(Left-right) Lord Mayor of Oxford Cllr Mohammed Altaf-Khan, Head of School Professor Heather Viles, and Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire John Harwood at the unveiling of the new panel

(Left-right) Lord Mayor of Oxford Cllr Mohammed Altaf-Khan, Head of School Professor Heather Viles, and Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire John Harwood at the unveiling of the new panel.

Authentic 17th century music courtesy of The Oxford Waits

Authentic 17th century music courtesy of The Oxford Waits.

Dr Martin Coombes talks about Godstow Abbey's value as an important test site for sustainable heritage conservation

Dr Martin Coombes talks about Godstow Abbey's value as an important test site for sustainable heritage conservation.

Last weekend saw celebration for a new interpretation panel at Godstow Abbey ruins near Oxford. Jointly-designed by academics from the School of Geography and the Environment, the Ashmolean Museum and the Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum (WNF), the event was the culmination of a Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) collaboration between the University and local residents. For the first time in the long and colourful history of the abbey, on-site information about this Scheduled Monument will be available to the public. Until now, the significance of Godstow has gone unrecognised by many a passer-by.

Following an introduction and thanks by Head of School Professor Heather Viles, special guests Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire John Harwood and Lord Mayor of Oxford Cllr Mohammed Altaf-Khan did the honours of unveiling the new panel at the event, organised by Graham Jones and Christopher Hardman of the WNF. A talk on the site’s history was given by Dr Eleanor Standley (Ashmolean Museum) and on its use as an important test site for research on sustainable heritage conservation by SoGE’s Dr Martin Coombes. Authentic 17th century music courtesy of The Oxford Waits did much to maintain the spirits of an enthusiastic – if rather chilly – crowd and The Trout pub generously hosted a reception event.

The display is one of the key outcomes of a Knowledge Exchange project that has included several engagement events and has fostered new working relationships between the University and the local community.

Godstow Abbey

Godstow Abbey was originally founded by Ediva of Winchester in 1115, receiving financial support from Kings Henry I and II. In 1176 the mistress of Henry II, Rosamund de Clifford, famed for her beauty, was buried within the grounds. Since then the site has changed hands many times, including to Henry VIII’s physician, George Owen, and successive Earls of Abingdon.

The site was given to the University in 1924, by which time many of the buildings were in a state of ruin reflecting an eventful history that includes major floods, Civil War and pilfering of stone for houses in nearby Wolvercote (long since ceased!). The ruins were scheduled as a site of national historical significance in 1949 and remain under the protection of the University of Oxford.