A walk around some important city centre landmarks can reveal Oxford’s Jewish heritage.

During the 11th to the 13th centuries in the Middle Ages Jews held a very prominent position at the heart of city life.

And right across the city there are locations steeped in the history of the period.

Start your walk at Oxford Town Hall in St Aldate’s as the site was once occupied by five medieval Jewish stone houses.

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A doorway beneath the building leads to an underground passageway, which links up with a complete network of underground tunnels, connecting the homes of Oxford’s Jewish quarter.

In recent years, there have been a number of exhibitions exploring the history of this period.

An exhibition in 2013 revealed objects dating from the 11th to 13th centuries including a stone lamp, jars and the base for a large stone cross bearing Old Testament scenes.


Oxford Jewish Heritage Committee told the Oxford Mail at the time: “It is believed that Jews were ordered in 1268 to erect the cross, originally located in the courtyard of the parish church of St John the Baptist on the south side of what is now Merton Street. The cross was dismantled when Merton College chapel was built there in 1291.”

Next, walk down St Aldate’s to Christ Church’s Tom Quad, the site of a former synagogue.

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It was opposite Pembroke Street, where the north-west corner tower of Christ Church’s famous Tom Quad is now sited.

The synagogue was founded around 1228 by a wealthy benefactor.

Historians believe it was not a purpose-built structure but was an existing town house.

A walk across picturesque Christ Church Meadow will lead you to what is known as Deadman’s Walk, which has strong Jewish connections.


It was the path that Jewish funeral processions took from the Jewry to their ‘Jew’s Garden’.

Then visit the city’s Botanic Garden and Magdalen College to find out more about the city’s Jewish cemeteries.

The original cemetery - founded about 1190-1231 - was established on floodlands next to the west bank of the River Cherwell, outside the East Gate of the town.

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There are memorial rose gardens at the front of the Botanic Garden, and a memorial plaque erected in 1931 at the garden’s Danby Gate main entrance reflects the history of the cemeteries.


These are just a few of the different sites around the city with Jewish connections.

There are many more and they are documented by the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail at jtrails.org.uk/trails/oxford/places-of-interest.

Other locations include Oxford Castle, the Old Fire Station in George Street, and Balliol College.

The History of Science Museum in Broad Street is also worth a visit as it displays some Jewish exhibits, including Albert Einstein’s blackboard.

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