An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1939.

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'Preface', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford, (London, 1939) pp. xiii-xiv. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]


This Volume contains (in addition to the official Report) a Sectional Preface, which, under subject-headings, calls attention to any particularly interesting examples mentioned in the Inventory; an illustrated Inventory, with a concise account of the monuments visited; a list of monuments that the Commissioners have selected as especially worthy of preservation; an armorial of heraldry before 1550; a glossary of the architectural, heraldic and archæological terms which occur in the volume; a map showing the topographical distribution of the scheduled monuments, and an index.

In dealing with the City of Oxford, it has been found necessary to vary, somewhat, the arrangement adopted in the ordinary county volumes. The monuments will be found to be arranged under four main headings.

(1) University Buildings.

(2) College Buildings.

(3) Ecclesiastical Buildings.

(4) Secular Buildings.

It has been found necessary, furthermore, to ignore the parish boundaries in the City as in many cases the college buildings stand in more than one parish. Thus the monuments are numbered consecutively, as was done in the City of Hereford and the town of Colchester. In addition to dwelling-houses, the Secular class includes such earthworks as castle-defences and homestead moats.

The descriptions of the monuments are of necessity much compressed, but the underlying principle on which accounts of any importance are based is the same throughout.

In the case of colleges, following a historical introduction, the description begins generally with the gatehouse, the chapel and hall being dealt with as they occur in the lay-out of the building. In the case of churches, the description begins with a few words on the situation and material of the monument, together with a statement as to the development of its various parts. A second paragraph calls attention, when necessary, to its more remarkable features. This is followed by a concise description, mainly architectural, of its details. A fourth paragraph deals with the fittings in alphabetical order, while the concluding sentence gives a general statement as to structural condition. The accounts of less important buildings, whether secular or ecclesiastical, are still further compressed.

At the heads of the main sections and at the head of each college will be found the arms of the University, See and City and the individual arms of the colleges. These are from drawings by my fellow-commissioner the Rev. E. E. Dorling.

The standardization of the spelling of proper names in the Commission's inventories has always presented considerable difficulties, and almost any system is open to criticism. It is well known that during the period covered by our terms of reference, and indeed to a much later date, the art of spelling was in a very fluid state, proper names especially being subject to a wide variation, dictated partly by their phonetic values and partly by individual caprice. In the absence, therefore, of any final court of appeal, it has been thought best to abide, in the matter of place-names, by the spelling adopted by the Ordnance Survey, without prejudice as to its accuracy.

In the matter of personal names, in treating of individual funeral-monuments, etc., the actual spelling of the memorial has been reproduced, while in the rest of the text the normal spelling of the name has been followed.

The illustrations are derived, with a few exceptions, from photographs taken expressly for the Commission, and reproduced by H.M. Stationery Office, whose work, I think, deserves special recognition. The illustrations of the glass at Merton, of the painted room in Cornmarket Street and one of the carved stones in the Ashmolean Museum are reproduced from photographs kindly lent to the Commission by Merton College, Mr. E. W. Attwood and the Ashmolean Museum respectively. The plans of Balliol, Exeter, Lincoln, Merton, Oriel and St. Edmund Hall are based on plans lent by the college authorities or their architects, that of Wadham is based on a plan in Sir T. G. Jackson's Wadham College, that of the Canterbury Quadrangle at St. John's and of Magdalen on plans kindly lent to the Commission by their authors Mr. F. W. Troup and Mr. R. Wynn Owen. The plans of the Sheldonian Theatre are from those of Mr. R. Fielding Dodd and the plan of St. Mary's church from one lent by Sir Charles Nicholson. The map at the end of the Inventory shows the distribution of the monuments.

To ensure clearness of description, all ancient churches not illustrated by historically hatched plans have been provided with key-plans to a uniform scale of 48 feet to the inch, with the monumental portions shown in solid black. The dimensions given in the Inventory are internal unless otherwise stated.

It may also be well again to draw attention to the fact that our Record Cards for the City may be consulted by properly accredited persons, who give notice of their intention to our Secretary at 29 Abingdon Street, Westminster, S.W.1. The cards contain photographs, drawings of tracery and mouldings, as well as plans and sketches of the monuments—forming in truth the complete National Inventory. Copies of the photographs may be purchased on application to the Secretary.

We have followed our unbroken practice of including no monument that has not actually been inspected, and the account of every monument of importance has been checked in situ by a member of our own investigating staff. In a work of such intricate detail there must be mistakes. But I hope these are neither numerous nor serious. A further guarantee of accuracy lies in the fact that Dr. H. E. Salter and my fellow Commissioners, Sir Charles Peers, Professor Hamilton Thompson and Dr. Rose Graham, have revised the Inventories of the monuments, while my fellow Commissioner, Mr. Montgomerie, has supervised the reports on earthworks. The heraldry of the Inventory has been checked by the Reverend E. E. Dorling, F.S.A., and the description of bells by Mr. H. B. Walters. My colleagues and I shall of course welcome any corrections and criticisms that may be sent to me with a view to their possible inclusion in some future edition.