I’ve written before about the stresses of popping into Oxford to do a bit of shopping – the traffic on the Botley Road, the horrors of the Westgate multi-storey, the heaving crowds on Cornmarket. So yesterday, to make my afternoon in Oxford a little more pleasant I popped into the tiny Saxon church of St Michael in the Northgate.
For a couple of pounds you can climb the Saxon tower which is full of old treasures – silverware from the 17th Century and ancient Bibles. But there were a couple of items which I particularly liked. The first is this wonderful wooden chest from 1652:
What’s interesting about it is that it has three locks, each requiring a separate key. The keys were held by three different members of the congregation. It was used to hold parish documents and opened once a year, but this was only possible if all three key-holders were in agreement. I’d love to know how many times one of them fell out with the others, or one of them lost his key.
Probably the most interesting artefact at St Michael in the Northgate is this door which is propped against the wall on one of the landings in the staircase:
This is the door through which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, known as the Oxford Martyrs, were led to their deaths. They were burnt at the stake in 1556 during the reign of Mary I for their Protestant religious beliefs. I love the way something as simple as a wooden door can last through the centuries and be such a powerful symbol of terrible historical events.
And finally, here’s the view from the top of the tower:
Well worth a couple of pounds I think and it made my otherwise mundane shopping trip into something rather special.
What hidden treasures does your home town possess?