All Saints’ Mission Chapel, Perrin Street
In the 1850s and 1860s, the nearest church for the villagers of New Headington was St Andrew’s in Old Headington, which meant a long walk, especially for the elderly. To encourage church attendance, a chapel of ease was opened in Perrin Street (formerly Church Street) in 1870. The Oxford Chronicle for 22 October 1870 has the following report:
New Headington is almost a suburb of Oxford, yet since it has been built – (for the most part of it some fifteen years, or thereabouts) — it has never had a place of public worship The effect upon a poor population, as may be easily imagined, has been injurious. Through the exertions of the present curate, the Rev. L. S. Tuckwell of Magdalen College, and others, an effort has been made to erect a small church, which will be available for regular and stated worship, and possibly for weekday lectures sometimes during the winter evenings. Their exertions have resulted in the erection of a plain brick and tiled building, about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, with a small vestry, and an apse at the east end. It is, of course, plain and unpretentious, since money for a better building was impossible; but it has a decidedly ecclesiastical character, and is a substantial and durable edifice. A portion of the ground around it has been inclosed with a brick wall.
The chapel, built by Joseph Castle & Co. at a cost of £239.10.0; on top of this, the land cost £36.0.0 and the boundary wall and fence £33.18.0. It was opened by the Bishop of Oxford on 3 November 1870 “in the octave of All Saints”, and had seating for 160 people. It was properly equipped: the Headington Parish Magazine for October 1871 lists the costs of all its fittings: e.g. ‘Choir stalls, in pitch pine £21.0.0 … Carpets, Curtains, Hassocks £15.14.6 … Bell £5.10.0 … Harmonium £6.12.0 … 5 Coronas with brass sconces £5.5.0'.
As it was a chapel of ease and not a parish church, the Vicar of St Andrew’s officiated at the services. For 40 years evensong was held twice weekly in this building, plus Holy Communion one Sunday a month at 8 a.m., and special services on holy days: the Midnight Service on Christmas Eve 1873 ‘was very well attended, and much enjoyed’ by one New Headingtonian who wrote to the Editor of the Parish Magazine. The offertory at the tiny church often reached nearly two-thirds of that raised at the much larger parish church: for example, in 1873 New Headington Chapel raised £49.7.2 compared with £77.4.3 at St Andrew’s.
Although at first it was known as New Headington Chapel, it was rechristened All Saints Chapel in 1879, when it was reopened after a period of closure due to damp. (During this period, “thoughtless boys without had worked sad havoc”.)
Above: Postcard shows All Saints mission chapel in about 1905
The chapel’s accounts from 1879 to 1894 can be seen at the Oxfordshire HIstory Centre: they show regular payments to local boys for tidying the garden, and to a Mrs Wilsden for ‘firing & lighting & washing surplices &c &c’. Other expenses include sweeping the chapel chimneys, mending its bell, and paying Elliston & Cavell for a cover for the harmonium and Mr Hathaway for repairs to the vestry roof. The register of all the chapel’s services held between 1876 and 1893 also still exists.
Records of the early days of the chapel survive in Oxfordshire Archives. The attendance in a typical year is recorded as follows:
Number of people present at Eucharist in the chapel in 1876 ranged from seven on 9 January to 43 on Easter Day, with total collections ranging from 3s 10d to 11s 8½d. The average amount given per head was just under sixpence.
When the new and bigger All Saints Church in Lime Walk was consecrated on 29 May 1910, the little mission chapel closed immediately and became a scout hall. The Revd Tuckwell, who had worked so hard to see it built, lamented in his book Old Magdalen Days (1913), “Alas that this little house of prayer should have been deprived of its sacred character and degraded to the level of a Common Club Room.”
New Headington then ceased to belong to St Andrew’s Parish and became part of the new parish of Highfield. Kelly’s Directory for 1912/13 lists the former chapel as “All Saints Sunday School and Oxford Boy Scouts Troop A”.
The 8th Oxford (Highfield) Scout Group still own and use the building: their symbol is the beacon, visible to the left in the photograph on the right, that was lit to celebrate the end of the second world war.
The people of what was once New Headington village cast their votes in this building on election days.