Headington history: Listed Buildings/Structures

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Holy Trinity Church in Quarry

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry looks ancient, but in fact it only dates from 1849. It is built in the fifteenth-century decorated style, with a nave, north aisle, south porch, and a gable bell-cote with two bells at the west end. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott (who also designed the Martyrs’ Memorial and Exeter College Chapel.

List entry for Holy Trinity Church: 1369476

Some early subscriptions towards the new church are listed in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 16 October 1847. The biggest contributions were £50 from Charles Tawney (who had given the land for Headington National School the previous year); £25 from Thomas Henry Whorwood (Vicar of St Andrew's and Lord of the Manor of Headington); £21 from John Matthews of Headington Manor House; £20 from George Ballachey of Bury Knowle House and Digby Latimer of Headington House, and from the heads of Worcester, University and New Colleges; and £10 from the heads of Queen's Trinity, All Souls, and Exeter Colleges, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Revd Dr Ashhurst of All Souls, Baker Morrrell, the Revd Edward Pusey, the Reverend Golightly, G.V. Drury of Shotover House, Joseph Baker, and M.P.W. Boulton of Great Tew Park. The smallest contribution, listed anonymously as “Mite”, was 4d. Magdalen College came in later with a handsome subscription of £200; Queen Victoria with £20; the Earl of Macclesfield with £15; Oriel with ten guineas; and Brasenose, Corpus, Exeter, Lincoln, Merton, Oriel, Wadham and Worcester Colleges and the Chaplain of Balliol with £10. Some second and third subscriptions followed.

Samuel (“Soapy Sam”) Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford from 1845 to 1869, was instrumental in getting this church built in Quarry, which seems to have been regarded as a heathen outpost of Headington. In On 24 October 1847 at St Aldate’s Church in Oxford, he delivered a sermon against sin, in the hope of persuading local worthies and members of the University of Oxford (the source of Quarry’s evil reputation) to stump up for a new church in what he describes as a “wild, rural district”. The sermon was later published with a list of subscribers, with this preamble:

It is proposed to procure, if God permit, the blessing of a Church, with a Parsonage and Endowment, for the Hamlet of Headington Quarry, near Oxford. To those acquainted with the circumstances of that Hamlet no arguments are necessary to convince them of the importance of attempting to improve its condition. In a spot, removed from observation, very disadvantageously circumstanced for receiving the ministrations of religion, but within near access from a neighbouring University town, evil has found its ready home; and the accumulated mischief of many years is the reason, the peculiarly pressing reason, for attempting to furnish to this place those spiritual provisions which, even under ordinary circumstances, its situation would seem to solicit.

The preface to the sermon, where the Bishop states that Headington Quarry had been “long cursed by the neighbourhood of Oxford vice”, can be seen at the end of this page.

The stone for the erection of the church was given by Mr Burrows, one of the Churchwardens of St Andrew's Church; but the work of building the church was rather pointedly not given to local masons, but to George Wyatt of Oxford. Many local people initially boycotted the church that had been thrust upon them from outside.

Quarry churchyard
Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry in the 1920s. when the war memorial
and many of the graves still looked new
. Image contributed by Ian Garrett

Photograph of the church in 1901

The church's foundation stone was laid in 1848 by Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, who also consecrated the building on 22 November 1849. The Bishop described Headington Quarry as a “destitute district in this report in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 24 November 1849:


The consecration of this new Church, which has been delayed for some months in consequence of a want of sufficient funds for its endowment, took place on Thursday last, under the most auspicious circumstances. The Bishop of the Diocese, who has from the commencement of the undertaking evinced the greatest interest in it, attended not only to perform the ceremony of consecration, but to assist, by his impassioned eloquence from the pulpit, in enlisting the sympathies of the public, and in obtaining that pecuniary aid which is so much needed to carry on the good work in this hitherto neglected and destitute district. The necessity of an improved state of things in this locality, together with its proximity to Oxford, and the novelty of the ceremony, combined to attract a large number of persons, chiefly in the higher walks of life, who beset the entrances of the Church and filled every corner of it immediately on their gaining access to it. It was no less gratifying to witness the large attendance of the clergy and others in the neighbourhood, who not only feel the importance of supplying the deficiency of spiritual comfort which has for years past characterized this locality, but who have by their pecuniary aid been instrumental in providing a Church, the want of which has long been felt and acknowledged.

On the arrival of the Bishop, who was met by a large body of the Clergy, the first step taken was the consecration of the church-yard attached to the new Church. This was performed by the Bishop and Clergy proceeding round the church-yard, and reading the psalms appointed for the occasion; after which, the Bishop offered up the usual prayers and benedictions. At the conclusion of the ceremony the Bishop and Clergy entered the Church, when the morning service, with such additions as are enjoined on such occasions, were read. In the course of the service the sentence of consecration was read by the Rev.Dr. Whorwood, and signed by the Bishop, who ordered it to be duly registered and recorded. Portions of the service were read by the Archdeacon, and the new Incumbent, the Rev. T. Masterman, and in the course of the service the old hundredth and 84th psalms were sung, the effect of which was heightened by the fact of its being the first time that songs of praise have been offered up on that particular spot. At the conclusion of the service appointed for the occasion, the Bishop ascended the pulpit, and delivered an eloquent and impressive discourse from the 20th verse of the 3rd chapter of the book of Revelations, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.”

The purport of his Lordship's discourse was to shew that the letters of St. John, the Apostle, addressed to the seven churches of lesser Asia, were equally applicable to the Church in the present day; that in the text there was a declaration of the Lord's presence among his people; that he appealed to each of them separately in various ways, by change of circumstances, sickness, affliction, and loss of friends; that he stood knocking at the door, and without being invoked was waiting to receive all who heard his voice, and were willing to come unto him. His Lordship dwelt at some length on the purpose of this knocking, and what it was intended to convey, and urged them not to disregard such appeals, but to take every opportunity of profiting by them.

He reminded them that they were appealed to to think of the state of those around the walls of this new Church, who till now had no place of worship, nor any one to watch over their souls; that such had been the state of this destitute district in times past, but that God had put it into the hearts of his faithful servants to raise this Church and endow it. His Lordship alluded especially to one individual who had been a great benefactor to this good work by giving the stone with which the Church was built, and mentioned that he had gone to his rest, but still lived in the memories and affections of those who had been witnesses of his devotion to his God and his love to his brethren.

Another fact was mentioned by his Lordship as a proof that God's blessing hovered over this locality, namely, that though on the former visitation of cholera it suffered to some extent, yet on the recent occasion no case had occurred there while this Church was being raised, and men daily employed upon it. His Lordship reminded them that this place had suffered in times past from its nearness to the University, but it was gratifying now to see it receiving back a blessing from it, for though the aid which it had rendered, they were enabled to raise and open this Church. He charged them however to beware how they interrupted the growth of religious feeling here by bringing sin into it again.

His Lordship stated that at the conclusion of the service a collection would be made at the offertory, and strongly urged on all, whether rich or poor, to contribute to the extent of their means. He impressed upon them the necessity of aiding this good work by their alms, because there was a large sum needed to complete the building, besides which, they wanted 200l. more to complete the parsonage house and in conclusion he urged them to use such means as should make this day a blessing to the place.

The offertory was then read by the Archdeacon, while alms were collected, which amounted to 46l. 6s. 2d. The remainder of the consecration prayers were read, and the congregation left the Church, but a large number of the Clergy and others remained and partook of the holy communion.

Among the Clergy and Gentry present at the consecration were the Archdeacon, the Warden of Wadham College, the Provost of Worcester College, the Warden of Merton College, the Principal of Magdalen Hall, the Vice-Principal of Saint Edmund Hall, Rev. Dr. Whorwood, Rev. Messrs. Brown, Baker, James, Golightly, Masterman, Greswell, Gordon, Pring, Hake, and Garrett; B. Ballachey, Esq., Alderman Butler, W. Parker, Esq., H. Tawney, Esq., R. Finch, Esq., &c. &c.

The Church, which is in the later variety of the decorated Gothic style of architecture, consists of a nave, side aisle, and vestry, and is calculated to accommodate between 300 and 400 persons; it was designed by Gilbert Scott, Esq. of the firm of Messrs. Scott and Moffatt, the architects of the Martyrs' Memorial, and has been erected by Mr. G. Wyatt, builder, of this city.

Through the liberality and kindness of the Vice-Chancellor, the Provost of Worcester College, the Rev. Mr. Golightly, and Charles Tawney, Esq., the poor of Headington Quarry were supplied with bread and meat, in proportion to the number of their families, the day previous to the consecration.

Throughout the whole proceedings the poor of this district conducted themselves with the greatest propriety, and the interest which they felt in them was manifested by their occupying the surrounding heights, where, with the school children, they witnessed the striking ceremony of consecrating the Church-yard.

The arrangements were exceedingly well conducted, and much credit is due to the incumbent and to R. Finch, Esq. for their exertions in promoting every possible accommodation for the large assemblage present on this exceedingly interesting occasion.

Some of the people mentioned in the above report
  • The Revd Dr Thomas Henry Whorwood (the son of the Vicar of St Andrew's Church with the same name who died in 1835) was Lord of the Manor of Headington from 1835 to 1849. He continued to be Patron of St Andrew's Church until 1879
  • George Baker Ballachey was the solicitor who owned Bury Knowle House
  • The Revd Joseph Charles Pring was Vicar of St Andrew's Church in Old Headington for over forty years from 1835 to 1876
  • The Revd Charles Portales Golightly was the Curate of St Andrew's Church until about 1860
  • Alderman William Henry Butler lived at the Priory in Old High Street
  • Henry Tawney was the brother of Mrs Ann Wharton of The Lodge (now White Lodge & Sandy Lodge) in Osler Road, and Charles Tawney, who had given the land for Headington National School (St Andrew's) was his son. They were both connected to the Morrell brewing family
  • Richard Finch the Younger owned The Rookery in Old Headington. He died in 1851.

The Oxfordshire Religious Census of 1851 showed that this church had 320 free sittings, and that on 30 March in the morning the General Congregation was 82 and Sunday Scholars 51, and in the afternoon the General Congregation was 77 and the Sunday Scholars 45.

In 1868 the vicarage house in Quarry Road (now No. 42, converted into flats in 1992) was built. The architect was Arthur Blomfield, who the following year was to design St Barnabas's Church in Jericho. This report appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 17 October 1868:

Although Headington cannot be considered as part of Oxford, it is sufficiently near to be regarded with interest by its inhabitants, and we are glad to observe that a homely, substantial, and pleasant-looking parsonage house has just been finished at the Quarry for the Rev. A. Dalton, the Vicar. The house is built of Quarry stone; it is covered with red tiles, and this contrast of colour (between stone and tiles) has many admirers. The house fronts the main road leading from the village towards Shotover Hill, and is conveniently near the Church. Mr. Blomfield, of London, is the architect, and Messrs. Jos. Castle and Co., of Oxford, the builders.

Sermon given by the Bishop of Oxford at St Aldate's Church on 9 January 1847

This sermon was published near the end of 1847, and its preface (inscribed to the Revd Richard Lynch Cotton, D.D., Provost of Worcester College, at whose request it had been preached) reiterates how Headington Quarry has been “long cursed by the neighbourhood of Oxford vice”:

Your parochial ministry in Berkshire made you well acquainted with the spiritual wants of the scattered inhabitants of our hamlets…. You felt, as I believe, most justly, that no wants are more urgent. The case, indeed, of the poor dwellers in our great towns has its own peculiar aggravations; but to these the vast numbers of the destitute has, thank God, already attracted attention and relief…. No one who has not become practically acquainted with them can duly estimate the deep trials which dry up the spiritual life of the poor families who are gathered into the remoter hamlets of our agricultural parishes. Here too often the poor do literally grow up uncared for, and unknown. Afar, in most cases, from all the softening influences of occasional intercourse with more educated neighbours, they become coarse and hard not only in outward manners but in character and habits. Commonly the poorest of the poor are thrust into these outskirts of civilization; their children are rarely found in our schools; their girls grow up without the restraining, elevating influences which flow to all from the consciousness of being observed by those above them in habits and education; their young men are not led by any secondary influences to place a restraint on those sensual appetites which by their coarse indulgence so eminently brutalize the whole character, whilst the elder people seem, for the most part, drowned in the impenetrable apathy of hardened ignorance. The one remedy for this evil is to plant the presence of a truly Christian pastor amongst them. By ministering to them, the gospel of Christ’s grace, and the ordinances of the church, this reaches their wants in the more direct manner; and incidentally it has the same effect, by planting amongst them one, who, by a sympathy with all their temporal wants and afflictions, opens their hearts to the softening influences of kindly intercourse with the educated and comparatively polished.

This we may do with far more certainty amongst these outlying hamlets than in our busy towns. In these it is too often long before a new church is filled, even when it is built. But the residence of a true pastor in a wild rural district is felt at once, and they who lend their aid to this work are healing the springs of society. It is their especial blessing that they plant a living principle of good for succeeding generations. Amidst the recurring temptations, wants, trials and sufferings, amongst the depressing and depraving incidents, in which our common life is so prolific, and to which our fallen nature is so much exposed; there is ever at work in the presence of the church’s ministrations, a correcting, strengthening, comforting, exalting, purifying influence, which through God’s grace will in generation after generation lay hold upon one and another, and raise them to the true life of Christ’s redeemed children. Long after we have been gathered to our graves, and even when our very names have passed away, the fruits of our self denial may thus be ripening for man’s salvation, and God’s glory.

To join in one such work all those are earnestly invited into whose hands these pages may fall: and especially all those who are or have been Members of the University or inhabitants of the City of Oxford. A population situated like those which have been above described, is gathered at the extremity of the Parish of Headington, about its quarries; and it is proposed, God willing, to build there a Church and parsonage-house. Upon all Members of the University of Oxford, this district has, alas, some especial claims. With every possible attention to its moral habits the presence of an University must probably expose the surrounding villages to some peculiar temptations. This population has been long cursed by the neighbourhood of Oxford vice, which has found in the secluded character of the hamlet, and in the consequent lack of the rebuke of observation, too fit a scene for its evil deeds. May God grant that it may now be blessed by the Christian charity of Oxford. May those to whom God has given grace to feel for their brethren feel that its nearness to them constitutes a claim on their attention; may they, if any such should read these pages, whose consciences tell them that either here or elsewhere they have helped to increase the corrupting influence’ of our University, feel that by allowing them to aid this design God has graciously given them a special opportunity for undoing something of their evil work, and receiving back again from His good hand even the very “Years which the locust hath eaten.”

I am, Sir, Very faithfully yours, S. OXON.
Cuddesdon Palace, Nov. 1, 1847.

Within three years, Headington Quarry had its Holy Trinity Church.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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