Scope and Content

The church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, lies on the north side of the High Street, and on the south side of Radcliffe Square. Until 1847, the parish also included a portion of Littlemore, and in 1966 was united with the parishes of Oxford St. Peter in the East and Oxford St. Cross Holywell.

The parish is one of Oxford's oldest, being mentioned in Domesday Book. However, after the birth of the University of Oxford in the late 12th century, the church took on a new role as the University Church. The University's congregation met there from at least 1252, and the Chancellor's court sat there until 1646, while the Degree ceremony took place in the church until the opening of the Sheldonian Theatre in 1669. The University Sermon has been regularly preached in the church since the 16th century, and the church is still used for important services connected with the University.

The living of St. Mary the Virgin was given to Oriel College in 1326, who retained the rectory and appointed vicars to the church. These were usually Fellows of the College, perhaps the most famous vicar being John Henry Newman, who held office in 1828-1843.

The records of Oxford St. Mary the Virgin have been deposited at various times from various sources. The parish originally deposited some records in Oxfordshire Archives in 1935 as Accession no. 5, but these were transferred to the Bodleian Library in 1961. Another deposit was made there in 1961, and two others in 1963, and some records were also deposited there by the Principal of Hertford College in 1969 (all these records were eventually transferred to Oxfordshire Archives in the early 1980s). Meanwhile, the parish had also deposited some records in Oxfordshire Archives in 1971 as Accession no. 926, and further deposits were made here in 1985, 1988, 1993, and 1998 [three deposits] as Accessions nos. 2425, 2848, 3594, 4352, 4355 and 4401. Another deposit was made in 1991 from Brasenose College as Acc. no. 3310. Two Appendices provide respectively a list of the contents of each deposit, and a concordance of old and new references.

Other documents relating to the church are kept in the archives of Oriel College. Further details on these are given in Appendix III.


The Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, Vol. IV (1979), pp.390-394.

Catalogued by Robin Darwall-Smith in September 1998.

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Geographical Names