Martyrs' Memorial

Coordinates: 51°45′18″N 1°15′32″W / 51.75509°N 1.25901°W / 51.75509; -1.25901

The Martyrs' Memorial is a stone monument positioned at the intersection of St Giles', Magdalen Street and Beaumont Street in Oxford, England just outside Balliol College. It commemorates the 16th-century "Oxford Martyrs".

Description

Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the monument was completed in 1843 after two years' work, having replaced "a picturesque but tottering old house". The Victorian Gothic memorial, whose design dates from 1838, has been likened to the steeple of a cathedral. The three statues of Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley are by Henry Weekes. The monument is listed at grade II*.

The inscription on the base of the Martyrs' Memorial reads as follows:

Cuthbert Bede (in his novel The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green) wrote about the setting of the Martyrs' Memorial thus in 1853:

The actual site of the execution is close by in Broad Street, located just outside the location of the old city walls. The site is marked by a cross sunk in the road.

History

As well as being a monument to the Reformation, the memorial is also a landmark of the 19th century Oxford Movement, propagated by John Keble, John Henry Newman and others. Profoundly alarmed at the Catholic realignment the movement was bringing into to the Church of England, the Rev. Golightly and other low church Anglican clergy raised the funds for erecting the monument, with its highly pro-Protestant and anti-Catholic inscription, as a public propaganda move. As a result the monument was built 300 years after the events it commemorates.

The condition of the Memorial deteriorated in the twentieth century, but it underwent a full restoration in 2003, funded by Oxford City Council and the Oxford Preservation Trust.

Popular rumour amongst some tour guides is that in the past students have misled foreign tourists about the nature of the Memorial and convinced them it was the spire of an underground church. This would result in the tourists venturing down a flight of stairs near the Memorial which actually lead to the public toilets.