He began his career as a civil servant in HM Customs and Excise. In 1877, he moved to Oxford, and later matriculated as a student at Exeter College, where he studied theology. He also studied part-time at Wycliffe Hall, although he did not take Holy Orders until 1910. He had qualified as a doctor in 1897 and started a medical mission in Bermondsey in London.
Stansfeld returned to Oxford in 1912 as rector of St Ebbe's, then a slum district. He campaigned successfully for the erection of a children's playground and public baths in St Ebbe's. His philanthropy is commemorated by a blue plaque in Paradise Square, unveiled in June 2009.
Baron, Barclay. The Doctor: the story of John Stansfeld of Oxford and Bermondsey (London: Arnold, 1952)
- Jenkins, Stephanie. John Stedwell Stansfeld and Headington
- Smith, Mark K. John Stansfeld ("The Doctor") and "Oxford in Bermondsey", The Encyclopedia of Informal Education (2004)
- Citation from Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board