Photograph of ET Leeds
Archives and Artefacts
Photograph of ET Leeds beside a trench
Exploring the Past through the Work of E.T. Leeds and A2A


Middle Anglo-Saxon Oxford (AD650-850)

During the early and mid-Saxon periods, especially from the seventh century onwards, Oxford continued to occupy an area of marginal territory located on the borders of the Mercian and West Saxon kingdoms.

There is little evidence for settlement at Oxford during the mid-Saxon period. In fact there is hardly any archaeological evidence for settlement prior to the tenth century, although there have been finds of pottery dating from this period at sites around the city. However the strongest evidence for occupation during this time (other than the river crossing) is linked to the foundation of St Frideswide’s minster.

St Frideswide

Tradition has it that during the early eighth century, a Mercian sub-king called Didan founded a monastery at Oxford, with his daughter, Frideswide, as the first abbess of the community of nuns.

The story goes that when Didan died, King Algar of Leicester pursued Frideswide for marriage. She evades him and fled to Bampton, where she stayed for several years. When Algar arrived in Oxford he was struck blind and returned home. Frideswide worked many miracles at Bampton before eventually returning to Oxford. She died in AD735 and was buried at the minster in Oxford. Numerous miracles were later recorded at her grave.

St Frideswide Tomb
Oxford Cathedral
Shrine to St Frideswide in Oxford Cathedral - dates from medieval period
Oxford Cathedral - probably located on site of St Frideswide's Church

The evidence for the existence of the church and St Frideswide come from several documents including a charter of 1004, the Domesday Book and three twelfth century accounts. However no structural evidence for the church has yet been found. It is through that the Anglo-Saxon church was located in the same place as the later Augustinian priory, which is today occupied by Christ Church College and Oxford Cathedral. In fact, a shrine to St Frideswide can still be seen in the church.

Christ Church College
Christ Church College - built on the site of the Augustinian Priory and probably the Anglo-Saxon abbey

Find out more about St Frideswide

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