Oxford – the 26th burh to be cited in the Burghal Hidage
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By the tenth century the burh at Oxford had four gates with each protected by a tall stone-built tower. Of these towers two, St Michael’s Church Tower (which guarded the North Gate) and St George’s Tower (which guarded the West Gate), still survive.
It has been suggested that the burh was built in two stages, one comprising planned sub rectilinear street layout of Cornmarket, High Street, Queen Street and St Aldates centring on the crossroads at Carfax, with a later extension to the east and possibly one to the west. 1. The evidence for this being “1) That the area cited in the Burghal Hidage is too small to relate to the area of the extended Burh 2) That the morphology of the central street grid points to a more rectangular or sub rectangular core 3) that the break of slope to the west of New Inn Hall Street would form a natural western line 4) that the returning wall heading south, excavated at the Clarendon Building in 1899 is difficult to explain unless there was a defensive line here.” 2.
However, Poore et al. point out that this idea of a later extension is not borne out by the excavated evidence as the construction of the rampart within the central and the hypothetical east and west extensions is consistent as is the appearance of the primary street surfaces in these three areas 3.
1 Haslam, J. “The Two Anglo-Saxon Burhs of Oxford” in Oxoniensia, vol 75, 2010, pp 15-34
2 Beckley, R. & Radford D., (2012), “Oxford Archaeological Resource Assessment 2011: Anglo-Saxon and Viking”, p 44
3 Poore, D. et al.Excavations at Oxford Castle: Oxford’s Western Quarter from the Mid-Saxon Period to the Late Eighteenth Century (Based on Daniel Poore’s Tom Hassall Lecture for 2008) in Oxoniensia, 2009, vol 74, p 5
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