September 9 – Oxford Open Doors – Heritage Open Days

Oxfordshire County Hall

A Big Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic on the first day of our new exhibition.

Rachael, Mike and I were all up early and rearing to go. We drove to the Oxford Parkway Park n Ride where we parked the car for £2 for the whole day and then took the bus right into Oxford. It stopped only a block away from the County Hall which is very handy. We arrived by about 10 am to give ourselves an hour to lay out the exhibition brochures, cross stitch kits, USB sticks and geocoins which we have for sale only to find that by 10.15 people were already starting to come in.

The ladies of the Kennington Cancer Fund were busy outside of our laying out their bread rolls, and cutting and arranging a huge variety of cakes and loaves for sale with their cups of tea and coffee. We tasted several different varieties during the day. My favourite was an iced Lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd filling. It was stunning.They were a lovely group of ladies and Rachael and I talked to many of them over the two days. They raise money to support the cancer research of Professor Adrian Harris who leads the ‘Hypoxia and Angiogenesis Group’. The focus of the group is on tumour angiogenesis and the role of notch signalling, and hypoxia biology and its regulation.

They were a lovely group of ladies and Rachael and I talked to many of them over the two days. They raise money to support the cancer research of Professor Adrian Harris who leads the ‘Hypoxia and Angiogenesis Group’. The focus of the group is on tumour angiogenesis and the role of notch signalling, and hypoxia biology and its regulation.

We had a busy day talking to lots of interested and often surprised people. Early in the day, Michael had a visit from Ian who is a researcher at the Bodleian Library. They had a long talk and he was very interested in the work and particularly the research side of Mike’s work.

The door count on the main door was 1200 and wouldn’t be surprised if we talked to nearly 1000 of them. We worked in a sort of tag team with all three of us taking turns to show people what the mosaic is made from, which does get very repetitive. Mike would then use the huge projector screen in the room to talk about his USB and Rachael took the opportunity to take lots of photographs.

All through the day, Tim was doing talks about the workings of the Council sometimes with the help of Zoe Patrick, the Chairman of the Oxfordshire County Council. Rachael and I took the opportunity to join one of these talks which explained the workings of the Council including the flags and coat of arms for the council in the Council Chambers, then we moved to the Old Court House which is now used as the Coroners Court. This court has a tunnel which is joined by another tunnel from the Council Chambers which then goes to the Oxford Castle. So in the past when a criminal was ‘sent down’ he was literally sent down into the tunnel which went immediately to the Castle which was a prison since the 14th century.

County Hall was built just east of Oxford Castle in 1840-41. The architect John Plowman designed it in a Norman Revival style with crenellations to complement the castle.

Oxford Castle is a large, partly ruined Norman medieval castle on the western side of central Oxford. Most of the original moated, wooden motte and bailey castle was replaced in stone in the 11th century and played an important role in the conflict of the Anarchy. In the 14th century, the military value of the castle diminished and the site became used primarily for county administration and as a prison. Most of the castle was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century, the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison. A new prison complex was built on the site from 1785 onwards and expanded in 1876; this became HM Prison Oxford.

The prison closed in 1996 and was redeveloped as the Malmaison hotel. The medieval remains of the castle, including the motte and St George’s Tower and crypt, are Grade I listed buildings and a Scheduled Monument.

According to the Abingdon Chronicle, Oxford Castle was built by the Norman baron, Robert D’Oyly, the elder from 1071–73. D’Oyly had arrived in England with William I in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and William the Conqueror granted him extensive lands in Oxfordshire. Oxford had been stormed in the invasion with considerable damage, and William directed D’Oyly to build a castle to dominate the town. In due course, D’Oyly became the foremost landowner in Oxfordshire and was confirmed with a hereditary royal constableship for Oxford Castle.

By 4.40 the building was finally empty and the three of us went to the supermarket around the corner to get some salmon for tea and took the bus back to the Park n Ride. We were very tired again but very pleased with the response to the mosaic.