Saxon Tower at St Michael at the North Gate
As its name implies, this church originally formed part of the town gate on the northern route out of the city, and was once connected to the ancient walls that protected the city and its inhabitants. Only a few traces of the northern wall remain, but the Saxon tower attached to St Michael’s provides a vivid reminder of said tower’s role in medieval times as a prison. At street level, a crudely blocked doorway indicates the exit used by Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer as they were taken to be burnt at the stake in the adjacent Broad Street. The site of the martyrdom is marked in the street there. Built in the first half of the 11th century, the tower is also significant as the oldest church tower in Oxfordshire. The church as it stands today is mainly in the Perpendicular style, except for the fine Early English chancel with lancet windows at the east end. This is a church of town rather than gown, and it contains many memorials to non-academic Oxford worthies.
Facilities – at a glance
Suitable for all child ages
Assist dogs allowed
- Entrance to church and visitor shop accessible. Climbing the tower has steps
- Facilities: Wheelchair available
- Opening Times: Open Mon-Sat 10.30-5, Sun 12-5
Also in the area
About the area
Located at the heart of England, Oxfordshire enjoys a rich heritage and surprisingly varied scenery. Its landscape encompasses open chalk downland and glorious beechwoods, picturesque rivers and attractive villages set in peaceful farmland. The countryside in the northwest of Oxfordshire seems isolated by comparison, more redolent of the north of England, with its broad views, undulating landscape and dry-stone walls. The sleepy backwaters of Abingdon, Wallingford, Wantage, Watlington and Witney reveal how Oxfordshire’s old towns evolved over the centuries, while Oxford’s imposing streets reflect the beauty and elegance of ‘that sweet city with her dreaming spires.’ Fans of the fictional sleuth Inspector Morse will recognise many Oxford landmarks described in the books and used in the television series.
The county demonstrates how the strong influence of humans has shaped this part of England over the centuries. The Romans built villas in the pretty river valleys that thread their way through Oxfordshire, the Saxons constructed royal palaces here, and the Normans left an impressive legacy of castles and churches. The philanthropic wool merchants made their mark too, and many of their fine buildings serve as a long-lasting testimony to what they did for the good of the local community.
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