The Reverend Gordon (1804-1877) is important in the story of Elsfield because of his involvement with education in the village and his role as liaison between the villagers, both farmers and labourers, and the owner of the parish, Colonel North.
The Reverend Gordon was born in the Gower, in Wales, in 1804 but spent the last 45 years of his life in Elsfield and Marston, the neighbouring village. During his time in Elsfield, he visited Oxford twice a week on a Wednesday and Saturday and was well known in the city. His obituary in the Oxford Times waxes lyrical about him, saying “the simple candour of a loving heart won him a large acquaintance at the University, chiefly, though not by any means entirely, among men of the Evangelical school.” “He may,” they opine, “emphatically be designated as the man who never lost a friend”. The church was crowded for his funeral, conducted impressively by Reverend C. P. Gelightly, with clergy from surrounding parishes attending along with many of his parishioners and all joining in hymns number 100 and 325 from “Hymns Ancient and Modern”.
His letters to Colonel North show him to have been tactful and involved with his congregation. He was extremely concerned about education and as well as being sole manager of Elsfield school was also instrumental in setting up a school in Marston. He instigated the rebuilding of the vicarage in 1836 paid for by Lady Susan Doyle (a member of the North family) who gave the £800 it cost. The south and west fronts of the vicarage were added and the foundation stone (under which a few small coins of the reign of Wm IV were deposited) bore the following inscription:
This first stone of the Vicarage House Elsfield was laid on the 7th day of September AD 1836 by Henry Dodderidge Gordon and Mary Clementia Gordon, children of the Rev Richard Gordon, Vicar. “Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High shall abide under the Shadow of the Almighty.”
He seems to have been a very hard working man and when he died his parishioners made sure he would be remembered. Besides an impressive granite slab marking the graves of both him and his wife, who died in 1880, there are several windows dedicated to him. His obituary comments somewhat opaquely, “His rest came swiftly at last, and never truer soldier fell with his face to the foe.”