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TIMELINE: Oxford

by Darcy Lewis

St Michael's Tower Oxford Ca. 4,000 B.C.: A large Neolithic population resided in the area of modern Oxford, though it is not clear how large or centralized settlement was.

Ca. 2,000-700 B.C.: Modern finds of Bronze Age barrows suggest a more permanent settlement in the area.

Ca. 650 A.D.: St. Frideswide, daughter of the Mercian King Didan, is born. She dies in 735, after founding her abbey in "Ohsnafordia," now Oxford.

911: Oxford became a burh, or fortified town, intended to defend against Danish incursions.

912: The first mention of Oxford appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

1002: St. Frideswide's Abbey is razed by local Danes, precipitating a massacre.

1009: The Danes sack Oxford in retribution for the 1002 massacre of their countrymen.

1013: Danish leader Swein Forkbeard and his armies invade Oxford.

1018: King Canute chooses Oxford as the site of his coronation.

1071: The Norman lord Robert D'Oily builds Oxford Castle.

1138: Oxford burns nearly to the ground in a huge fire.

1142: Queen Matilda is besieged in Oxford Castle by King Stephen.

1249: University College is founded.

1263: Balliol College is founded

1264: Merton College is founded.

1355: St. Scholastica Day riot results in the deaths of several students.

1490: Historian John Rous writes in his 1490 work, Historium Regum Angliae, that Oxford was originally King Mempricius' city, Caer-Memre, built on the River Thames somewhere between 1400 and 1500 BC. No modern evidence supports this theory.

1525: Cardinal Wolsey suppresses the Abbey of St. Frideswide's and founded Cardinal's College on its lands. In 1531 the college itself is suppressed, then re-founded in 1532 as King Henry VIII's College by the grasping monarch.

1542: Oxford incorporates as a city with a Lord Mayoralty form of government.

1545: Originally called "Mary," the huge bell is moved from Osney Abbey to St. Frideswide's Church, where it eventually acquires the "Great Tom" moniker it still bears today.

1546: King Henry VIII re-founds his college as Christ Church College as part of the reorganization of the Church of England, making it the cathedral of the recently created diocese of Oxford.

1555: Prelates Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer are burned at the stakes as heretics outside Balliol College on orders of Queen Mary I.

1602: The Bodleian Library opens with 2,000 volumes. The collection grows so fast that expansions are required in 1610-1612 and 1634-1637. An additional building was built in the 1930s.

1605 Map of Oxford
1621: The Oxford University Botanic Garden, the oldest in Great Britain, is founded by Sir Henry Danvers, the First Earl of Danby.

1634: Oxford University Press receives its charter.

1642: King Charles I settles his Court at Oxford following his expulsion from London.

1646: Oxford falls to Parliamentary forces.

1650: Oliver Cromwell makes himself Chancellor of Oxford University, replacing many heads of colleges with his cronies as punishment for the University's Royalist support.

1668: Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre is completed.

1677: Collector Elias Ashmole donates his huge collection of curiosities to Oxford University.

1680: A successful recasting of Great Tom enables the bell to be hung in Christopher Wren's new Tom Tower. Unsuccessful recasting attempts had occurred in 1612, 1626, 1654, and 1678-79.

1683: The Christopher Wren-designed Ashmolean Museum opens as the world's first university museum. Among its treasures is the body of the last Dodo bird seen in Europe, which crumbles away by 1755 to just the head and a foot. This building is now known as the Old Ashmolean Building and houses the Museum of the History of Science.

1722: The twirling postern gate that gave Turl Street its name is demolished.

1749: The Radcliffe Camera building is completed. Designed by James Gibb, the round landmark was built to house the Radcliffe Science Library.

1773: The Oxford Covered Market is completed.

1790: The Oxford Canal is completed, connecting the city with Coventry. Shortly thereafter, the Duke of Marlborough completes "The Duke's Cut," which links the new canal with the River Thames.

1796: Oxford Canal Company builds their own link to the Thames, at Isis Lock.

1840s: The Great Western Railway and London & North Western Railway link Oxford with London.

1843: The Martyrs' Memorial, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, is completed. This privately funded memorial commemorates the Church of England's great martyrs: Prelates Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer.

1845: The current building of the Ashmolean Museum, designed by Charles Cockerell, opens.

1860: The Oxford University Museum of Natural History opens, representing the teaching and curatorial unification of the natural disciplines within the university.

1860: A seminal debate in the history of evolutionary biology takes place in the newly opened Museum of Natural History that is often viewed as symbolizing the defeat of creationism.

1884: General Augustus Pitt Rivers donates his archeological and anthropological collections to Oxford University, forming the nucleus of today's Pitt Rivers Museum.

1894: The world's first public demonstration of wireless telegraphy occurs in Oxford's Museum of Natural History, carried out by Professor Oliver Lodge.

1897: Edward, Prince of Wales dedicates the new Town Hall, the site of local government since 1292. Construction had begun in 1893.

1911: The Bodleian Library becomes one of five official copyright deposit libraries in Great Britain.

1920s: William Morris launched the Morris Car Company and builds a factory in adjoining Cowley.

1931: Physicist Albert Einstein lectures while visiting Oxford. His blackboard is saved and exhibited at the Museum of the History of Science.

1939-1962: The Inklings writer's group meets faithfully at the Eagle and Child pub. The group, which included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, eventually moves to the Lamb and Flag pub.

1953: The beloved bell Great Tom is rehung in Tom Tower.

1954: Oxford medical student Roger Bannister runs the first authenticated sub-four-minute mile at Oxford.

1969: The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, is founded by a group of Oxford dons. The university declines sponsorship and, in 2002, the gallery's name is shortened to Modern Art Oxford.

1974: Oxford University loses its historic -- and controversial -- right to place its own representatives on the Oxford City Council.

1980s: The Cowley plants suffer huge job losses as parent British Leyland declines.

1985: Turl Street is permanently closed to traffic.

1991: Oxford Brookes University, formerly Oxford Polytechnic, is given its charter.

1999: Thieves use scaffolding to drop through a skylight at the Ashmolean Museum, stealing a Cezanne painting. As the painting was neither sold nor recovered, the theft may have been "ordered" by a private collector.

2000s: The Cowley plant currently produces the successful New Mini for BMW.

2002: Radio listeners vote Cornmarket Street to be Britain's second-worst street. In 2003, it is repaved and new benches installed, amid reports of budgetary problems.

2003: St. John's College lists its storied Eagle and Child pub on the market for 1.2 million. Pub operations continue.

Sept. 2005: Phase I of Science Oxford opens, providing Oxford with the scientific equivalent of an arts center.

Related Articles:

Oxford: Magic, Myth and Martyrs, by Sue Kendrick
http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/towns/oxford.shtml

The Ashmolean Museum: Oxford's Window on the Ancient World, by Sean McLachlan
http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/museums/ashmolean.shtml

Photo Gallery: Ashmolean Museum, by Sean McLachlan and Almudena Alonso-Herrero
http://www.timetravel-britain.com/gallery/ashphoto.shtml

Oxford's Museum of the History of Science, by Sean McLachlan
http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/museums/science.shtml

The Hidden Churches of Oxfordshire, by Louise Simmons
http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/churches/oxfordshire.shtml

TimeTravel-Britain.com's Guide to Historic Sites in Oxfordshire
http://www.timetravel-britain.com/guides/oxfordshire/index.shtml


Darcy Lewis is an award-winning freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Writer's Digest, HGTV Ideas, Home, and the Chicago Tribune, among many other publications. Much of Darcy's knowledge of British history can be traced to her work as a history major specializing in pre-modern England at Brown University in Providence, RI. But her passion has deeper roots: Darcy's English mother, who is an endless treasure trove of stories about "how we do things at Home."
Article © 2006 Darcy Lewis
St. Michael's Tower photo © 2004 Kaihsu Tai (courtesy of Wikipedia.org); map courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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