|About the Book|
OXFORD is so naturally associated with the idea of a University, and the Collegiate buildings which confront one at every turn have such an ancient appearance, that a stranger might be excused for thinking that the University is older than the town,MoreOXFORD is so naturally associated with the idea of a University, and the Collegiate buildings which confront one at every turn have such an ancient appearance, that a stranger might be excused for thinking that the University is older than the town, and that the latter grew up as an adjunct to the former. Of course, the slightest examination of facts suffices to dissipate this notion. Oxford is a town of great antiquity, which may well have been in existence in Alfred the Greats time, though there is not a shred of documentary evidence to prove that he was, as tradition so long asserted, connected with the foundation of a university there: it certainly existed in the reign of his son and successor, Edward the Elder, because—and this is the earliest historical mention of the place—the English Chronicle tells us that Edward took Lundenbyrg and Oxnaford and all the lands that were obedient thereto. That was in 912, a date which marks the first authenticated appearance of Oxford on the stage of English history. .There is a passage in Domesday Book which gives us a fair idea of the size of the town in the Conquerors day. It contained over seven hundred houses, but of these, so harshly had the Normans treated the place, two-thirds were ruined and unable to pay taxes. William made Robert DOily, one of his followers, governor of Oxford. DOilys is the earliest hand (a heavy one, by the way, as the townsfolk learnt to their cost) whose impress is visible on the Oxford of to-day. We may indeed, if we please, attribute a certain piece of wall in the Cathedral to a remoter date, but the grim old tower (which appears in the first illustration) is the first building in Oxford whose author can with certainty be named. It is all that remains of the Castle which Robert DOily built in order to control the surrounding country- and he built his stronghold by the riverside because he thereby dominated the waterway, along which enemies were apt to come, as well as wide tracts of land in every direction. No doubt the hands of the conquered English laboured at the massive structure which was to keep them in subjection.