Bancroft, and it had a Chapel, and surrounding Garden & Orchard. Archbishop Laud, by whose persuasion it had been built, visited the Palace in 1636. In 1644, however, it was scorched by Colonel William Legge, as a precaution against Parliamentary occupation. In 1652 the Parliamentary Commissioners sold the Land & Chapel, and as only part of the House had survived, no Mansion of any size figures in the Hearth Tax Return of 1665. In 1679 Bishop Fell undertook complete restoration, after it had been estimated that £1,997 was needed for repairs. The Contractor, Richard Frogley of Holywell, and the Stone-mason, Thomas Wood of Oxford, had a dispute about the work, and the evidence produced in Court gives details of the construction and reveals that Burford Stone was used in part. Only a Fireplace now remains of the 1st Palace; the 2nd was described by Bishop Wilberforce in 1845 as ‘an old H-shaped House, a rambling sort of Country-Gentleman’s House’. It is strange that an Alehouse existed in the Palace Grounds up to Wilberforce’s time, he himself, as a Visitor, having been woken by ‘a chorus of yells, howls, shouts, etc, like a perfect Jacquerie’, and told that it was probably ‘the Garsington men going home from drinking in our Ale House’. Wilberforce enlarged the House, adding a Vestibule in front of the North-west Door, and a Gothic Chapel. The latter was designed by B Ferrey, and dedicated in 1846 to St Peter & St Paul. Four stained-glass windows by T Willement containing the Arms of the Prince Consort & Wilberforce, were given by Queen Victoria, her Consort, and the 2 Archbishops. The Palace ceased to be occupied by the Bishop in 1937; between 1939 & 1945 it was occupied by Queen Anne’s Bounty, and between 1946 and 1949 by the Society of the Salutation of Mary the Virgin.
The Theological College, built by G E Street to house a Diocesan Training College planned by Bishop Wilberforce, was opened in 1854. The Building is an example of the neo-Gothic style, with a Decorated Chapel.
The present Manor Farm stands on the Site of the former Manor-house. It contains some traces of 16th & 17thC work, and there are late 17thC Arches in the Stable. There are no traces of the 15thC building which stood on the same Site and was connected with the Churchyard by steps. It had a ‘Chekkaer‘ and a Chapel. During the Civil War the House was scorched by Royalist Troops, and Views of the Manor in 1804 suggest that at this date it was a Ruin.
Farmhouse and attached farm building, now part of house. Late 16thC, altered 18th & early-19thC. Timber-framing & squared coursed Limestone rubble with Ashlar Dressings; old plain-Tile Roof with Brick Ridge-stacks. L-Plan. 2-Storeys. Irregular 4-window Front with flush 4-panel Door to right of centre with 3-light casement to right, pair of 4-pane Sashes to left and 12-pane Sash to extreme left; 4No. 2-light casements over. Wall is of 18-19thC rubble with Timber Lintels. Left Gable wall of late 16thC Stonework with Ashlar Dressings has projecting Quoined Stack with 2 Brick Diagonal Shafts and blocked ovolo-moulded Stone-mullioned windows: 2-light at Ground & 1st-Floors and a single light in the Gable. Right Gable wall is of 18thC banded rubble & Ashlar. Rear is rubble with flat Stone Arches at Ground-floor with Flemish-bond Brickwork above, probably replacing close-Studding of which 2 Posts remain. 2-Bay rear wing returns to right, continuous with 2-Bay Farm Building. Range is Weatherboarded to right & end but left wall has exposed Timber-framing: House Wing with close Studding over a 1-Storey rubble Base, and Farm Building with Framing in Panels with curved Braces, now on a Storey-height rubble Base but formerly a Panel lower.
Interior: Moulded-stone Tudor Arched Fireplace and remains of a 2nd in 16thC Gable wall, also large 17thC open Fireplace with Bread-oven. Trusses to Main Range rise from Posts with some Arched Braces to Tie-beams. Rear Wing has exposed Roof structure with curved Wind-braces to single row of Butt Purlins & Arched Braces to Tie-beams. End Frames of Wing & Farm Building are adjacent and mortices suggest a slightly later date for the latter. Front wall of Main Range is certainly rebuilt and possibly replaced full-height Framing. The Farm was a 15th & 16thC benefaction to Queens College Oxford, the former Owners.
There is an 18thC Watermill standing on the River Thame, which once belonged to Cuddesdon Manor. It is known that Abingdon Abbey had a Mill here, which it lost during the Danish Invasions, but afterwards recovered. The Mill was the cause of much strife with the Bishop of Lincoln’s Tenants at Great Milton, who threatened to destroy the Weir in 1066, but were foiled by Abbot Ealdred, supposedly with the aid of the Miraculous Bones of St Vincent. Later they or their descendants twice destroyed the Mill Inclosure, and in 1108 the Bishop made them repair it. In 1279 the Mill Weir was called ‘Cliffware‘, and in 1397-98 the Sacristan of Abingdon Abbey had 13s-4d from the Mill. Its Farm was worth £5 in 1539.
A 2nd Mill, on the stream called ‘Cumbe Brok‘, is mentioned in 1279. It is not clear whether it was this Mill or the Mill on the River Thame which was Granted to Robert Browne in 1545. In Elizabeth I’s Reign his Mill had passed from George Bartlett to John Barston, whose Family came to own both the Mills. From Richard Barston (1613) they descended to his son Thomas, who was dead by 1624, and in a document of 1678 are referred to as ‘Down‘ & ‘Overshot‘. They were owned by William Broadwater in 1705. The River Thame Mill, rebuilt about 1800, is still workable, but has been inactive since about 1935 and serves as a Store.
A Fishery, or perhaps originally 2 as in 1086, went with the Cuddesdon Mill. Domesday Book records that 2 Fisheries & the Mill rendered 12s yearly to Abingdon Abbey. One of these Fisheries stretched from the River Thame Mill to the Weir in Wheatley Meadow; in the modern Period its Ownership generally followed that of the Manor. It now belongs to the present Lord, Magdalen College.
In 956 Land assessed at 20-Hides in Cuddesden & its Hamlets was Granted by Edwy to Earl Aelfhere, who in turn bestowed it on Abingdon Abbey. The Abbey remained Lord of this Estate until the Dissolution, except for Chippinghurst, assessed at 3-Hides, which had been lost by 1086. Wheatley & Denton, although possessed by Abingdon throughout the Medieval Period, came to rank as separate Manors, but Cuddesdon proper remained the most valuable Manor, judging by the assessment of 1538-39. In the early Middle Ages Abingdon administered its Manor through a Steward, and assigned the profits to specific uses at the Abbey; to the Altar, for instance, to the Cook, and, especially from the early 13thC onwards, to Wine for Festivals. In 1375-76 and 1383-84 it received as much as £66 & £86. There is no evidence whether the Demesne was Leased or not during the later Medieval Period, but the Manor-House was Leased in 1421. In 1526 the King Granted the Manor to Wolsey’s College at Oxford, but it is possible that the Abbey never in fact lost it, for in 1537 the Abbot wrote that he had offered to a Mr Aisheton the Farm of Cuddesdon for £29-14s-4d a year. It was then and had been in the hands of Edward, son of Sir Richard Fowler, ‘who lives honestly upon it to keep a good house’. The rent represented the ‘Farm’ of the Demesne Land, rents from Free & Customary Tenants bringing in another £14-5s-0d to the Abbey.
By 1546 the Manor was in the hands of the Crown, and being farmed by John Egerley, Royal Bailiff of ‘Cuddesdon Lordship‘. Soon after it came into the hands of Robert Lyde or Joyner of Dorchester. In a Chancery Suit heard some time between 1558 & 1579, Lyde was declared to have been Seised before his death of the Manor & 500 acres of Pasture & Meadow; these were later alleged to be worth £200 a year. Robert made his Will in 1557, leaving the Manor, with various Annuities, chargeable on the Estate, to a younger son Richard. Robert’s brother-in-law, Luke Bewforrest & John Smyth were made Executors and were to occupy Cuddesdon Farm for 6-yrs. It seems that the Estate went through many hands in the following years. Thomas Kennyngton or Barnarde of Iffley & Bartholomew Benford (a Yeoman of Stanton St John and a brother-in-law of Richard Joyner the Legatee) occupied the Premises for 6-yrs, alleging that they did so under letters Patent. They further stated that Robert Joyner, having fallen sick, had given the Property to Sir Francis Englefield & Christopher Smith as Overseers. This probably explains a Royal Grant in 1558 of the Manor-House, Lands, Stock & Grain, to these 2 persons. The yearly value was then estimated at £12-13s-4d.
Richard Joyner became involved in a Lawsuit against Bewforrest over the ‘Site’ of Cuddesdon. His brother Robert Joyner also went to Law over the Estate, and 5 other relatives contested their Legacies. Richard died in 1613 Seised of ‘a Site & Capital Messuage’ and about 620 acres of Land, leaving the Property, apparently Mortgaged, to his son Richard. He seems to have foreseen difficulties, for in his Will (Proved 1614) he left his elder son Francis a Legacy of £30, which was to cease should he molest Richard in any way over the Lands Granted to him. This son Francis went to Law over his Exclusion, and the Court ruled that he should have Cuddesdon Manor, and his brother Richard an Annuity. The whole history of the Manor in these years continued to be inextricably confused. Francis at one stage had possession of a 3rd of the Manor, but in the end the Joyner Brothers sold the Property for £6,000 to William Child, a Public Notary of London, who had married into their Family. At this time the Manor was valued at £10 a year, the Manor-house at £5, 6-messuages & 10-cottages at £4, and Cuddesdon Coombe (i.e. the Wood) at 13s-4d.
William Child died Seised of the Manor in 1637-38; his son John inherited, but conveyed it to his brother-in-law Thomas Gardiner, Recorder of London and Solicitor General to Charles I. Thomas was described by Clarendon as ‘a man of gravity and quickness that had somewhat of authority and gracefulness in his person and presence’. He was Knighted in 1641 and had his goods seized by Parliament in 1643. He compounded with the Parliamentarians in 1646 for a Fine of £942-13s-4d and died in 1652. In his Will (1648), he referred to his Possessions as ‘that temporal Estate which is left me in these troublesome and distracted times, whereby it hath been broken and wasted in exceeding great measure’, and left his Lands at Cuddesdon, Denton & Wheatley to Hugh Audley, his colleague of the Inner Temple, to be sold to discharge Debts. Audley must eventually have sold the Manor some time after 1667 to Sebastian Smythe, DD, a Bristol man and a Canon of Christ Church. He died in 1674, having settled the Manor in 1667 on his Lawyer son Sebastian on his marriage to Grace Astyn. The young man was Knighted in 1685 and became a Bencher of the Inner Temple in 1697. A ‘great lover of money’, according to Hearne, he died in 1733, being succeeded at Cuddesdon by his son Sebastian, who died in 1752. The latter’s Heir was his daughter, Barbara, who died unmarried in 1787 at the age of 76. She had lived like her Ancestors at Cuddesdon, and was buried there. Her Monument records ‘a life spent in the most unremitting attention to every religious, moral and social duty’.
The Manor then passed to Sir John Whalley Gardiner, Lord of Tackley and a grandson of Grace Smythe, sister of Sebastian (III) Smythe, and her husband, Dr Bernard Gardiner. Sir John incorporated Smythe into his name by Royal Licence in 1787; he is chiefly remembered for ‘drinking to death 5 Aldermen and Oxford Tailors 3’. He enlarged the Cuddesdon Estate, and was succeeded by his son, Sir James, at whose death in 1805 the Manor passed to Sir Oswald Mosley, brother-in-law of Sir James. A period of dispersal of the Estate followed. The Mortgagees & Trustees of Sir James Whalley-Smythe-Gardiner, 3rd Baronet, sold Cuddesdon & Denton Manors to Lord Macclesfield in 1848. Magdalen College were Lords of the Manor in 1901, the size of the Estate then being 1,348 acres.
Economic & Social History
The Domesday Survey Records under Abingdon Abbey’s Cuddesdon Estate of 18-Plough-Lands a Community of 8 Serfs, working on the Demesne, and 24 Villeins and 12 Bordars, who Farmed the remaining Land. This Community almost certainly included the population of the Abbey’s Hamlets of Denton & Wheatley, not at that time separate Manors, and it seems likely that the 8 Serfs on the Demesne were the only recorded inhabitants of Cuddesdon. By 1279, however, the Land at Denton & Wheatley had been split among Free Tenants, leaving the Demesne at Cuddesdon still farmed by Tenants in Servitude. At this date the 1st clear evidence of the population of Cuddesdon Township (as opposed to the whole Estate) gives us a Community of 24 villeins & 13 cottars. These figures suggest that there had been a considerable expansion of population since 1086. The Assessments of 1316 & 1327, listing respectively 20 & 28 Taxpayers at Cuddesdon, confirm the impression. The comparatively small variations in Assessments (the richer inhabitants being Taxed at between 4s-6d & 7s) indicate that there was little disparity in wealth among the Taxpayers. In 1377, 89 persons over 14 were listed for the Poll Tax.
Next to nothing is known of the life of this Community in the later Middle Ages. In the 16thC there were Freeholders as well as Customary Tenants, but it seems unlikely that the long period of disputed Ownership of the Manor in the later 16th & early-17thC, and the Civil War, conduced to prosperity. The Hearth Tax Return of 1665 records only 9 householders, 2 with 4 or more hearths (including the probable Tenant of the Manor House), 2 with 2-hearths, and the remainder with one, and therefore all apparently of modest means. Concentration on Sheep-farming (see below) probably accounts for Cuddesdon’s decline in population. Later population figures show a rise from 244 in 1801 to 401 in 1871, and a subsequent decline to 301 in 1901. The population in 1951 was 312.
Though so depopulated Cuddesdon preserved its Independence of Wheatley. It had, for instance, a separate Poor-rate in the 18thC. The total expended in 1776 was £49-7s-5d, rising by 1803 to £195-10s-3d, which represented the low rate of 2s-6d in the £1. All the recipients received Outdoor relief; 20 people were relieved occasionally and 16 children were taught in a School of Industry. The Minutes of the Select Vestry from 1829 to 1839 have survived and show that, as in Wheatley, a Labour Rate had been adopted and that no person could get relief unless he or she had previously applied to the local Farmers for work. In 1832 the Overseers tried to encourage Emigration by distributing pamphlets, and in 1839 £60 was raised to help the Poor to Emigrate.
Until recently the Villagers have always got their living from the Land. A few, no doubt, had other occupations; there is a record of a Maltster in 1705, and of the Stone Family which sold Tobacco to the neighbourhood about the same date. In 1853 there were 2 Bakers, a Butcher and a Carrier. But as late as 1900 most of the men were past or present Employees of the 2 local Farmers. Those who were not found work at Denton House, at the Palace or the College. More recently, many people have been employed in Industrial work at Cowley. In 1953 there were two shopkeepers.
Cuddesdon’s Land has always been used for Agriculture. Its Down-like Uplands have an easily tilled Sandy soil, with medium Loam in places, while the lower Land near the River has always been good Pasture & Meadow. Nothing is known of its Medieval Economy, but a Royal Grant of 1557-58 throws some light on later Practice. It lists the Manor’s growing Crops as follows: 18 acres sown with wheat, 2 with oats, 9 with rye, 60 with barley, 11 with pulse. The Stock comprised 16 cows, 1 bull, 16 pigs, 1 boar & 5 carthorses.
On account of the suitability of the soil, sheepfarming was combined with tillage at an early stage. There is evidence of Inclosure for Pasture in 1517 when William Cotesmore is recorded as holding 60 Inclosed acres called ‘Grovelese‘, and in 1503 Robert Bolt was Leasing 80 acres, formerly under the Plough, which he had Inclosed with Hedges & Ditches for Pasture, allowing the Messuage to fall in ruin, and so displacing a Plough & 4 people. In 1639, an extent of the Manor included 2 Closes called Great & Little Stowell Field (estimated at 140 acres), a Pasture called Sheephouse Close with Barn & Sheepfold (estimated at 70 acres), and several other Pastures & Meadows. In 1642 there were Closes of 56, 47, 40 & 134 acres called Downefield, Middle Mead, Uttelton Bottom & Uttelton Fields with Upper Combe, which still belong to Manor Farm, though Upper Combe is now divided. By the late 18thC almost all the fields of Cuddesdon & Chippinghurst must have been Inclosed. There is no record of any Parliamentary Award and Arthur Young in 1807 refers to Cuddesdon as Inclosed. Some 52 acres were Inclosed under the Denton Award of 1848, 36 acres being allotted to the Lord of the Manor, the Earl of Macclesfield, and about 15 to the Bishop of Oxford.
Arthur Young also noted the keeping of sheep at Cuddesdon, reporting that they used to be all Wiltshires, but that many Farmers had changed to a cross between Leicester & Cotswold. By 1854 John Chillingworth of Cuddesdon Manor House was keeping ‘Down Cotswolds’. He was a well-known Farmer who later moved to Chippinghurst, which became the Centre of a Group of his Farms, which were organised on very economical lines, Labour being switched from one to the other as needed. His successor, William Chillingworth, had a flock of some 500 sheep in 1870, when Oxfordshire Rams & Ewes from Cuddesdon were shown at the Royal Oxford Show. More recently Hampshire Down sheep have been bred, and at present both Cuddesdon’s Farmers buy Kent Lambs in August to sell in Oxford the following May.
Dairy Farming has also been important; it has been assisted by the soil, which allows of double cropping. The ‘catch-cropping‘ of G Palmer, for instance, was well-known in the 20thC. At the end of the 18thC Arthur Young noted ‘2 complete Dairies’ on the good Dairy Land of Cuddesdon, and some years later Gale, another progressive Farmer, had a herd of improved shorthorns.
The Advowson of Cuddesdon was obtained by Abingdon Abbey during the time of Abbot Faritius (1100–17). In 1231 the Abbey was Granted Papal Permission to appropriate the Church for the support of their Infirmary, on condition that they paid a Pension to the Rector & Endowed a Vicarage. The revenue of the Parish was to be divided, the Abbey getting the Rectory House and the Tithes on Corn. The Vicar was to get the other Tithes, except those from the Mill and the Abbey’s Demesne. He was to have the proceeds from the Altar, a ½-Hide of Land at Denton, and the right to keep 4 boars and 2 stallions with the Abbey beasts. He was to Serve the Church himself, provide books & lights for it, and pay any other Minister, including probably a Chaplain for Wheatley. His House stood opposite the Graveyard and next to a Croft, across which the Monks were to have a right of way to carry their corn.
Probably because of Ancient Rights in the Parish St Frideswide’s in 1122 was Granted by Henry I part of the Tithes in Denton & Chippinghurst, with 3 acres of Land in Cuddesdon. This Grant was confirmed by a Court of inquiry in 1324.
Abingdon kept Cuddesdon Church until the Dissolution. It was one of the most valuable Churches in the Deanery, being worth £20 in 1254 and £26-13s-4d in 1291. 16thC Accounts do not give its value.
Although the Vicarage had been Endowed by 1238 with £13-6s-8d, it never seems to have been worth that sum in the early Middle Ages. In 1254 it was assessed at £4 and in 1291 at £5-6s-8d, but in 1535 it was worth £17-0s-4d. By 1520 the Vicar was non-Resident, the Chancel was out of repair, and Vestments & Surplices were lacking. In 1526 the Vicar, Master Richard Stoke, was receiving £16-13s-4d, but from this, among other expenses, he had to pay a Curate £6 and a Pension of £6-13s-4d to Master Stephen Brawderibe, a retired Vicar. Stoke was a prominent Fellow of Magdalen, who in 1527 closely contested the Presidency. In 1540 he was still non-Resident and was disregarding the Royal Order to distribute a 1/40th of his Benefice to the Poor.
Vicarage, now part of College. 1853-54, enlarged 1859-60. By G E Street. Squared coursed Limestone rubble with Ashlar Dressings; plain-tile roof with octagonal-shafted Stone Stacks. Complex plan based on 2 parallel Ranges. Gothic style. 2-Storeys. Entrance Front has Timber lean-to pore over central Arched Doorway with a Gabled 2-light mullioned window above. To right, two 2-light windows with dividing Stone Colonettes and at 1st-Floor a 3-light mullion & transom window below a large Gable. The Gable wall to left has an off-centre Triplet of Arched windows: Lancets flanking a 3-light traceried window surmounted by a Gablet & Cross. To right are Service Ranges. The rear has a central projecting Gable with a 4-light mullion & transom window below a canted recessed Bay window.
Interior: Reported as. having a Gothic Fireplace and a wooden Screen pierced with Quatrefoils. Not inspected. Formerly the House of the Principal of Cuddesdon (now Ripon) Theological College who is also Vicar of Cuddesdon.
At the Dissolution the Rectory came to the Crown, which Leased it out; in 1539, for example, the Tithes of Cuddesdon, Denton, Wheatley & Chippinghurst were Granted to Sir John Brome of Holton. During Elizabeth I’s Reign Richard Nevill had a 21-yr Lease of all Buildings, Orchard, Glebe & Tithes for £17-13s-4d. A Grant of 1585 was to Barentyne Molyns & otherAdvowson, which was excluded from a Grant of the Manor in 1558 until in 1589 the Queen made a new Endowment of the See of Oxford and Granted it & the Rectory to the Bishop. When John Bancroft became Bishop in 1632, he had permission to hold Cures to the value of £40, and when Cuddesdon fell vacant he held it in commendam. It was on the Glebe that he built the 1st Bishop’s Palace, and in 1637 he was given permission by the King to appropriate the Vicarage to the See. The result was that the Vicarage & Rectory were United. The Bishop was technically Vicar, and the Church was served by a Curate chosen by him. Except during the Commonwealth, this arrangement lasted until 1852, when the Vicarage was separated from the See by Act of Parliament. Bancroft’s successor, however, Bishop Skinner, was Sequestrated from the Vicarage in 1646 and replaced by W Beecher, who had him Cited for Depredations on the Vicarage and for retaining the Tithes. The Advowson still belonged to the Bishop in 1953, and it is customary for the Vice-principal of the Theological College to be Vicar. In 1953 the net value of the Vicarage was £207.
The Bishop was entitled to all the Tithes. By 1791 a modus was being paid in lieu of them, 20 people contributing a total of £116 for 6 months. In 1840 the Tithes were commuted for £325, including Tithe on nearly 30 acres of Glebe. When the Vicarage was separated from the See in 1852, Bishop Grosseteste’s original Ordination of the Vicarage was referred to in order to divide the charge on the Tithes; it was found that the Rector was entitled to Tithes of corn &d grain only, amounting to £145, and the Vicar to the others, worth £175. Certain Properties, including the Vent Farm, the ‘King’s Arms‘, and the Mill, evidently those Free from Tithes in the 13thC, were still Tithe Free.
Since Cuddesdon was the Home of the Bishop, the Church was often the scene of unusual activity. During the 18thC there were 8 Communion Services a year instead of the usual 4. Ordinations were held & Confirmations for neighbouring Parishes; in 1778, for example, 300 were confirmed in Cuddesdon Church, and 360 in 1798. Probably the most distinguished Curate was William Thomson, who was Officiating in about 1846 in the time of Bishop Wilberforce; a well-known Theologian, he later became Archbishop of York.
The Church of All Saints is Cruciform, with Chancel, Nave, side Aisles, Transepts, and Central Tower. The original Church must have been built before 1117, when Abbot Faritius, who gave it to Abingdon Abbey, died. It was rebuilt on a Cruciform Plan about 1180. There is good Romanesque Carving on the West & South Doorways, with lozenge moulding & tooth ornament. Of the same Period are the Tower Arches, the West Buttresses, the walls of the North Transept (with one small round-headed window), the Stair Turret at the North-west angle of the Tower, and the opening to the Rood Loft. The Nave Aisles were added in the mid-13thC, the North Aisle being rougher work than the South, and 3 small Lancet windows on the South side belong to this Period. In the 14thC most of the aisle windows were replaced, the walls were raised, and the South Porch added. The Clerestory, the West windows, and the window in the North wall on the North Transept were added just before the Chancel was rebuilt in the late 14th or early 15thC, perhaps in 1375-76, when the Accounts of Abingdon Abbey include a payment of 50s for Wheatley Stone super cancellam de cuddesdon. Traces of Painting, possibly Medieval, remain on the Tower Piers.
By 1520 the Chancel was in need of repair, and in 1630, in spite of Episcopal Patronage, the Body of the Church and the Seats were noted as in great decay. Bartholomew Day, a local Craftsman, undertook repairs; and the upper part of the Tower, the South Transept, the Oak Roof of the Nave, and other woodwork are of this date. During the 18thC many minor repairs & improvements were carried out. A new Clock was made (1776), and Mr Bush of Oxford supplied a new Weather-vane in 1789. In 1842 major Restoration work began under G E Street, the Diocesan Architect. The Groining of the Crossing was restored, the West Gallery and the Plaster Ceiling of the Chancel removed, and the Roof repaired. The ‘4 clumsy windows’ in the Chancel were replaced; Stalls, a Stone Pulpit, Reredos, and new Glass in the Choir were added. A new Pulpit of Oak was installed in 1896, executed by C E Kempe and carved by Miss Stubbs, the Bishop’s Daughter. Hardman made the West window (Christ in Majesty) from Street’s design. Electric light was installed in 1895-96, and the High Altar was reconstructed in 1931 by H S Rogers, Architect, of Oxford. Chancel Screen, Gates, & Nave Altar commemorate Vice-Principal J Russell (d.1937). Recent Stained Glass displays Episcopal Coats of Arms, and there are Memorial Windows to Bishop Mackarness (d.1889), Bishop Stubbs (d.1901), & Joseph Moore, Vicar of Buckland (Berks) (d.1876).
The Inventory of 1553 shows a rich variety of Vestments which did not long survive. Perhaps there was also a minor possession of interest, for in 1529 William Bayley, who left ‘his beste goode‘ as Mortuary, following the Custom of the Parish, Bequeathed 20d ‘to buy a Pursse to carry the blessed Sacrament to Visitacions within the Parish’. The earliest Plate dates from 1771. There are 6-Bells mostly dating from the 17th & 18thCs, and a Sanctus. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th are by Henry Knight of Reading. A former 5th was dated 1677, and a former Tenor 1709.
The surviving Registers start in 1541, and included Wheatley until its separation from the Parish in the 19thC. From 1628 Wheatley Christenings were entered separately.