A Brief Chronology of Catholic Oxford

Early Middle Ages: the beginnings of the University

912 First mention of Oxford, in the Saxon Chronicle, when it is recovered from the Danes by King Ethelred

1120 Theobald of Etampes teaching at a school with '60 or 100 clerks more or less'. Since no foundation of such a school is likely between 1066 and 1120, this school probably dates from before the Norman Conquest. This gives some plausibility to the tradition of a foundation by King Alfred the Great.

1161 English students banned from Paris by Henry II. Many of these congregated in Oxford: this is one explanation of the rise of Oxford as a centre of scholarship.

c.1195 St Edmund of Abingdon studies at Oxford, on the site which developed into St Edmund's Hall.

1221 Party of the newly founded Dominican 'Order of Preachers', the 'Blackfriars', set off to found a house of studies in Oxford. They establish themselves first in Jewish quarter, then move to area around Speedwell Street.

1225 Franciscan friars, the 'Greyfriars', found a house of studies in Oxford, in St Ebbes / Westgate.

1249 University College ('The Great Hall of the University') founded, to support ten masters.

1263 Balliol College founded (by John de Baliol, King of Scotland), as a hall of residence for poor scholars.

1264 Merton College founded, the first college to combine masters and students in one institution.

1281 Benedictine monks of Gloucester Cathedral found a house of studies, Gloucester Hall (where Worcester College now stands). This is soon used by many Benedictine houses of the South and West.

1281 Cistercians found Rewley Abbey as a house of studies. Later, they found St Bernard's College, where St John's now stands.

1286 Durham College (where Trinity College now stands) founded, a house of studies for the Benedictines of Durham Cathedral and the North.

1310 Duke Humphrey's Library founded.

1314 Exeter college founded, to train priests for the diocese of Exeter.

1326 Oriel College founded, for secular clergy of all dioceses.

1340 The Queen's College founded, for the secular clergy of the North.

Reconstruction after the Black Death (1347 - 1350)

1362 Canterbury Hall founded, a house of studies for the Benedictines of Canterbury Cathedral, and the secular clergy of the Province of Canterbury

1379 New College founded, for the secular clergy of the South.

1427 Lincoln College founded, for the secular clergy of the diocese of Lincoln.

1437 All Souls College founded as a community of scholar-priests, to say Masses for the dead of the war with France.

1448 Magdalen College founded

1509 Brasenose College founded, for the secular clergy.

1516 Corpus Christi College founded by Bishop Fox, especially for the study of Greek.

1526 Cardinal College founded by Cardinal Wolsey; refounded as Christ Church in 1546, by Henry VIII.

The Protestant Revolt

1530 Oxford delays its response to King Henry's question about the validity of his marriage to Katharine of Aragon; finally, the theology faculty, not the University, supplies the desired answer.

[1532 St Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor over the question of Henry VIII's divorce.]

[1533 Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn and is excommunicated by Pope Clement VII; Cranmer appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.]

[1534 Act of Supremacy: Henry VIII declared Supreme Head of the Church of England.]

1535 College libraries ransaked. St Thomas More and St John, Cardinal Fisher beheaded.

1536 Dissolution of smaller monasteries in England, carried out by Thomas Cromwell. This leads to the Pilgrimage of Grace, centred in Yorkshire.

1538 Suppression of the Friars' houses in Oxford.

1539 Dissolution of the large religious houses. Abbots Blessed Richard Whiting (Glastonbury) and Blessed Hugh Farringdon (Reading), executed. Monastic colleges destroyed.

[1540 Carthusian martyrdoms in London.]

1541 Suppression of Shrines, including the shrine of St Frideswide in Oxford, located in Christ Church cathedral, which had been an important centre of pilgrimage. The valuables were confiscated and the shrine smashed to pieces.

1547 Edward VI, King of England and Supreme Head of the Church of England: Duke of Somerset acts as Protector. Chantries Act destroys the chantries and seizes their assets.

1553 Parish churches stripped of their valuables, as well as of devotional images and objects.

1549 First version of Book of Common Prayer. Royal policy said to be supported by only 2 of the 13 surviving heads of colleges. Riots in Oxford are quashed, and recalcitrant priests are hanged from their church spires in Chipping Norton and Bloxham. Heads of Catholics fastened to Oxford City walls. The Western Rising, in Devon and Cornwall, eventually crushed, leads to the fall of Somerset.

1552 new version of Book of Common Prayer, with unequivocally Protestant teachings on the Sacraments and so on.

Restoration of Catholicism: Mary Tudor: 1553-1558

1555 Trinity College and St John's College founded. The Dominican Peter de Soto teaches in Oxford.

Restoration of Protestantism: Elizabeth Tudor: 1558-1603

[1559 Act of Uniformity, passed by a margin of three votes, reimposes a slightly modified 1552 prayer-book; a wave of vandalism, by Protestant fanatics and royal officials, follows. Elizabeth is made the 'Supreme Governor' of the Church of England by the Act of Supremacy, which made Catholic resistance to Protestantism a capital offence. All but one of the bishops refused to co-operate; those unable to flee ended their days in prison.]

1559 Royal Commissioners visit Oxford; Catholic students imprisoned 'in great numbers.'

1561 William Allen, later Cardinal, resigns as head of St Mary's Hall, Oxford, and leaves the country. He later returns (still a layman) and encourages Catholics in the Oxford area and elsewhere. Six students imprisoned for resisting the removal of a chapel crucifix.

1565 Allen leaves England again, and with many other Oxford scholars he founds a Catholic University and seminary at Douay, in the Spanish Netherlands (1567). The seminary produced more than 160 martyrs for the Catholic faith. Other seminaries, monasteries and convents are founded by English Catholics overseas in the succeeding years.

[1569 Northern Rising, against the imposition of Protestantism.]

[1570 Pope St Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth, and declares her deposed.]

1571 White Hall, an old hall of residence, refounded as Jesus College.

1574 Arrival in England of the first priests ordained at Douay for the English mission, who include a former fellow of St John's.

1577 Rowland Jenkins, an Oxford stationer, condemned to lose his ears for distributing Popish books, at the 'Black Assize'. Arrival in England St Ralph Sherwin, an alumnus of Exeter College. (Sherwin was martyred in 1581.)

1580 Arrival in England of the first Jesuit priests for the English mission, including St Edmund Campion, formerly Fellow of St John's, and Robert Persons, formerly Bursar of Balliol.

1580 Fr William Hartley sent to Oxford (Fr Arthur Pitts to Cambridge) to encourage vocation (Hartley was martyred in 1588).

1581 St Edmund Campion's book Decem Rationes left on the pews of the University Church in Oxford; later the same year he was martyred in London. Executions of Catholic priests, ordained overseas, and those who help them, frequent for the rest of Elizabeth's reign, and into that of James I.

1581 Undergraduates required to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church. This requirement was abolished in 1871.

1587 Execution of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots by Queen Elizabeth provokes war with Spain. William Allen created Cardinal in preparation for an anticipated Catholic restoration following a Spanish victory. Elizabeth's victory marked by savage persecution of Catholics: in the four months between 22 July and 27 November, of 1588, twenty-one seminary priests, eleven laymen, and one woman were put to death for their Catholic faith.]

1589 Martyrdoms of Blessed Nichols, Yaxley, Belson and Prichard in Oxford.

1602 Bodleian Library founded.

Stuart Dynasty

(James I: 1603-1625; Charles I: 1625-1649; Civil War starts 1642; Cromwell’s ‘Commonwealth’ 1649-1660; Charles II restored 1660-1685; James II 1685, expelled 1688.

1605 ‘Gunpowder Plot’: most famous of many real and imaginary ‘Popish plots’. The plotters had met in the Catherine Wheel Inn, now occupied by Balliol College.

1609 Douay translation of the Bible, prepared mainly by Catholic Oxford scholars working overseas, appears, two years before King James’ ‘Authorized Version’.

1610 Wadham College founded on ruins of the college of the Trinitarian Friars.

1610 Martyrdom of Blessed George Napier (Napper) in Oxford.

1621 Oxford Physic Garden, later called the Botanic Garden, founded.

1624 Broadgate Hall refounded as Pembroke College.

1625 Charles I becomes king; marries the Catholic Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII of France, who prevents him signing the death warrants of captured priests.]

1642 Protestant fervour stirred by the beginning of the Civil War: Catholic books and pictures burned in the streets. Townsmen favour Parliament; the University the King. Oxford becomes the King’s headquarters. The King is forced by the Long Parliament to authorise executions of Catholic priests; a spate of martyrdoms is carried out around the country.

1644 Oxford falls to General Fairfax’s Parliamentarian troops. University and town purged of Royalists; 25 Anglican clergy ejected for their religious views.

1649 Leveller (Protestant extremist) troops of the Parliamentarian garrison of Oxford mutiny; two executed in Gloucester Green. Leveller unrest around the country.

1660 James II returns in triumph to London; Royalists and High Churchmen return from exile, and often to their positions in the University.

[1673 Test Act aims to deprive English Roman Catholics and Nonconformists of public office.]

1678 Titus Oates fabricates a ‘Popish plot’ to assassinate Charles II: anti-Catholic riots in Oxford, in which effigies of the Pope were burned; elsewhere in England the last martyrdoms are suffered as a result, 1679.

685 Charles II received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed. Succeeded by the Catholic James II.]

1687 James II issues Declaration of Liberty of Conscience, extends toleration to all religions.]

1688 James II’s contest with Magdalen College over his proposal for a Catholic Dean; Catholics head University College and Christ Church, and Mass said more openly. More anti-Catholic riots in Oxford precede the expulsion of James II. Test Act reimposed, and Catholic academics are forced to leave.

18th Century

1714 Worcester College founded, on ruins of Gloucester Hall

[1791 Catholic Relief Act legalises Catholic churches, and removes other restrictions on Catholics.]

1795 Chapel of St Ignatius, with a presbytery, was built, the first Catholic church in Oxford since the accession of Queen Elizabeth.

19th -20th Centuries

1817 George Canning rejected as Burgess of Oxford University, for his favouring a Catholic Emancipation Act

[1828 Test Act repealed; 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act removed most remaining legal restrictions on Catholics.]

1833-45 ‘Oxford Movement’ of prominent Anglican theologians, who attempted to reintroduce Catholic elements into their church. Many influenced by this, and some of its leaders, become Catholics, including the Venerable John Henry Newman, formerly Fellow of Oriel College and Vicar of St Mary’s (the University Church). He was received into the Church in 1845 while at Littlemore, outside Oxford.

1871 Thirty-Nine Articles no longer required of Undergraduates.

1875 Building of St Aloysius.

1895 Catholic Bishops allow Catholics to attend the Protestant University.

1895 Benedictines of St Lawrence’s Abbey, Ampleforth, found a house of studies in Oxford; it becomes a Hall of the University, and is known as St Benet’s Hall from 1920. (Halls were called by the name of their Master, e.g. ‘Hunter Blair Hall’, until in 1918 they could be ‘Permanent Private Halls’.)

1895 Jesuits establish a Hall of the University; known as Campion Hall from 1918.

1911 Building of St Edmund and St Frideswide, Iffley Road, and St Gregory and St Augustine, Woodstock Road

1929 Dominicans open Blackfriars as a house of studies; it becomes a Permanent Private Hall in the 1990s.

1931 Capuchin Franciscans take over St Edmund and St Frideswide, Iffley Road, and establish a house of studies; it becomes a Permanent Private Hall of the University in 1957.

(For more on Act of Parliament against Catholics, and the repeal of these, see here.)

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    Two plaques in St Mary the Virgin, the University Church

    Two modern plaques in the University Church, St Mary the Virgin in the High Street.

    One commemorates the Oxford lectures of Blessed John Duns Scotus, the Fransiscan philosopher best known for championing the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Explaining that the doctrine meant that God applied the graces of Christ's passion to Our Lady at the moment of her conception, he famously said 'He could do it, it is fitting, so He did do it.'

    The other commemorates the 'martyrs of the Reformation', whatever that phrase might mean. The list of 22 men executed between 1539 and 1681 for broadly religious reasons includes five executed by Queen Mary Tudor and 17 executed under various Protestant governments, including the High Anglican Archbishop Laud, executed under the Puritan Commonwealth in 1645, and the 'Protestant joiner', Stephen College, enraged by Charles II's tolerance of Catholicism, executed for speaking against the King in 1681.

    The rationale of the list is hard to fathom. The three 'martyrs' of 1549 died for the Catholic cause, but, unlike the other Catholics on the list, have never been beatified. The reason is that they are not martyrs at all: they were executed for their part in an armed uprising against the 1549 Prayer Book. On that basis, all the soldiers, of both sides, killed in the English Civil War ought to be included, since this conflict also had a religious character. For the full list of the names and short biographies see here.

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    This Website


    The sections below are taken from

    Monsignor Laurence Goulder:The Universities: Oxford and Cambridge, in the Pilgrimage Pamphlets series, published by the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom (Second Edition, 1963).

    The are placed on-line by kind permission of Goulder's literary executor and the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom.

    They follow a walking tour of Central Oxford, and to some extent the entries refer to this order.

    To open the whole tour on one page, click here.

    Individual entries can be accessed from the side-bar list. They can be searched throught the facility in the bar at the very top of the page; 'labels' have been added to enable readers to see related entries together (click on 'College' at the bottom of an entry on a college, for example, and see all the posts on colleges together).
    Additional and more up-to-date commentary has been provided in most cases in green. This is periodically expanded and updated. Recent updates include:

    Sheldonian Theatre: build by the Catholic architect Gibbs
    The Castle: scene of execution of the 'Protestant joiner' by the famous Jack Ketch
    St Giles: near scene of burning of a female murder in the 18th C.
    Campion Hall: built by Sir Edwin Lutyns

    Also new are the opening sections of Goulder's guide, on the Town Walls and two outlying places of interest, Dorchester and Littlemore.

    Soon to be added: material on other out-lying sites, including Iffley and Godstow.



    From Goulder Chapter I: Places Visited on the Way to Oxford, Part 1.

    This is not, of course, Dorchester in Dorset, but the town of the same name which is situated on the River Thame, half a mile north of its confluence with the Thames.


    There was a settlement at Dorchester during most of the last two thousand years before Christ. Indeed, it appears to have been one of the most important inhabited sites in the neighbourhood. The Romans fortified it, and traces of their ramparts still remain on the west and south sides of the town. A track, now overgrown with grass, can be distinguished branching off the main road at the north end of the place. It was the Roman road to Alchester near Bicester.
    In the first quarter of the seventh century, Pope Honorius I
    [1] charged a monk of St Andrew’s monastery on the Coelian Hill in Rome with the task of converting the people inhabiting the middle districts of England. His name was Birinus and he was consecrated a bishop by Asterius[2] of Milan. In 634, he landed at the head[3] of Southampton Water and, finding that the West Saxons living near the coast had not yet been converted, he turned his attention to them. In the same year, he baptized Cynegils,[4] king of Wessex. The ceremony took place at Dorchester, and St Oswald[5] of Northumbria, who was in the town to negotiate a marriage, acted as sponsor to Cynegils.
    St Birinus set up his cathedral at Dorchester and died there about 650. Soon after he was dead, his vast missionary diocese was divided. Hampshire and Dorset were cut off and put under two new bishops, one at Winchester, the other at Sherborne. This move was partly dictated by politics. Things had been going badly for Wessex. The empire conquered by Cynegils’ predecessor, Ceawlin,
    [6] was breaking up under constant attacks by Mercian armies. Bythe middle of the seventh century, the whole of the territory which the West Saxons had ruled north of the Thames had passed into Mercian control. Dorchester had become a Mercian town and it was obviously impossible to maintain a West Saxon bishop­ric there. Henceforth its fortunes were bound up with those of the Mercian kingdom and it was the seat of one of the Mercian bishoprics until, in the course of the great reshuffle of sees which took place after the Norman conquest, Bishop Remigius[7] removed his throne to Lincoln. This was in 1072. The descent of Lincoln from Dorchester explains the surprising fact that Oxford remained in the diocese of Lincoln throughout the middle ages.
    In 1140, another chapter in the history of Dorchester began, when Bishop Alexander
    [8] of Lincoln sent the Canons Regular of St Augustine[9] to take charge of the church which had served as the cathedral of the bishops of Dorchester. The canons, anxious to secure prestige for their monastery, announced in 1224 that they had discovered the body of St Birinus. They tried to refute the common belief that St Hæddi[10] had moved the saint’s relics to Winchester in the last quarter of the seventh century. They put it about that it was the relics of a saint called Bertinus[11] and not those of Birinus which had been translated. It is impossible to say now whether they were right, but the story sounds ben trovato. A furious controversy about the matter raged for many years between the canons and the monks of Winchester. The dispute was eventually referred to the pope, and Cardinal Stephen Langton[12] was appointed to make investigations. He, in turn, dele­gated the problem to one of his archdeacons. It was decided to examine the question on the basis of miracles – whichever place received the most favour to be declared to possess the saint’s body. In the end, the pope issued a non-committal bull slightly in favour of Dorchester. On the strength of this, the canons built a new shrine and transferred the bones – whosesoever they were – to it.
    When Henry VIII
    [13] suppressed the monasteries, Dorchester Abbey was valued at £190. The church was bought by Richard Bewforeste[14] for £140 and left by him to serve as a parish church.


    The abbey church was dedicated to St Peter, St Paul and St Birinus, and was the successor to the little cathedral built in 634. This church, patched up and enlarged from time to time, did duty throughout the Saxon period and was taken over by the Austin Canons when they arrived in 1140.
    By 1175, the canons were ready to build a new church. The Saxon building was demolished and a small church of Norman pattern with an eastern apse and low central tower was put in its place. Some of the masonry from this building still remains in the north wall of the nave and in the transept. The eastern apse ended a short way to the east of the present chancel arch.
    In the thirteenth century, an aisle and some chapels were added on the north of the chancel. The north transept was about twenty-five feet longer than it is now, and there was a chapel measuring twenty feet from east to west springing from its eastern side. The transept was shortened and sealed off in post-Reformation times.

    Soon after 1300, the central tower went the way of many Norman towers and fell down. The canons used the occasion to build another chapel to the south of the chancel. The south door, now protected by a porch, was constructed at the same time. In 1320, the spacious south aisle was built on to the nave to give more room to the parish­ioners, who worshipped in the part of the church west of the screen. There are signs of this screen on the great piers west of the transept. During this alteration, the west wall of the south transept was not removed, and forms the curious barrier at the east end of the nave aisle. No north aisle could be built because the cloister ran along the side of the nave. The doors which led to it are now blocked up. In the fourteenth century, the old east end was pulled down and replaced by the present magnificent structure. In the fifteenth century, the wooden porch which covers the south door was erected.


    Nothing remains of the monastic buildings except the school-house to the west of the tower. Outside the church on the south side are some fine fourteenth-century buttresses and an old preaching cross which has now been restored. These crosses were ruthlessly thrown down at the Reformation and many churchyards contain a pathetic stump.
    Inside the church, the first thing which strikes us is the wall which blocks the east end of the south aisle and the unusual height of the altar which stands before it. The wall, as has already been explained, was the west wall of the south transept and, before the aisle was built, was an outside wall. The altar before the screen was built over a crypt, which accounts for its elevation. On the wall, there are some four­teenth-century paintings. Our Lord is shown after death, with fallen head and closed eyes. The pictures have been touched up. Such representations covered the walls of our churches before the Reforma­tion, but they were usually obscured with whitewash when the Faith was suppressed.
    There is a Norman font with its original lead basin in the south aisle. The figures on it are those of Our Lord and His apostles. Near the font is a stone bracket for a statue with elaborate carving showing sleeping monks and the devil blowing a horn. Right across from the door by which we came in is the north wall of the nave. It is much as the canons built it in the twelfth century, but there are two windows which were constructed in the fifteenth century. They were made high up so as to clear the cloister roof which lay on the other side.
    From the west end of the nave the full splendour of the church can be appreciated. There is a view of the fine east window through the chancel arch. As you go up the nave you will notice the blocked-up cloister doors on your left, and you pass beneath the door in the chancel arch which led into the rood-loft. Under the crossing was the canons’ choir. You can now make out the detail of the east window. The upper three rows of glass date from the fourteenth century and depict the crowning with thorns, the scourging, the carrying of the cross, the Resurrection, Our Lord’s appearance to St Mary Magdalene, and the descent into hell. The lower glass is modern. Glass from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries survives in the window on the south side of the sanctuary. There is a representation of a funeral which some say is that of Our Lady but others hold to be the translation of the relics of St Birinus. The north window is truly marvellous and has a tree of Jesse carved in stone on the mullions, showing the human descent of Christ. It climbs up over the whole interior face of the window.
    The sanctuary contains a beautiful sedilia
    [15] and piscina.[16] There are unusual little windows behind the seats of the former. A splendid double piscina is to be seen to the west of the present sanctuary which doubtless was in use before the church was extended eastwards. On the north side of the space between the stalls and the rails is a brass of an unknown abbot.[17] There is also the matrix of a brass commemorat­ing John de Sutton.[18] It is on the south side almost corresponding to the brass of Bewforeste. Several other matrices for brasses are to be found in the floor.
    Between the chancel and the south choir aisle is some beautiful arcad­ing dating from the fourteenth century. This aisle was planned as a resting-place for the relics of St Birinus and there are some fragments of the shrine preserved in wire-netting at the east end of the aisle. Close under the arcading dividing the aisle from the choir is a memorial to the Seagrave family. The name of the cross-legged knight, whose tomb occupies the dividing line between the two south-aisle chapels is not known. The double brass to the south of it commemorates Sir John Drayton
    [19] and his wife Alice. A little to the east of this, alongside the wall, is a memorial to John de Stonor[20] a famous judge of Edward III’s[21] time. The family arms are repeated four times, at the ends and side of the sepulchre. West of this is the tomb of the Richard Bew­foreste who bought the church, and his wife. Finally, behind the southern range of choir stalls is the ‘effigy of an unknown fourteenth­-century prelate in full pontificals. The colour still shows in the folds of his vestments.
    Before leaving the church, it is worth while comparing the recent wall painting in the Lady Chapel with the medieval figures on the far side of the wall cutting off the south nave aisle. How badly the pallid sentimentality of the modern work stands up against the virility of the medieval ! On the way out, near the line of pillars which separates the nave from the south aisle is another interesting comparison. Could anything be further from the spirit of the Catholic middle ages than the inscription on the tomb of Mrs Sarah Fletcher whose nerves were too delicately spun to bear the rude Shakes and Jostlings which we meet in this transitory World, Nature gave way. She sank and died, a Martyr to Excessive Sensibility. And this lady had committed suicide because her husband ran off with another woman! The coroner’s jury found that she was temporarily out of her mind and so could be buried in church. The date was 1799.

    Also very much worth visiting is the small but very fine Catholic parish church of St Birinus. It is in the 'Arts and Crafts' style, and its Altar and elaborate Rood Screen have not been reordered.
    For more on the Abbey, see their site.

    [1] Pope 625-638.
    [2] Archbishop of Milan 630-640. Some authorities hold that the actual consecra­tion took place at Genoa.
    [3] Probably his landing-place was Cerdicesora, the modern Totton, where the founder of the West Saxon royal house, Cerdic (reigned 495-534), had landed before him.
    [4] King of the West Saxons 611-641. ‘ King of Northumbria 634-642.
    [5] King of Northumbria 634-642.
    [6] King of the West Saxons 560-593.
    [7] Bishop of Dorchester 1067-1072, of Lincoln 1072-1092.
    [8] Bishop of Lincoln 1123-1148.
    [9] The Canons Regular of St Augustine (bishop of Hippo 396-430) or Austin Canons or Black Canons emerged from obscure beginnings in the early twelfth century. They made their profession to a particular house like monks, not to a province like friars. Their life was similar to that of the monastic orders, but they were not so strictly bound to their cloister. They exercised a limited external ministry. In England they possessed one hundred and seventy houses at the time of the dissolution. The habit consisted of a black tunic, over which a white rochet and a black cloak with a hood were worn in choir.
    [10] Bishop of Winchester c. 679-705. He was the fourth successor to St Birinus.
    [11] The identification of this saint is guesswork. There was a St Bertin or Bertinus who died about 709. He was abbot of St Omer and spent most of his life as a mission­ary in the Pas-de-Calais. It is just possible that Dorchester might have acquired a relic, but surely not his whole body. More likely, the canons at Dorchester invented the name.
    [12] Archbishop of Canterbury 1207-1228. Cardinal 1206.
    [13] Reigned 1509-1547.
    [4] Died 1554.
    [15] Seats for the celebrant, deacon and subdeacon at Mass. In medieval English usage, they sat in the order given above with the celebrant in the eastern seat. According to Roman custom the celebrant sits in the middle with the deacon on his right, the subdeacon on his left.
    [16] In the early middle ages, piscine were used for two purposes : (1) for the washing of the priest’s hands at the offertory, and (2) for the disposal of the ablutions after the Communion of the celebrant. In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth cen­turies, the custom arose of drinking the ablutions as is done now. During the early period many double piscine were built, with one drain for the washing of the hands and another for the ablutions. In the later period, one drain alone was necessary, i.e. for the washing of the hands, and single piscine became the rule. The water was carried off through a lead pipe which led directly into the earth.
    [17] A brass plate near this tomb bears the words Here lieth Sir Richard Bewforeste. It gave, rise to the belief that there were two Bewforestes-the man who bought the church after the suppression and this abbot. The theory is, of course, possible. But it is more probable that the plate has been moved from the lay Bewforeste’s tomb on the other side of the church.
    [18] Abbot of Dorchester 1333-1349.
    [19] Died 1417.
    [20] Died 1354.
    [21] Reigned 1327-1377.

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    From Goulder Chapter I: Places Visited on the Way to Oxford, part 2.

    Going from Dorchester to Littlemore, we pass abruptly from the middle ages to the nineteenth century. The contrast between the build­ings is great enough – at Dorchester a magnificent abbey church, glori­ous even in its declining years; at Littlemore, a row of one – storeyed cottages. But the difference between the men is greater still – Birinus, a missionary saint belonging to the age of the Anglo-Saxon settlements, powerful no doubt in the conversion of Wessex, but to us remote and shadowy; John Henry Newman,[1] a man who lived in a period which was on the very door-step of our own, whose thoughts are close to our thoughts, whose world did not differ very much from our world. All the same, the buildings at both places served Catholic truth; and the men, so far apart in time, are united in Catholic faith.


    There is not much to be seen at Littlemore; in fact, the unsuspecting might pass it by without realizing that here was played out one of the most dramatic events in the religious history of modern England. There is a row of cottages shaped like an L. A tablet, let into the outside wall, announces that John Henry Newman, Fellow of Oriel College, Vicar of St Mary the Virgin, afterwards Cardinal, used this building in the years 1842-6, as a place of retreat, study and prayer.
    The cottages were bought by the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory – which was founded by Newman – in 1951, though some of the
    alms­people who have lived there ever since he left, still remain. In 1960, the place was thoroughly restored. The entrance is now through a large doorway under the gable halfway along the side of the L fronting the cul-de-sac. To the left, as you enter, at the far end of the little quadrangle, is the hall which served as a library in Newman’s day, and there is an upstairs room at the end of it which was probably used for guests. To the right, at the far end of the range of dwellings, are Newman’s own room and the chapel, the latter being at the very ex­tremity of the building. It has been restored as he had it, with crimson damask hangings, and a white frontal to the altar represents the white curtain which hung from the shelf on which stood Newman’s crucifix and candlesticks. There is also a reading-desk which was used by him. In his bedroom next door is a fender made for him by the local black­smith.
    It was at one time thought that the oratory in which the future cardinal was received into the Church was the room in the angle of the L but, after the discovery of a plan of the cottages as they were at the time, this theo
    ry had to be abandoned. The famous oratory is, in fact, the last room at the far end of the cul-de-sac front.
    In the quadrangle, the pentise, which enabled members of the community to keep dry as they moved from one part of the building to anther in wet weather, has also been put in order. It has been neatly laid out and the squalid jumble of cabbage plots and broken-down fences, which marred the place until recently, has been been cleared away. The tree which Newman planted, though sadly mangled some years ago when neighbours complained that it shut out the light, still adorns the garden.
    Close by the cottages is the modern Catholic church, serving a rapidly growing suburb. Nearer the main road is the church which Newman built as a chapel of ease to St Mary’s – the scene of his sermon on the parting of friends. It is a fine building of its type and several relics of the founder are on view at the west end. It is naturally in Anglican hands.


    Newman’s attempt to visualize the Church of England as a part of the Catholic Church had failed. The Tracts for the Times, which he had so assiduously distributed, had caused much resentment. The publication of Tract 90 in the series, in which he claimed that the Thirty-nine Articles of the Book of Common Prayer could bear a Catho­lic interpretation, brought about a storm in academic circles. Heads of colleges condemned it, and the bishop of Oxford prevailed on Newman not to publish any more tracts. These men were sturdy Protestants, and not ashamed of it.
    Newman bowed to the storm and, on April 19th, 1842, retired to Littlemore. He was joined by several like-minded young clergymen – F. S. Bowles, J. B. Dalgairns
    [2] and Ambrose St John;[3] and later on, by Richard Stanton. Albany Christie and John Walker – both destined to be Catholic priests – were frequent visitors. In the following Septem­ber, Newman resigned St Mary’s.
    Meanwhile a strict, community life was developed at Littlemore. “The inmates of the house at Littlemore were leading a life of the utmost self-denial and simplicity. Divine Office was recited daily. There were two meals in the day-breakfast, consisting of tea and bread and butter, taken standing up, and dinner. In Lent, no meat was eaten. The rules of the community prescribed silence for half the day. Reading, writing and praying, were the occupations of the morn­ing; and later, Newman would often take his disciples for a walk.”
    [4] In the midst of these activities, he was working out his position by writing An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine ; and it became daily more apparent to him that he could find a place in the Church of England no longer. Early in 1845, W. G. Ward’s[5] Ideal of a Christian Church was condemned by convocation, and Newman’s followers began to get restless. During the autumn, some of them sub­mitted to the Holy See. Dalgairns was received at Aston by Father Dominic Barberi[6] of the Passionist Congregation, and St John became a Catholic at Prior Park. On October 3rd, Newman severed his last remaining link with official Oxford and resigned his Oriel fellowship. There was widespread speculation about his next move. Dalgairns, full of zeal for his new-found Faith, had invited Barberi to visit Little­more; but Newman still hesitated. “Fr Dominic, the Passionist ... is coming here” he wrote on October 4th. “It is likely that he will admit me, I am not sure however ... I am not certain.”[7]
    The final scene is nothing if not dramatic. Newman, sitting waiting for the coming of Barberi, writing letter after letter of farewell to his Anglican friends, preparing for a break which would be absolute; and in the intervals of his writing, getting ready for the long general con­fession which he thought necessary. At last the moment of decision was reached. Dalgairns had already taken his hat and stick for the walk across the fields to meet the Passionist in Oxford. As he was leaving the house, Newman stopped him. “When you see your friend,” he said, “will you tell him that I wish him to receive me into the Church of Christ?”[8] It was three o’clock in the afternoon of October 8th, 1845, and beginning to rain.
    In Oxford, Dalgairns was joined by St John, and together they met Father Dominic’s coach at the Angel Inn
    [9] in the High. The rain was falling more heavily and the priest alighted, soaked to the skin but rejoicing to hear the news. At Littlemore, Newman sat alone in the gloom of that miserable October afternoon. I picture him there, his mind exhausted with his long struggle, no longer capable of profound thought, but busily engaged on a thousand little details, thinking of the friends who would be friends no longer, of the familiar places he would never see again, the end of the world in which he had for so long held an honoured place. Beyond this was the unknown, an un­charted world, completely unfamiliar, with new dangers, new faces. To the converts of the present day, the break is often bitter enough; to Newman in 1845, it was agonizing.
    At length came the sound of voices, the opening and shutting of doors. Dalgairns had taken Barberi to the library fire, and the good priest was trying to get dry, a cloud of steam rising from his wet clothes. Newman came to him as he sat there, knelt down and began his con­fession. He went on and on. At length, the priest, doubtless moved by compassion for his penitent and, perhaps, fearing a little the con­sequences to himself if he sat in wet garments much longer, suggested an adjournment. The confession was finished in the oratory next morning. In the evening of the same day – October 9th – Father Dominic received Newman and his friends, Bowles and Stanton, into the Church. The ceremony took place in the oratory. Dalgairns wrote : “Never shall I forget being present at his making his profession of faith in our oratory.”
    [10] So it was, that John Henry Newman came to rest in the Church, where he was to find many difficulties, but not one doubt.
    On the morning of October 10th, Father Dominic celebrated Mass in the oratory with vessels, altar-stone and vestments he had borrowed from the Catholic church in St Clement’s Street,
    [11] and the converts made their first Holy Communion. On Sunday, October 12th, Newman, Dalgairns and Stanton went to Mass at the church in St Clement’s, and they were there again four days later for Holy Communion. Newman received the sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of Dr Wiseman[12] at Oscott on October 31st. He left Littlemore for good on February 22nd, 1846. “I quite tore myself away,” he wrote to Copeland,[13] “and could not help kissing my bed and mantelpiece, and other parts of the house. I have been most happy there, though in a state of suspense. And there it has been that I have both been taught my way and received an answer to my prayers.”[14] He was ordained priest in Rome in 1848.

    Littlemore is now disfigured by a modern Catholic church dedicated to Bl. Dominic Barberi, a few yards from the buildings described here.

    [1] Lived 1801-1890. Cardinal 1879.
    [2] Died 1876.
    [3] Died 1875.
    [4] The Life of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, by Wilfrid Ward, vol. I, p. 84.
    [5] Lived 1812-1882.
    [6] Lived 1792-1849.
    [7] From an unpublished letter, quoted in an article by Father Henry Tristram of the Birmingham Oratory, in Homage to Newman (published under the auspices of the Westminster Cathedral Chronicle in 1945), p. 31.
    [8] Homage to Newman, p. 32.
    [9] The Angel stood on the south side of the High, immediately to the west of the present Examination Schools.
    [10] Homage to Newman, p. 32.
    [11] This little church still exists and is used as a school. It stands a little back from St Clement’s Street on the south side, between Jeune Street and Pembroke Street.
    [12] Archbishop of Westminster, 1850-1865. Cardinal 1850.
    [13] Lived 1804-1885. Editor of Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons. William John Copeland.
    [14] The Life of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, by Wilfred Ward, I, p. 117.

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    The Town Wall of Oxford

    From Goulder, Chapter II

    Before the Norman Conquest, Oxford was protected by earth defences reinforced by timber stongpoints. These were repaired and improved by Robert d'Oilly soon after 1066, and are mentioned in the Doomsday survey. It is probably that some, at least, of the stone wall was built about this time, the whole of it being finished by 1100.

    An area of between one hundred and ten and one hundred and twenty acres was enclosed. Starting at the North Gate,[1] which joined the north side of St Michael’s tower in Cornmarket Street, the wall ran eastward a little way behind the houses which now line Broad Street to where the southern end of the Sheldonian Theatre stands. A postern pierced it at the north end of Turl Street. From there, it went north-west across Catte Street to a point just south of the octagonal chapel which is now the junior common room of Hertford College. The Smythgate spanned Catte Street. The wall continued parallel to the first part of New College Lane, running a few yards to the north of it into the grounds of New College, where a long section is still intact. The corner bastion, joining the north to the east wall, is in New College garden.

    The wall went almost due south to the High Street, following the line of Long Wall Street. The East Gate[2] stood immediately east of the point where Merton Street joins High Street. Between the Smythgate and the East Gate there was apparently an outer wall some thirty-three feet beyond the main defences. From the East Gate, the wall turns west. The section beyond the corner of the street is intact. It continues until it meets the path on the north side of Merton Fields and then goes west. A fine range survives here. The wall then ran south to include St Frideswides’s Priory and on to St Aldate’s, where the South Gate[3] crossed the road just north of the point where Brewer Street comes in. This street was outside the wall, some masonry of which remains on the north side.

    There was another gate—the Littlegate—where Brewer Street meets Littlegate Street. It stood immediately north of the crossing. Beyond this, the wall gets somewhat lost amongst the existing houses, but it ran west from the Littlegate to the Greyfriars’ monastery west of St Ebbe’s Church. The friary occupied both dies of the wall and had a private gate through it. The wall then curved to the north-west until it met Church Street at the place where Castle Street comes in from the north-east. Here was the West Gate,[4] after which the wall connected up with the defences of the castle.

    To rejoin the wall, it is necessary to up to Castle Street into Bulwark Lane, which is the first turning on the left in that Street. The lane leads t New Road and, after crossing it, curves round the site of the outer curtain wall of the castle. The north wall joined the castle walls just past the point where Bulwark Lane turns abruptly to the right. A portion survives here, veering slightly to the east till it meets New Inn Hall Street. Here there was a postern. From this point, the wall went behind the existing houses on the north side of St Michael’s Street until it joined up with the North Gate across the Cornmarket.

    Note that Church Street, ajoining Castle Street, is now an extension of Paradise Street.

    [1] Demolished in 1772.
    [2] Demolished in 1772.
    [3] Pulled down by Wolsey when Christ Church was being built.
    [4] Demolished in 1600.



    The Guild of Ransom tours to Oxford enter the town through the Iffley Road, pass over Magdalen[1] Bridge, turn right into Long Wall Street, again right into St Cross Road, left into South Parks Road, right into Parks Road, then left through Keble Road and left into St Giles’ Street. Here the coaches stop and the tour is continued on foot. In the course of its journey through these streets the coach passes the following places of interest. (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    [1] At the ancient universities the name is pronounced Maudlin.



    The new church of St Edmund of Abingdon[1] and St Frideswide[2] stands south of the point where Jackdaw Lane joins the Iffley Road. It was designed by Father Benedict Williamson as a chapel of ease to the Jesuit church of St Aloysius.[3] It was handed over to the Capuchins[4] in 1931 when they opened a house of studies next to it. (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    Greyfriars is now a ‘Permanent Private Hall’ (a small college) of Oxford University, and the church has been promoted to the status of a parish church. See their site.

    [1] Archbishop of Canterbury 1234-1240. Edmund Rich.
    [2] For information about her see pp. 27-28 infra.
    [3] Lived 1568-1591. Jesuit. Aloysius Gonzaga. The Society of Jesus was founded by St Ignatius Loyola (lived 1491-1556) in 1539.
    [4] Capuchin reform of the Franciscan order dates from 1525. Like most reforms, it claimed to be a return to more primitive observance. The tunic is a lighter brown than that of the Friars Minor and has the hood joined to it, not separate as with other Franciscans. The usual cord and sandals are worn and the friars are bearded.

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    On the opposite side of Iffley Road, between James Street and Mar­ston Street, are the headquarters of the Anglican community known as the Cowley Fathers, founded by Richard Meux Benson.[1] The hand­some church was designed by Bodley.[2] The members of the community occupy themselves with retreat and mission work. (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    The buildings belonging to the Cowley Fathers now house St Stephen’s House, an Anglican theological college in the ‘high church’ tradition, which is now (2004) a Permanent Private Hall of the University. For more history, see their site.

    [1] Lived 1824-1915.
    [2] Lived 1827-1907. Pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott (lived 1811-1878), the Gothic revival architect.

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    St Clement’s now stands in Marston Road, a turning on the north side of St Clement’s Street. The medieval church stood in the middle of the roundabout at the point where Iffley Road, the Cowley Road and St Clement’s Street unite for the crossing of Magdalen Bridge. It was pulled down and a new church was erected on the present site in 1828. The old church had Newman as its curate until two years before it was demolished. He took the services for an invalid rector, Dr Gutch.[1]
    (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    It was in St Clement’s that the chapel of St Ignatius, with a presbytery, was built, in 1795, soon after the Catholic Relief Act of 1791 made it legally possible to do so. Mass had previously been said in hotels and public houses, notably The Mitre in the High Street, and in Catholic houses outside Oxford, such as Waterperry. Fr Charles Lesley SJ, who had been running the Oxford Mission from Waterperry, was the priest in charge of this project, which cost the considerable sum of £994 3s 4d. Newman walked to this church from Littlemore in order to hear Mass after his reception into the Church. It was the only Catholic church in Oxford until the building of St Aloysius in 1875 (for which see below). The last Mass was said in St Ignatius’ in 1911, although the site continued for some time as a Catholic School. Some of the buildings still survive, converted to other uses, behind railings on the east side of St Clement’s, next to the Port Mahon public house.

    [1] Lived 1746-1831.

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    Just before Magdalen Bridge, there is a cul-de-sac on the left, called Cowley Place. In it stands St Hilda’s College for women, founded in 1893. As the coach crosses Magdalen Bridge, there is a fine view of the college after which it is named and also of the famous High with its long line of colleges – the Queen’s College, All Souls’ College, the university church and Brasenose College on the right; the Examination Schools and University College on the left. Past Magdalen, we turn into Long Wall Street which runs outside the town walls, remnants of which are visible through gaps in the houses on the left. Immediately before we reach St Cross Road, we pass the site of the town gallows.

    Before crossing Magdalen Bridge, on the left, is Magdalen College School. During the improved conditions for Catholicism under King Charles II, a Catholic master of the school was said to have made more than 60 converts; this so enraged the Protestant locals that he was driven from the city.

    This town gallows is where four Catholic martyrs were hanged, drawn and quartered on the 5th July 1589. They were George Nichols and Richard Yaxely (priests), and Thomas Belson and Humphrey Pritchard (laymen). They were executed for being, or harbouring, a Catholic priest. Thomas Belson was a local gentleman who had been acting as the priests’ guide; Humphrey Pritchard was an inn servant who worked in The Catherine Wheel, the inn where the men were seized (for which see under Balliol, below). The landlady of The Catherine Wheel, whose name is not recorded, suffered life imprisonment. After being seized in Oxford, the men were tortured in London, without result, and taken back to Oxford for execution. The four named were beatified on 22nd November 1987. Orate pro nobis.

    The site of execution is now a place of pilgrimage: the first procession to it, organised by the Latin Mass Society, from the Oxford Oratory, took place in 2005. See the local LMS site.



    Manchester College is not part of the university, but a post-graduate college for Nonconformist ministers. It was founded in Manchester in 1786, transferred to York in 1803, after which it returned to Man­chester. It was for a time in London and finally came to anchor in Oxford in the nineties. (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    (That is, the 1890s.) Now Harris Manchester College, it is a college of Oxford University. Its foundation was Unitarian. For more of its history see their site.



    The church stands at the point where Manor Road leaves St Cross Road. St Cross has a twelfth-century chancel. There is evidence that the building at this period was almost as large as it is at present. The west tower and the original north and south aisles date from the mid-thirteenth century. The north arcade and aisle were rebuilt in the middle of the fourteenth century, and the top stage of the tower was added about the same time. Both the aisles were pulled down at some unknown date in the sixteenth century, but the west bay of the north aisle and the east part of the south aisle were left untouched. There was a thorough restoration in the nineteenth century. (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    For more on the history of St Cross Church, see their site.



    The ancient manor house of Holywell, now a hostel for Balliol College, stands close to the church. It has passed through many vicissi­tudes. In penal times, it was held by the Napier or Napper family. A son of the house – George Napier – was trained for the priesthood at Douai, ordained in 1596 and worked in his native country. He was arrested and martyred in Oxford in 1610, probably at the gallows at the corner of Long Wall Street.

    The well which gave the name to this district is in the basement of the manor house. Little is known of its history.

    It seems more likely that Blessed George Napier was executed on the gallows next to the Castle, where the New Road now runs. He was born in 1550, and attended Corpus Christi College in Oxford, but was ejected for being a Catholic, in 1568. Having been ordained at Douai, he came on mission to England in 1603. He was arrested in Kirtlington, 19th June 1610, and was held in the Castle, where he reconciled a fellow prisoner to the faith. He was hanged, drawn and quartered on 9th November 1610. He was beatified in 1929. Ora pro nobis.

    Much of the Manor house is of later date, but the grey stone block nearest the road is 16th Century; there is the remains of a priest-hole in the ceiling. Mass continued to be said in the house into the mid-18th Century.



    As the coach proceeds along St Cross Road, Mansfield College can be seen across the playing-fields to the left. Its status is similar to that of Manchester College. It started its career in Birmingham and arrived in Oxford in 1886. It is named after the family which endowed it.

    Mansfield is also now a college of the University, and still trains ministers for the United Reformed Church.

    In the early 20th Century it had as Principal the eccentric Dr W. E. Orchard, who, in an ecumenical spirit, pioneered what he called 'Free Catholicism', meaning the Free Church (Non-Conformist, presbyterian) with large elements of High Church liturgy and theology. Although ordained as a Free Church minister, he even obtained orders from an Anglican bishop. His group, the Society of Free Catholics, did not long survive his conversion to Catholicism, which took place in 1934; he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1936 and died in 1955.

    See their site.



    At the top of St Cross Road, we turn left and go through South Parks Road with its line of laboratories, and then turn right into Parks Road. On the left, opposite one of the university museums, is Keble College. It was founded in 1870 in memory of John Keble,[1] one of the worthies of the Oxford Movement. At first, only members of the Established Church were admitted, though the college itself enjoyed full membership of the university from the beginning. The religious test has now been abolished.
    Architecturally, the college is a contradiction. The proportions are fine, but the vast expanse of red brick – and ugly red brick at that – ­is overwhelming. The architect was William Butterfield.[2] (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    [1] Lived 1792-1866.
    [2] Lived 1814-1900.



    The coach turns into Keble Road and thence into St Giles’, from which point the tour is continued on foot. The great open space, known to undergraduates as the Giler, was once a market ground, lying outside the North Gate. It takes its name from the church of St Giles at its northern end. Near the church, where the war memorial cross now stands, was a large pond for the refreshment of the animals being sold in the market.

    Along the west side of the street are several buildings of interest. Beyond St Giles’ Church, at the beginning of the Woodstock Road, is Somerville College for women, founded in 1879. The other two women’s colleges – Lady Margaret Hall, founded in 1878, and St Hugh’s, founded in 1886 – lie in the suburban streets farther north. A little distance to the south of Somerville are St Benet’s Hall, a house of studies for the monks of Ampleforth; Pusey House, a library for students for Anglican orders ; and the new Blackfriars,[1] a magnificent priory to which we shall return at the end of our pilgrimage. On the north corner of Beaumont Street is the Ashmolean Museum, with what is probably one of the finest archaeological collections in the country.

    In the middle of the market, to the north of St Mary Magdalene’s, stood a small chantry dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. It was supported by the rents of eleven tenements mostly in St Giles’. The great memorial, in the form of a medieval cross, close to St Mary Magdalene’s Church, was erected in memory of the Protestant divines – Cranmer,[2] Ridley[3] and Latimer.[4] It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and was put up in protest against the Oxford Movement. It does not mark the site of the three bishops’ execution, which took place round the corner in Broad Street. (From Goulder, Pilgrimage Pamphlets: Oxford & Cambridge, 1963)

    A little further North from Keble Road, St Margaret's Road, between the Woodstock and Banbury Roads, is one of the city's ancient places of execution, the 'Green Ditch'. Some rebels were hanged here in 1400; it continued in intermittent use until the late 18th Century. Burning continued to be used as the form of capital punishment indicated for certain cases, notably for female murders: one, Hannah (or Joanna) Mead was burned in the Green Ditch 17th May 1723, for murdering her husband.

    The ‘Martyrs’ Memorial’, though Protestant in motivation, is Catholic in design, being based on Edward I’s memorial for his Queen, Eleanor, in Waltham, Essex.

    St Benet’s Hall (Benedictine), like Blackfriars (Dominican, see below), Campion Hall (Jesuit, see below), and Greyfriars (Capuchin Franciscan, se
    e above), are now Permanent Private Hall of the University.

    ll the women’s colleges mentioned here now admit men.

    [1] The Blackfriars or Dominicans were founded by St Dominic (lived c. 1170­-1221) and received the approval of the council of the Lateran in 1215. The rule was founded on that of St Augustine. The tunic, scapular and capuce are white in the case of the priests, but the lay-brothers wear a black scapular and capuce. A black capuce and cloak are worn in choir and out of doors. The Dominicans possessed fifty-eight houses in England at the time of the suppression.
    [2] of Canterbury 1533-1556. A faithful tool of Henry VIII even to the point of violating his own conscience. Deposed, condemned for heresy and burned at the stake under Mary (reigned 1553-1558).
    [3] Intruded into the see of London which he held 1550-1554. Deprived, con­demned for heresy and burned at the stake in 1555.
    [4] Bishop of Worcester 1535-1539. Resigned because he could not subscribe to Henry VIII's attempt to check the Protestant trend. Condemned for heresy and burned at the stake in 1555.



    This church has a late thirteenth-century tower. The nave, the porch and the south wall of the chancel are early thirteenth-century, while the north and east walls of the chancel belong to the latter part of the same century. There is a consecration cross still visible in the north-west respond[1] of the tower.

    Like many Medieval churches and hospitals dedicated to St Giles, this church is located a safe distance outside the city walls (see the section on the Walls). St Giles is the patron of lepers, and his institutions were able to serve lepers who were not allowed into cities. For more on St Giles’ Church see their site.

    [1] A half-pillar at the end of an arcade or abutting a single arch.



    The church stands close to the southern end of the Woodstock Road and is the principal Catholic church of Oxford. The mission was founded in 1785 and the present building dates from 1875. The parish is served by priests of the Society of Jesus.

    In its early days St Aloysius was so successful in attracting converts that it was attacked by a cartoon, depicting Jesuits fishing for mortar-boarded and coronetted souls in a pond. The caption read: ‘Members of the Romish Church are requested not to trespass in Protestant waters and on no account to tamper with the Gold Fish’. Particular scandal was caused by the conversion of the Marquis of Bute, who had been an undergraduate at Christ Church and was later a generous benefactor to St Aloysius. The Jesuits left St Aloysius in the 1980s, though not before destroying its impressive collection of relics, historical vestments and so on. Since 1990 it has been served by a new community of Oratorians, founded from the Birmingham Oratory. See their site.

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    The college of St John the Baptist was founded in 1437 as St Bernard’s College by Henry Chichele,[1] archbishop of Canterbury. It was in­tended to be a house of studies for the Cistercians.[2] In Henry VIII’s reign, it was dissolved with the rest of the monasteries, but was revived for secular students under its present title by Sir Thomas White[3] in 1555.
    There is a statue of St Bernard on the outside of the gatehouse front­ing St Giles’ Street, and one of the Baptist on the inside. The chapel, hall and parts of the first quadrangle date from monastic times. The second quadrangle and the beautiful garden front were built by Arch­bishop Laud.[4] Both he and Bishop Juxon,[5] who attended Charles I[6] on the scaffold, were buried here. Edmund Campion[7] and Cuthbert Mayne[8] the future martyrs, were members of the college.

    With Trinity, St John’s was founded under the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, to go some way to restore University life, religious and academic, after the depredations of the previous two reigns. After the restoration of Protestantism under Queen Elizabeth, it produced many Catholic martyrs, not only St Edmund Campion, SJ, who became convinced of the truth of Catholicism in the course of his studies at St John’s (martyred 1581), and St Cuthbert Mayne (proto-martyr of seminary priests, martyred in 1577), but also Blessed Edward Stransham (1585), St John Roberts, the first superior of the Benedictine community now at Downside (1610), Blessed Thomas Hemerford, Blessed Edward James and Martin Sherton.

    Bl William Hartely, a student of St John's ejected for being a Catholic in 1579, became a seminary priest and was posted to Oxford in 1580 to promote vocations. It was Hartely who was responsible for distributing Campion's Decem Rationes on the pews of St Mary's. He was martyred at Tyburn in 1588.

    St John’s College was a strong supporter of King Charles I in the Civil War, and his son Charles II in the Restoration. So firm were the men of St John’s against Cromwell, that, of 44 Fellows, commoners and servants examined by a Cromwellian commission, only four submitted to the new government’s demands. The rest were ejected from the college by force, many going into exile. Many returned in the Restoration.

    For more history of St John’s, see their site.

    [1] Archbishop of Canterbury 1414-1443.
    [2] The Cistercians or White Monks were a reform of the Benedictines. The abbey of Cîteaux was founded by St Robert of Molesme (lived c. 1029-1111) in 1092, but the system was codified by St Stephen Harding (lived c. 1050-1134), the third abbot of Cîteaux and an Englishman. The reform was really a return to primitive Benedictinism, but it introduced a centralized form of government for those houses which belonged to the movement. The tunic, cowl and hood are white, the scapular black. There were a hundred monasteries belonging to the Cistercians in England at the time of the dissolution.
    [3] Lived 1492-1567.
    [4] President of St John's 1611-1621, bishop of St David's 1621-1626, of Bath and Wells 1626-1628, of London 1628-1633, archbishop of Canterbury 1633-1645.
    [5] President of St John's 1621-1633, bishop of London 1633-1649, archbishop of Canterbury 1660-1663.
    [6] Reigned 1625-1649.
    [7] Lived 1540-1581. Jesuit priest.
    [8] Died 1577. Seminary priest.

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    The original church on the site was Saxon, and the patrons were the canons of St Frideswide’s. After the Norman conquest, the patron­age was transferred first to St George’s in the Castle and then to Osney Abbey.
    In 1194, St Hugh of Avalon[1] enlarged the church, building aisles either side of the nave. About 1294, a chapel of St Catherine was established for the use of Balliol College in the north aisle. The Lady Chapel or south chapel was built by the Carmelites,[2] who owned a large area between St Mary Magdalene’s Church and Worcester College, covering the land called Brokenheys, now occupied by the bus station. The chapel, which was dedicated to Our Lady of Pity, was finished about 1320 and served as a choir for the friars. It was built against the existing south wall of the church over a crypt erected by St Hugh and had a west door of its own immediately opposite Friars’ Entry, a lane which still survives on the west side of Magdalen Street. It was through this alley that the friars came to church from their monastery. In the early sixteenth century, the wall between the chapel and the rest of the church was pulled down, and the porch belonging to it was turned to face south, the inner door being blocked at the same time. There are traces of this door in the west wall of the south chapel. In the south aisle was a chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury.
    There is some thirteenth-century work at the east end of the chancel, in the south aisle, and in the west wall of the church south of the tower. The south wall is largely fourteenth-century. The tower, the piers of the nave and the west side of the porch are sixteenth-century. The walls of the north chapel are modern.

    St Mary Magdalene is famous for its ‘high church’ tradition. See their site.

    [1] Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200.
    [2] The Carmelites are first heard of in the twelfth century when they were expelled from the Holy Land by the Saracens. The rule is founded on that of St Basil (bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia 370-379) and it was confirmed by Innocent IV (pope 1243-1254) in 1250. The tunic, scapular and capuce are brown, the cloak and the upper capuce are white. There were about forty English houses at the suppression.