ST GILES’, OXFORD

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St Giles’ in 1779


St Giles in 1779

St Giles in 2003

The top picture shows St Giles in 1779. This picture (drawn and engraved by M.A. Rooker) is taken from the Oxford Almanack of that year. The Dolphin Inn and St John’s College are on the right, and St Giles Church (which the artist has brought forward to improve the composition) in the middle. The original drawing is in the Leeds City Art Galleries.

The lower picture shows the same scene in 2003. The Dolphin Inn has been replaced by the wall of the Dolphin Quadrangle, and the gateway in St John’s College wall has been removed. The elm trees of St Giles were all cut down in an “improvement scheme” later in the eighteenth century, and an epigram written on “Ye bursar of St. John’s cutting down a fine Row of Trees” ends with the lines: “This rogue the gallows for his fate foresees / And bears a like antipathy to trees.” The plane trees that were planted around 1875 have now grown to a similar size to the old trees.

A few years before this engraving was made, Sir John Peshall described St Giles Street as follows:

In the north entrance into this city, through St. Giles’s (a “rus in urbe” having all the advantages of town and country) is a well-built street, 2,055 feet long and 246 broad, planted with rows of elms on each side and having parterres of green before the respective houses.

Sir John Peshall, Ancient and Present
State of the City of Oxford
(1773)

St Giles’ home

Stephanie Jenkins

Oxford History home