SP5105 : “Archaeology Around Westgate” Information Board


This information board is in Bridge Street off Speedwell Street and has the
following wording:

Archaeology Around Westgate
19th-20th century St Ebbe’s: the Lost Suburb of St Ebbe’s

First column
Westgate Oxford is situated within the Parish of St Ebbe’s. This area has
gone through many significant changes in the last 500 years.
Map 1)
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, the majority of the
grand stone-built friary structures that had been the home, church and
workplace to the Augustinian Blackfriar and Franciscan Greyfriar
communities, and dominated the area for nearly 300 years, were quickly
The control exerted by these institutions on the waterways, and their use
of their meadows and gardens ceased and the area gave way to natural flood-
meadow and summer grazing pasture crossed by a number of tree-lined
Map 2)
(2&3) In the 1640s St Ebbe’s was on the front line of the English Civil
War- a large ditch and bank fortification crossed the area to defend the
low-lying southern approach to Oxford, which was a Royalist stronghold for
Charles II and his army.
The defensive ditch and the head of an iron weapon called a halberd were
found near this spot.
Drawing 3)

Second Column
Map 4)
(4) During the latter part of the 1700s, a Mr Bricknell owned much of
the land; he ran a Tan Yard (which made leather from animal hides) next to
the Trill Mill Stream near the site of Little Gate.
At that time some of the area was cultivated as market gardens and orchards
(Paradise and Pensons Gardens). The odd building from the medieval friaries
still survived, and a few large residential houses occupied the higher and
drier ground nearer to the town.
(5,6&7) In 1819 a Gas Works was built which grew to dominate the area until
its demolition in the 1960s. The following year the meadows started to be
sold off in small plots along new streets to accommodate Oxford’s rapidly
growing population.
Narrow terraced streets of brick and stone houses, interspersed with small
shops and pubs, were constructed by speculative house builders between
c.1820-1860s. These early developments did not have a proper water supply
or decent drainage and this resulted in an outbreak of cholera in the mid
Subsequently the Trill Mill stream that ran through the suburb was
culverted and new drainage was built to improve sanitation. The health of
the residents hugely improved as a result, but issues remained into the
Map 2)

Third Column
Photo 5)
Photo 7)
Map 8)
(8) From the 1840s increasing amounts of freight were transported on the
new railways and unused wharfs and waterways were infilled.
By the late 1900s, the area was predominantly residential but there was
also a large laundry, St Ebbe’s School, the Rectory (still in Paradise
Square), a Methodist Chapel, a children’s play area and a public swimming
baths was built within a flowing section of the Thames.

Fourth Column
Photo 6)
Photo 7)
Map 8)
The parish attracted a mixture of working class tenants as well as the
slightly better off and contained houses suited to many on the borderline
of middle and working class.
Although the residents of ‘the friaries’ (as the area had become known)
were very proud of their homes, by the early-mid 1900s the area was
considered by the local authority to be run down, and plans for
redevelopment were put forward as early as 1938. However, World War II
intervened after which new plans for redevelopment were put forward.
Eventually the community of some 700 households were moved out to make way
for the original Westgate Shopping Centre, which was demolished in 2015.