John STANSFELD (1854–1939)
Parish priest, doctor
Former Rectory, Paradise Square, St Ebbe’s, Oxford
John Stansfeld was Rector of St Ebbe’s 1912–1926. He was a well known and much loved figure who strove tirelessly to improve the living conditions of his parishioners. He is remembered for the same qualities in Bermondsey where he ran the Oxford Medical Mission before coming to St Ebbe’s. He had come to his calling late in life: until well into middle age he earned his living as a civil servant but gained degrees in theology (from Exeter College) and medicine through part-time study.
St Ebbe’s was then a desperately poor and overcrowded parish. He set up a medical dispensary in the rectory garden and fought to get public baths built in Paradise Square. As in Bermondsey he was a firm believer in the importance of boys’ clubs and recruited undergraduates to run them. In 1919 he used his personal resources, by no means ample, to purchase 20 acres of land at Shotover. Here he set up summer camps and developed a country retreat for the urban poor of St Ebbe’s. He invited boys from a poor Birmingham parish to attend summer camps and later his heirs sold the lease of the site to Birmingham Education Authority which continued to run it until the summer of 2014 as the Stansfeld Outdoor Study Centre.
In 1926 at the age of 72 Stansfeld went to Africa to become Principal of Maseno mission school in Kenya. On his return to England in 1929 he was appointed Rector of All Saints, Spelsbury. He had earlier been made an honorary canon of Christ Church. He remained an active parish priest until he died at the age of 85 after going out to visit a sick parishioner on a cold December night. His funeral at Spelsbury was attended by over 100 men from St Ebbe’s and three bishops were present at a crowded thanksgiving service in Bermondsey parish church in January 1940.
- Source: Barclay Baron, The Doctor, a biography written by Stansfeld’s friend in 1952
- Picture: The former Rectory in 2009
- Oxford Mail, 29 June 2009: ‘The “doctor” finally gets honoured’
The plaque was unveiled at the former St Ebbe’s Rectory (then part of Cherwell Tutorial College), Paradise Square on 26 June 2009 by the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester. Representatives of all the churches associated with John Stansfeld were represented, and Wyon Stansfeld, his great-great nephew, and family were present.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
The Revd Canon
Parish priest, doctor,
lived here as
Rector of St Ebbe’s
Oxford Civic Society