East Oxford: 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 this 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.
The postcard above shows a coloured drawing of the original St Clement’s Church, which stood where the Plain roundabout is now.
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 toll gate on the left marks 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 was a similar gate barring the Iffley (Henley) Road. Both gates were removed in 1869.