Oxford Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameOxford Town Wall
Alternative NamesMartyrs Tower
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishOxford

Town defences. There is some evidence for pre-Conquest defences and they are mentioned in Domesday. It is probable that the defences were restored and strengthened soon after the Conquest. Some rebuilding took place 1226-40 when bastions were added. Some portions of medieval town wall survive, best preserve part by New College. Uniquely may have had a two circuits of concentric walls. A licence for the mayor and commons of Oxford to extend the ditch to 200ft width was revoked because it was obtained during the peasants revolt.

Town Defences. Monument contains a number of phases ranging from earth and timber bank of Late Saxon date, likely Norman stone wall, later Medieval Wall and ditch with towers/bastions. An outer defence was added in the north east corner. City re-defended/defences repaired and strengthened during Civil War. (Oxford Urban Archaeological Database 3)

Oxford was among the towns listed in the Burghal Hidage where the number of hides suggests that the rampart enclosed a smaller area than the later medieval wall. The rampart was probably timber and earth, with an outer ditch. The western side is thought to have run just west of St Ebbe's Street and New Inn Hall Street and the northern along the same line as the medieval wall. There is some supporting evidence for this from excavations. The southern line is uncertain, but evidence from Pembroke College might suggest it again follows the medieval wall line. The eastern side was thought to run just west of Catte Street and Magpie Lane. One possible find of ditch fill was made in 1979. There is more evidence for a possible later extension to the east on the line of the medieval wall. The line of the defences at Christ Church is uncertain and there have been suggestions of alternative lines for the western side, including a western extension as far as St George's Tower. There is some possible excavation evidence for this. (Oxford Urban Archaeological Database 2)

Gatehouse Comments

St Michael's Tower at Northgate and St George's Tower in the castle may both have been lordly residence and associated with Anglo-Saxon Oxford's town gates. It is possibly similar towers and similar arrangements of lordly responsibility for the town gates existed at the town east and south gates.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSP514064
Latitude51.7545700073242
Longitude-1.25241994857788
Eastings451400
Northings206400
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 116-9
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) passim
  • < >Dodd, Anne (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) < > (esp chap4 by Julian Munby and David Wilkinson)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 74
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 205-6
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 388
  • 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
  • Barley, M.W., 1975, 'Town Defences in England and Wales after 1066' in Barley (ed) The plans and topography of medieval towns in England and Wales (CBA Research Report 14) p. 57-71 plan p. 66 download/view online
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 121-2
  • RCHME, 1939, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford (HMSO) p. 159-61 plate 214 online transcription
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 220-2
  • Penny, F.H. and Merry, W. M., 1899, Buried Oxford Unearthed (Oxford)

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Haslam, J., 2010, ‘The origin of the two burhs of Oxford’ Oxoniensia Vol. 75 p. 25-34 online copy
  • 2009, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 39 p. 38
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • 2002, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 32 p. 56-7 (bastions) 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)
  • 1995, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 25 p. 53, 55 online copy
  • 1994, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 24 p. 46 online copy
  • Coulson, Charles, 1993 Aug, 'Specimens of Freedom to Crenellate by Licence' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 18 p. 3-15
  • Turner, H.L., 1990, 'The mural Mansions of Oxford: attempted identifications' Oxoniensia Vol. 55 p. 73-9 online copy
  • 1988, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 18 p. 84 online copy
  • 1987, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 17 p. 91-2 (bastions) online copy
  • 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
  • 1983, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 13 p. 103, 136, 139 online copy
  • Durham, B., 1982, 'Oxford: Corpus Christi College' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 12 p. 156-7, 159 (bastions) and p. 109, 117 online copy
  • 1981, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 11 p. 130-133 online copy
  • 1980, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 10 138, 155-7 online copy
  • 1979, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 9 p. 130-2 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1978, 'Oxford, the city walls' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 135 p. 258-62
  • 1977, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 7 p. 75 online copy
  • Palmer, N., 1976, 'Excavations on the outer city wall of Oxford in St Helen's Passage and Hertford College' Oxoniensia Vol. 41 p. 148-60 online copy
  • 1976, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 6 p. 74 online copy
  • 1974, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 18 p. 183 download copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1974, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 4 p. 22-23 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1973, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 3 p. 30-1 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1973, 'Excavations at Oxford, 1972: fifth interim report' Oxoniensia Vol. 38 p. 268-98 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1972, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 2 p. 33-4 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1972, 'Excavations at Oxford, 1971: fourth interim report' Oxoniensia Vol. 37 p. 137-9 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1971, 'Excavations in Merton College, Oxford, 1970' Oxoniensia Vol. 36 p. 34-48 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1971, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 1 p. 23 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1970, 'Excavations at Oxford, 1969: second interim report' Oxoniensia Vol. 35 p. 5-18 online copy
  • Sturdy, D., 1961-2, 'Recent Excavations in Christ Church and Nearby' Oxoniensia Vol. 26-27 p. 19-27 online copy
  • Hunter, A.G. and Jope, E.M., 1951, 'Excavations on the city defences in New College, Oxford, 1949' Oxoniensia Vol. 16 p. 28-41 online copy
  • Rickard, R.L., 1943, 'The East Gate of Oxford' Oxoniensia Vol. 8 p. 203-5 online copy
  • Daniell, J. and Leeds, E.T., 1939, 'The City Wall and Ditch in the Clarendon Quadrangle' Oxoniensia Vol. 4 p. 153-61 online copy
  • Bruton, E.G., 1891, 'The town walls of Oxford' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 47 p. 109-19 (plan) online copy
  • Parker, 1866, Oxford Architectural Society (new ser) Vol. 5 p. 21-31
  • Parker, 1861, Oxford Architectural Society (new ser) Vol. 1 p. 38-45

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1225-1232) p. 62, 138, 271, 495; (1232-47) p. 110, 189; (1247-1258) p. 103, 118, 570; (1258-1266) p. 300; (1281-1291) p. 197; (1292-1301) p. 603; (1321-1324) p. 41; (1324-1327) p. 324; (1345-1348) p. 244 (murage grants) online copies via University of Iowa LibrariesMaxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1910, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1258-66) Vol. 5 p. 663 (Order to mayor, bailiffs and good men of Oxford to repair walls) [online copy > http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/patentrolls/h3v5/body/Henry3vol5page0663.pdf]
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1897, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1381-85) Vol. 2 p. 16 (licence to build ditch - revoked) online copy
  • Slater, H.E. (ed), (was series volume for 1917 but not published until 1920), Munimenta Civitatis Oxonie (Oxford Historical Society 71) p. 147-8, 255-6, 258, 283 (Turner writes 'The chamberlains' accounts indicate only small expenditure on the walls')
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/murindex.html], [petitions > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/mupindex.html ] and [other such > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/muaindex.html]. < >

Other

  • Haslam, J., forthcoming, The wall tenements of Oxford and the process of burghal formation online draft