High Street, Memorial Garden

  • Illustration of the Church on this site from 1795 (when it replaced the Chapel of Ease) to 1856
  • The original Memorial close to the High Street access
  • When both Memorials were (temporarily) in the garden.
Archive Notes:

Information about the 15C Chapel of Ease and the church which replaced it. The sketch of the Chapel of Ease was based on a sketch held at the Bodleian Library (reference details not known).

In 1584, the original Wheatley chapel had been neglected and in disrepair. Feeling was high in 1629 about the status of its chapelry and this led to a petition claiming its own right to elect one churchwarden and one sideman and also for Wheatley to be able to bury its own dead. There was no consecrated ground in Wheatley and burials had to be in Cuddesdon churchyard. However, after a long campaign, they were permitted in Wheatley from 1742. Even then the clergyman had only the status of curate and was usually non-resident while Cuddesdon, two miles uphill, remained the mother church. However, in 1784, Thomas Simms, a native of Wheatley, who had made a fortune in Gibraltar, left £5,000 in his will for such purpose. He died in 1785, but disputes over the potential maintenance costs resulted in a smaller than planned building which was put up at a cost of £2,485 5s 6d and consecrated in July 1795. Built in the southern corner of the current Memorial Garden it was a simple Georgian building dedicated, as is the present building in Church Road, to St Mary the Virgin.

It remained a place of worship until 1856/7 as the style of architecture was not considered sympathetic to its surrounding. Then the new St Mary’s Church was endowed. Some of the gravestones remain. A Memorial Cross (close to the High Street access to the garden) was erected soon after the end of the Great War with the names of 36 local men (a further 9 from the Second World War were later added). The cross gradually decayed so, in 1974, it was replaced by the gift of one owned by Magdalen College but not in use by them. See 1280 and 2521 for more information.

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