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Parish boundaries: St Michael-at-the Northgate


Below are seven inscriptions marking the parish boundary of St Michael’s with the three old adjoining parishes of St Martin, All Saints, and St Mary-the-Virgin or St Peter-le-Bailey. As the churches of St Martin and All Saints were united in 1896 (when moSt of St Martin’s Church at Carfax was demolished), and St Michael’s and St Martin & All Saints were united in 1971 (when All Saints church became Lincoln College library), some of the stones now mark nonexistent boundaries.

All have a St Michael’s Cross, or a simplified version of it. Some of the photographs show a chalked cross or the letters SMNG (for St Michael-at-the-Northgate) that were added at the beating of the bounds on 21 May 2009.

Inscription in market carpark

Market car-park
Market Street

Parishes of St Martin, All Saints, and St Michael-at-the-Northgate once met here. Redundant, as all three parishes are now one

Inscription on front of Boots

Boots the Chemist
Cornmarket

Ancient parish boundary of St Martin and St Michael-at-the-Northgate. Redundant, as both parishes are now one

side of Boots

Back of Boots the Chemist
Market Street

Parishes of St Martin, All Saints, and St Michael-at-the-Northgate once met here. Marked O T S B and dated 1960 (when building was occupied by Oxford Trustee Savings Bank). Redundant, as all three parishes are now one.

Marker in Turl Street

Base of shop
Turl Street

Ancient parish boundary of All Saints and St Michael-at-the-Northgate. Redundant, as both parishes are now one

Clarendon Building

Clarendon Building
Broad Street

Ancient (but still current) parish boundary of St Mary the Virgin and St Michael-at-the-Northgate

Brasenose College, High Street

Brasenose College
High Street

Ancient (but still current) parish boundary of St Mary the Virgin and St Michael-at-the-Northgate

New Inn Hall Street

 

Left: Wall in New Inn Hall Street

This stone used to mark the parish boundary of St Michael-at-the Northgate and St Peter-le-Bailey, and is dated 1933. It is now the boundary of St Michael’s and St Aldate’s parishes

 

See also the boundary stone in Marks & Spencer, which became the boundary of the newly extended St Michael’s parish in 1971

The beating of the bounds of St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church

In medieval times the annual “beating of the bounds” confirmed the extent of a parish’s jurisdiction and responsibilities. The only two Oxford churches which keep up the custom today are the City Church of St Michael-at-the-Northgate, and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Both beat the bounds on Ascension Day, and because a number of small central Oxford parishes have been amalgamated, they now share a large section of boundary, with the result that they both pass through Brasenose College on their perambulation. And because they share boundaries, some of the markers with a diagonal cross put up by St Mary-the-Virgin are also marked by St Michael’s.

The Vicar marches from the church with the choir in red cassocks and some Lincoln College undergraduates wearing subfusc. They all carry long willow rods with which to beat the bounds, and the Vicar draws a cross in chalk on each of the surviving parish boundary stones.

The procession proceeds as follows:

  • From St Michael’s Church down the west side of Cornmarket to the boundary stone on the wall of Boots (formerly the Roebuck Inn)
  • Across Cornmarket to the Clarendon Centre (formerly the Clarendon Inn) and via Zara to St Peter’s College
  • Along the city wall behind the Old Boys’ High School, then beside O’Neill’s side passageway in New Inn Hall Street to George Street
  • Along George Street and Broad Street, and then down Catte Street to Brasenose College
  • Across the High and down King Edward Street and along Blue Boar Lane and into the back of the Town Hall
  • Across St Aldate’s and along Pembroke Street and into Marks & Spencer via the back door to reach the above boundary stone
  • Through Monsoon at 35 Queen Street and back into the Clarendon Centre, across Cornmarket, and through Boots, the City Tavern, and the covered market to lunch in Lincoln College.
Beating bounds in George Street 2009

St Michael-at-the-Northgate beats its bounds in George Street (above)
and Broad Street (below) on Ascension Day (21 May) 2009

Beating bounds Broad Street

Stephanie Jenkins, 2013