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Church of St Aldate, Oxford

Description: Church of St Aldate

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 12 January 1954
English Heritage Building ID: 245778

OS Grid Reference: SP5135505999
OS Grid Coordinates: 451355, 205999
Latitude/Longitude: 51.7503, -1.2575

Location: Pembroke Square, Oxford OX1 1AB

Locality: Oxford
Local Authority: Oxford City Council
County: Oxfordshire
Country: England
Postcode: OX1 1AB

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Listing Text

612/12/462 (West side)


Parish church with late Saxon origins and archaeology and fabric from the C12 and later, including rebuildings of 1832-43 and in the 1860s and 1870s.

PLAN: Chancel with north and south aisles; nave with north and south aisles; west tower; vestry; 1961 west-end additions; 1999-2000 entry building.

MATERIALS: Coursed limestone rubble, some ashlar. Red tile roofs.

EXTERIOR: East end: triple-gabled E front (S chancel aisle 1862-3; chancel as extended C15 but with window of 1862-3; N chancel aisle 1862-3). South side: chancel as extended in C15-16 with square-headed window (reworked) probably of that date; two-bay S chancel aisle of 1862-3; three-bay aisle of c.1334 extended west by two bays (with S porch) in 1862-3. West end: tower with clasping buttresses, projecting S stair turret and spire all rebuilt 1873; single-storey stone range of 1961 wraps round S, W and N of tower. North side: single-storey vestry of 1862-3 against W tower; three-bay N aisle (E bay added 1832-4) with C15 windows (easternmost reset); two-bay N chancel aisle 1862-3; C15 chancel extension with lancet; glazed entry building of 1999-2000. The roofs of nave and south aisle were recovered in 1888.

INTERIOR: The nave is probably C12, as is the western part of the chancel. A west tower was added in the C13, and entirely rebuilt in 1873 by John T. Christopher. The eastern three bays of the S (Dockington) aisle were added c.1334; this has two-bay undercroft or crypt. The westernmost two bays added in 1862-3 by Christopher. The western two bays of N aisle (originally separate from nave) built as chantry in 1456. In the C15 or C16 the chancel was lengthened to its present extent and, in 1581 (cf. plaque at W end of aisle), the former N chantry was opened to the church with an arcade to create the N aisle. The N aisle was extended east to the full length of the nave by Underwood in 1832-43 and the N chapel here was remodelled in 1905 by A Mardon Mowbray, architect. Christopher's rebuild of 1862 also included N and S chancel aisles separated from the chancel by newly-opened two-bay arcades and with the Decorated E window of c.1334 reset between S and Chancel aisles, a vestry in the angle of tower and N aisle, new roofs for nave and aisles, new aisle arcades with columns of pink Aberdeen marble, and a new chancel arch. In 1961 single-storey stone meeting rooms and domestic facilities were built around the base of the west tower; carvings allude to Oxford life and events. In 1982 a mezzanine floor was inserted in the N chancel aisle to create a meeting room, and in 1999-2000 a glazed entry building was added off the aisle opening on to the St. Aldate's frontage.

The interior is largely open, with a stage in the south aisle. Fittings include a C14 font; screen of c.1926 designed by Miss Wybergh of Overton, Flints., to illustrate the Benedicite; an oak screen of 1929 by P.S.P. Morter of Liverpool funded by the motor-manufacturer W.R. Morris and including automobile-related devices. Monuments include alabaster effigy of John Noble Principal of Pembroke College d.1522 (in chancel), brasses to C17 undergraduates (reset at W end of nave), and figurative wall monument of 1695 to John West and his wife and daughter reset high in tower.

HISTORY: St. Aldate's lies within the medieval walled town of Oxford, on the west side of St. Aldate's, the main north-south thoroughfare. Although first documented in the early C12, archaeological evidence has firmly established an ecclesiastical presence here by the late Saxon period, while John Blair has suggested that it may have originated as the central of three monastic churches. Over the medieval and early modern periods the church saw numerous alterations, although much evidence of these was removed in C19 restorations and re-orderings. The church was restored in c.1815 by Daniel Evans, in 1832-43 by Henry Jones Underwood, and more extensive works, intended to double its seating, took place in the 1860s and 1870s under the evangelical rector A.M.W. Christopher who employed as architect his cousin John T. Christopher. New meeting rooms and domestic facilities were added to the west end in 1961, while in 1999-2002 a glazed entry added to the north-east corner of the church and the interior re-ordered with the removal of the pews and the installation of a stage.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: St. Aldate's is one of Oxford's oldest churches, first documented in the early C12 with archaeological evidence which has firmly established an ecclesiastical presence here by the late Saxon period. Over the medieval and early modern periods the church saw numerous alterations, although much evidence of these was removed in C19 restorations and re-orderings. The building includes a good deal of medieval fabric, and, a major parish church, it stands in a prominent town-centre position.

SOURCES: J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (1974), 287; R. Tyler et al., 'Archaeological investigations during refurbishment of St. Aldate's church, Oxford', Oxoniensia 66 (2001), 369-409; St. Aldate's, Oxford: A guide to what to see, (1991); J. Blair, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire (1974).

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.