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A history of the post-reformation Catholic missions in Oxfordshire

with an account of the families connected with them


‘Mrs. Bryan Stapleton’


This account of the Catholic ministry in Souldern has been obtained from the internet Archive . The full work is available at that archive link, the section on Souldern is reproduced here. The pages have been OCR processed via Google docs for this site, and corrections and HTML markup added by David Carlisle.


The manor of Souldern has come down through Catholic hands from the Reformation until the year 1904.

Early in the sixteenth century it belonged to a branch of the Throckmortons, who have left memorials of their dead in the church. The family ending in four heiresses, the property was broken up and sold. A list of Recusants in the county of Oxford remaining at liberty, 1592, contains the name of John Stutsburie, of Soldern. In 1610 John Weedon married the daughter of John Stutsburie, or Stutchberry, and by a deed made that year the manor passed from Stutsburie to Weedon. This family were widely spread over the neighbouring counties, the Souldern branch owning property at Longdon, co. Stafford, and another at Hanley Castle, Worcestershire, while numerous traces of the name are found in Bucks. and Berks.

The Civil War found John Weedon with his two grown-up sons ardent supporters of the King, and they consequently suffered sequestration of two-thirds of their estates at Souldern and Longdon as ‘papists and delinquents.’ Prosperity did not return to the family; they continued as Lords of the Manor for a couple of generations, but at last sank into poverty, and the last John Weedon died in 1710. The Weedon family bore arms as early as Henry III, and Edmund de Wedone was Constable of Wallingford Castle in 18th Edward I.

A ‘widow Weedon,’ who was assisted by the parish, was not the widow of the last John Weedon here mentioned. To all appearance the latter was sister to Charles Howse, of Kimble, and had her own fortune, returning to Bucks, after her husband’s death1.

The Records of the Jesuits contain many notices of members of this family, and the Douai Diaries give us the names of two who took the College oath as pupils, Joseph in 1697 and Bernard in 1700. The trials of Catholic parents in those days are little known or appreciated now. An Act was passed by Parliament in 1678 forbidding any Catholic child to be sent abroad for education; and tradition, in connexion with this, tells us of one of the Catholic youths at Souldern, that one day while playing by the town well, near his father’s house, an agent from one of the Colleges abroad suddenly kidnapped him and hurried him off, to return no more until his education should be completed. The father was cognizant of the plot, but the poor mother was left in doubt to lament her child’s possible fate2.

1See Payne’s Non-jurors, p. 12. H 2.

2Act dated Feb. 2, 1678, printed in 11th Report Historical MSS., App. ii, р, 72.

The following entries are from the Calendar for Advance of Money, Part xi, p. 701 :—

1646. ‘May 15. John Weedon sequestered Papist and Delinquent, Longdon Hall, co. Stafford, and Souldern, co. Oxford, and Bernard and Ignatius his sons.

Information that Wm. Rufford of Nether Sapy, co. Hereford, owes John Weedon £500. June 22. Order that he pay it on demand, or it will be levied by distress on his estate.

1650. Jan. 14. Information that John Weedon is a Papist, forwarded the Rebellion in Ireland and was active for the King in both wars, and that Willoughby Manly and two others owe him £1000 on security of land, as also Richard Parkes of Mountsorrel £250 and eight years interest.

Jan. 14. Information that these Weedons are all convicted Papists and owe the late King £426 6s. 8d.

1651. July 15. Information, &c. about Rufford’s debt....

1652. Feb. 6. Order thereon that Weedon and Rufford appear to show cause why two-thirds of the debt should not be paid to the State on account of Weedon’s recusancy.

1652. May 21. Information by Robt. Turner that John and Ignatius Weedon held houses and lands in Longdon and elsewhere, co. Stafford, and that Walter Collins of Chardley, co. Salop, had a lease of two-thirds thereof twelve years since from the Northern Commissioners for 41 years at £33 6s. 8d., but has paid no rent either to the receivers of the late King or since, and the said two-thirds with arrears are not under sequestration, but concealed.

1652. June 18, Turner begs an order for the levying of the said arrears, the sequestration of two-thirds of the estate, leave to be tenant thereof on fair rent and security, and consideration for his discovery.

June 18. Order that the lands be sequestered and the profits received for the State, unless the parties show good cause to the contrary.

1652. June. Collins petitions. The said lease was to secure money due to me by Weedon, who to defraud me, has compounded with the Commissioners of the South, having lands in other counties, for all his estate, including the lands in question... (Collins had been imprisoned for debt and begs to be set free by the Barons of the Exchequer).

1652. Sept. 22. Collins renews his petition that having always been faithful to the Parliament he may not have his estate sequestered by them, and his body imprisoned by the said Barons.

1652. Feb. Money owing by Parkes to Weedon....

Feb. 6. Order that Weedon and Parkes appear and show cause why two-thirds of the debt should not be paid to the State.

1652. March 24. Richard Parkes, of Mountsorrel, co. Leicester, pleads that he is maliciously molested by Weedon on account of his affection to the Parliament, for a debt from petitioner’s father to him. Is clear of the debt, and having come on summons, begs despatch, being a poor tradesman and having a family to look after.

1653. Dec. 2. Affidavit signed by John Weedon, that Richard Parkes senior, and Richard his son and heir, borrowed £250 of him in 1636, to be repaid by £50 yearly for 7 years, but no more than £50 or £60 has been received thereof.’

From the Calendar for Compounding, Part iv, p. 2943:—

‘John and Bernard Weedon, Souldern, co. Oxford, and Thomas and Ignatius Weedon, all Recusants.

1652. Jan. 22. On request of the County Committee for leave to discharge one-third of the estate of Bernard Weedon, sequestered for delinquency, the other two-thirds be sequestered for recusancy and for their own discharge from the rent thereof, they are to certify when the rent was due, and when the order of the Barons of the Exchequer of Nov. 15, 1650, for discharge of the estate, was brought to them.

Feb. 10. Order on hearing and debate, confirming the discharge of one-third of the estate, if there be no other proof of delinquency than that deemed insufficient by the Barons of Exchequer.

1653, Sept. 2. The County Committee report their survey of the estate of John and Bernard Weedon, which they have let at £330 10s. 0d.; two thirds to be paid to the State and one-third to the Recusants.

1654. Jan. 13. (John and Bernard Weedon) beg to contract on the Recusants’ Act of Oct., 1653, for two-thirds of their sequestered estate.

Jan. 13. Referred to Reading.

May 17. Bernard Weedon begs to be admitted tenant to two-thirds of his estate at Longdon, co. Stafford, it being much impoverished by the ill-usage of his tenants.

May 17. The registrar and auditor to certify and Reading to prepare a lease.

Claimant on the Estate.

Walter Collins of Chorley, co. Stafford, says the estate had been let to him in 1638. Petition rejected.

Also land in Bruntwood near Lichfield, belonging to Thomas Weedon, recusant.

Lessees of the Estate.

1653. Oct. 25. The contract made by the County Committee of Oxon., with Thomas Higgins, co. Oxon., for two-thirds of John and Bernard Weedon’s estate for 7 years, from 29 Sept. 1653, confirmed by the Committee for Compounding.

1655. May 17. Higgins complains that John Hawtin detains the premises from him on pretence of some lease from John Weedon, etc.

June 26. Hawtin pleads that in 1649 he had a lease for 7 years from J. W. of a house and ground called Woolshed, which was part of Weedon’s one-third at the yearly rent of £40; a rack-rent, this he paid to Weedon till by him directed to pay it to Higgins five years ago, which he has done ever since, etc.’

Calendar for Compounding, Part v, p. 3193: Recusants:—

1654. ‘Jan. Ignatius Weedon, Longdon Hall, co. Stafford.

1654. June. Thomas Weedon recusant, co. Salop1.’ A pedigree of Stotesbury of Sowthorne is printed in the fifth volume of the Harleian Society, p. 206.

John Weedon in his will, 1710, refers to his brothers Thomas and William, to his uncle Bernard, to his sister Mary, and to his brother-in-law, Charles Howse, of Kimble, Bucks.2 John Weedon died 1712. There was a nun at Liège (New Hall), Elizabeth Howse from Bucks.: professed as Mother Francis Borgia, 1776, died 1782, aged 40.

Inscriptions on Tombstones in SOULDERN Church3.

Bernard Weedon, Esqre, died 22nd March, 1679, aged 72.

Mary, wife of Bernard Weedon, senr, Esqre, died 17 Oct. 1691.

Elizabeth, wife of Bernard Weedon, junr, Gent: died 22d July, 1708.

John Weedon, Esqre, died 13 April, 1702, aged 67.

Frances, wife of John Weedon, Esqre, died May 13, 1701, aged 60.
R.I.P. Amen.

John Weedon, Esqre, died 3d Nov. 17104, aged 42.

In the Calendar of Clarendon State Papers, vol. i. p. 61, we find a petition from Messrs. Weedon for protection against informers, 1634–5, signed or endorsed by Windebank. And later, in a list of papists returned July, 1706 (kept at Woodstock):—

‘Souldern; Robert Kilby, Alse, Mary, Jane Kilby, spinsters; Anne, wife of John Weden; Ann, wife of John Coster; Ann, wife of Henry Bennett (same as at Hethe); Katherine, wife of John Neal, mason, and Eliz. his dau.; James and Bridget Horn; Richard Bennett and wife; Sam. Fletcher; William Reynolds5; Mary Painter.’

1P.3215, apparently same as Thomas of Bruntwood.

2 See Payne’s Non-jurors, p. 12. Also Payne’s Records, pp. 5, 6, 76.

3Copied from Rawlinson MSS., B 400 f.

4Law papers say 1712.

5Probably the Archdeacon.


At the same date with the Weedons another family, of the name of Kilby, lived at Souldern. Richard Kilby was at Souldern or thereabouts in 1638; he signed a lease for a house in Souldern, between John Hodges, of Wall House, London, and some one in Souldern1. The earliest printed notice we have found of them occurs in Wood’s Life and Times, vol. ii, p. 53, when writing in 1664 he alludes to various prodigies which had happened in Oxfordshire, and instances ‘the devill let loose to possess people, as at Souldern in Mr. Kilbie’s maid.’

Two successive Kilbys married into the Reynolds family, of Cassington, and members of both families lie together in the church. In 1704 the heiress of the Kilbys married Samuel, son of Gabriel Cox, of Farningham, Kent, and thus introduces a new name into the parish.

In 1712 John Weedon died, making his will in favour of the young son of S. Cox and Alice Kilby. Under what circumstances this took place we know not, but in 1716 Cosin’s List of Non-Jurors takes no notice of the Weedon estate, so we may fairly assume it to have been under litigation at the time. Robert Kilby’s estate is returned as a ‘Fee simple, a tenement called “Hyatt House” in his own “possession,” and John Day one of his tenants, £107 18s. 0d.’ He is also returned for property in Bedfordshire.

Several poor Catholic families lived in the village, all of the same names as those enumerated at Somerton, such as Lepington, Ansty, Horn, Smith; in the Register they are uniformly marked as ‘Papistae.’

Mr. Cox died suddenly at Farningham in 1712, and afterwards his widow and children appear to have lived with her brother Kilby at Souldern, where she was buried in 17293. In 1746 Mr. Kilby left by will all his landed estates to his nephew Samuel Cox, who thus became owner of both the Kilby and Weedon estates.

The chapel was a long attic, as was usual in these cases, extending over one wing of the house, and a small room at one end was used as a vestry, upon the stone window-sill of which is still to be seen the date 16653, carved in the stone with a cross. The hiding-place for the priest and chapel furniture, in case of alarm, was under the floor, close to the door, and so contrived as to be covered by the door when it was opened. The bolt was inside, and a way of escape appeared probable through a series of large cupboards, one beneath the other, to the bottom of the house.

1From the Cox family papers.

2Rawlinson visited Souldern in 1718 and reports that Mrs. Cox lived at the Manor House. Whether this was Weedon’s Manor or the house now a the styled so, seems doubtful.

3This date of 1665 appears to be conclusive evidence that the present manor house was Kilby’s and called ‘Hyatts,’ because Wood says Kilby was there in 1664, and we know that Dodwell, of whom he bought the house, was no Catholic. Can the house have belonged to the Hyatts of Fritwell?

The Coxes retired to their London house in 1781 (where a few years later they became victims to the Gordon rioters), taking with them the altar furniture and vestments, and closing the chapel. After seventy years the wheel revolved and a chapel was again opened in the old house.

During these long years the few remaining faithful heard Mass. at Hardwick and Hethe, a distance of five miles. One old man was still alive in 1852 who remembered having been taken as a child to the old chapel in the house; he was Matthew Smith. In this same year, 1852, on the 15th of August, Mass was once more said in Souldern House. Another upper room had been furnished, as the old one had fallen to ruin; the old chalice was once more used, and the fragments of the old vestments were turned to account in the chapel. Here service continued for upwards of fifteen years, as recorded in the account of Hethe. Dr. Dolman died on the 15th of March, 1867, and for a year the priest was provided for in a farmhouse. In July, 1868, Dr. Dolman’s son-in-law, Bryan John Stapleton, took Souldern House, and he and Mr. Cox made arrangements with the Bishop to support a priest in the village. The payment of £50. hitherto made to Hethe was withdrawn; £25 at first until the death of Mr. Robson, the remainder upon the occurrence of his death in 1870. A house in the village was procured, and the Rev. Hugh, McCarten appointed priest the same year. He was succeeded by the Rev. John Morris, who died at Wappenbury and was removed to his old home for burial. After him came the Rev. Sam. Glossop in January, 1873, who still remains at Souldern, respected by all his neighbours, having won the goodwill and respect of the parish so far as to be consulted upon all parish matters outside those of his own flock.

The present chapel was built by Mrs. Dolman as a memorial to her late husband, and was opened on the 2nd of February, 1870, by the Rev. Canon Sullivan, Vicar-General, assisted by several priests, and Dr. Sweeney preached. The choir of Banbury gave their services for the occasion. The first child baptized here was Christopher Stapleton; weddings and burials still went to Hethe’.

A small well-appointed school was established in the village under a certificated mistress, the house and playground being adapted to the purpose by Colonel Cox from a roomy old cottage and garden adjoining the chapel.

In the north-west corner of the church, now covered by pews, are two memorial slabs:—

‘Here lyeth the body of Allice, the wife of Richard Kilbye, gent: who departed this life Decr. 1st, 1714, and in the year of her age 66.

Also here lyeth the body of Anne, the wife of Robert Kilbye, gent: who died Sept. 8th, 1754, aged 84 years.

And also,

Here lyeth the body of Robert Kilbye, gent: who died March 12th, 1757, aged ... years.’

The last-named was not of age in 1693. The two ladies above were aunt and niece, and both of them were Reynolds of Cassington.

The next was mother to Anne Kilbye, and she was born Anne Whitgreave:—

‘Here lyeth the body of Alice Reynolds, Widdow, who departed this life Aug. 8th. 1694. Also here lyeth the Body of William Reynolds, gent: son of Alice Reynolds, who departed this life Feby. ye 23d. 1717-18 aetatis suae 71.’

Wood calls him a ‘monk of Lisbon2.’ He was Archdeacon of the Vicariate of Oxon., Bucks, and Berks, and educated at Lisbon.

‘Here lyeth the body of Richard Kilby, Esqre, who departed this life the 11th day of Sept. 1693, aetatis suae 84. R.I.P. Amen. And also lyeth the body of Alice Cox, daughter of Richard Kilby, who departed this life on the 7th April 1729, aetatis suae 53. Here lyeth the body of Helen Bleven, who departed this life the 3d Oct. 1765, aged 65.’

1The altar-rails and the chalice are those belonging to the original old chapel in the house. The altar furniture was all presented by members of the family.

2Life and Times, vol. i., p. 305.

The following is from Rawlinson MSS., B 400 (in Bodley):—

‘Here lyeth the body of Jane, daughter of Alice Kilby, who died Dec. 17th, 1714, in the year of her age 29.’

The death of Jane Kilby and her mother are entered in the old Britwell Catholic Register kept at Oxford.