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Oxford Town Wall

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Martyrs Tower

In the civil parish of Oxford.
In the historic county of Oxfordshire.
Modern Authority of Oxfordshire.
1974 county of Oxfordshire.
Medieval County of Oxfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP514064
Latitude 51.75457° Longitude -1.25242°

Oxford Town Wall has been described as a certain Urban Defence.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


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 A licence for the mayor and commons of Oxford to extend the ditch to 200ft width was revoked because it was obtained during the peasants revolt.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)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1381 June 15 (Click on the date for details of this licence.) but then revoked.


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.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:07

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