St Scholastica Day riot

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Coordinates: 51°45′7″N 1°15′26″W / 51.75194°N 1.25722°W / 51.75194; -1.25722

The Carfax Tower, dated from the 13th century, "witnessed" the described events

The St Scholastica Day riot of 10 February 1355 took place in Oxford, England.[1] Sparked off by a tavern dispute between two students and a taverner, the riot lasted two days and resulted in many deaths among both townspeople and students. The ensuing pacification led to a reinforcement and enlargement of the privileges and liberties of the academic institutions over the town.

Background and dispute[edit]

Site of the Swindlestock Tavern

The seed of the riot was an altercation in the Swindlestock Tavern in Oxford (now the site of the Santander Bank building at Carfax, on the corner of St Aldate's and Queen Street) between two students of the University of Oxford, Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, and the taverner, John Croidon. They complained about the quality of drinks, which led to an exchange of rude words that ended with the students throwing their drinks in the taverner's face and assaulting him.[2] Retaliation for the incident led to armed clashes between locals and students.

The mayor of Oxford, John de Bereford, asked the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Humphrey de Cherlton, to arrest the two students, to no avail. Instead, 200 students supported Spryngeheuse and Chesterfield, allegedly assaulting the mayor and others.[2] As the situation escalated, locals from the surrounding countryside poured in, crying: "Havac! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!"[3]

A riot broke out and lasted two days, which left 63 students and perhaps 30 locals dead.[2][4] The students were eventually routed.


The plaque commemorating the site of the Swindlestock Tavern from 1250 to 1709

The dispute was eventually settled in favour of the University, when a special charter was created. Annually thereafter, on 10 February the saint's day of St Scholastica, the mayor and councillors had to march bareheaded through the streets, attend Mass, and pay to the university a fine of one penny for every scholar killed, a total of 5s, 3d. The penance ended 470 years later in 1825, when the mayor refused to take part.[5][6]


In an act of conciliation on 10 February 1955, the Mayor was given an honorary degree and the Vice-Chancellor was made an Honorary Freeman, at a commemoration of the events of 1355.[2]

The riot was a culmination of other riots in Oxford, which resulted in over 90 deaths.[7] In the 1850s novel The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green by Cuthbert Bede, students still saw St Scholastica's Day as an opportunity for a confrontation.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Top_ten_astonishing_facts". Oxford City Council, UK. 15 December 2009. Archived from the original on 15 December 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Miller, Carol M. (June 1993). "The St. Scholastica Day Riot: Oxford after the Black Death". FCH Annals – Journal of the Florida Conference of Historians. 1: 29–42. Archived from the original on 7 December 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015. (PDF of entire volume Archived 14 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine)
  3. ^ Morris, James (1965). Oxford. Harcourt. p. 69.
  4. ^ "10 February". Ward's Book of Days. 19 August 2010. Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  5. ^ Selwood, Dominic (10 February 2017). "On this day in 1355: University fracas ends with 93 dead and the birth of a 600-year-long tradition". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Paul (31 January 2012). Bloody British History: Oxford. History Press. p. 54. ISBN 9780752481975. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  7. ^ Koenig, Chris. "Rioting over wine led to 90 deaths". The Oxford Times. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2012.