OPT conserved the Martyrs' Memorial after it sat behind hoardings for 40 years, restoring it to public use and removing it from the Buildings at Risk register.

The Martyrs’ Memorial

The Martyrs’ Memorial stands at the southern end of St Giles', next to the church of St Mary Magdalen. It commemorates the protestant churchmen – bishops Latimer and Ridley, and Archbishop Cranmer – who were burned at the stake at nearby Broad Street in 1555-56, during the reign of Mary Tudor. It was commissioned, in 1840, by members of the Anglican church, who sought to emphasise the importance of the Protestant tradition. Erected in 1841-3, its architect was the young George Gilbert Scott who, as required by his clients, based his design on the late 13th-century Eleanor Cross at Waltham, Essex. This was a monument then believed to express the essence of medieval gothic architecture. The Martyrs’ Memorial is a significant – and prominent – example of an approach to Gothic architectural design which was firmly grounded in medieval sources. It is listed Grade 2*.

Old Postcard containing the Martyrs Memorial

The Conservation Project

A popular local landmark and meeting place, the memorial had fallen into disrepair by the 1990s, when it was added to the Buildings At Risk register and cordoned off behind hoardings to protect passers-by from falling masonry. Hidden from public view, with early 20th-century cement repairs contributing to its deteriorating condition, the memorial was – by 2001 – in urgent need of conservation. In 2002, to mark OPT’s 75th anniversary, we led a successful public fundraising campaign for the repair of the memorial and its return to the public domain.  The stonework was cleaned and repaired, and the steps replaced. The Caen stone figures were repaired, with missing sculpted features reinstated in a soft lime-based mortar anchored by hundreds of ceramic ‘T’ pegs coated with a lime-based ‘shelter coat’. The religious symbols and heraldic shields were painted with the correct heraldic colours. Special provision was made for conservation students to access the work. 

A person in a hard hat restoring the martyrs memorial

A place to watch the world go by

On a bitterly cold clear evening in January 2003, OPT handed back the memorial to the people of Oxford. Its social function, as a popular gathering place in the heart of our city – was restored. This beautiful monument once more enhances the southern aspect of St Giles and, in its commemoration of victims of deep religious and political division, reminds us of an important chapter in our history. 

An image of the Martyr's Memorial, Oxford


We were delighted to work in partnership with the City Council, owners of the monument, who commissioned the work with our support. We are also enormously grateful to perhaps our most important partners – all those local people, who contributed to our fundraising campaign. Their generosity proves what can be achieved when people come together with a common purpose.