HISTORY buffs hope a newly-installed blue plaque on a little noticed old chapel will help people find out more about the building's 'significant history.'

A large crowd gathered in Angel Court, off St Clement's last week to see the unveiling of the plaque at St Ignatius’ Chapel, the first Roman Catholic place of worship in Oxford after the Reformation.

Now part of a centre for small businesses, the chapel was built in 1793 after the lifting of restrictions on Roman Catholics by George III.

Eda Forbes, the secretary to the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board, said: "This modest and discreet building deserves greater recognition for the significant part it played in the religious, social and educational history of Oxford."

The chapel was built by a Jesuit priest, Charles Leslie, who moved from Waterperry to St Clement’s in 1790.

After the passing of the Catholic Relief Act, Roman Catholics were permitted to set up their own churches and schools and Father Leslie was determined to build a chapel for about sixty local parishioners.

He found £1000 from his own funds and raised the rest from supporters and constructed the building in the garden of his house.

Ms Forbes said: "It was set well back from the road as anti-Catholic sentiment at that time was still strong.

"On Sundays, two university proctors would stand outside on the look-out for undergraduates for whom the chapel was out of bounds.

"After Mass the congregation would take breakfast at the Port Mahon next door, where it still is."

St Ignatius’ Chapel served the Catholic community until 1911, latterly becoming part of the St Ignatius’ School for girls and infants.

It was here where the controversial priest John Henry Newman worshipped.

He became the leader of the so-called Oxford Movement, demanding a return of Catholic beliefs and rituals to the Church of England.

After his reception into the Roman Catholic Church in 1845, Cardinal Newman regularly attended Mass at the chapel, walking over from Littlemore during his remaining months in Oxford.

The much larger Roman Catholic Church of St Aloysius (The Oratory), designed by Joseph Hansom, was opened in Woodstock Road in 1875.

The priest of this church, poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, spent a lot of his time at the St Clement's chapel, teaching the poor and infirm in this part of the city.

In 1909 the priest’s house on the street was replaced by a new school building designed to house 200 pupils but the chapel continued to be used as a school room.

The school was later renamed St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School which remained on the site until 1968 when it moved to Headley Way, New Marston.

Angel Court now houses businesses including the Wheelhouse, a 'co-working' office space.

The plaque was unveiled to coincide with St Ignatius' Day by the Rt Revd William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and Revd Dr Joseph Munitiz, a former Master of Campion Hall, Oxford.