Oxford Castle

The original castle was built in 1071 by Robert D’Oyly, a Norman baron who had come to England with William the Conqueror and who held extensive lands in Oxfordshire. It was a typical Motte and bailey castle of the time with a wooden keep, the mound of which can still be seen today.

The mound of the original Norman keep
The mound of the original Norman keep

In 1141 it was the base of Empress Matilda, who narrowly escaped when besieged by King Stephen who successfully captured the castle. Early in the 13th century the wooden keep was replaced by a stone tower.


In 1236 there is the first record of the castle being used to house ‘rebellious scholars’ from the university.

However the condition of the castle was allowed to deteriate and in 1327 required an expensive refurbishment.

By 1613 the castle had passed into the ownership of Christchurch College Oxford who rented it out to local tenants. During the English civil war Oxford became the Royalist capital and in 1646 the castle, and town, were besieged and captured by the Parliamentarian forces, who strengthened the castles defences.

In 1785 it was purchased from Christchurch by the local justices and redeveloped into a ‘modern’ prison. The stone keep was pulled down and a number of prison wings built. It was also the site for Oxford’s executions, the last of which took place in 1863.

Castle tower incorporated into prison buildings
Castle tower incorporated into prison buildings
Castle tower incorporated into prison buildings
Castle tower incorporated into prison buildings
Prison Block
Prison Block
Prison block
Prison block

The area around the castle has been redeveloped in recent years to incorporate restaurants and shops and one wing of the old prison has been turned into a luxury hotel.


  1. Thank you for this, impressive information.

    I would LOVE to use the historic image of the castle for my dissertation on Historic Prisons
    Can I ask you where you found it??
    Amazing, I thought I uncovered the old images.
    This is NOT in any of the documents, impressive!!!

    Well done!

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