God in Jesus Christ has given us such a great gift of love, life and hope. This building exists in response to this. Its history reflects the love, skill and devotion of the people of this village who have wished to have a suitable place in which to worship God.
It’s impossible to say how long there has been a church in Bodicote. The name of the village itself, probably derives from ‘the settlement of Boda’ – a family name and has a Saxon ring, although being on the edge of Salt Way, a very ancient road older even than the Roman occupation of Britain, the settlement could be older still.
If there ever was a Saxon Church on this site, there is no sign of it, but we can be sure that people have worshipped here on the same spot for at least eight centuries. Each generation will have treasured its church and added, modified and embellished it. 160 years ago the congregation changed its appearance considerably by enlarging it, and at the same time restoring its crumbling fabric. At this time the church was virtually rebuilt and entirely refurnished. It was and is still a cause for celebration. There has been no comparable alteration since then, although some additions and modifications have been made to both fabric and furnishings. For today’s parishioners, the costly restoration of the stonework is a constant reminder of the age of the church.
Evidence that there has been a church on this site since the early 13th century is provided by the chancel arch with its massive semi-circular pillars and moulded capitals. The tub font was discarded and much abused until it was restored is in use today and is thought to date from the same time. The church was rebuilt in the 14th century and an embattled tower was built over the north aisle. Beneath the chancel arch, the church had a medieval rood-loft on which stood the crucifix with its figures of the Virgin Mary and St John on either side, and at the west end a singers ‘gallery’ was built in 1766.
In 1843 the tower was declared unsafe and the whole church was in poor repair; it was also too small for the congregation. So the work to virtually rebuild the church was started. The north tower was demolished and replaced by the present tower at the west end. The north aisle was rebuilt and extended to the length of the south aisle and a small vestry was built on the north side of the chancel. The rood-loft was removed, so was the singers gallery, to be replaced by an organ loft, and some windows were removed and others modified. At the same time the church was re-pewed much as it is today, creating 200 additional seatings, giving a total of 390, of which 218 were free, including 54 for children. The architect was John Plowman of Oxford who had considerable experience of such work in various churches and colleges. The builder was Robert Franklin of Deddington, a highly esteemed firm with an international reputation in church furnishing. The cost of the work amounted to some £1575 and was met by private subscription, grants from New College and the Incorporated Church Building Society, and from other sources.
Until 1855, St John the Baptist, Bodicote, was a chapel-of-ease to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Adderbury, as was Barford St John. In that year, by Order of the Council, Bodicote became a separate parish with its own vicar, for whom a vicarage had to be built. (The curate at the time of the rebuilding and until 1854 had been Revd George Warriner, Bloxham Grove).
There were further changes to the church itself. In 1866 the north porch was added and in 1878 the present vestry was made at the base of the tower, new seats were put in the chancel and a new pulpit was built. At the same time, the organ was moved to the chancel from the west end. In 1914 Mr J F Starkey gifted a new organ from Bodicote House in memory of his wife who had played the organ for the church. He also largely met the cost of building the organ chamber which meant removing the earlier small vestry and building the arch in the north wall of the chancel. This organ, having been restored in 1956 and 1978 and carefully maintained is still in use today. In 1918 the original medieval font was discovered and restored and installed in its present position by the vestry door, replacing the Victorian font which can be seen near the south door.
Since then, no significant alteration has been made to the church fabric, but there have been numerous alterations and additions to interior furnishing and decoration. Much greater change has been seen within the parish. Until 1966, the ecclesiastical parish had extended up to the southern edge of the properties on Hightown Road, Banbury and had therefore included land occupied by the Cherwell Heights/Bodicote Chase estate; it had also taken in part of the Timms estate on the opposite side of the Oxford Road. To accord with pastoral reorganisation of the neighbourhood of Banbury, these two areas were yielded to Banbury parish in 1966 and 1971. The most recent change was in 1998 when the boundary was altered to include Bankside and Cotefield House.
About the same time the very extensive Red House estate was built in the parish itself and had the effect of trebling its population in five years. Practically, the parish increased even further numerically, as many of the seceded Banbury areas looked to Bodicote Church and also to Bishop Loveday School built in 1967 close to the northern boundary of the parish. The building of the C E aided school was a church initiative, as were the formation of the Church Housing Association to build and maintain Dillon Court and Dillon House for the elderly, and various other initiatives to serve the community.