Oxford Town Hall

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Oxford Town Hall
Museum of Oxford (5652685943).jpg
View from the southwest
Oxford Town Hall is located in Oxford city centre
Oxford Town Hall
Location within Oxford city centre
General information
TypeTown hall, museum, former library and police station
Architectural styleJacobethan
LocationSt Aldate's, Oxford
Coordinates51°45′06″N 1°15′25″W / 51.7516°N 1.2569°W / 51.7516; -1.2569
Construction started1893
RenovatedMain Hall repainted in 2015
OwnerOxford City Council
Design and construction
ArchitectHenry Hare
DesignationsGrade II* Listed
Oxford Town Hall

Oxford Town Hall is a public building in St Aldate's Street in central Oxford, England.[1]. It is both the seat of Oxford City Council and a venue for public meetings, entertainment and other events. It is also includes the Museum of Oxford.

Oxford is a city with its own charter, but the building is always called the "Town Hall". It is Oxford's third seat of government to have stood on the same site. The present building, completed in 1897, is Grade II* listed.[2]


Oxford's Guildhall was built on the site in 1292. It was replaced by the first Town Hall in 1752, designed by Isaac Ware. In 1891, an architectural design competition was held for a new building on the same site. The local architect Henry Hare won with a Jacobethan design. The 1752 building was demolished in 1893. Hare's new building included new premises for Oxford's Crown and County Courts, central public library and police station as well as the city council.

HRH the Prince of Wales opened the new building in May 1897, about a month before the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. University of Oxford undergraduates were expected to mount a large demonstration, so a detachment of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch was deployed to reinforce the small Oxford City Police force.[3]

The Metropolitan officers were unused to Oxford undergraduates, and considered the boisterous crowd a danger. The officers attacked the crowd with batons, causing several serious injuries. The crowd reciprocated, unhorsing one officer and trampling him.[3]

A young law don, FE Smith, who had taken no part in the violence, saw police mishandling his college servant. Smith went to rescue his servant but was arrested. He became the first prisoner in one of the cells of the new police station in the new Town Hall. Smith was charged with obstructing police officers in the execution of their duty, but at his trial the young lawyer was found not guilty.[3]

The police station was at the rear in Blue Boar Street. It was completed later than the rest of the building, but the Oxford City Police force was able to move there from its former station in Kemp Hall by the turn of the century.[3]

The City Council was accused of greatly exceeding the budget it set for the building project. In 1905 Henry Taunt published a leaflet in which he stated that the building was meant to cost £47,000 but ended up costing £100,000.[4]

In the First World War the building was converted into the Town Hall section of the 3rd Southern General Hospital. From 1916 it specialised in treating soldiers suffering from malaria.[5]

In 1936 Oxford City Police moved to a new police station further down St Aldate's. The central public library is now in the Westgate Centre in Queen Street, which was completed in 1972.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hibbert 1988, pp. 454–455.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Town Hall, Municipal Buildings and Library  (Grade II*) (1047153)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Rose 1979, p. 5.
  4. ^ Graham 1973, 3. His Character and Personality.
  5. ^ Jenkins, Stephanie. "Third Southern General Hospital in Oxford in World War I". Oxford History. Retrieved 10 November 2015.

Sources and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°45′6″N 1°15′26″W / 51.75167°N 1.25722°W / 51.75167; -1.25722