St George’s Tower and Chapel Crypt
D block with Debtor’s Tower
C block with Round Tower
Motte to former castle in Oxford, with Well Chamber. Mound, c1071 as the motte of Oxford Castle built for Robert d’Oilly to provide a means for the Normans to control the town and the Upper Thames Valley; originally there would have been a wooden keep. The Well Chamber: early C13, rubble stone. A flight of steps leads down about 20 feet into a hexagonal plan chamber with stone vaulted roof supported on chamfered ribs. In 1776 New Road was built across the northern part of the Bailey. In 1785, the County Justices acquired the site to build a new Oxford Prison: by Blackburn; coursed rubble with stone dressings; 4-storey Debtor’s Tower.
There had been prison buildings within the bailey since the C12, and the new build incorporated the other surviving elements of the castle. St George’s Tower, a rare piece of stone military architecture surviving from the conquest period: c1071 for Robert d’Oilly to guard the north-west angle of Oxford Castle bailey and serve as the bell tower to the castle Chapel of St. George; walls at ground level 9′ thick. St George’s Chapel Crypt, now beneath D Wing: c1074, probably rebuilt; renewed groin vaults spring from original columns with crudely carved chevron design Romanesque cushion capitals.
The church itself projected eastwards from the base of St. George’s Tower. St George’s began as a collegiate church for secular canons, founded and endowed jointly by Robert d’Oilly and Roger d’Ivry. Amongst the canons were notably learned men including Walter Map, Robert of Chesney and historian Geoffrey of Monmouth whose presence may have contributed towards the establishment of the University in the town.
The castle saw little action apart from during the Anarchy in 1142 when King Stephen besieged the Empress Matilda and it was attacked in the Baron’s War of 1215. Oxford Castle was slighted in 1652.