Building » Oxford (Marston) – St Anthony of Padua

Oxford (Marston) – St Anthony of Padua

Headley Way, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX3

A large church of a relatively conventional design for 1959–60, built as a dual-purpose church and hall, with a wide, light-filled interior. The latest reordering included the provision of new sanctuary furnishings by David John. This was the parish church of the writer J.R.R. Tolkien, and the large west crucifix is by the sculptor Faith Tolkien, his daughter-in-law.

In 1940, a mission at Marston was established by the Franciscans of Greyfriars. Eight years later, a multi-purpose church-hall was erected in Marston, served by the Greyfriars Franciscans. In 1956, Fr A.J. Adams was appointed the first parish priest. The Archbishop of Birmingham laid the foundation stone for this church on 4 July 1959. He blessed and opened the church on 11 June 1960. The architect was J. Lynch of Jennings, Homer & Lynch, and the builder was A. C. Carter of Oxford. In the early 1970s, the present presbytery was built.

The most famous parishioner was J.R.R. Tolkien, whose requiem Mass was held here in 1973. His daughter-in-law, the sculptor Faith Tolkien created the large crucifix at the west end. In 1996, the parish acquired a small chamber organ of 1815 by William Gray from the Freemasons’ Lodge. In 1998, the church was refurbished and reordered to a design by the sculptor David John in time for the consecration in 2000. In 2004, the construction of the attached hall was begun to a design by Towle Spurring Hardy Architects (now TSH Architects).


The church was originally conceived as a dual purpose church-hall structure. It is of a T-plan with the east end nearly flush with the transepts. Beyond the east end are flat-roofed sacristies. The church was built using a steel frame. The outer walls are of brick laid in stretcher bond with panels of random stone to the outer elevations of the transepts. The roof is tiled with a tall thin copper-clad needle spire over the crossing. The west elevation has a flat-roofed porch with recessed and panels of coloured glass on either side of the entrance doors. Above is the wide seven-light west window with a simple timber cross.

The interior is bright and well-lit by large window at the west and in the transepts. The nave windows are small and oblong. The sanctuary furnishings of matching stone date from 1998 (designed by David John, who also designed the crucifix). The transepts have small polygonal rooms against the west walls – that in the north transept is a porch. The Lady altar with statue is in the north transept, while the south transept has the organ of 1815 by William Gray. Over the inner west door hangs a large crucifix by Faith Tolkien which until 1998 hung in the sanctuary. The Stations are conventional unframed reliefs.

Heritage Details

Architect: Jennings, Homer & Lynch

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed