A WOMAN once nicknamed Oxford’s Urban Guerrilla for her fights over all manner of causes has died at her home in Wolvercote aged 98.

Joan Wheare battled fiercely to right perceived wrongs.

Amongst her endeavours was a fight to build Oxford’s ice rink, to keep open St Frideswide’s Church in West Oxford, and to save some of the old college barges that once lined the banks of Christ Church Meadows.

She also worked to raise money for the Cheshire Foundation and other charities through the June Fair which ran for years in Oxpens, and to prevent the Head of the River pub at Folly Bridge being replaced by a modern hotel.

In one early campaign she lay down on the floor of the old gas showrooms in St Aldate’s to make a point and in another she is said to have got into a fight with a cameraman who she believed was falsely staging a riot of students.

Once, when students threatened to occupy the Clarendon Building in a demonstration over secret files, she famously made her own protest and stood outside the building symbolically reading a copy of Kenneth Clark's Civilisation with Lady Bullock, the wife of Alan Bullock, the historian and founding master of St Catherine's College.

She was a great catalyst who pushed people into taking action that they otherwise would not have bothered to do.

Angry that Friars’ Entry, off Magdalen Street, had become ‘disgracefully scruffy’, she got local traders together to improve and clean it up. Similar tactics paid off at the Martyrs’ Memorial and outside the Plough at Wolvercote.

Failing to get the Wolvercote Commoners to cut the grass there, she arrived at the pub with an ancient Rotoscythe and a £10 note for any reveller who could cut the straightest swathe of grass. The area was swiftly trimmed.

Concerned at the plight of wives and partners of graduate students who came to Oxford University from abroad and found themselves alone in a city where they knew no-one, she set up the Oxford University Newcomers’ Club to look after them.

It is still going strong.

More than 70 years ago she began her association with St Giles’s Church and until recently she was a regular worshipper there.

For many years she was an active member of the parochial church council and a leading light in the strong jumble sale culture there.

When her husband, Sir Kenneth Wheare, became Rector of Exeter College, she brought a new informality to what had been a rather austere and old-fashioned set up.

Lady Wheare brought a lively touch to the Rector’s lodgings with a family of young children and a dog which ran wild in the college called Deggory Wheare, after a former fellow who is buried in the chapel.

She was born on October 22, 1915 in Sketty, Swansea, the daughter of a prosperous solicitor, TJ Randell.

Miss Randell, as she was then, was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and then at the Oxford Society of Home Students which later became St Anne’s College.

She met her husband when he was her tutor.

Sir Kenneth, who died in 1979, came to Oxford from Melbourne, Australia, as a Rhodes Scholar before the war.

Here he became Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration, a Fellow of all Souls’ College, Chairman of the Rhodes Trust, Rector of Exeter College, Vice-Chancellor of the University and, on his retirement, Chancellor of Liverpool University.

He had been a city councillor, and chairman of the education committee and was involved in setting up what is now Oxford Brookes University.

Lady Wheare died on Monday and is survived by her children Tom, Katie, Philippa and Henry and step-son Patrick, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Details of her funeral have yet to be confirmed.