Oxford Civil War Defensive Structure May Impede the Plans for Flood Alleviation

300 year old map that depicts the Oxford Civil War defenses
300 year old map that depicts the Oxford Civil War defenses

Oxford’s Civil War history reveals there is a major project to refurbish the Oxpen area is underway.

Council officers believe the remains of a defensive structure which is believed to be on the site of the Oxpen Meadow during the mid-17th century, called a sconce, could be buried under the Earth.

Archaeological digs and surveys will be planned before work begins on a system to alleviate flooding. This plan is a part of the Oxpen Masterplan.

The plan is to create 300 homes, flats for students, a hotel and office buildings.

Fiona Piercy, manager of the regeneration and Oxfordshire partnerships, tells the Oxford Mail that little was known about the fortification and whether or not any has remained. There is only one instance of it being acknowledged on a map that is more than three centuries old.

She stated: “We have a map called De Gomme’s Map from 1644 which identifies a small fort or bastion in that area but the existence of that is pretty much uncertain because it is not marked on any subsequent maps.

“We won’t know more until we carry out further investigations.

“What we have done so far is a desktop-based assessment which looks at maps and there were a couple of areas of interest.

“What happens next is we will carry out a geophysical survey, which uses equipment to identify minerals, humps and bumps and from that we can decide where to dig some trenches.”

Fiona Piercy
Fiona Piercy

Piercy feels that there may not be any remains of the structure except for the imprint left on the earth which may be worth looking at. She also believes that the research would not delay any development work since it was already factored into the planning process; however, the plans for the flood alleviation may have to be redone.

Debbie Dance, the director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said that her organization was excited what may be found at the site.

She stated: “We are always very excited about this sort of thing, and we know Oxford has lots of interesting connections to the Civil War.

“This seems like a great opportunity to find out more about that history as Oxpens begins to change.

“Hopefully we will end up finding something about the past as this part of Oxford moves towards the future.”

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE