St Paul’s Church (Freud’s)

St. Paul's Church, now Freud's cafe
St. Paul's Church, now Freud's cafe

A distinctive building on Walton Street, now a cafe and arts venue

Posted - December 26, 2012

St.Paul’s was the first new parish to be created and its parish church the first to be built since the Reformation. Its opening in 1835 gave administrative recognition to the growing new suburb of Jericho. The parish, carved out of those of St.Thomas and St.Giles, covered an area extending from St.Giles Road West, as the south end of Woodstock Road was then called, to the canal and from Workhouse Lane, now Little Clarendon Street, to the end of Walton Street which then turned west to end outside the ironworks. The bridge over the canal led only to the towpath for there was no way into Port Meadow. The parish was made up of the University Press and the few rows of houses between the Press and Jericho Street, east of Albert Street, Carter’s Ironworks, the odd cottage and the Jericho House. On the east side were Walton Hall, Cocks Alley, the Radcliffe Infirmary and Observatory with Observatory Street. The present St.Bernard’s Road was still a crooked sunken lane. The church was built on part of the old burial ground of the RadcliflTe Infirmary, a gift from the trustees, with £3,500 raised by public subscription. The classic design was by HJ. Underwood. In 1853 the church was enlarged by the addition of an apse at the east end by E.G. Bruton. The Pre-Raphaelite stained glass was installed between 1888-9.

The first outbreak of cholera in the parish in 1831 helped to inspire the building of the church. It was followed by two more in 1849 and 1854 which re-enforced the parish’s adherence to the beliefs of the Oxford Movement on the importance of personal responsibility in promoting education, health reform and social justice. One of the churchwardens, Thomas Combe, was a friend and devout follower of John Henry Newman who began the Movement. In 1835 St.Paul’s opened its school for 100 pupils. The Gothic building still stands on Walton Street just south of the Eye Hospital. It soon became too small and in 1856 the Boys’ school was built on Great Clarendon Street. This later transferred to St.Barnabas.

St.Paul’s was famous for its elaborate ritual and processions; also for its dramatic tableaux depicting biblical events and there was great competition to take part. Sunday evening services which could generate long queues of students waiting to hear the distinguished preachers of the period. There was also a very active social club which in the 1920s organized a day trip to France by special train to Dover and by the ferry.

Wars and changing attitudes to religion led to a rapid decline. By 1963 St.Paul and St.Barnabas parishes united and in 1969 St.Paul’s was closed. It then stood empty until 1975 when the Oxford Area Arts Council bought it for a theatre and exhibition hall. The conversion was mismanaged. It was incomplete when the Arts Centre opened tentatively in 1985 but was closed again in 1987. Finally in 1988 it was leased out as Freud’s Arts Cafe.

This article is taken from the Jericho Sketchbook

Did you know?

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