Pyrton Church

The Parish of Pyrton, a Vicarage in Aston Deanery, once included the Chapelries of Standhill & Easington. In the early 13thC the latter became a separate Parish and from that time Pyrton Parish consisted of 5 Tithings: Pyrton, Clare, Goldor, Standhill, & Assendon.  The latter, a detached Upland Area which included Stonor Park and the Hamlet of Upper Assendon, was united in 1854 to the Ecclesiastical Parish of Pishill.  In 1943, when Shirburn & Pyrton were United, the so-called Hamlets of Upper & Lower Standhill were transferred to the Ecclesiastical Parish of Great Haseley and a Close near Love Lane to that of Watlington.


The Church was in existence by 987, when according to the terms of a Grant by Oswald, Archbishop of York, 5-hides in Goldor were to pay Church Scot to Pyrton, and Leofward, to whom the Land was Granted, and his heirs were to have true friendship with the dominus ecclesie.  In about 1115 William Fitz Nigel, the Lord of Pyrton, Granted the Church to his foundation of Augustinian Canons at Runcorn (Ches), a Priory which was moved in 1134 to Norton (Ches).  The Church was probably at once appropriated, and certainly had been so by about 1200 when the Priory was receiving a part of the Tithes.  A Vicarage was not ordained until about 1220Norton Priory, which in the late 14thC became an Abbey, kept the Church until its Dissolution in 1536.

In 1546 the Rectory & Advowson were Granted to Christ Church, Oxford, in whose hands they still remain.  In 1943 the Living was United to that of Shirburn & Christ Church and the Earl of Macclesfield have since Presented in turn.

According to the early-13thC ordination of the Vicarage, Norton Priory was to receive almost all of the Great Tithes except for those in Standhill, and a certain amount of Land.  At the valuation of 1254, the Rectory was valued at £16 13s. 4d.; in 1291 at £21 6s 8d, and in 1535 at £22, less a payment of £2 to the Bailiff.

The post-Reformation Rectory remained a valuable piece of Property. By a valuation of 1799 4/5ths of it was worth £454.  In 1850 the Tithes of Pyrton, Goldor, & Clare were commuted for £670 and those of Assendon for £200.  Some 540 acres, mostly woodland, were Tithe free.  Since 1546 Christ Church had followed the policy of Leasing the Rectory, except for the Advowson & Timber.

There were 2 ordinations of the Vicarage, the 2nd being rather different and more detailed.  From later evidence, it is clear that the 2nd ordination superseded the 1st. By it, the Vicar was to have all Church Offerings and all small Tithes throughout the Parish, and also the Great Tithes from Standhill and from 5½ Virgates belonging to the Rectory Estate. There was an elaborate arrangement about the Tithe of Homesteads, which sometimes were to go to the Rector, sometimes to the Vicar.  The Vicar was to have 2 Houses, one at Pyrton with a ½-hide of the Canons’ Demesne, Meadow, & Housebote & Heybote in their Wood, and one at Standhill with a ½-Virgate of land with adjoining Meadow at Standhill; he and his Chaplain were to say Daily Services at Pyrton & Standhill.

This Vicarage was valued at £2 13s 4d in 1254; at £4 6s 8d in 1291; and by 1535 at £17 9s 4½d, more than triple the earlier value.  Post-Reformation valuations showed a similar tendency to rise in value: by the late 17thC the Vicarage was valued at £100, twice the early-17thC value, and in 1831 it was worth £238.  Most of the income came from Tithes.  In 1683 the Vicar was said to have in Pyrton Tithes of 77 arable acres of the Parsonage Glebe and of part of the Parsonage Meadows.  Later accounts of the Tithes explained that the Vicar was entitled to the Tithes of Homestalls, whether they bore Hay or Corn, and to both Great & Small Tithes at Standhill, but that in Pyrton, Clare, Goldor & Assendon the Tithes of Pasture, which had been converted into Arable or Meadow, went to the Impropriator.  In the early 18th century the Vicar said that he made a bargain with the Standhill Tenants whereby they paid 1s 6d per £1 rent for Meadow & Pasture and 2s 6d over & above for every acre they ploughed up.  In 1827 the Upper part of the Parsonage Land (i.e. the Hill part), said in 1799 to be 1/5th was leased to Thomas Stonor and the lower part to the Earl of Macclesfield & Paul Blackall.  The Tithes of Standhill were commuted in 1840 for £128 13s: when those of the rest of the Parish were commuted the Vicar received £200 for the Small Tithes and £27 for the Tithes on the Rectorial Glebe.  In 1870 the living was augmented by £20 a year from Christ Church.  In 1954 the value of the combined living of Pyrton & Shirburn was £550.

The Vicar usually managed the Tithes of Standhill as a separate unit: for much of the 15thC, they were farmed to Sir Edmund Rede, who owned the Land. When the Abbot of Oseney, who was Vicar, gave the Farm to Sir William Stonor in 1479 for his Chaplain, Rede wrote to Stonor complaining.  In the 1660’s they were being farmed to John Leach, a Yeoman of Waterperry.

The Vicar’s Glebe was always small, only about 5 statute acres.  In the early 17thC, he had 14 ‘lands’ in 2 Fields, 2 Cow Commons, and 3 acres of Meadow.  In 1799 the Arable Glebe was sold for £245, part of the money being used to redeem the Land Tax.

Except for Edmund, ‘Priest of Pyrton‘, no names of Priests are known until the early 13thC. Thereafter the list is fairly complete until the early 15thC.  One of them, Robert Patteshulle, had his Living sequestrated in 1385 as his Parishioners had complained that he lived far away and that they were deprived of the Sacraments and their Rights of Divine Worship. The Bishop decreed that the Vicar should be allowed Maintenance, and if what remained from the Vicarage was not sufficient to pay a Chaplain then the Parishioners and the Abbey were to contribute.  In 1399 Norton Abbey was given Papal permission to serve its appropriated Churches, including Pyrton, with such of its own Canons as were Priests.  A Canon of Norton was presented in 1417, but after this, there is a gap of 60 years in the Presentations.  There are several records of a later Vicar, Henry Terfoot (1436–47), who was also Canon of Norton.  It was he who made an agreement with the Lord of Standhill reintroducing the Services at the Chapel there, and who was fined by a Pyrton Court for digging Chalk and carrying it away from Watlington Hill.  In 1477 another Augustinian Canon, Robert Leicester, Abbot of Oseney, served as Vicar for 5 years.  The name of his predecessor is not known, but he presumably attended the elaborate funeral of Thomas Stonor (d.1474), when the whole Parish was Feasted and may have been the John, Vicar of Pyrton, who attended another Stonor funeral at about this time.  It is probable that Abbot Robert Leicester only lived in the Parish occasionally and his successor, Lawrence Orrell (c.1485–1550), may also have been mainly non-resident, certainly so at the end of his Ministry. There are several references to him in the Court Rolls of Pyrton: his horse & pigs got into the wheat-fields; he disputed with the Bailiff of the Manor over Rights of Common, and his Servant is occasionally mentioned.  He is likely to have been present at the lavish funeral at the Parish Church of Lady Anne Stonor in 1518 and at Stonor Chapel where 42 Priests & 6 Chaplains offered Masses.  Nevertheless, at the Visitation of c.1520, it was reported that the Vicar was non-resident and that his house, the Nave of the Church, and the walls of the Churchyard were ruinous.  The Church was served by a Curate at a Stipend of £5,  who was not altogether satisfactory: it was complained, that he refused to Bury a Person on Passion Thursday. Various Parishioners at this date, including Sir Adrian Fortescue, were in Debt to the Church.  A few years later the Churchyard Bounds were still in disrepair, the Churchwardens & Parishioners were quarrelling, and the Church lacked books.

The Reformation was a troubled period in Pyrton Church.  Thomas Barnard, a Canon of Christ Church who became Vicar in 1548,  was a Protestant: he had been Chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer and was probably married when he came to Pyrton, for he had 2 sons old enough to be Farming the Rectory in 1568. In 1554 he was deprived and replaced by Richard Martiall, the intruded Dean of Christ Church, who was considered by some a man ‘of drunken habits & fanatical temper’.  On the accession of Queen Elizabeth, he suffered for his religious views, was deprived and replaced by Barnard.  Barnard died in 1582 and was succeeded as Vicar in 1583 by his son John.  An entry of 1603 in the Parish Register throws an interesting light on the latter’s relations with the Roman Catholic Stonors and their Priest. The Vicar noted that at Mr Shepheard’s Entreaty he wrote down the names of the Stonor children in the Register at the time when they were Christened, though he did not know where they were Christened.

The religious changes of the times are also reflected in the Churchwardens’ Accounts.  In 1548 the King’s Injunctions & Homilies were set up, in 1549 a Quire Book was bought, in 1550 the Church was whitewashed and a new ‘Lord’s Table’ made, and in 1553 a Book of Common Prayer was bought. In the following year, however, with the accession of Mary to the Throne, the return to the old Religion necessitated the making of a ‘new Seuper Table’ and the purchase of a Mass Book, a Manual, a Processional, Wax for the Paschal Candle, new Vestments – the latter at a cost of 40s – and a new Paten for a Chalice for 14s 9d.  The Chalice was later sold under Elizabeth for 31s 4d.  In 1556 the Rood & other Images were set up again and in 1557 the Churchwardens paid for the Painting of the High Altar and for a Doom over the Chancel Arch.  Two years later, however, in 1559 & 1560 the Altar was pulled down, another Book of Common Prayer was bought, the Wardens paid for the ‘wiping out of the Images’, and in 1561 for ‘making clene the Church when the Rood Loft was pulled down’.

These early Accounts show the importance of the 2 Churchwardens, who were usually chosen in May; they were responsible for money belonging to the Church, for keeping the Building in repair, and for buying Books & Ornaments; they attended the Visitations, usually at Henley or Watlington, but occasionally at Ewelme, Dorchester, or Oxford; they Rented the Church Acre and the Church Flock of 20 sheep.  When a Rate was necessary, however, as it was in 1587, it was imposed by the Parishioners.

Part of the 17thC was also a troubled time at Pyrton. After the death of John Morris (Vicar 1635–49), Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford and a Benefactor of Christ Church & of PyrtonJasper Mayne (1604–72), a Student of Christ Church, a Dramatist, and a ‘quaint Preacher & noted Poet’, became Vicar, in spite of a Parliamentary Presentation at the same time.  Mayne was a Royalist who had preached before Charles I.  He spent part of his time in Pyrton until ejected from the Living in 1656; during that time he held a Public Debate in the neighbouring Church of Watlington with John Pendarves, a noted Puritan.  In 1654 the Register records that a certain John Pophley took the Oath to perform the Office of ‘Register’ in the Parish and thus deprived the Vicar of part of his Duties.  In 1660 Mayne was restored, and although he held other Benefices, he seems to have been living in 1665 in his comfortable Pyrton Vicarage, the largest House in the Parish after the Rectory, and he left, on his death in 1672, £100 to the Parish.

Soon after this, in the time of Timothy Halton (Archdeacon of Oxford 1675–1704), the Churchwardens were ordered to remove the Communion Table from the middle of the Chancel, where the Communicants could not ‘with such decency and order as is meet’ receive Communion, to the upper end of the Chancel under the (East) window.

Later Vicars were also almost all connected with Christ Church: one, Roger Puleston (1672–82), left £15 to the Pyrton Poor; another, Thomas Ackworth (1682–1702), was one of the few Oxfordshire Clergymen who resigned their Livings rather than take the Oath of Loyalty to William III, but his successor William Howell (1702–14), also Curate & Schoolmaster of Ewelme, is said to have allowed him part of the Income from Pyrton.  From 1735, for nearly 100 years, the Living was held by 2 Vicars: Ralph Church (1735–87) & William Buckle (1787–1832). Although Church was accused in 1741 of being non-resident and having no regular Curate, so that those who were dangerously ill had no Minister to pray for them and the dead were buried several days before the Funeral Service could be held, Church claimed to live in his Vicarage and to hold 2 Services with one Sermon on Sundays.  When he later became Vicar of Shirburn, his time was divided between the 2 Parishes, as was that of his successor.  At the end of the century, there were between 30 & 40 Communicants, and the Sacrament was given 4 times a year.  Early in the 19thC, the number of Communicants fell, and although later 2 Sunday Services were held and the Sacrament is given monthly the number of Communicants was never more than about 35, and Congregations averaged about 100. The early age at which children left school and were put in charge of cattle feeding on Sundays was considered a hindrance to a good Church attendance.

Because of its size the Parish was a difficult one. The Vicar complained that the children of people in Assendon, 7 miles distant from the Church, were being brought up as Roman Catholics by the Stonors’ Chaplain or went to the nearer Church of Pishill which was a mile away, while the people of Clare often went to Church at Stoke TalmageStandhill was also several miles from the Church.

Christmas Common Chapel

Towards the end of the century Henry H Coxe (Vicar 1880–90), the Historian of the Parish, by starting Services in the Chilterns, was partly responsible for the building of the Chapel on Christmas Common in Watlington Parish.

The Medieval Chapel of Standhill was 1st mentioned in about 1180, when Norton Priory, the Appropriators of the Parish Church, promised Ralph de Coleby to supply a Chaplain in return for a Grant of a ½-Virgate of Land and a Toft.  The Parishioners Living in the Village were to go to Pyrton Church 3 times a year with Alms & Oblations.  When the Vicarage of Pyrton was Ordained a little before 1220, Daily Services at Standhill became the responsibility of the Vicar or his Chaplain, and the Vicar was given a house there. There are scattered references to the Chapel in the records.  In 1317 a Free Tenant of Standhill gave Land to endow the light of the Blessed Virgin in it, and by 1424 the Village had evidently become so depopulated that Daily Services were no longer held. When the Vicar of Pyrton was summoned for neglecting the Chapel it was stated that only 3 Services a week were required.  In 1447, when it was definitely said that the Hamlet had been depopulated by Pestilence, it was agreed, with the consent of Edmund Rede, the Lord of the Manor, that only one Service a week was necessary.  The Vicar was to be responsible for the Chancel of the Chapel, and the Parishioners, if there were any, for the Nave and for providing a Clerk for the Vicar. If the Hamlet was again inhabited, Services were to be held 3 times a week.

It is not clear how long the Chapel continued in use. It had had its own Chaplain as late as 1394, but in 1489 it appears not to have been in use. Edmund Rede had in his keeping the Breviary belonging to the Chapel and his Will contained the wish that it was to be returned to it if it was ever needed.

In 1526 the Curate of Pyrton had the large Stipend of £6 and his duties may have included Services at Standhill.  As late as 1555 the ‘Free Chapel’ was included in a conveyance of Land.  It is likely, however, that Services ceased soon after the Reformation. In the early 18thC, the Chapel was described as capella destructa, and in 1745, when Thomas Delafield wrote his account of it, the Chapel was in ruins and had served for many years as a Calves’ House. Delafield carefully noted its position between Standhill Farmhouse and the Haseley Brook.  Its Site is marked on Davis’s Map of 1797 and by the surviving Field-name Chapel Close.

Photograph of Stonor Park chapel in Stonor, Oxfordshire [c 1930s-1980s] by John Piper 1903-1992

Stonor Chapel was always a Private Chapel of the Stonor Family: it dates from the end of the 13thC and was licensed for marriages in 1331 when the 2 daughters of Sir John Stonor were married by the Vicar of Pyrton, and again in 1482 when Alice Stonor, Widow of Sir Thomas Stonor, married Sir Richard Drayton.  From 1349 the Chapel was served by 6 Chaplains, for in that year Sir John Stonor obtained a Licence to establish a dwelling for them.  The name of many of the Medieval Chaplains are known.  After the Reformation the Stonors were recusants and the Chapel has continued in use as a Private Chapel until the present day.


The Church of St Mary is built of Flint & Brick with Stone Dressings. The building comprises a Chancel, Nave, South Porch, a triple Bell-cot at the West end, and a small Vestry.  Though rebuilt in 1855, the Church retains a number of features from the original 12th-century building. There is a Romanesque Chancel Arch, with 3 orders of Chevron Mouldings, Jamb Shafts, & sculptured Capitals. The single-light window in the North wall of the Chancel is Romanesque. The window in the South Wall is a modern copy in the same style.  The Romanesque South Doorway has Jamb Shafts & scalloped Capitals; the Arch is of 3 Orders with Chevron mouldings. The South Porch was merely repaired in 1855 and retains its 14thC Arch & Gable.

When Parker visited the Church in 1850 he found ‘some Decorated windows and parts of late Perpendicular work’, in addition to the Norman South Doorway, Chancel Arch & one Norman window.  This report on the windows is confirmed by Buckler’s drawing of the Church, viewed from the South-East and dated 1822, which shows an early Perpendicular East window & 2 Decorated windows in the South wall of the Chancel and the South wall of the Nave, and one late Perpendicular window, also in the South wall of the Nave, adjoining the Porch.  The drawing also shows a small wooden Turret with a pyramidal roof, surmounted by a Cross.

Various minor repairs were done during the 18th & early-19thCs. They included work on the Roof in 1720, Carpenter’s work amounting to over £43 in 1745, a new Gallery in 1803, roughcasting & whitewashing the Church in 1828, and roughcasting & colouring the Chancel in 1831.  A drawing of 1838, the year in which the Wooden Tower was damaged by high winds and had to be repaired, shows the Church with its Roof off.  But all this was merely remedial and Bishop Wilberforce’s Visitation in 1854 probably prompted drastic action. An application was made to the Bishop for a Grant towards the cost of rebuilding the Nave, and the Dean & Chapter of Christ Church, the Lay Rectors, were called upon to assist in the rebuilding of the Chancel.  In 1848 the Dean had complained of the expense of repairs and stated that ‘the North part of the East wall would have fallen down before now were it not for the Cross Bars of late put in’.  In a letter in 1854 to Lord Macclesfield,  Dr Bull of Christ Church stated that it was the Practice of the Dean & Chapter to divide the expense of rebuilding with the Lessee. He also stated that the Dean & Chapter did not contribute to expensive Ornamentation. In a letter to Dr Bull, dated 20th November 1854,  the Rev C Conybeare, the Vicar, reported that the North wall had begun to give out, and was already more than 1ft out of perpendicular and cracks were appearing in the East & North walls of the Nave and widening rapidly.  The ends of the Beams were rotten and the Roof was suspended on the Corbels.  It was decided that the whole Church should be rebuilt, but that ‘features of interest were to be carefully preserved or copied’.  The Norman Chancel Arch, the old Porch & South Doorway were to be retained, and the old Decorated window to be reinserted, and the others made to match it.  This plan was not fully adhered to. Instead, the old Romanesque window seems to have been reinserted in the Chancel, and the window on the Southside made to match it. There is no trace of an original Decorated window now, and the East end & Nave windows are all 19thC Decorated.

The Nave was lengthened by 6ft at the West end, and 120 additional seatings provided, the Church was no longer adequate for the rising Population of the mid-19thC.  As early as 1818 it was said to be able to seat only 300 out of a Population of 545.  The small additional seats provided for the children in 1856 are still in position at the rear of the Church. The cost of rebuilding the Nave was estimated at £1,300 and the Chancel at £300.  Old materials provided £200 towards the expenses of rebuilding.  The Architect was J H Buckler and the Builder G Wyatt of Oxford. The Church was consecrated by Bishop Wilberforce in May 1856.

The only major work since the restoration has been the installation of new heating in the Church in 1929 and of Electric Light in 1939.  A marble Tablet in the Chancel records that the last was given by their children in memory of J W Bussey Bell, Vicar of Pyrton (1890–1914), and his wife Susan.

Though the Pews, Lectern, & Stained Glass are Victorian, the Church still retains some of its earlier fittings. There is a Medieval Tub Font, Lead lined, standing on a modern Base.  In the South Porch there are some Medieval Tiles of 6 different designs, all of which can be paralleled by other Oxfordshire Medieval tiles.  The Oak Pulpit, decorated with panels carved in relief, dates from 1636 and the Churchwardens’ Accounts give many details about it: ‘for 7 daies work to ye Joyner about ye Pulpit – 10s’; ‘for making ye Pulpit – £5 15s’; ‘for bringing home the Pulpit – 1s. 6d‘, are among the entries, which also include the costs of the various materials, such as nails, glue, & joints for the Pulpit Door.

The plain Wooden Chest, bound with Iron Bars and now in the Vestry, was acquired in 1638. ‘The 3 lockes of the Chest’ cost 10s, & 15s was ‘paid to Embris’ for it.  The Organ replaced the earlier Harmonium in 1953.

The oldest surviving Memorial in the Church is an incised Purbeck Marble Slab to a Priest, dated c.1340, lying in front of the Altar. There was formerly a marginal inscription in Brass letters, of which only one Brass stop remains. The few Matrices which are still decipherable show that the lettering was LombardicWood recorded the Stone, but Rawlinson inaccurately records ‘a very ancient Stone bearing in Brass the figure of a Priest on it’.


Both Wood & Rawlinson mention a Memorial Inscription, now vanished, to Robert Rolles (d.1507), who was the Farmer of the Demesne Lands held by the Dean & Chapter of St George’s Chapel, Windsor.  A Brass, now on the South side of the Chancel, but once ‘in the Body of the Church’, depicts Thomas Symeon (d.1522), ‘sumtyme fermar of Purtton Courte’, & Margaret his wife. The figures are full length, in civilian dress, and below are the Matrices of their Children.  This is the only Monument to the Symeon Family, which was of importance in Pyrton in the 16th & 17thCs. The Barnards are commemorated by Monuments now on the West wall of the Vestry, but formerly on the South wall.  An Alabaster Cartouche, with strapwork decoration, frames an inscription to Thomas Barnard of Yorkshire, Prebend of Christ Church and Vicar of Pyrton (d.1582) and his wife Edith (d.1607). Below it is another Memorial in Stone, now much defaced. This is the inscription described by Rawlinson as ‘on a rough freestone in Capitals’, the text of which he gives in full.   It was erected by the 6 sons of the Barnards, to commemorate their mother. There are Memorials in the Chancel to Susanna Acworth, wife of Thomas Acworth, Vicar, who died in childbirth in 1685; Clifford Middleton (d.1697), a Lessee of the Rectory; Elizabeth Hill (d.1715); George Hutchins, Pastor of the Church (d.1735); Paul Blackall (d.1811), co-Lessee with Lord Macclesfield of the Rectory from 1801; Ann Blackall, wife of the above (d.1801), and to 2 of their children who both died in 1802.

Rawlinson records a Black Marble Gravestone near the Altar to Thomas Eustace of Pyrton (d.1701). This is now in the South Porch, together with Black Marble Monumental Slabs to Thomas Eustace, Gentleman (d.1713), and his wife Mary (d.1712/13).  Other Memorials are to Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Eustace (d.1659/60); Jane, wife of Richard Wiggins (d.1801); Moses Wiggins (d.1808); Mary, wife of Moses Wiggins (d.1812); Moses Wiggins (d.1807).

The Monuments in the Nave are mostly to members of the Hamersley Family: there is a Stained Glass window, made by Clayton & Bell and erected in 1893, on the Southside to Hugh Hamersley (d.1884), and his wife Mary (d.1887);  Brass Tablets to Lt John Ducat Hamersley (d.1892); Edward Samuel Hamersley of Pyrton Manor (d.1909); Lt Col. John Henry Hamersley (d.1928); a Brass Tablet, designed by Eric Gill, to Col Alfred St. George Hamersley, MP (d.1929).  Another member of the same Family is Commander Gerald Ducat (d.1955), grandson of Hugh Hamersley.  Others commemorated are Emily Clara Hale (d.1903) & her son 2nd Lieut W A L Hale (d.1898); 2 local men, Sergeant Eborn, killed in action in South Africa in 1902, & G W Taylor, RM, Torpedoed in 1914; and a father and son, Charles Hopkins Morris (d.1953) & C A Morris (d. 1924).


There are some 18thC carved headstones in the Churchyard. The Lych-gate, designed by Boulton & Paul of Norwich, was put up in 1919 as a Memorial to the 13 Parishioners killed in WW1.  A Tablet has been added, containing 4 names, commemorating those who fell in WW2.   There is a Teak Garden Seat in the Churchyard, given in Memory of Alfred St George & I M Hamersley.

The Church had 3 Bells in 1552, but these Medieval Bells have since been replaced.  The present Treble and the Tenor were cast by Henry Knight I of Reading.  The inscription on the Treble reads ‘Henri Knight Made this Bell 1606‘ and on the Tenor ‘Henri Knight made Mee 1605‘. The Bell cast in 1548 for £5 6s 8d at Buckingham has gone.  The small Bell was given by Mr Ives in 1953 to replace the Saunce Bell, which was made by Henry Knight in 1593.  This last Bell, which must have been the one referred to in the Churchwardens’ accounts for 1652, is now preserved in the Church; ‘The Saunce or Saints Bell of this Church was borrowed by Mr Thomas Eustace, with a promise to be restored again whenever the Parishioners should seek for it, 13th September 1652.’  This incident occurred during the Commonwealth Period (1649-60) when the Bells were Silent. In 1571 the Churchwardens paid £3 6s 8d ‘for Casting of our Bell’ and 13s 6d for ‘expenses when we were at Reading’,  but this Bell does not seem to have survived.

In 1552 the Church had 2 Silver Chalices, a Copper Cross, 2 Copes, and various other Vestments & Articles.  One of the Vestments had been given by Sir Adrian Fortescue before his Execution in 1539.  The Church sold a Chalice in 1573 for 30s 4d.  It still owns a Chalice of 1589, a Flagon of the same date and a Paten of 1637.  An entry in the Churchwardens’ Accounts for 1638 states that £1 9s 6d was paid for a Communion Plate.

The Registers date from 1568.  There are Churchwardens’ Accounts for the years 1548–1882.

Protestant Nonconformity
All the Chief Nonconformist sects except the Quakers have been represented in Pyrton. Some of the 1st dissenters were Baptists, for in 1653 Pyrton was a member of the Berkshire Baptist Association.  In 1676 there were 3 nonconformists and in 1719 the house of Sarah Lewinton, Widow, was registered for Meetings.  In 1738 there were reputed to be 2 or 3 Anabaptists in the Village.  There are no further references to nonconformity until 1833 when a dissenting Meeting-house was Licensed.  In the following year, there were both Wesleyans & Baptists in the Parish, and Independent Meetings were held in a labourer’s house at Clare.  A group of Primitive Methodists was in existence at Clare by 1851 with an average attendance of 30 at its meetings.  Many of this large Congregation must have come from outside the Parish. In 1854 at Bishop Wilberforce’s Visitation, 2 ‘decidedly dissenting’ families were reported, but no dissenting place of Worship.

Sunday Schools were started in the Parish long before any Day Schools were Founded: in 1768 the children were taught to say their catechism every Sunday in Lent and in about 1788 a Sunday School was established which continued for 50 years.  The Parish was allowing 5 guineas for its support in 1805.  Three years later the Vicar reported that there were 2 Sunday Schools, where the children read the psalms, and repeated by memory the collects & gospels or some portion of the liturgy.  In 1815 the Sunday school, now only one, had an attendance of over 50; the Parish still paid 5 guineas and the Vicar the rest of the expenses.  Village education was fraught with many difficulties: the Vicar complained in 1834 that he was unable to provide the Poor with books or tracts and that many children went to the Methodist Sunday school at Watlington; in 1854 it was said that the Sunday Classes for boys, which the Vicar had started in his own house, had failed because the children were kept away both from School & Church for cattle feeding.

The Stonors were strong supporters of Roman Catholic Education in the 18th & 19thCs and the 1st day-school in the Parish was founded before 1790 with their support by the Roman Catholics of Assendon.  By 1808 this School had 30 pupils, including some Protestant children that were allowed to be taught the Church Catechism, and some children from Pishill.  By this time there were 2 Church of England Schools in the Parish, one at Pyrton itself and one at Assendon; both were supported partly by Subscription & partly by Fees. In these Schools, the children were taught the Church Catechism and the articles and to repeat by memory the collects & gospels. The Vicar said that there were about 50 children in each, but it is likely that he included the Sunday School attendance in this figure

In his report in 1815, the Vicar mentioned only one of these Schools, presumably the Pyrton School. It then had an attendance of 15 children and was conducted on the National Society Plan.  His hope was that the children would go on to the National School at Watlington, but his plans were thwarted by the early employment of the children, the boys on the Farms and the girls at Lace-making.  In 1818 the Pyrton School had 20 pupils, and in 1834 3 Day Schools with a total attendance of 35 children between the ages of 3 & 12, besides the Roman Catholic School with about 30, were recorded for the Parish. They were all fee-paying Schools.  The 3rd School may have been the one which existed in 1854 at Portways, a Hamlet of Pyrton.  It was mainly supported by the Lay Rector.

A School building costing £200 was built at Pyrton about 1850, and it had 40 pupils.  Despite the existence of this School and the Roman Catholic School at Assendon, education was quite inadequate.  In 1854 an observer commented that the distance of Church & School from the Hill part of the Parish was ‘plainly manifested in the half-savage manners and wretched appearance of the Uphill Poor‘.  The School report of 1867 records only that a Night School, attended by 6 Villagers, had been started at Pyrton, and that the National School was receiving a Parliamentary Grant.  The premises of the latter were improved in 1871.  In 1891 the average attendance at Pyrton School was only 34 while it was 39 at Assendon School.

A new Elementary School was built in 1895 with accommodation for 73 children, but the attendance does not appear to have increased. Children at Assendon, who did not go to the Roman Catholic School, went to the Elementary School at Pishill.  In 1939 the Roman Catholic School was recognised as a Junior School and in 1954 the Roll had 34 names.  The Pyrton Church of England School was closed in 1933 and since then the children have gone to school in Watlington.

Dr John Morris
(d.1648), Dr Jasper Mayne (d.1672), & Roger Puleston (d.1682), all Vicars and the 1st 2 also Canons of Christ Church, Oxford, respectively left £10, £100, & £15 to the Poor.  This money, with £35 from an unknown source, was used to buy land in Watlington Open-fields, later called Pyrton Poor’s Land or Piece and considered to have lain in Pyrton itself.  By 1808 and therefore before Inclosure, which took place in 1810, the Lands were let at £11 9s net yearly.  About 1822 this Rent was being distributed each February in sums of about 8d a head to the Poor of the Parish, except those of the Hamlet of Assendon.  A sum of £13 12s was distributed to 136 persons at Easter 1931.

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