[24] In 1074 D'Oyly and his close friend, Roger d'Ivry had endowed a chapel with a college of priests, which is presumed to be the structure in question; at an early stage it acquired a dedication to Saint George. [61] In 1888 national prison reforms led to the renaming of the county prison as HM Prison Oxford. Originally built in 1071 by Normans who came across with William the Conqueror, the castle was later turned into a prison. [45] Ingoldsby improved the fortification of the castle rather than the surrounding town, and in 1649 demolished most of the medieval stonework, replacing it with more modern earth bulwarks and reinforcing the keep with earth works to form a probable gun-platform. [4] Oxford Castle is not among the 48 recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, but not every castle in existence at the time was recorded in the survey. [57] The wider castle site had already begun to change by the late 18th century, with New Road being built through the bailey and the last parts of the castle moat being filled in to allow the building of the new Oxford Canal terminus. The ten-sided stone shell keep, 58 feet (18 m), constructed in the 13th century to replace an earlier wooden structure, closely resembled those of Tonbridge and Arundel Castles. In 1142 the Empress Matilda was besieged in the castle by King Stephen and the castle was again attacked in 1215 during the 'Barons' War'. The development of Oxford Castle began in 1071 when, having fought alongside him during the Norman Conquest of 1066, Robert d’Oilly built Oxford Castle for William the Conqueror. Oxford Castle was built between 1071 to 1073 by baron Robert D'Oyly, a friend of William the Conqueror. [42], After the Civil War, Oxford Castle served primarily as the local prison. According to the Abingdon Chronicle, Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly the elder from 1071–73. While sightseeing in the city center, be sure to include the … [2] Oxford had been stormed in the invasion with considerable damage, and William directed D'Oyly to build a castle to dominate the town. Since 1954 the two oldest parts of the castle have been Grade I listed buildings: the 11th-century motte with its 13th-century well-chamber,[64] the circa 11th-century St George's tower (listed as Norman, but now generally believed to be Saxon), the relocated crypt chapel, and the 18th-century D-wing and Debtors' Tower. In central Oxford in Oxfordshire is a partly ruined Norman Medieval castle called… Oxford Castle! [7][a], D'Oyly positioned his castle to the west side of the town, using the natural protection of a stream off the River Thames on the far side of the castle, now called Castle Mill Stream, and diverting the stream to produce a moat. (2003), Hassall, T. G. (1971) "Excavations at Oxford," in, Hassall, T. G. (1976) "Excavations at Oxford Castle: 1965-1973," in, Jope, E. M. "Late Saxon Pits Under Oxford Castle Mound: Excavations in 1952," in. It was almost demolished in 1805, and was only saved as … According to the Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis (Abingdon Chronicle),[1] Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly the elder from 1071–73. [39] Thereafter assizes ceased to be held at the castle.[39]. Oxford Castle, Oxford, Oxfordshire Owned by: Oxfordshire County Council Large, partly ruined Norman medieval castle. It saw action during the Anarchy where it was the scene of Matilda’s dramatic escape from King Stephen in the midst of a snow storm. The surviving rectangular St George's Tower is now believed to pre-date the remainder of the castle and be a watch tower associated with the original Saxon west gate of the city. However, by the 14th century the castle was in a ruinous state, at least in part. [10], The initial castle was probably a large motte and bailey, copying the plan of the castle that D'Oyly had already built 12 miles (19 km) away at Wallingford. Later, in the 18th century, the castle has again used a place to detain prisoners, but this time prisoners were only local, not from across the county. [65] As at 2018, guided tours of the surviving medieval and 18th century portions are available to visitors via a commercial operator, Heritage Projects (Oxford Castle) Ltd, with opening hours and pricing available via their website. Largely abandoned by the late 16th century – though it was briefly refortified in the Civil War – the castle ultimately evolved into a prison that operated until 1996. [13], By the late 12th to early 13th century, the original palisade walls and wooden keep had been replaced in stone. "Oxford Archaeological Resource Assessment 2011 - Norman (1066-1205). In the 19th century the site continued to be developed, with various new buildings built including the new County Hall in 1840–41 and the Oxfordshire Militia Armoury in 1854. [41] By this time Oxford Castle was in a weakened state, with a large crack running down the side of the keep. Parliamentary forces successfully besieged Oxford in 1646 and the city was occupied by Colonel Ingoldsby. Oxford Castle and Prison Guided Tour (From $18.37) City Sightseeing Oxford Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (From $22.54) Oxford Private Guided Walking Tour (From $350.31) Improve your confidence in speaking English on 2-weekend courses in Oxford, UK. 1 mill, value 0.5 [pounds]. Constructed by Baron Robert D’Oyly the elder in 1073, Oxford Castle was originally a wooden, motte-and-bailey castle. Christ Church Cathedral (1160–1200) Many college chapels are impressive, but the Oxford college … Most of the original moated, wooden motte and bailey castle was replaced in stone in the late 12th or early 13th century and the castle played an important role in the conflict of the Anarchy. According to a medieval chronicle of the 12th century called the … The castle was built on the west side of the Saxon town that had offered resistance to … http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/1976/hassall.pdf, http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/1952-3/jope.pdf. Robert also built Oxford’s first bridges (Magdalen, Folly, and Hythe). [25] Stephen would have had difficulty in supplying his men through the winter period, and this decision shows the apparent strength of Oxford Castle at the time. The well-preserved keep, described by historian R. Allen Brown as "one of the most remarkable keeps in England", is of a unique design and probably based on Byzantine architecture. [37], By 1327 the fortification, particularly the castle gates and the barbican, was in poor condition and £800 was estimated to be required for repairs. [54] In the 1770s the prison reformer John Howard visited the castle several times, and criticised its size and quality, including the extent to which vermin infested the prison. [58] The work was completed under Daniel Harris in 1805. The castle was mostly destroyed during the English Civil War and what was left of the castle was converted into HM Prison Oxford. https://library.thehumanjourney.net/1148/1/OXPSWA09.pdfA.pdf, http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/2009/poore.pdf, Oxford Castle & Prison Visitor Attraction, Gatehouse Website record for Oxford Castle, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Oxford_Castle&oldid=984878879, Buildings and structures completed in 1073, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Beckley, Ruth and Radford, David (compilers) (2012). Although it was never a castle of the first rank as a royal or seigneurial stronghold, it was an active county castle throughout the medieval period. There are only two of these tunnels in England. The castle has played an important role in the history of Oxford and of England. (eds) (1979) Victoria County History: Gravett, Christopher and Adam Hook. Fascinating English Civil War Battlefields, Monuments and Sites. [56], In 1785 the castle was bought by the Oxford County Justices and rebuilding began under the London architect William Blackburn. Artist: Henry Taunt, Oxford Council: Historic Urban Character Area 12: Castle and Periphery - Oxford Castle, Signboard from Oxfordshire County Council on Oxford Castle Site, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire: Norman Oxford (Ashmolean Museum), Plan of Oxford Castle (provenance unknown), View of Oxford Castle, 1769 (www.alamy.com), The North View of Oxford Castle (sandersofoxford.com), Oxford Castle, Oxfordshire, from Francis Grose's, View of Castle Hill, Oxford by Michael Angelo Rooker (1746–1801), from Oxfordshire County Museums Service, Oxford Castle and the Castle Mound, 27 May 1784. [32], In the Barons' War of 1215–17 the castle was attacked again, prompting further improvements in its defences. As was de rigeur in the 17th and 18th centuries, prison warders charged the inmates for their board and lodging and Oxford was no different. The prison was closed in 1996 and the site reverted to Oxfordshire County Council. Inside the walls the buildings included a chapel with a crypt attached to St. Georges Tower,[16] which may be on the site of a previous church. Oxford Castle was built in 1071 at the west end of the thriving late Saxon town. MacKenzie, p.149; Gravett and Hook, p.43. [62] The mixed-use heritage project, officially opened on 5 May 2006, won the RICS Project of the Year Award 2007. [25] The keep enclosed a number of buildings, leaving an inner courtyard only 22 feet (7 m) across. According to the Abingdon Chronicle, Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly the elder from 1071–73. [34] The remaining wooden buildings were replaced in stone, including the new Round Tower which was built in 1235. [20][21][22] The date of the remaining towers is uncertain although the southernmost, round tower, of which the base still remains, is dated to 1235 in various documentary sources, including Woolnoth's The Ancient Castles of England and Wales of 1825; in at least one source, it is referred to as "Henry III's Tower".[23]. A new prison complex was built on the site from 1785 onwards and expanded in 1876; this became HM Prison Oxford. Ralph Agas's map of Oxford in 1578 shows that by then, while the curtain wall, keep and towers remained, the barbican had been demolished to make way for houses. Oxford has built a reputation on finding the finest materials and combining with modern design trends - and its signature fine tailoring service. The castle had several owners between the 14th and 18th centuries. The Oxford Prison buildings have since been redeveloped as a restaurant and heritage complex, with guided tours of the historic buildings and open courtyards for markets and theatrical performances. [3] In due course D'Oyly became the foremost landowner in Oxfordshire and was confirmed with a hereditary royal constableship for Oxford Castle. (There’s a surprise!) [33] The prison itself was extended in 1876, growing to occupy most of the remaining space. [13] The chapel originally had a nave, chancel and an apsidal sanctuary. [15] This was the tallest of the castle's towers, and is now believed to be a survival from late Saxon times (c. 1020) as a watch tower associated with the west gate of the Saxon city. The prison closed in 1996 and was redeveloped as a hotel and visitor attraction. [31] At the end of the war the constableship of Oxford Castle was granted to Roger de Bussy before being reclaimed by Henry D'Oyly, Robert D'Oyly the younger's son, in 1154. [58] The site is protected as a Scheduled Monument. Just as empires rise and fall so do entry fees and opening hours! [35] King Henry III turned part of the castle into a prison, specifically for holding troublesome University clerks, and also improved the castle chapel, replacing the older barred windows with stained glass in 1243 and 1246. Although there is no hard evidence, Oxford Prison is believed by some to be one of the most haunted places in England and – unverified – reports include ghostly figures wandering through the castle, poltergeist activity, eerie white mists and disembodied footsteps…. In due course D'Oyly became the foremost landowner in Oxfordshire an… MacKenzie, p.149; Gravett and Hook, p.44. The keep stands within the earth-bank remains of the castle's outer fortifications. The site today is occupied by the local prison. Artist John Baptist Malchair. [42] A map of the castle prepared for Christ Church College in 1615 shows the keep on its mound, St. George's Tower with associated buildings and sections of the curtain wall remaining to the north and south, and the next tower to the south, plus a single remaining tower to the north-east, as well as the Castle Mill and a southern entrance to the castle complex;[43][44] according to this map, by 1615 houses and their gardens had been built up to over half of the Castle Ditch or moat, which appears to still contain water. (Photo by Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images), St Georges Tower, St Georges Chapel Crypt and D Wing Including the Debtors Tower, Oxford Castle mugshots show 'victims of their time, Oxford Castle and Prison Visitor Information, https://www.oxford.gov.uk/downloads/file/1624/norman_oxford_1066_-_1205, http://oxoniensia.org/volumes/2003/booth2.pdf. After the English Civil War in the late 1650s it was, like many of England’s urban castles, converted into a prison with a fearsome reputation for brutality; a reputation that endured until it ceased operation in 1996. In the 14th century the military value of the castle diminished and the site became used primarily for county administration and as a prison. [26] Stephen set up two siege mounds beside the castle, called Jew's Mount and Mount Pelham, on which he placed siege engines, largely for show, and proceeded to wait for Matilda's supplies to run low over the next three months. [2] After initially supporting King Stephen, Robert declared his support for Empress Matilda, Stephen's cousin and rival for the throne, and in 1141 the Empress marched to Oxford to base her campaign at the castle. Today, the remains of the Saxon St.George's Tower, Motte-and-Bailey Mound, the Prison D-Wing and Debtor's Tower make up the Oxford Castle & Prison tourist attraction. Oxford had been stormed in the invasion with considerable damage, and William directed D'Oyly to build a castle to dominate the town. Built in 1071 by Robert d'Oilly, Oxford Castle was in existence as a prison up until as recently as 1996. [2] ";[6] the mill mentioned is presumably the Castle Mill, formerly adjacent to the still surviving St. George's Tower, rebuilt in 1781 before eventually being demolished in 1930. [25] Robert had died in the final weeks of the siege and the castle was granted to William de Chesney for the remainder of the war. [33] The castle became the centre for the administration of the county of Oxford, a jail, and a criminal court. [29], Finally in December, Matilda responded by escaping from the castle; the popular version of this has the Empress waiting until the Castle Mill Stream was frozen over and then dressed in white as camouflage in the snow, being lowered down the walls with three or four knights, before escaping through Stephen's lines in the night as the king's sentries tried to raise the alarm. (1998) "Malchair and the Oxford Topographical Tradition," in Harrison (ed) 1998. Tyack, p.8; Hassall 1976, p.235; MacKenzie, p.149; Davies, pp.91–2. [46] In 1652, in the third English Civil War, the Parliamentary garrison responded to the proximity of Charles II's forces by pulling down these defences as well and retreating to New College instead, causing great damage to the college in the process. Originally the castle was a moated, wooden motte and bailey castle, built by the Norman baron, Robert D’Oyly the elder, from 1071 to 1073. Visitors to Oxford Castle Unlocked enjoy a 50-minute tour with a character guide from the castle’s colourful history.. For the majority of the 18th century, it was run by two local families but fell quickly into disrepair. This page was last edited on 22 October 2020, at 17:11. [47] As with other prisons at the time, the owners, in this case Christ Church College, leased the castle to wardens who would profit by charging prisoners for their board and lodging. The college then leased it to a number of local families over the coming years. In 1611 King James I sold Oxford Castle to Francis James and Robert Younglove, who in turn sold it to Christ Church College in 1613. The complex includes a hotel in the Malmaison chain, Malmaison Oxford, occupying a large part of the former prison blocks, with cells converted as guest rooms. It was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II of England to consolidate royal power in the region. Map drawn after Hassall 1971, p.2; Tyack, p.6, p.80. Oxford Castle was built in 1071 at the west end of the thriving late Saxon town. Culture castles castles Thick walls and strong towers are characteristic features of Britain's castles.When built, they were solid buildings with few comforts, designed for the defence of a town or region. In fact, it stopped being a castle during the reign of Henry VIII and it became a full-scale prison, which operated until 1996, with the last hanging happening in the middle of the ’50s. Heritage Projects (Oxford Castle) Ltd Registered in England No: 5763243 Registered Office: St. Edmund's House, Margaret Street, YORK, YO10 4UX [29] Matilda safely reached Abingdon-on-Thames and Oxford Castle surrendered to Stephen the next day. D'Oyly had arrived in England with William I in the Norman Conquest of England and William the Conquerorgranted him extensive lands in Oxfordshire. A History of the County of Oxford, Volume 4: The City of Oxford. [59] Harris gained a reasonable salary as the new governor and used convict labour from the prison to conduct early archaeological excavations at the castle with the help of the antiquarian Edward King.[60]. The local justices ordered a rebuild in 1785 which included a Debtor’s Tower and it was finished by 1805. If you know of any information on this page that needs updating you can add a comment above or e-mail us. The tour of the historic buildings takes in the Saxon stone-built St. George’s Tower, the atmospheric Norman crypt, the preserved Georgian prison wing and the man-made mound, with breath-taking birds'-eye views of the city. [63], The full extent of the original castle is somewhat obliterated today, especially with the intrusion of the newer County Hall into the eastern side, while New Road runs over the location of north-east portion of the curtain wall with its two square towers; nevertheless the position of its outer perimeter moat is approximated by portions of New Road, Castle Street and Paradise Street (refer map at right), while the remains of the original Barbican lie underneath the modern Westgate shopping centre. Later Oxford served as the Royal capital during the Civil … Assizes were held there until 1577, when plague broke out in what became known as the "Black Assize": the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, two knights, eighty gentlemen and the entire grand jury for the session all died, including Sir Robert D'Oyley, a relative of the founder of the castle. The Motte was built within 5 years of the Conquest, and sited in a position to control the town and areas to the west. [9] The motte was originally about 60 feet (18 m) high and 40 feet (12 m) wide, constructed like the bailey from layers of gravel and strengthened with clay facing. [36] Due to the presence of Beaumont Palace to the north of Oxford, however, the castle never became a royal residence. Construction of Oxford Castle began in 1071 and was completed in 1073. [9] Oxford Castle was an "urban castle", overlying a portion of the Saxon town wall, but it remains uncertain whether local buildings were demolished to make room for it. [45] In the event, Oxford saw no fresh fighting; early in the 18th century, however, the keep was demolished and the top of the motte landscaped to its current form. Built by the Normans in the 11th century for William the Conqueror, Oxford Castle has been in almost continuous operation for 1,000 years. [47] The prison also had a gallows to execute prisoners, such as Mary Blandy in 1752. 1074: Managed by a college of canons, D’Oilly also founded a chapel at Oxford Castle, which he dedicated and aptly named after St George. D'Oyly had arrived in England with William I in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and William the Conqueror granted him extensive lands in Oxfordshire. Munby, Julian. Poore et al. Excavations at Oxford Castle: Oxford’s Western Quarter from the Mid-Saxon Period to the Late Eighteenth Century (Based on Daniel Poore’s Tom Hassall Lecture for 2008). About 1 200 castles were built in the 11th and 12th centuries, but the grandest were built when Edward I was king (1272–1307). *SPOILER ALERT* When a prisoner was ‘sent down’ it meant he or she was sent down a tunnel leading from the County courtroom into Oxford Prison. Built by the Normans in the 11th century for William the Conqueror, Oxford Castle has been in almost continuous operation for 1,000 years. 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