Oxford Castledetails

[Picture: Oxford Castle]
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Oxford Castle

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From an Etching by A. Brunet-Debaines.

There are other pictures of Oxford Castle.

With the buildings of Robert D’Oily, a follower of the Conqueror’s, and the husband of an English wife, the heiress of Wigod of Wallingford, the new Oxford begins. Robert’s work may be divided roughly into two classes. First, there are the strong places he erected to secure his possessions, and, second, the sacred places he erected to secure the pardon of Heaven for his robberies. Of the castle, and its "shining coronal of towers," only one tower remains. From the vast strength of this picturesque edifice, with the natural moat flowing at its feet, we may guess what the castle must have been in the early days of the Conquest, and during the wars of Stephen and Matilda. We may guess, too, that the burghers of Oxford, and the rustics of the neighbourhood, had no easy life in those days, when, as we have seen, the town was ruined, and when, as the extraordinary thickness of the walls of its remaining tower demonstrates, the castle was built by new lords who did not spare the forced labour of the vanquished. The strength of the position of the castle is best estimated after viewing the surrounding country from the top of the tower. Through the more modern embrasures, or over the low wall round the summit, you look up and down the valley of the Thames, and gaze deep into the folds of the hills. The prospect is pleasant enough, on an autumn morning, with the domes and spires of modern Oxford breaking, like islands, through the sea of mist that sweeps above the roofs of the good town. In the old times, no movement of the people who had their fastnesses in the fens, no approach of an army from any direction could have evaded the watchman. The towers guarded the fords and the bridge and were themselves almost impregnable, except when a hard winter made the Thames, the Cherwell, and the many deep and treacherous streams passable, as happened when Matilda was beleaguered in Oxford. This natural strength of the site is demonstrated by the vast mound within the castle walls, which tradition calls the Jews’ Mound, but which is probably earlier than the Norman buildings. Some other race had chosen the castle site for its fortress in times of which we know nothing. Meanwhile, some of the practical citizens of Oxford wish to level the Jews’ Mound, and to "utilise" the gravel of which it is largely composed. There is nothing to be said against this economic project which could interest or affect the persons who entertain it. M. Brunet-Debaines’ illustration shows the mill on a site which must be as old as the tower. Did the citizens bring their corn to be tolled and ground at the lord’s mill?” (p. 23)



82 x 108mm (3.2 x 4.3 inches)

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Scanner dpi:

600 dots per inch



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