Our Patron Saints
Our Patron Saints are St Hugh of Lincoln and St Thomas More.
The dedication to St Hugh had been suggested by a Woodstock parishioner, Mrs Parry Eden, on the ground that he was the only saint known to have any connection with Woodstock.
Hugh was born around the year 1140 at Avalon, near Grenoble, in France and was taught by Augustinian canons; he was professed a canon of the order at the age of 15 and in his early 20s assumed the office of deacon in the parish of St Maximin. He joined the Carthusians at the age of 23. He came to England in 1179 as prior of Henry II’s new Carthusian foundation at Witham in Somerset, begun as part of the king’s expiation for the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury . He was consecrated in Westminister Abbey on September 21, 1186 as Bishop of Lincoln. The Woodstock connection arose from Hugh’s excommunication of a royal forester. The king was furious with him for taking such an action against a member of the extended royal household and summoned the bishop to the royal hunting lodge at Woodstock to answer for his conduct. However, this incident ended up on a note of laughter all thanks to Hugh’s witty comments. Since medieval times, Hugh has usually been depicted with a swan at his side. This is because of the swan who took up residence at Hugh’s manor at Stow. It would display great excitement, flying over the surface of the river, beating its wings and making loud cries every time shortly before Hugh’s arrival. When Hugh walked in the grounds, the swan would allow no man, dog or any animal to go near him. Hugh died in London on November 16 and was buried at Lincoln on November 23. Miracles occurred at the tomb and he was canonized by Pope Honorius in 1220.
St Thomas More
There is an obvious parallel between the two saints chosen to be patrons of the two churches of the parish. Both were holy men called, reluctantly into royal service; both defied the monarch the served on matters of deep principle; in the case of St Hugh that defiance ended in laughter, but for Thomas More it ended on the scaffold.History records Hugh’s visit to Woodstock; there is no such record in More’s case but during the two years he spent in Oxford it is at least possible that he might have visited Kidlington, no doubt to worship at St Mary’s.
Thomas More was born in London in February 1478, the son of a lawyer, eventually a judge in the court of the King’s Bench. He was sent to school at St Anthony’s in Threadneedle Street where he remained for about five years. At the age of 12 Thomas became a page in the household of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, ‘a singular mark of privilege and favor’ since, after King Henry VII, Morton was te most influential man in the kingdom. On the nomination of the archbishop, More entered Oxford University with a scholarship to Canterbury College, then in the charge of the Benedictine monks and now incorporated into Christ Church. He stayed at Oxford for only two years before moving on at the age of 16, to begin his legal studies at New Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery in London. During the last years of the reign of Henry VII he became Under-Sheriff of London, a Member of Parliament and Speaker of the House of Commons,subsequently holding various legal posts until he succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Chancellor of England. More was unable to accept Henry VIII’s declaration making himself head of the Church in England. For his silence, rather than for anything he said or did, More was imprisoned in the Tower of London and , on perjured evidence , was convicted of high treason, for which the sentence was to be hanged, drawn and quartered: because of More’s long service at court, the king was ‘graciously pleased’ to commute the sentence to beheading. The sentence was carried out on Tower Hill on July 6, 1535, the eve of the feast of the translation of the body of St Thomas Becket and within the octave of the feast of St Peter. The choice of the day pleased More since ‘he was dying to defend the primacy of St Peter’ and his fate was akin to that of Becket who had been killed three and a half centuries earlier for ‘upholding the rights of the Church against the encroachments of a king also named Henry’.