Oxford History: The High

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The Wards and Parishes of the High


Nineteenth century: two wards and five parishes

The “long high street of the little town”, as Oscar Wilde described the High, once straddled two wards and four separate parishes.

The four ancient wards of the city met at Carfax, and hence the south side of the High was in the South-East ward, while the north side was in the North-East Ward.

Of the 143 houses in the High in the nineteenth century, 57 were in St Peter-in-the-East parish, 49 in All Saints parish, 28 in St Mary-the-Virgin parish, and just nine in St Martin's parish. The table below shows the parish divisions, and for ease of reference the present occupants of the buildings are given in the right-hand column.

 

Nos.

19th century

Currently

Present occupants

N
O
R
T
H

S
I
D
E

1–5

St Martin’s

St Michael  at-the-
Northgate parish

Lloyd’s Bank

6–27

All Saints

Jack Wills
to middle of Brasenose

28–32

St Mary the Virgin parish

Middle of Brasenose to
All Souls College

33–60

St Peter in the East*

Recently St Cross parish
but now
St Mary-the-Virgin

Oxford High Street Souvenirs shop
to Magdalen College

[Numbering resumes on the other side of Magdalen Bridge]

S
O
U
T
H

S
I
D
E

61–89

St Peter in the East*

Recently St Cross parish
but now
St Mary-the-Virgin

Botanic Garden
to middle of University College

90–112

St Mary the Virgin parish

Middle of University College
to middle of Shepherd & Woodward shop

113–139

All Saints

St Michael at-the-
Northgate parish

Middle of Shepherd & Woodward
to middle of University Gifts shop

140–143

St Martin’s

Middle of University Gifts shop
to middle of Edinburgh Wool Mill shop

* Note: St Peter-in-the-East Church was temporarily closed for the period from July 1836 to November 1844, and the parishioners were transferred for eight years to St John the Baptist Church (now Merton Chapel)

Parish marker on Brasenose College
Above This metal St Michael’s Cross is on the
wall of Brasenose in the High Street, opposite
Oddbins. It originally marked the boundary of the
parish of St Mary-the-Virgin and All Saints, but
now that the latter has been taken into the parish
of St-Michael-at-the- Northgate, it is chalked with
that church’s initials, SMNG.

Boundary marker on All Souls College
Above This St Andrew’s Cross is incised
at the eastern end of All Souls College’s
High Street frontage. As it marks the old
boundary of St Mary-the Virgin parish
with that of St Peter-in-the East and
is nothing to do with St Michael’s,
it has no chalk marking.


Twenty-first century parishes

Following the closure of a number of churches in central Oxford, the High Street is now divided into three parishes, namely:

West end of the High

Now in St Michael at the Northgate Parish

In 1896 when St Martin’s Church at Carfax was demolished, St Martin’s Parish was united with All Saints Parish

In 1971 when All Saints Church became Lincoln College Library, St Martin & All Saints Parish was united with St Michael at the Northgate Parish

Middle of the High

No change: still in St Mary the Virgin Parish

East end of the High

Now in St Mary the Virgin Parish

In 1891 St Peter in the East Parish was united with St John the Baptist Parish (Merton College Chapel)

In 1957 St Peter in the East & St John the Baptist Parish was united with St Cross Parish

In 2009 St Cross Church closed down and it is now Balliol Historic Collections Centre


Map showing Oxford city parishes in the 19th century

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 30 June, 2018

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