Oxford - Priory of the Holy Spirit

Blackfriars, St Giles, Oxford OX1

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A large chapel in a late Gothic style, and a late work by E. Doran Webb. It forms part of a Dominican Priory in the centre of Oxford, which is listed as a fine example of 1920s conventual architecture. The chapel has few furnishings but these are of high quality. 

The first Dominican priory in Oxford was founded in 1221, which in 1245 moved to a new site outside the city walls (dissolved in 1538). The present Priory – the third in Oxford – was established by Fr Bede Jarrett, the first Dominican since the Reformation to study at Oxford. The present site was acquired by an American widow, Mrs Charlotte Jefferson Tytus, and donated to the Dominicans. The foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Bourne on 15 August 1921, the seven hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first Oxford priory and the anniversary of the death of Mrs Tytus’s husband. The building was completed in 1929. On 17 May the full community moved into the buildings and the church was consecrated three days later by Archbishop Goodier, titular Archbishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia. The architect was Edward Doran Webb (1864–1931). In c.1951, a staircase tower and a short ancillary range were added by Rayson & Partners.

The church is described in the list entry (see below) as ‘surprisingly large and flooded with light from the clear-glazed windows. Timber arched ceiling. Main altar on five steps; chancel and sanctuary with black and white tiling, contrasting with black and white bands marking the processional route round the nave. The chancel stalls inserted 1963 by Colin Fleetwood-Walker. The other fittings date from the1920s and more consistent in character. Nave with chairs; single aisle set with side altars’.

The following additional comments on some of the main furnishings follow conventional liturgical orientation (the church actually faces west.)

  • The west screen of intricately carved stone is one of the most decorative furnishings of the chapel
  • The white marble Stations of the Cross are in the style of Eric Gill and appear to be signed AW
  • The three side chapels in the south aisle each have an altar to the east and a canopied piscina to the south. The east chapel has a fifteenth-century carved alabaster panel of the Annunciation; the centre chapel has a statue of Fr Bede Jarrett
  • In the entrance lobby is an expressive modern statue of Our Lady with the Christ Child, in the pose of a Pietà
  • The inscription panel over the street entrance commemorating the return of the Dominicans was carved by Eric Gill.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Edward Doran Webb

Original Date: 1929

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed