Martyrs Memorial L.O.L.No. 213 Oxford


The Memorial


 On the 15th November, 1838, a meeting of the Gentlemen of the University and City at the Town Hall, Oxford, unanimously agreed to recommend to the support of the public a proposed memorial of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley as a 'tribute of respect and veneration to self-denying Christian faith and constancy'. The meeting appointed a committee of twenty-nine persons, including the Heads of ten Colleges and Halls, the Mayor and six other representatives of the City. An immediate appeal for funds was launched.

    There was some confusion as to whether a Monument and / or a Church were to be built. At a meeting of subscribers on 31st January 1839, at the Town Hall, it was resolved that the Memorial should be a Church near to the spot of Martyrdom. Some notable subscribers at this time were Gladstone, Peel, the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, Armagh and Dublin and at least sixteen other bishops. Towards the end of 1839, it became clear that an eligible site for a Church could not be obtained. A decision was taken to build a Memorial Cross at the northern extremity of St. Mary Magdalene Churchyard and, in addition, to rebuild and enlarge the northern aisle of that Church, to be called the Martyr's Aisle.

    At a meeting of the subscribers held on 5th March 1840, the committee's ideas for the cross were sufficiently well advanced as to be described in some detail. Remarkably quick progress was made thereafter. A thirteen-page publication, entitled 'The Information And Instructions Forwarded To The Architects Who Have Been Invited To Favour The Committee With Designs For The Memorial Cross' was produced. It stated that the Memorial Cross was to be of the same sort as the fifteen 'Eleanor' crosses erected by Edward I, of which only three remained. Of the three, the hexagonal cross at Waltham was to be adopted and a thorough description of it was given. There followed a detailed specification of the Committee's ideas for the Martyr's Memorial Cross based on the Waltham example. From the 'Gentleman's Magazine' we learn that the successful competitor was either to be employed as architect or receive the sum of 40 And that the designs were to be submitted by 15th May, 1840. It is not known how many architects were invited to favour the Committee with designs, but that seven did so. Repeated meetings of the Committee were held to judge the designs. The designs of Messrs. Scott and Moffatt, of London, were preferred to those of a local architect named Mr. Derek by a trifling majority. The local newspaper proves that this point had been reached before 6th June 1840 - only three months after the Subscribers meeting on 5th March. Scott and Moffat subsequently designed the Chapel and Library of Exeter College, the Albert Memorial, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and St. Pancras Station Hotel, etc.

    There is a dearth of information on the work done at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The Vestry Book records acceptance of the proposal that the Memorial Committee should rebuild and enlarge the north aisle and alter the Chancel of the Church, on condition that the parishioners agreed to take upon themselves the expense of fitting up the interior of the Martyr's Aisle.

    A hexagonal area of fifteen feet radius had to be excavated to a substantial depth and concrete ten feet in depth poured in to form a foundation for the Memorial. The top was covered with plank stones and at the centre of these, a stone of hexagonal shape was laid. On 19th May 1841, this stone was laid at a public ceremony. Little is known of the subsequent events but progress on the Cross was somewhat slow. The statues were carved by 21st June 1842, and on 7th March 1843, it was reported that the Cross had been completed apart from the inscription in bronze letters and the erection of a fence to protect the Cross. In the records of what was probably the last meeting of the Committee there was no mention of any ceremony to mark the completion of the Cross

The Inscription on the North side of the Memorial, below the niches with statues of the three Martyrs reads:
'To the glory of God and in grateful commemoration of His servants Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, prelates to the Church of England who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned bearing witness to their sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome; and rejoicing that to them it was given, not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for His sake

    This Monument was erected by Public Subscription in the year of Lord God 1841

In 1903 a Committee of Parishioners appealed to the inhabitants of Oxford and others for funds to carry out repairs to the Martyr's Memorial. The minor repairs needed cost approximately 60. The iron railings were removed during the Second World War 1939 - 1945. In May 1949 an appeal was launched for funds to restore the Martyr's Memorial at a possible cost of 1,000. Repairs again became necessary in 1965. The City Council had to accept responsibility for the cost of further repairs for the sum of 1,200 in 1967.

    The Martyr's Memorial has now become a public monument. ( from a report by S. J. Scott-Pearson, published in the Reformer 1991. )