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THE HISTORY OF OXFORD

From the Tenth to the Twelfth Century

(History of Oxford II)

 

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Early development of the town

The first written evidence, not only of the existence of Oxford but also of its importance, comes from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (begun in the 9th century and continued until 1154) where it is stated that Edward (the Elder), took control of "London and Oxford and the lands obedient to those cities".

Oxford had naturally developed as an important town due to its strategic location. A location important both politically, because it marked the border of the two kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, and commercially because it lay at the confluence of the rivers Cherwell and Thames. A new fortified town was then created no longer attached to the early minster, the north gate of the fortification probably being on the site of what is the oldest building in Oxford, St Michael's church tower, Cornmarket Street. The Church beside the tower was most probably a later addition. This new town of Oxford dates from the early 10th century. As is evident the importance of Oxford did not depend on its world famous seat of learning, which did not exist at that time, but on its geographical location.

The town of Oxford by no means had a peaceful existence. Two events of a bloody nature are recorded. The ancient church of St Frideswide was the site of a massacre of Danes, which caused the town to be sacked in 1009 and in 1013 the town under the control of Sweyn of Denmark. The unification of England marked the end of the military importance of Oxford.

RJW


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latest update: 1/12/04