St Cross Church, Oxford

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St Cross church from the south-west, with Holywell Manor House behind it on the left.

St Cross Church is a former church, now a historic collections centre, in Oxford, England, to the northeast of the centre of the city.[1] The church is on St Cross Road at the junction with Manor Road, just south of Holywell Manor. Also close by is Holywell Cemetery.

Church history[edit]

St Cross's west front, showing the medieval tower flanked by largely 19th-century aisles.

St Cross Church was once a dependent chapelry of St Peter-in-the-East on Queen's Lane, north of the High Street in central Oxford.[2] The precise date of the church's foundation is not known, but it has been suggested that the St Cross was first built around AD 890 by St Grimwald.[citation needed]

The chancel arch is late 11th or early 12th century[3] and the nave was built in about 1160.[4] The tower and aisles were added in the 13th century, the upper stage of the tower was rebuilt in 1464 and the north arcade and aisle were rebuilt in the middle of the 15th century.[3] A few of the windows are original Perpendicular Gothic; the remainder are Victorian Gothic Revival.[4]

The aisles were rebuilt again in the 19th century — the north (except for its west end) in 1839[3] and the south in 1843 — the latter to designs by the architect JM Derick.[4] In 1876 the north aisle was extended by the addition of an organ chamber and vestry designed by HJ Tollit.[3] In 1893 the church was restored under the direction of EP Warren, including the addition of new clerestory windows.[3] The tower was repaired in 1908.[3]

GE Street designed the west window of the north aisle, which was made in 1855.[4] However, since then the window has been moved and, in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's opinion, "garbled".[4] Hardman & Co. made the east window of the chancel in 1874.[4] St Cross church is a Grade I listed building.[3]

In recent years services were held once weekly until 12 October 2008, when the church was closed.[5]

Holywell Cemetery is behind the church and includes the graves of many notable people. They include the composer Sir John Stainer (1840–1901) who, while he was Professor of Music at Magdalen College, was church warden at St Cross.[6] The clockmaker John Knibb (1650–1722), who was Mayor of Oxford in 1698 and 1710, is buried at St Cross with his widow and four of their daughters.[7] Sir John Snell, founder of the Snell Exhibition, is also buried at St Cross Church.[8][clarification needed]

Historic Collections Centre[edit]

After the closure of the church in 2008, building work was undertaken to convert the building for use as an Historic Collections Centre[9] for Balliol College. The College has a 999-year lease on the building, under which the chancel will be maintained for occasional services. The various fittings and fixtures of the church have been removed including the organ which has been relocated to a church in Ireland. The bells remain in situ, but unringable, after Oxford City Council refused permission for their removal.[10] The work was completed at an estimated cost of £3.3 million and opened in 2011.[11]

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hibbert, Christopher, ed. (1988). "St Cross, Church of". The Encyclopaedia of Oxford. Macmillan. p. 385. ISBN 0-333-39917-X. 
  2. ^ St Cross Church — Oxford Sightseeing & Attractions Review.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Church of St Cross". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. 12 January 1954. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). Oxfordshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 291. ISBN 0 14 071045 0. 
  5. ^ Thomas, Simon (13 October 2008). "End of an Era". Stuck in a Book. Blogspot. 
  6. ^ "John Stainer". [dead link]
  7. ^ Beeson, C.F.C. (1989) [1962]. Simcock, A.V., ed. Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400–1850 (3rd ed.). Oxford: Museum of the History of Science. p. 119. ISBN 0-903364-06-9. 
  8. ^ John Jones. "The Snell Foundation". Balliol Archives and Manuscripts. Balliol College, Oxford. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Balliol's Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell". Balliol College, Oxford. 
  10. ^ "Notice of refusal of listed building consent 10/01644/LBC" (PDF). September 2010. 
  11. ^ "An Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell" (PDF). Balliol College, Oxford. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°45′22.5″N 1°14′52.5″W / 51.756250°N 1.247917°W / 51.756250; -1.247917