St. Michael at the Northgate Tower

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Town House, and also as a Possible Fortified Ecclesiastical site, and also as a Possible Urban Defence

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameSt. Michael at the Northgate Tower
Alternative Names
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishOxford

Although now a church tower it has been suggested that the late Saxon masonry tower 'may have formed part of a complex defensive arrangement' (Dodds p. 164)

John Blair's hypothesis of the identification of the tower of St Michael's as part of the official residence of one of the earls of Mercia would also be quite consistent with the processes shown by the cooperation of the earls with the king in the formation and upkeep of the defences of burhs in the late Anglo-Saxon period, which is evident in historical sources. (Haslam)

Gatehouse Comments

It may be that the tower represents a combined Bell-house and Burh-geat of a thegnal burh, or the collegiate church at a fortified residence of an aristocrat (or senior royal official). However, the site is integral with the town defences and may also be considered in that light.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSP512063
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • < >Durham, B., Munby, J., Blair, J., and Dodd, A., 2003, ' St Michael at the Northgate Tower Survey 1985-86' in Anne Dodd (ed), 2003, Oxford before the university: the late Saxon and Norman archaeology of the Thames crossing, the defences and the town (Oxford Archaeology: Thames Valley landscape monograph 17) < > p. 152-64
  • Hassall, T.G., 1979, 'City walls, gates, and postems' in A Crossley (ed), A Victoria History of the County of Oxford Vol. 4, The City of Oxford (OUP for the Institute of Historical Research) p. 300-4 online transcription


  • Haslam, J., 2010, 'The origin of the two burhs of Oxford' Oxoniensia Vol. 75 p. 22-3 online copy
  • < >Parsons, D., 1994, 'The west tower of St Michael at the Northgate, Oxford' Appendix I. to Renn, D.F. 'Burhgeat and Gonfanon: Two Sidelights from the Bayeux Tapestry' Anglo-Norman Studies Vol. 16 p. 177-86 < > (Reprinted in Liddiard, Robert (ed), 2003, Anglo Norman Castles (Woodbridge: Boydell) p. 85-9)
  • Durham, B., 1986, 'St. Michael at the Northgate Tower' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 16 p. 104-5 online copy
  • Durham, B., Halpin, C. and Palmer, N., 1983, 'Oxford's northern defences: Archaeological studies 1971–1982' Oxoniensia Vol. 48 p. 13–40 online copy


  • Shapland, Michael, 2012, Buildings of Secular and Religious Lordship: Anglo-Saxon Tower-nave Churches (PhD Thesis University College London) passim but esp Appendix 1.20 online via UCL Discovery