GOBLETS, old muskets and vintage cigar boxes are just some of the £2.5m worth of antique items Oxford City Council owns.

The Oxford Mail can reveal Oxfordshire’s councils are sitting on “staggering” art collections worth millions, with the city’s being the most expensive.

By comparison, Oxfordshire County Council boasts a modest collection worth just £74,600 including 11 oil paintings and a bronze figure.

The district councils across the county have collections worth a combined total of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Many works are on display in public buildings, but many – especially Oxford’s – are kept out of public gaze.

The city council’s collection of 234 works includes a pair of George IV silver-lined maple goblets from 1821 and 12 muskets dating from 1690.

Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman Gordon Roper said the scale of the city’s collection could not be justified.

He said: “The city council has been selling property off left, right and centre.

“I’m not saying get rid of all paintings – keep the old ones – but surely they could sell off some of them?

“If there is stuff down in the cellars that people can’t see, they could have an auction and get some money.”

In the past three years the city council has sold off more than 20 properties, bringing in more than £10m for council coffers, including Temple Cowley Pool, Masons Road Playground and land at Headington Hill Park.

Chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance Jonathan Isaby said: “No-one is proposing a wholesale sell-off of art owned by the Government, but the scale of these collections is staggering, and the disparities are striking.

“These local authorities should display more art for the public to enjoy, and they also need to take a look at their art portfolio and think about what does and does not need to be held on to.”

Green Party city councillor Sam Hollick said making quick money from selling off historic works was not worth the longer-term cultural loss to the city.

He said: “I generally think these things should be kept in public hands.”

Councils released their lists to the Oxford Mail after a Freedom of Information request. The city council refused to give individual valuations for any works to avoid encouraging thieves.

Lord Mayor of Oxford Rae Humberstone said the items were part of Oxford’s heritage and brought in tourists.

He said: “It’s part of the town hall and it’s part of the city’s traditions – if people don’t come and see it that’s their choice but it’s there to be seen.

“I’d hate to see them lost. We would spend £2.5m in an hour.”

Vale of White Horse District Council’s collection of nine works is worth £295,000.

West Oxfordshire District Council has a collection worth £106,500, while Cherwell District Council listed 67 paintings and sculptures ncluding a £15,000 bronze horse and a portrait of the Queen valued at £187 in 1982.

South Oxfordshire District Council owns artworks “incorporated in the fabric” of Cornerstone arts centre, Didcot, which it could not value individually plus sculpture “The Swirl” at the Orchard Centre, valued at £30,000.


Oxford City Council’s collection of antiques includes:

* A set of 12 James II dinner plates dating from 1687
* A pair of George III sauce boats from 1772
* A pair of early Victorian silver-plated candelabra
* A late 13th-century cast from the King’s seal for Oxford
* A pair of George IV silver-mounted and lined maple goblets from 1821
* A Victorian trowel with an ivory handle
* A “large quantity” of 20th-century Wedgwood porcelain
* The Great Mace of the City of Oxford, dating from 1660
* The Lord Mayor’s chain of office with badge in 18 carat gold
* The Lady Mayoress’ chain of office and pendant badges in 15 carat gold
* The sheriff’s chain of office in 18 carat gold
* Muskets dating from 1690