University and City coats of arms and mottoes

The coat of arms of the University (with the motto “Dominus illuminatio mea") and of the City (with the motto “Fortis est veritas”) can be seen in numerous places throughout Oxford, so (apart from the city arms which appear on all boundary stones set up by the city) only one example of each has been given on this website, namely:

This page only shows examples of the two coats of arms where they appear together.

Carfax Conduit (1610)

Carfax Conduit

The water conduit that stood at Carfax from 1610 to 1787 bears three coats of arms, shown above: those of the University of Oxford, the City of Oxford, and Otho Nicholson. (Nicholson was the graduate of Christ Church who had the idea for the conduit and paid for it, and his initials O N can also be see repeated above.)

It was a joint town and gown venture: the conduit belonged to the University, but the City allowed as much space for it at Carfax as could be spared, for which the University paid a fee of a shilling a year.

The upper part of the pipe from the cistern on Hinksey Hill supplied various colleges, and the lower part the city

The conduit was moved out of the way to Nuneham Courtenay in 1787 to make more room for traffic at Carfax. A full history of the conduit can be seen here.

Oxford Local Board (under the jurisdiction of both town and gown): 1865–1889

In 1865 the Local Board of Health succeeded the earlier Paving Commission that had been set up in 1771. This new board included members of both the University and the City, and supervised the paving, cleansing, lighting, and general improvement of the city, with the result that even lampposts started to sport the university and city coats of arms side by side.

The Public Health Act of 1875 amended the membership of the Board thus:

Constitution of local board of the Oxford district

The local government district of Oxford shall be subject to the jurisdiction of a local board consisting of the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford and the mayor of Oxford for the time being, of forty-five other members, fifteen to be elected by the university of Oxford, sixteen by the town council of Oxford, and fourteen by the ratepayers of the parishes situated within the area formerly within the jurisdiction of the commissioners, for amending certain mileways leading to Oxford, and making improvements in the university and city of Oxford, the suburbs thereof and the adjoining parish of Saint Clement, and of the members for any parishes or parts of parishes which may have been or may hereafter be added to the Oxford district.

The Local Board of Health was abolished in 1889 when Oxford became a county borough and its powers were transferred to the corporation.


Lampposts (1860s)

Most old lampposts in the city of Oxford (such as the ones on Magdalen Bridge) bear just the city arms, which means that they date from after 1869.


The earliest ones, however, which date from 1865 to 1869 have the university arms on the left and the city arms on the right. They were made by Dean & Son of Oxford and are inscribed OXFORD LOCAL BOARD,


The example shown here is from Laurel Farm Close in Headington. There is another of these lampposts in that close, and also one in St Andrew's Lane.

Oxford Boys' High School, George Street (1881)

Oxford Boys High School

This school, which opened in 1881, was a joint venture by town and gown, promoted by Professor Thomas Hill Green, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy and the first university member to serve on Oxford City Council. Hence the mottoes DOMINUS ILLUMINATIO MEA on one side of this window, and FORTIS EST VERITAS on the other, but not the actual coats of arms.

Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, 33, 34, and 35 Queen Street (1888)

Wilberforce Hotel

The arms of the University and the City appear over the central entrance on the ground floor and again on the left and right gables at the top: see whole building here.

Osney Bridge (1888)

Botley Road bridge

Osney Bridge bears the arms of the University and the City, with the words OXFORD LOCAL BOARD underneath and the date 1888. To the left of the date is the name C. J. LAKER / CHAIRMAN and to the right W. H. WHITE / M.INST.C.E. / ENGINEER. (Charles J. Laker was a wine & spirit merchant at 69 High Street.)

The bridge is an important one carrying the Botley Road over the River Thames just to the east of Osney Island. A large portion of the central arch of the original old turnpike bridge collapsed on 2 December 1885 (see Jackson's Oxford Journal of 5 December 1885). Initially coaches and carts for Botley had to do a huge tour via Wolvercote.

The Oxford Local Board sought the Opinion of Counsel, and in June 1886 they were advised that the County of Oxford, and not the City or Local Board, was liable for the bridge A legal dispute dragged on for the next two years, and a temporary bridge was provided between East Street and Russell Street.

In the end the Oxford Local Board gave in and erected the bridge, which cost about £4,000. Its ironwork was built by the Hornsley Company of Tipton, and it bears the date 1888 with the names of the Board Chairman and Engineer on each side. It was officially opened in January 1889, just over four years after the collapse of the previous bridge, and the year that Oxford was to become a county borough.

For a detailed description of this bridge, see Jackson's Oxford Journal of 12 January 1889. It is the lowest of the 76 bridges on the non-tidal section of the River Thames, with a height (headway) of only 2.28m (7'5").

Oxford War Memorial, St Giles (1921)

The war memorial in St Giles was erected in 1921 by Oxford City Council on a piece of land in front of St Giles's Church that was donated by St John's College. It remembers all those from the City and University who died.

St Giles war memorial

This memorial has the arms of the city on the side of the octagon to the left of the main inscription, and those of the university to the right.

Firms which use both city and university arms

It has always been in the interests of businesses and organizations to court both town and gown. In the 1920s the Oxford Varsity & City company produced postcards bearing both the university and city coats of arms (below):


1850 map

Hoggar's map of Oxford of 1850 (right) is dedicated “To the Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University and the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Oxford”.









The Town & Gown restaurant operated from 135 High Street from the 1920s to the 1970s. There was also a firm called Town & Gown Lettings.


Today we have the Town & Gown fun run each year.

Stephanie Jenkins