The Heathens – 1836

The Heathens of Otmoor

From the Quarterly Register of The Baptist Home Missionary Society, August 1836

The district of twenty miles round Oxford was, perhaps, as destitute of religious instruction and of evangelical knowledge and piety, as any part of the same extent of the realms of Great Britain. There was a cluster of little towns called Otmoor, where there was no religious instruction whatever. A short time ago, a circumstance arose there which was well known at the time, but not sufficiently commented upon. Those towns were in the midst of a plain, and the land was open to the poor, and they fed their swine, their geese, their sheep, and their cows upon it. But an effort was made by a baronet, who was connected with another baronet, distinguished for his political sentiments, to inclose the land, and the poor were to be deprived of it. Tithes were to be collected for a church which was never on the ground. The population of those towns were as ignorant as heathens; and when they saw themselves about to be deprived of their rights, they rose en masse, and broke down all the mounds. And who was there but would pity them? What was to be done? The worthy baronet could not induce the neighbours to resist them; and recourse was had to the yeomanry cavalry. The cavalry took into custody one person after another, till there were wagon loads of prisoners, and they then escorted them to Oxford castle. The spirit of the people again rose, an attack was made upon the cavalry, and the cavalry themselves were obliged to take refuge in that very prison. But these towns now wore a very different aspect. One of the missionaries of this Society, the Rev. C. Darkin, of Woodstock, had gone over there, purchased a piece of ground, and built a chapel. There was now no appropriation of the property from the poor, and no tithes. Some young people connected with his congregation had endeavoured, in connexion with the missionaries of this Society, to communicate religious instruction in other villages. In one village they had an excellent school consisting of about eighty children.