Oxford Inscriptions: St Mary & St John School

St Mary and St John Boys' School opened in January 1893 in St Alban's Church, and when it moved into its new purpose-built premises in Hertford Street in 1896, it became a mixed school. The two inscriptions below are on the back of the former school, which faces Essex Street.

The first inscription is on the foundation stone, laid by William Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford, on 5 June 1895:

Ss Mary & John School foundation stone

School of St. Mary and St. John:
This stone was laid by the Right
Rev William Stubbs D.D. Bishop of the
Diocese on Wednesday in Whitsun Week
June v A.D. mdcccxcv

The school suffered a serious fire on 15 June 1991, and a second stone was placed immediately underneath, which includes a quotation from Robert Browning's poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra”:

Ss Mary & John School reopening

ON JUNE 15th 1991,

“Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold”

The laying of the foundation stone on 5 June 1895

There is a very detailed article in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 8 June 1895, p.8(d):


On Wednesday afternoon the Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Stubbs, laid the memorial stone of the new parochial schools In St. Mary and St. John Parish, Oxford, in the presence of a large assembly. The site of the new schools is the piece of ground which for a long time past has been an open space between Essex-street and Hertford-street, having an extensive frontage to each thoroughfare. The cost of the site was 750l. The plans which have been prepared will give accommodation for 560 children, but it is not at present proposed to erect the whole building, the number of children that will be provided for by the present effort being about 300, the accommodation being equally divided between the boys and girls. The schools will be of red brick, and will consist of two large rooms, two classrooms, and two cloak rooms. On the ground floor will be the boys school, the entrance being from Hertford-street. The large main room will be large enough to accommodate ninety, and the class room sixty children. The girls will enter from Essex-street, and will reach their rooms, which are similar to those on the ground floor, by means of a spacious staircase, without going into the portion of the building set apart for the boys. All the rooms will be lighted with casement windows. Separate playgrounds will be provided, the space being more than sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the Education Department.

The estimated cost of the whole building will be about 4,500l., but in consequence of only part of the schools being now erected the immediate outlay will only be about 2,500l., apart from the architect’s fees, &c. A sum of about 1,800l. has been raised, including the price of the land, and when the expenses of the present block of buildings have been met, some 2000l. more will therefore be required and is urgently needed. The building committee consists of the Ven. Archdeacon Palmer, Canons Bright and Moberly, the Warden of Keble, Rev. W. Scott, and Commander Maunsell, R.N. The plans were by Messrs Bucknell and Comper, London, and Mr. S. Hutchings is the builder.

A temporary platform had been created for the convenience of the Bishop and clergy and the choir on the occasion of the stone-laying, and the site was prettily decorated with flags and bannerettes. The clergy and choir met at the Church-room in Cowley-road, and marched in surplices with banners and crosses to the site, being joined on the way by a goodly number of the young people for whose especial benefit the schools are being erected, many of whom carried flags. The Bishop was accompanied by the Rev. E E Holmes and the Rev. T W Haworth. There were also present, either in the procession or on the platform, the Warden of Keble, the Revs. A James, B Guyer, and E Crombie (curates of the parish), W Watson, G Moore, F J Brown, C H B Hudson, H A Harvey, P C Robinson, N Trollope (Corca), and M H Noel, Commander Maunsell, and Messrs. Woodward and Annetts (church wardens), Clayton, Rogers, &c. The Bishop first led some responses, followed by a portion of Psalm cxxvii., Except the Lord build the House.

The Bishop then gave an address, reported in full, and this was followed by the laying of the above foundation stone:

After the Lord’s prayer had been said, his Lordship laid the stone, a large block of Hopton Wood stone, the lead lettering in church text which formed the inscription upon it reading as follows:—School of St. Mary and St. John. This stone was laid by the Right Rev. Wm. Stubbs, D.D., Bp.  of the Diocese, on Wednesday in Whitsun week, June 5, AD., MDCCCXCV.” The stone was placed in a position which when the whole building is finished will be exactly in the centre of the school. In a bottle which was placed in the cavity were a copy of the Parish Magazine for June, a list of the subscribers, the Vicar’s first appeal for the building fund, and the names of the architect, the builder, the building committee, and the managers (the Vicar, Mrs. Faber, and Commander Maunsell). A trowel and mallet having been handed to the Bishop by Master Chas. Henry Hutchins, son of the builder, his Lordship, in laying the stone, said—“In the name of God, in the faith of Jesus Christ, we place this foundation stone in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, that here the true faith, the fear  of God, and brotherly love may dwell, and that this place may be set apart for the instruction of the young, and for the honour of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I declare this stone to be well and truly laid.”

During the offertory the hymns “There’s a friend for little children” and “Onward Christian soldiers” were sung, after which the Bishop pronounced his blessing. The hymn “Round the sacred city gather” was sung as a recessional.

Afterwards the clergy, choir, and friends sat down to tea in the church room.


Stephanie Jenkins