Carfax, Oxford

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Carfax Tower from St Aldate's
View from the top of Carfax Tower

Carfax is located at the conjunction of St Aldate's (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street (west) and the High Street (east) in Oxford, England.[1] It is considered to be the centre of the city, and is at 51°45′07″N 1°15′29″W / 51.752°N 1.258°W / 51.752; -1.258Coordinates: 51°45′07″N 1°15′29″W / 51.752°N 1.258°W / 51.752; -1.258. The name "Carfax" derives from the French carrefour "crossroads" or quatre-face "four-face".[citation needed]


Carfax Tower is located at the northwest corner of Carfax. The Tower is all that remains of the 12th century St Martin's Church[2] and is now owned by the Oxford City Council. It was the official City Church of Oxford,[3] where the Mayor and Corporation were expected to worship, between c.1122 and 1896, when the main part of the church was demolished to make more room for traffic in the area. In 1896, the City Church was moved to All Saints Church in the High Street.

The tower is 23 m (74 ft) tall, and no building in central Oxford may be constructed higher than it.[4] It still contains a ring of six bells, recast from the original five by Richard Keene of Woodstock in 1676. These chime the quarter hours and are rung on special occasions by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers. It is possible to climb to the top of the tower for a good view of the Oxford skyline.[5] The tower is open 10am–5.30pm (Easter to October) 10am–3.30pm (October to Easter).


The St Scholastica Day riot of 1355 began with an altercation in the Swindlestock Tavern (now the site of the Santander Bank on Carfax, on the corner of St Aldate's and Queen Street) between two students and the taverner.

In 1865, William Henry Butler (Mayor of Oxford, 1836) was buried in the churchyard at Carfax in the grave of his first wife Elizabeth Briggs and their two infant daughters. In 1900, the church was demolished to make way for road improvements and as a consequence the grave and tombstone were forgotten. It is probable the tombstone was made by either John Gibbs of Oxford (father of Butler's second wife) or one of Gibbs's employees. The tombstone is still in its original position and can be viewed at the rear of the tower. There is now a campaign to protect the tombstone for future generations.[6]

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