St Ebbe's Church, Oxford

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St Ebbe's Church
Norman period west door
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Low Church
Parish St Ebbe's
Deanery Oxford
Archdeaconry Oxford
Diocese Oxford
Province Canterbury
Rector Vaughan Roberts

St Ebbe's is a Church of England parish church in central Oxford. The church has a conservative evangelical tradition and participates in the Anglican Reform movement.[1] It has members from many nations, many of whom are students at Oxford University. The rector is Vaughan Roberts who is also an author and conference speaker.

The church stands on the site of one dedicated to St Æbbe before 1005. Most sources suggest that this was the Northumbrian St Æbbe of Coldingham,[2] but it has been suggested that Æbbe of Oxford was a different saint. The name was first recorded in about 1005 when the church was granted to Eynsham Abbey.[3]

The present church was built in 1814–16. It was enlarged and improved in 1866 and 1904. A Norman doorway of the 12th century has been restored and placed at the west end.[4] The church is the parish church for the parish of St Ebbes, a portion of which was demolished to make way for the nearby Westgate Shopping Centre in the 1970s. The church has a ministry among the remaining part of the parish, although most of its members live outside the parish. The church is a partner church of St Ebbe’s Primary School, a school within the parish.[5]

Former rectors include Thomas Valpy French (1874-7),[6] John Arkell, John Stansfeld (1912-1926),[7] Maurice Wood (1947–52),[8] Basil Gough (1952–64),[9] Keith Weston (1964–85)[10] and David Fletcher (1986–98).[11]

Sale of coffers In 2010 the PCC of St Ebbe's in Oxford sold two oak coffers because no one in the parish took any particular interest in them and no one raised an objection when they were moved and stored away. At a subsequent Consistory Court Hearing the churchwardens told the court that from a practical point of view they didn’t wish for the chests to be returned to the church and no one had expressed any particular attachment to them. This view was refuted by the Chancellor who said it was of the utmost importance that heritage was conserved whether or not it was perceived to be of ‘practical use’, and whether or not any person had a ‘particular attachment’ to it.[12] In connection, the Diocese of London commented, "Parishes should also recognise that treasures for which they have no current use may offer imaginative mission opportunities to visitors to the church."[13] In re St Ebbe with Holy Trinity and St Peter-le-Bailey, Oxford [2012] PTSR 235 will be of particular interest to ecclesiastical lawyers. It is a cautionary tale of a church’s forgotten treasure: a pair of wooden chests, one a rare 13th century elm coffer, “sold” at auction without the necessary authorisation and further “sold” on. Rupert Bursell QC Ch reminds us that a faculty (permission) is required for the lawful disposal of church property (which belongs to the parishioners). Serious and important consequences followed, since without such a faculty “no legal ownership … passed to any subsequent possessors.” Quoting Halsbury’s Laws of England, the chancellor emphasises that “ecclesiastical law … is as much part of the law of the land as any other part of the law.” Those “who acquire goods which clearly come from a church and in particular dealers in the antique trade … should take steps to satisfy themselves that those responsible for selling goods … had authority to do so.” (See In re St Mary’s, Barton-upon-Humber [1987] Fam 41, 56.) That reminder, says the chancellor, applies equally to auctioneers.[14] The sale of the item was see as a "single incident of misbehavior".[15] The chest was offered for sale by Period Oak Antiques, Presteigne, with the description "WHEN DISCUSSING THIS PIECE OF 13TH CENTURY ENGLISH FURNITURE THE TERM ′RARE′ IS NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO BE USED. TO ACTUALLY OWN A PEICE OF ENGLISH FURNITURE FROM THIS PERIOD IS BEYOND BELIEF,"[16] The Court ruled that attempts should be made to identify the present possessors and their whereabouts.[17] Pictures of the coffers and sale details are provided on the Mallams website.[18][19]


  1. ^ Local churches linked to Reform
  2. ^ Hibbert, Christopher, ed. (1988). "St Ebbe's Church". The Encyclopaedia of Oxford. Macmillan. pp. 387–388. ISBN 0-333-39917-X. 
  3. ^ Victoria County History of Oxfordshire: Medieval Oxford.
  4. ^ Alden's Oxford Guide. Oxford; Alden; 1958; p. 125.
  5. ^ "Collective Worship Policy". St. Ebbe’s C.E. (Aided) Primary School. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Stacey, Vivienne. Thomas Valpy French, First Bishop of Lahore. pp. 72,121. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
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Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 51°45′02″N 1°15′35″W / 51.75056°N 1.25972°W / 51.75056; -1.25972