St Ebbe’s Church

St Ebbe's Church

This print of St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford dates from 1835. It was drawn by F. Mackenzie, engraved by J. Le Keux, and published by J. H. Parker Ltd.

Ebbe was a seventh-century saint, the daughter of Aethelfrith, King of Northumbria, and sister of the Northumbrian kings Oswald and Oswy. She became a nun and founded a nunnery at Ebchester, and the original church on this site was dedicated to her in c.1005. That building became dangerous in 1813 and was demolished, and the current church, designed by A. M. Mowbray, was opened in 1816.

The road on the right is Church Street, which from medieval times until the early 1970s led westwards to the junction of Paradise and Castle Streets. This was the first of Oxford’s six Church Streets: the rest came by chance as Oxford spread to outlying suburbs, and so the five latecomers, rather than this street, were later obliged to change their names, because, in Robert Bridges’ words, “The foolish appellation Church Street has directed hundreds astray.” But now Oxford has no Church Street at all, as in the 1970s the Westgate Centre was built on the site of Church and Castle Streets, and all that remains at this junction is a dead end known as Pennyfarthing Place.

The road on the left is St Ebbe’s Street, which led from the west end of Queen Street southwards to Brewer Street.




Right: Detail of the young stilt-walkers performing outside the church.



Left Detail of the beerhouse at 41 Ebbe’s Street on the right of the engraving. The building later became Cape’s Store, and is now the site of the Bar Med. The sign at the top of the front wall of the beerhouse reads:

Beer bottled ….
& Butt

Although St Ebbe’s Street is very short, in 1835 it had five pubs: the Horse & Chair (probably No. 12); Royal Blenheim (No. 13, and the only one still there); the Three Tuns (No. 15); the Horse & Groom (No. 26); and this beer retailer here at No. 41.

Then just around the corner, Church Street itself had the following three pubs: the Eight Bells (No. 3); the Rising Sun (No. 30); and the Britannia (No. 35). Poorer districts of Oxford, such as St Ebbe’s, tended to have the most pubs.

The sign lower down on the wall shows a coach and horses advertising a fast journey of 5 hours 45 minutes; but the destination is off the picture: it could be Gloucester or London, as that is the exact time those journeys took by coaches in 1830. There is no record of any coach service leaving from this humble beerhouse, and so the sign may only be a poster.






Right: St Ebbe’s Church in 2003, clearly showing the alterations of 1862 and 1868 when diocesan architect G. A. Street added a south aisle and created a north aisle by arcading


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