Oxford Inscriptions: Site of Swindlestock Tavern

Swindlestock Tavern




This inscription is on the outside wall of Marygold House on the south-west corner of Carfax (now the Santander Bank).

On Tuesday 10 February 1355 (St Scholastica’s Day) some students and priests who were drinking in the Swindlestock (or Swyndlestock) Tavern at Carfax complained about the quality of the wine. The landlord (John of Barford or de Bereford, who happened to be Mayor of Oxford at the time) is alleged to have responded to their complaint with “stubborn and saucy language”; whereupon a student threw a quart pot at his head. Local people came to his aid and had the bell at the City Church (St Martin’s at Carfax) rung to summon the townsmen to arms; the University retaliated by having the bell at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in the High Street rung to rouse the students to the fray, and battle commenced, with both townsmen and students making good use of their bows and arrows.

The next day (Wednesday) the Mayor rode to Woodstock to seek the support of the King, and meanwhile about 2,000 men came in from the country to help the town, crying as they advanced, “Slea, Slea…. Havock, Havock…. Smyte fast, give gode knocks.” They broke into academic halls, killing scholars, and this continued on the Thursday. In all, 62 scholars were killed.

When the shops on this corner were pulled down in the early 1930s prior to the building of Marygold House, the entrance to the former Swindlestock Tavern cellars was revealed. The building was sold by Oxford City Council to the Abbey National Building Society (now Santander) in 1988.

St Scholastica's Day: Re-enactment of the Town & Gown battle in the Oxford Pageant of 1907

The above postcard shows the re-enactment of the St Scholastica's Day town & gown battle in the Oxford Historical Pageant of 1907. This pageant, organized by Frank Lascelles, was held in the grounds of Magdalen College School and was a huge event, with 3500 performers and 300 horses. The Consultative Committee included Regius Professor Charles Harding Firth, Professor Charles Oman, Professor Walter Raleigh, and Arthur Evans. The scriptwriters included Laurence Housman, Robert Bridges, and Elizabeth Wordsworth, with A.D. Godley writing the script for the St Scholastica Day scene.

Stephanie Jenkins