East Oxford: The Plain

The Plain

The Plain acquired its name when St Clement’s Church was removed from this site, leaving a wide open expanse surrounded by buildings. On the right of the above picture is Magdalen College School, built by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1894; straight ahead is the Cape of Good Hope pub, rebuilt in 1892; and on the left is the Victoria Fountain, built in 1899 on the site of the former St Clement’s toll house. Designed by E.P. Warren and paid for by G.H. Morrell, it was a belated commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria that had taken place in 1897, and provided a drinking fountain for people and troughs of water for horses.

St Clement's original church, The Plain

The postcard above shows a coloured drawing of the original St Clement’s Church, viewed from the west. It stood where the Plain roundabout is now and (as stated on the postcard) was removed in 1828.

The church has a toll-house in front, and a toll-gate on each side. The original toll-house and gates were further west, but this hexagonal toll-house of 1818 (whose shape is now echoed by the Victoria Fountain) was very close to the church.

On the left is the start of the new London turnpike road, which was created in the late eighteenth century when the existing road (which previously stopped short at the top of Headington Hill) was turnpiked and extended to Stokenchurch. There is a similar gate on the right barring the road to London via Henley (now the Iffley Road). Both gates were removed in 1869.

The engraving below shows the same church viewed from St Clement's Street, with the toll gate leading to Magdalen Bridge on the right.

Engraving of St Clement's old church

Dating from 1122, it was described by Thomas Hearne as “a very pretty little church”. It was not big enough for the increasing population of St Clement’s, however, and in 1828 it was demolished and a new church built on Hacklingcroft Meadow on the Marston Road. The three bells from this old church (one dating from the thirteenth century and the oldest bell in Oxford) were taken to the new church. Its old churchyard disappeared when the Plain roundabout was constructed in 1950.

The Plain, looking towards St Clements

Plain and MCS

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