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. Oxford Castle, Oxford, Oxfordshire Owned by: Oxfordshire County Council Large, partly ruined Norman medieval castle. Further additions and renovations over the next century were required and in 1888 after the prison reforms it became HM Prison Oxford.  Within the keep, stairs led 20 feet (6 m) down to an underground 12 feet (3.7 m) wide stone chamber, with an Early English hexagonal vault and a 54 feet (16 m) deep well providing water in the event of siege. 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. (2009) give a suggested street plan of the town in late Saxon times (their figure 4) showing the then town wall with its north, west, south and east gates; at the north gate is the Saxon tower now associated with the church of St Michael at the North Gate, while the west gate is occupied by the apparently Saxon tower of St. George's, which is now believed to have subsequently been incorporated into the fabric of the later Norman castle. Built by Robert d'Oilly in 1071, the original wooden motte and bailey castle was rebuilt in stone during the 11th century. , By 1327 the fortification, particularly the castle gates and the barbican, was in poor condition and £800 was estimated to be required for repairs. The castle was built by Henry II between 1165 and 1173 to help maintain Royal control over that part of the country and to repel invaders. ", Booth, Paul, et al. In the 14th century the military value of the castle diminished and the site became used primarily for county administration and as a prison. Just as empires rise and fall so do entry fees and opening hours! The medieval remains of the castle, including the motte and St George's Tower and crypt, are Grade I listed buildings and a Scheduled Monument. *SPOILER ALERT* When a prisoner was âsent downâ it meant he or she was sent down a tunnel leading from the County courtroom into Oxford Prison.  For most of the 18th century, the castle prison was run by the local Etty and Wisdom families and was in increasing disrepair.  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. Most of the castle was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century the remaining buildings had become Oxford's local prison.  Stephen responded by marching from Bristol in the Autumn of 1142, attacking and seizing the town of Oxford and besieging Matilda in the castle. The tour of the historic buildings takes in the Saxon stone-built St. Georgeâs Tower, the atmospheric Norman crypt, the preserved Georgian prison wing and the man-made mound, with breath-taking birds'-eye views of the city. Tyack, p.8; Hassall 1976, p.235; MacKenzie, p.149; Davies, pp.91–2. Artist John Baptist Malchair.  From the 1350s onwards the castle had little military use and was increasingly allowed to fall into disrepair. (Thereâs a surprise!)  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.  In due course D'Oyly became the foremost landowner in Oxfordshire and was confirmed with a hereditary royal constableship for Oxford Castle. One such scholar was Welsh monk Geoffrey of Monmouth who in 1136 wrote the stories from which the legend of King Arthur emerged.  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. It was a typical early Norman design with solid pillars and arches. Heritage Projects (Oxford Castle) Ltd Registered in England No: 5763243 Registered Office: St. Edmund's House, Margaret Street, YORK, YO10 4UX (1998) "Malchair and the Oxford Topographical Tradition," in Harrison (ed) 1998. While sightseeing in the city center, be sure to include the â¦ The castle had several owners between the 14th and 18th centuries. Robert also built Oxfordâs first bridges (Magdalen, Folly, and Hythe). Today, visitors on the guided tour â hosted by costumed guides â can explore the original castle, climb down into the 900 year-old crypt and hear stories of public hangings (the last of which was in 1863), the brutality of 18th and 19th century prison life, the Debtorâs Tower and the origins of the phrase âto be sent downâ.  The chronicler William of Malmesbury, however, suggests Matilda did not descend the walls, but instead escaped from one of the gates. University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.  The chapel originally had a nave, chancel and an apsidal sanctuary. A History of the County of Oxford, Volume 4: The City of Oxford.  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. 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. While we work as hard as we can to ensure the information provided here about Oxford Castle is as accurate as possible, the changing nature of certain elements mean we can't absolutely guarantee that these details won't become a thing of the past. The site today is occupied by the local prison. 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. Inside the walls the buildings included a chapel with a crypt attached to St. Georges Tower, which may be on the site of a previous church. 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. The castle was mostly destroyed during the English Civil War and what was left of the castle was converted into HM Prison Oxford.  Building the new prison included demolishing the old chapel attached to St George's tower and repositioning part of the crypt in 1794.  There has been debate as to whether there was an earlier English fortification on the site, but whilst there is archaeological evidence of earlier Anglo-Saxon habitation there is no conclusive evidence of fortification. Oxford Castle was built between 1071 to 1073 by baron Robert D'Oyly, a friend of William the Conqueror. Oxford Castle & Prison 44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford OX1 1AY T: 01865 260666. Built by the Normans in the 11th century for William the Conqueror, Oxford Castle has been in almost continuous operation for 1,000 years. 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).  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. Poore, Daniel, Norton, Andrew and Dodd, Anne (2009). MacKenzie, p.149; Gravett and Hook, p.43. As detailed below, the crypt of this chapel still survives, albeit in a new location within the castle, having been moved and reconstructed from its original materials in 1794. The original 11th century earthwork mound was added to with stone fortifications and a stone keep and in 1074, St Georgeâs Chapel was built.  The prison also had a gallows to execute prisoners, such as Mary Blandy in 1752.  In 1220 Falkes de Breauté, who controlled many royal castles in the middle of England, demolished the Church of St Budoc to the south-east of the castle and built a moated barbican to further defend the main gate.  The keep enclosed a number of buildings, leaving an inner courtyard only 22 feet (7 m) across.  The site is protected as a Scheduled Monument. The development of Oxford Castle began in 1071 when, having fought alongside him during the Norman Conquest of 1066, Robert dâOilly built Oxford Castle for William the Conqueror. 1 mill, value 0.5 [pounds].  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; 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. 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.  Thereafter assizes ceased to be held at the castle.. 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. However, those parts of the prison associated with corporal or capital punishment have been converted to offices rather than being used for guests. A new prison complex was built on the site from 1785 onwards and expanded in 1876; this became HM Prison Oxford. 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. 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. Now a museum and tourist site, it also offers stunning panoramic views over Oxford from one of the cityâs oldest buildings. Oxford Delineated: A sketch of the history and antiquities.  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. Oxford Castle, Oxford, Oxfordshire, c1860-c1922.  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.  Matilda safely reached Abingdon-on-Thames and Oxford Castle surrendered to Stephen the next day. 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. Originally built in 1071 by Normans who came across with William the Conqueror, the castle was later turned into a prison. , 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.  The remaining wooden buildings were replaced in stone, including the new Round Tower which was built in 1235. According to the Abingdon Chronicle, Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly the elder from 1071â73.  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. Oxford has built a reputation on finding the finest materials and combining with modern design trends - and its signature fine tailoring service. Although it was never a castle of the first rank as a royal or seigneurial stronghold, it was an â¦  The work was completed under Daniel Harris in 1805. Built in 1071, Oxford Castle was an imposing fortification with one of the largest mottes in the country. 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'. According to the Abingdon Chronicle, Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly the elder from 1071â73. (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. The castle in Oxford, for example, is not exactly a castle anymore. (2009), who comment that "a single, massive stone tower does not seem to belong within the outer defences of an earth-and-timber castle", and other sources have concurred on architectural grounds, also noting that its orientation does not match that of the remainder of the castle, and that its height would have originally afforded an extensive view over the city, but which would have been superseded (and in fact, blocked) with the construction of the castle motte.  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. It was the first collegiate church in an English castle â in Norman times the canons included scholars in their number â and the chapel is widely believed to be the seed from which the giant learning tree of Oxford University was built. Visitors to Oxford Castle Unlocked enjoy a 50-minute tour with a character guide from the castleâs colourful history.. It was almost demolished in 1805, and was only saved as â¦ Robert dâOilly was appointed the first Norman governor of Oxford and was responsible for building Oxford Castle, of which all that remains is the motte (mound) and the tower of the Church of St. George in the castle. Fascinating English Civil War Battlefields, Monuments and Sites. According to the Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis (Abingdon Chronicle), Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron Robert D'Oyly the elder from 1071â73. Christ Church Cathedral (1160â1200) Many college chapels are impressive, but the Oxford college â¦  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. Orford Castle is a castle in Orford in the English county of Suffolk, 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Ipswich, with views over Orford Ness. 1074: Managed by a college of canons, DâOilly also founded a chapel at Oxford Castle, which he dedicated and aptly named after St George. However, by the 14th century the castle was in a ruinous state, at least in part. 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 â50s.  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. Built by the Normans in the 11th century for William the Conqueror, Oxford Castle has been in almost continuous operation for 1,000 years. , St George's Tower, Oxford Castle, viewed from the Castle Mill Stream.  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. Hassall, 1976, states that by 1600 the moat was almost entirely silted up and houses had been built all around the edge of the bailey wall, although this is contradicted by the castle's appearance in John Speed's map of Oxford, 1605. 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. There are only two of these tunnels in England.  A view of the castle published in 1769 in the work "England Displayed" by P. Russell and Owen Price is of interest in that it shows the appearance of the chapel attached to St George's tower prior to its demolition in 1794, as well as the motte and some then-surviving portions of the curtain wall including an arch or gateway in the wall immediately to the north of the tower. Oxford Castle was built 1071 by Robert D'Oilly for William the Conqueror.  The mixed-use heritage project, officially opened on 5 May 2006, won the RICS Project of the Year Award 2007. This page was last edited on 22 October 2020, at 17:11. The castle has played an important role in the history of Oxford and of England. [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. "; 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. , 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.  The prison itself was extended in 1876, growing to occupy most of the remaining space. After the English Civil War in the late 1650s it was, like many of Englandâs urban castles, converted into a prison with a fearsome reputation for brutality; a reputation that endured until it ceased operation in 1996. Although there is no hard evidence, Oxford Prison is believed by some to be one of the most haunted places in England and â unverified â reports include ghostly figures wandering through the castle, poltergeist activity, eerie white mists and disembodied footstepsâ¦. Parliamentary forces successfully besieged Oxford in 1646 and the city was occupied by Colonel Ingoldsby. Poore et al. D'Oyly had arrived in England with William I in the Norman Conquest of England and William the Conquerorgranted him extensive lands in Oxfordshire. , 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. The local justices ordered a rebuild in 1785 which included a Debtorâs Tower and it was finished by 1805. Construction of Oxford Castle began in 1071 and was completed in 1073.  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