A GLIMPSE of Oxford’s Civil War history could be unearthed as a major project to refurbish the Oxpens area gets underway.

Council officers believe that remains of a ‘sconce’ – a defensive structure believed to be on the site of Oxpens Meadow in the mid-17th century – could be buried beneath the ground.

Surveys and a possible archaeological dig will go ahead before work begins on a flood alleviation scheme due to take place as part of the Oxpens Masterplan.

The scheme is set to create 300 homes, student flats, a hotel and offices.

Oxfordshire partnerships and regeneration manager Fiona Piercy said little was known about the fortification or whether or not any of it would remain, because its existence was only suggested on one map which is more than 300 years old.

She said: “We have a map called De Gomme’s Map from 1644 which identifies a small fort or bastion in that area but the existence of that is pretty much uncertain because it is not marked on any subsequent maps.

“We won’t know more until we carry out further investigations.

“What we have done so far is a desktop-based assessment which looks at maps and there were a couple of areas of interest.

“What happens next is we will carry out a geophysical survey, which uses equipment to identify minerals, humps and bumps and from that we can decide where to dig some trenches.”

She said it was unlikely that any of the physical structure of the sconce would had survived, but its imprint on the earth may be worth studying.

She added that the research would not delay development work as it had been factored into the planning process, but that flood alleviation plans may have to be redrawn.

  • OXFORD was the Royalist capital of England during the English Civil War. The King lived at Christ Church and the Queen at Merton College. A second parliament was set up in the hall at Christ Church for loyalist MPs and Lords. Munitions were stored in college cloisters and a range of fortifications was set up. Coins minted in 1644 in Oxford are now on display in the Ashmolean Museum.

Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance said her organisation was excited about what the work might unearth.

She said: “We are always very excited about this sort of thing, and we know Oxford has lots of interesting connections to the Civil War.

“This seems like a great opportunity to find out more about that history as Oxpens begins to change.

“Hopefully we will end up finding something about the past as this part of Oxford moves towards the future.”