Risley, Reverend William Cotton

Rob Forsyth

Rev. William Cotton Risley (1794 - 1869)

Cotton Risley 


 Mrs Risley is top left of the image (r)RevandMrsRisley

William is top & bottom (r)

click on image (r) for larger version












The Reverend Cotton Risley was born in 1794, the eldest of eight children [click on image of Family Tree (l)]. He was RevRisley_PedigreeFamilyTreeeducated and subsequently Sub-Warden at New College, Oxford, and later Curate at Souldern. He was appointed vicar of Deddington in 1836, by which time he was married to Susannah and had four children, Rebecca (Bessy) then aged seven, Holford, Johnny and Willy, and Robert was born later that year.  He did not move his family into the vicarage but first rented, and then subsequently bought, Deddington House. This is now called Deddington Manor and can be found on our virtual walk.  He built on to the house, bought up surrounding land and layed out his 'pleasure grounds'. He later also bought Park Farm next door.

Shortly before he moved to Deddington he began writing his Diaries, 40 volumes of which are in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

He was a magistrate, closely involved with looking after the poor in Deddington as a Poor Law Guardian, a friend of "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce and many of the neighbouring gentry, local farmers and tradesmen, as well as being the vicar. He therefore had a unique insight into all that was going on in both the village and the surrounding area. He was involved with the Deddington village schools (both boys and girls), appointing schoolmasters and mistresses and collecting the pence weekly. With voting qualications in several constituencies, he also followed politics keenly. His regular travels to Banbury, Oxford, London and even Brighton, throw a fascinating light on the changeover from stagecoach to railway trains. His aunt, Rebecca Cotton, and his friend, John Barber, lived at Adderbury, which he visited constantly.

When his only daughter became ill and died of consumption in 1848 he resigned as vicar, but continued as a magistrate, maintained his interest in local affairs, helped with the building of a chapel at Clifton (and took services there), and continued living in Deddington House until his death in 1869. A bit more about his family can be seen in an article by Ruth Johnson.

Extracts from his Diaries

The present occupier of Deddington House (Buffy Heywood) started doing research on Cotton Risley's Diaries in 1988 and placed monthly excerpts entitled 'Deddington 150 years ago' for may years in the Deddington News. These articles can be found via The Deddington News Back Issues. A partial index for the period 1976 to 2007 to contents of the  archives may help otherwise enter a key word in the search facility.

Alternatively, selected extracts from his diaries for his years as vicar have been compiled by Geoffrey Smedley-Stevenson in a publication published by the Banbury Historical Society as an illustrated 320 page edition (Volume 29, 2007) in July 2007 (ISBN: 978 0 900129 27 8) entitled 'Early Victorian Deddington, as observed by William Cotton Risley, Vicar of Deddington 1836 - 1848'. It has a particularly comprehensive Names Index of 16 pages (which can be found here courtesy of Banbury Historical Society) and a Subject Index (see below) so is an extremely useful local history research tool.

His will can be found HERE and a later word searchable transcript HERE

Activities and amusements              Associations and Societies              

Churches elsewhere                       Deddington Church               

Deddington House                          Domestic: Family and household

Education                                      Farms, farming, animals and birds    

Food and drink                               Functions and duties             

Health and sickness                        The Law

Markets and fairs                            Politics                                        

Property and voting qualifications    Religious denominations        

The Poor                                       Public houses, inns, hotels

Sports                                           Trades                                         

Transport                                      The Weather


We would very much like to express our thanks to the following for giving us permisssion to use some of their material within this article and also for the articles linked from it.

Buffy Heywood and Norman Stone - who are Deddington residents and members of the Deddington and District History Society.

The Banbury Historical Society c/o Banbury Museum, Spiceball Park Road, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, in association with Robert Boyd Publications, 260 Colwell Drive, Witney, OX28 5LW and also on behalf of Geoffrey Smedley-Stevenson, subject to copyright by the Bodleian Library in the text of the Diaries; and copyright in the illustrations by Oxfordshire Records Office (for Oxford Diocesan Papers) and Oxfordshire Studies.

Other Useful Links:

Rev Risley's Family - Ruth Johnson's article from the 1999 Deddington news

Banbury Museum and Banbury Historical Society

The Bodleian Library

224 The magazine of the Deddington & District History Society

Deddington Map Group Millenium leaflets

Deddington News Back Issues