The Oxford Castle Quarter
It may not come as a surprise to many people but the Oxford Castle Quarter is very old. Very old indeed. Saxon in origin its history spans ten centuries, beginning even before the Norman Baron Robert D’Oiley built St George’s Tower and the Mound in 1071.
The story of Oxford Castle, therefore, is long and if walls could talk they would tell the tales of one thousand years of murder, romance, betrayal, escape and execution. One would be forgiven, however, for not having heard them because during this time the site was surrounded by daunting stone walls keeping people out and the secrets of the castle in.
Now, for the first time in its history visitors are at last able to explore Oxford Castle Quarter in ways they have never been able to before. But it’s not all medieval sieges, infamous murderers and ghosts; the history of Oxford Castle Quarter also tells the story of the city and is a site of many beginnings.
It wasn’t until the recent development of Oxford Castle Quarter that archaeologists discovered that St George’s Tower, originally thought to be Norman was, in fact, a Saxon structure likely to be the oldest building in Oxford. The Castle was built in 1071 when Robert d’Oilly built Oxford Castle for William the Conqueror. The Castle was strategically positioned near to the river, on the western edge of the existing Saxon town defences and marked the beginning of medieval Oxford.
In the same century Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote The History of the Kings of England whilst living in Oxford Castle and it is here we see the first mention of the legendary King Arthur born it now seems in the chapel at Oxford castle. Incidentally, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his famous book whilst in employment as a magister – a teacher. The education of young men and boys was taking place at Oxford Castle Quarter long before any of the colleges were founded.
Sam Pace, Operations Manager at Oxford Castle says that, “not only does the Oxford Castle site represent the physical beginnings of Oxford, but it is very much where Oxford began to find its own unique identity. Oxford Castle is an incredibly significant part not only of Oxford’s past but also what makes Oxford what it is in the 21st Century.”
Today it continues to make history as a stunning mixed use environment and visitors are invited in to discover where Oxford began for the first time in a thousand years.