Oxford History: The High


Lincoln College Library (All Saints’ Church)

All Saints Church

All Saints’ Church is on the easter corner of Turl Street. It closed in 1971 and since 1976 the building has been Lincoln College Library. It is Grade I listed (List Entry No. 1047271).

The original All Saints’ Church on this site was founded in 1122, but in 1700 its spire collapsed, destroying most of the church. An appeal was launched, and this new church containing 350 seats was completed by 1720.

The Universal British Directory describes All Saints thus in 1791:

The church of All Saints, situated in the High-street, is an elegant modern structure, much in the style of many of the new churches in London. It is beautified both within and without with Corinthian pilasters, and finished with an attic story and balustrade. There is no pillar in the church, though it is seventy-two feet long, forty-two wide, and fifty high. The ceiling, altar, pulpit , &c. are finely executed. The steeple is remarkable, in the modern manner. Its architect was Dr. Aldrich, formerly dean of Christchurch.

The engraving below shows All Saints’ Church in 1834:

All Saints in 1834

Gardner’s Oxfordshire Directory for 1852 describes the church as follow:

All Saints’ Church, which is situated in the High-street, was begun in 1699 and finished in 1708, and is a fine building of 72 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 50 feet high, in the style of ecclesiastical architecture, which was worked into popularity by Sir Christopher Wren. The church, which had for many ages occupied this site, fell down in 1699, and the present edifice was built of Headington stone, from a design and under the guiding talent of Dr. Aldrich, dean of Christ Church. It is beautified both within and without with Corinthian capitals, and finished with an attic story and balustrade. The roof is remarkable for the extent of its span unsupported by any pillar; the ceiling is finely ornamented with fret work, around which are painted the arms of Queen Anne, the duchess of Marlborough, and other contributors to the building. The altar piece, which is of stone, coloured in imitation of marble, was put up by lord Crewe, bishop of Durham, at an expense of £500. The seats, which are of oak, are regular, the pulpit and reading desk are of elegant workmanship; and the gallery at the west end contains a good organ by Bishop. The steeple, which is of three stages, consists of a rustic square tower, a turret encircled by Corinthian pillars, and a handsome tapering spire. The ground floor of the tower is fitted up as a vestry room, and in the upper part are five good bells. In the centre of the vestry is a table tomb, erected in 1843 at a cost of upwards of £800, to the memory to Dr. Tatham, one of the late rectors of Lincoln college. The living is a perpetual curacy, of the annual value of £65, in the gift of Lincoln college; the Rev. T. E. Espin, fellow of that college, is the present incumbent.

In 1896, when St Martin’s Church at Carfax was demolished, All Saints became the City Church.

In 1971 All Saints’ Church was declared redundant, and in 1975 was converted into the Library of Lincoln College by Robert Potter, an architect also responsible for the refurbishment of the Radcliffe Camera in 1969. Earlier he had been in charge of the 1960s restoration of Duke Humphrey and the newly designed proscholium entrance to the Old Library. He also designed the penthouse for the Indian Institute on top of the New Bodleian and the organ case in Merton chapel.

All Saints Church
All Saints’ Church, viewed from the roof of the Varsity Club

History of All Saints’ Church in Victoria County History

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 8 October, 2021

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