Oxford History: City Wall


North wall: South of Broad Street

The line of the north town wall is preserved in the boundary wall separating properties on the north side of Ship Street from those on the south side of Broad Street. A bastion survives behind 1 Ship Street (now the News Café) and there is another one at the other end of the street behind Nos 14 and 15 Ship Street which forms part of the dining room of the appropriately named Tower House Hotel.

There was a lane outside the town wall, and then a deep man-made moat or ditch (known as the Candida Fossa or Canditch) which ran along the back of the present shops on the south side of Broad Street and also along the present George Street, thus completing a circuit of flowing water around the town walls.

Miss Hoskins' bastion

The engraving above shows the bastion that was visible from Miss Hoskyns’s garden in 1834, viewed from outside the town wall. Miss Hoskins [sic] is listed in the 1841 census as living at the south-west end of Broad Street. Known as the Martyr’s bastion, it may have been where Cranmer stood to observe the burning of Ridley and Latimer in Broad Street. The bastion that Miss Hoskyns could see from her garden is probably the one shown below, which is hidden behind Boswell’s (not on public view).


Below: The old town wall reappears behind Morton’s Café at 22 Broad Street. The photograph below was taken from The Hub in Turl Street, where part of the city wall is visible in the men’s toilet.

Wall behind Morton's

At the end of Ship Street was the twirling postern gate in the wall (designed to keep cattle out of the town) that gave Turl Street its name. It was demolished in 1722.

East of Turl Street, the continuation of the wall to the south of Broad Street has completely disappeared because of the large and important buildings that straddle its line, namely Exeter College, the Museum of the History of Science, and the Sheldonian Theatre. From the southern end of the Sheldonian, it travelled north-east to meet Catte Street at Smith Gate.

Next: Smith Gate in Catte Street Next

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 14 December, 2015

City Wall home Small Shark Oxford History home