Wheatfield Church


St Andrews Church
Wheatfield Church
, a Rectory in Aston Deanery, was in existence and had a Rector by about 1200.  It may have been a recent Foundation, for in 1240 or 1241 when the 1st Presentation is recorded, it was still called a Chapel.  The Advowson then belonged to the De Whitfield Family and has always followed the Descent of the Manor.   When in 1390 the Manor was divided, the Advowson was also divided between the Streatley and De Bereford Families.  They made alternate Presentations, although in the late 15th and 16th centuries the Right of Presentation was several times sold by the Streatleys.  John Pollard, who was Rector from 1553 to 1577, acquired a Grant of it from Edmund Streatley.  In his Will, he left this to Thomas Tipping, who had recently bought the Manor, and requested him to present some ‘honest, discreet, and quiet man‘ to the Living. There had been so much ‘strife and contention‘ over the divided Manor that he hoped this would produce ‘quietness and peace‘.  Tipping therefore Presented in 1577 on the Rector’s death, and since then the Advowson has been held by the Tippings, the Rudges, and the Spencers.  In 1928 the Living was United to that of Stoke Talmage, since when the Earl of Macclesfield and Lt.-Col. Vere Spencer have Presented alternately.  According to the terms of the Union, the detached part of Wheatfield became part of the Ecclesiastical Parish of Chalgrove.

The Rectory was valued at £2 in 1254, at £6 13s. 4d. in 1291, and at £9 10s. 8½d. in 1535.  By the late 17th century it was worth about £80, and in 1769 Lord Charles Spencer leased the Tithes (except those of the detached part) and the Glebe for nearly £105. )  At about this time the Advowson was valued at £960, 8 times £120, the annual income from the Living.  In 1841, when the Tithes were commuted, the Rector was awarded a Rent Charge of £232 12s.  The Rector was also entitled to Tithes on 15 acres in Tetsworth, and when in 1842 the Tithes of Tetsworth.  The Rector was also entitled to the Tithes of a Meadow in Stoke Talmage called Crendon Piece,  and it may have been in connection with this that a late-13th-century Rector was at Law with Thame Abbey, the Owners of Stoke Grange.

The Glebe, when it was surveyed in 1685, consisted of 20 acres of Inclosed land lying next to the Rectory and 10 acres in the Common fields, with Meadow and Pasture Rights.  In the 19th century, the Glebe still consisted of 32 acres; it was sold in 1942.  In addition to this Wheatfield Glebe, the Rector had a field acre of Glebe in Tetsworth, next to the Land there which paid Tithes to him.  It was probably this Land which caused trouble in the 18th century: in 1756 the Rector asked the Bishop how he could ‘Perpetuate the Evidence of some Elderly Persons in the Parish‘ so that it could be used as Legal Evidence; in 1793 he was still trying to get accurate Information.  It was said that it had once been exchanged for Land in Wheatfield; if this was done before 1685, he wrote, the Terrier of 1685deserves to be burnt‘.  In 1842 the Rector still held about an acre of Glebe in Tetsworth.

What evidence there is about Medieval Rectors, some of whom held the Living for many years, suggests that they usually lived in the Parish.  Simon, for example, the 1st recorded Rector, Witnessed a Local Charter in about 1200Laurence de Belsted (fl. 1291–1316), who was at Law with Thame Abbey over Tithes, was living in Wheatfield in 1316 when he paid a 6s Tax on his Goods there  and John le Vaal (d.1359), who acted as Feoffee of the Manor,  may have been a nephew of the elder John de Whitfield  Several of the 15th-century Rectors were Graduates and one, like so many Oxfordshire Priests, was a Welshman.  In the 16th century George Longshawe (1505–52), who saw many of the changes of the Reformation, also lived in Wheatfield. He was accused of not saying the Services at the proper times and of neglecting to keep his House in repair.

In the post-Reformation Period until the 20th century Wheatfield has rarely had a non-Resident Rector, and many of its Rectors died and were buried there.  John Pollard resigned or was deprived about 1554, but he was restored by 1559 and enjoyed the Living along with South Weston as well until 1577.  His successor Anthony Maunde (Rector 1577–1629) held the Living for the longest Period. An Inventory of his Goods, valued at nearly £50 and including a Cow and a Pig, but few Books and little Furniture, suggests that he was a Country Pastor with little Education. John Ellis (1629–47), in contrast, was a Theological Writer of some repute.  Two of his Works were written while he lived at Wheatfield, of which one was dedicated to Thomas Tipping, his Patron.  He married Rebecca Petty of Stoke Talmage,  and Anthony Wood, to whom he, therefore, became related, described him as ‘siding with all Parties and taking all Oaths‘.  During the years of the Commonwealth, the Parish evidently had a Rector with Puritan sympathies, for William Bird (or Burt) (1647–60) took the Covenant and resigned on the Restoration.

Later Rectors included Nathaniel Penn (1666–1709), who was buried beside his wife under the Altar;  his successor Adam Blandy (1709–22), who rebuilt the Rectory;  and Henry Taylor (1737–46), who was to become well known as a Theological Writer.  He only held the Living in Trust for the young nephew of the Lord of the Manor.  This was Benjamin Rudge (1750–1807), who married a daughter of Ralph Church, Vicar of Pyrton, and lived for over 50 years in the Parish and was buried in the Family Vault.  He held the usual number of Services: 2 on Sundays with one Sermon; 3 or 4 Sacraments a year, with between 8 and 12 Communicants; and Catechism for the Children in Lent.  He had few Complaints to make of his Parishioners except that, being Tenant Farmers and Labouring Poor, his Congregations were small.   At this Period, as had also been the case in the 16th century, there was only one Churchwarden, and he usually served for many years.

In the 19th century, the connection between Church and Manor was very close. After Cranley L Kerby had left Wheatfield for Stoke Talmage in 1820 Frederick Charles Spencer, heir to the Manor, became Rector; he died in 1831, and his Widow married Edward Fanshawe Glanville, who was Rector from 1836 to 1852; Charles Vere Spencer, Mrs Glanville’s son by her 1st husband, was Rector for nearly half a century (i.e. 1852–98) and was at the same time Lord of the Manor.  As Wheatfield House had been burnt down in 1814 he lived at the Rectory.  As he was also Curate of Adwell he Preached on alternate Sundays at each Church.  At Wheatfield there was an attendance of 30 to 40. He administered Communion 6 or 7 times a year and Catechised the children every other Sunday.  In his later years, he served Wheatfield only, increased the number of Communion Services to 12 and held Evening Classes.  On his death, it was arranged that his Widow should stay on in the House and so there was no Resident Rector until after her death in 1907.  Since 1928, when the Living was United with that of Stoke Talmage, the Rector has lived at Stoke.

Photograph of St Andrew's Church in Wheatfield, Oxfordshire [c 1930s-1980s] by John Piper 1903-1992
The Turret contains 1 Bell, hung for Chiming.  It is inscribed 1636 and was cast by Ellis Knight (I) and is similar to Bells at Balliol College

Wheatfield Church of St. Andrew
Church. 14thC, restored and remodelled c.1730 for the Rudge Family. Render, on stone rubble, with stone dressings; old plain-tile Roof; wood Bellcote to Ridge.  3-bay Nave, 2-bay Chancel, and West Porch. Porch has 8-panel Door with moulded Stone eared Architrave surround with Pulvinated Frieze and Triangular Pediment, the Cornice of which forms string-course round the Porch. 14thC blocked Doorways with 2-centre Arched Heads to both sides of Nave.  2 round-headed 18thC windows to nave with leaded-lights. 18thC round-headed window to Chancel. Battlemented Parapet to Nave and Chancel and end Gables.
Rear: 2 round-headed 18thC windows to Nave with leaded lights. 18thC round-headed window to Chancel.
East End: Venetian window with leaded lights. West end: round-headed 18thC window above Porch.
Interior: 14thC 3-Bay King-post Roof to Nave; plaster Vault to Chancel.  Early 18thC fittings include Altar Table; Altar Rail; Box Pews, Family Pew with Frieze of pierced scroll work; Pulpit, with Tester; Reading Desk; and Stone Font on vase-baluster. Monument to John Rudge c.1730 by P Scheemakers of Pedimented Corinthian Frame on brackets, surmounted by reclining Cherubs and Urn. West window has 18thC Armorial stained glass. East window by Morris and Co c.1898.
(Buildings of England: Oxfordshire 1974, p.836-7; VCH: Oxfordshire, Vol.VIII, 1964 p.272).

The Ancient Church of St Andrew comprises a Chancel, Nave, West Porch, and Bellcot.  It stands in Wheatfield Park and formerly stood close to the Manor-House, which was burnt down in 1814.  The Church, small and well cared for, is a Medieval Building, which was remodelled in the 1st half of the 18th century when the Rudge Family were Lords of the Manor.  Of the Medieval Building there remain the Walls, the Chancel Arch, a 14th-century South Doorway and a later North window, both visible from the outside only.  Let into the Floor beneath the South window of the Church is the Medieval Stone Altar with Crosses carved at each corner.

Externally the Walls have been Stuccoed and Battlements added both to the Gable Ends and to the Side Walls.  The East window of 3 lights is of the kind known as ‘Venetian‘. The other 18th-century windows are Round-headed with Keystones and have original Wrought-Iron Frames and Leaded Lights of clear glass. The Ceilings are Plastered and have Kingpost Trusses exposed in the Nave.


All the Fittings date from the 18th century.  The Chancel is Wainscoted and the Altar Rails are of turned Wood. The Altar Table stands on 4 Console Brackets with Winged Angel Heads.  On either side of the Altar are Boards with the Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed. There are a 2-decker Pulpit and Reading-desk. In the Nave are the Remains of Box Pews: on the North side they face the Altar, but they did not do so originally as a Sepia Drawing of 1852 shows.  On the South side, they face the Aisle and those nearest the Altar have open-work Carving with a Leaf Design and the Coat of Arms of the Rudges.

Above the Chancel Arch are the Royal Arms of George II. The Hatchment to the Right bears the Spencer Arms impaled with those of Bernard-Morland since Lord Charles Spencer‘s grandson Frederick Charles Spencer married Mary Ann Bernard-Morland.   There is a contemporary Font: a small Stone Basin on a Tall Stone Pedestal.  Four Iron Hoops suspended from the Tie Beams of the Roof hold the candles by which the Church is lit.

There is some notable Coloured Glass.  In the South window of the Chancel ‘is one of the most beautiful and interesting pieces of Armorial Glass in the Diocese‘. It is probably the Shield of Sir John de Whitfield (d. c.1361), a Lord of the Manor, and once fitted into the Tracery of a 14th-century window.  A fragment of Medieval Glass also survives in the North-west window.  In the West window is a large 18th-century piece of Armorial Glass (4ft x 2ft 9in): it depicts the Arms of Rudge, Letten, Howard of Hackney, and others.  The Shield is surmounted by a Scallop Shell and Crest.  The glass in the East window is by William Morris & Co of London and is a Memorial to the Rector Charles Vere Spencer (d.1898) and his wife Emma Frederica (d.1907).

This small Church is rich in Monuments. Those to the Tippings, Lords of the Manor, include Ledger Stones on the Chancel and Nave floors to Sir Thomas Tipping (d. 1693/4); Dame Elizabeth Tipping (d.1698), wife of Sir Thomas; Mary (d.1714/15), one of Sir Thomas’s 16 children and wife of John, Lord Brereton; and George Tipping (d. 1714/15). On the Chancel Wall, there is a Cartouche to Sir Thomas Tipping (d.1718), of which the inscription states that the bodies of his father Sir Thomas and of his grandfather Sir George Tipping lie in the same grave. There is also a Cartouche to Sir Thomas Tipping, Bt. (d.1725/6), eldest son of Sir Thomas and Dame Anne. It is surmounted by a Coat of Arms and Crest.  A Coat of Arms also surmounts the Memorial to Elizabeth (d.1725), wife of William Tipping, Esq. (d.1729), of West Court, Ewelme, and 2nd son of Sir Thomas and Dame Elizabeth. There is an elaborate Monument by P Scheemakers to John Rudge, MP (d.1739/40), Merchant of London, and his son Edward Rudge, MP (d.1763).  There are Memorials to Thomas Rudge, Gentleman (d.1754), Benjamin Rudge (d.1807), Rector for 58 years, and Samuel Rudge (d.1817), by Clark of Watlington.  There are several Memorials of the Spencer Family: Rt Hon. Lady Elizabeth Spencer (d.1812), daughter of George, Duke of Marlborough and wife of the Hon John Spencer (by Knowles of Oxford); the Rt Hon. Lord Charles Spencer (d.1820), George John Spencer Esq. (d.1820); Frederick Charles Spencer, Rector (d.1831); John Spencer, Esq (d. 1831), eldest son of Lord Charles Spencer; Charles Vere Spencer, Rector (d.1898); Aubrey John Spencer (d.1935).

Memorials to Families other than those of Lords of the Manor include Cartouches to Thomas Isham (d.1670/1)  and Adam Blandy (d.1722), 12 years Rector; and a Ledger Stone to Thomas Cornish (d.1737), Rector of Wheatfield and Vicar of Great Milton.

In 1552 the Church’s Goods consisted of a Tin Chalice, 2 Candlesticks, 3 Vestments, a Cope, and a Surplice.  Edmund Streetley, the Lord of the Manor, was reported to have for his own use a Silver Chalice, a Copper Cross, and other Goods, the names of which are now illegible.

In 1729 John Rudge, Esq, ‘out of his pious zeal for the honour of God and His most holy religion’ gave a Flagon, Chalice, Cup and Cover, and a Salver, all of Silver Gilt. This Silver was destroyed in the Fire of 1814 as it was kept in Lord Charles Spencer’s House for greater security.   Lord Charles Spencer gave in 1814 a Chalice and Silver Paten to replace those lost. The Chalice is of the Baluster Step type (probably 1649) and is engraved ‘Wheatfield Church – The Right Honorable Lord Charles Spencer 1814‘.

The Registers date from 1721 for Marriages and 1722 for Baptisms. The Bishop’s Transcripts date from 1639.

The influence of the Tipping Family probably accounts for the absence of Roman Catholicism in this small Parish.  Wood records that Nathaniel Greenfield of St Edmund Hall, Author of The Great Day or a Sermon setting forth the desperate Estate and Condition of the Wicked at the Day of Judgment, was afterwards Preacher at Wheatfield (c. 1615),  and that William Tipping, 2nd son of Sir George Tipping of Draycott and Wheatfield, was ‘puritanically affected‘; he was made a Visitor of the University in 1647 and became known as ‘Eternity Tipping‘ after publishing A Discourse of Eternitie (1633).  They left no followers, and, except for one Methodist reported in 1808, there is no record of any further nonconformity in the Parish.

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