St Scholastica Day riot

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The Carfax Tower, dated from the 13th century, "witnessed" the described events Carfaxtower fromcornmarket.jpg
The Carfax Tower, dated from the 13th century, "witnessed" the described events

The St Scholastica Day riot of 10 February 1355 is one of the more notorious events in the history of Oxford, England. [1] Sparked off by a tavern dispute between two students and a taverner, the riot lasted two days and resulted in a large number of deaths among local citizens and students. The ensuing pacification led to a reinforcement and enlargement of the privileges and liberties of the academic institutions over the town.

History of Oxford history of the Oxford city in Oxfordshire, England

The history of Oxford in England dates back to its original settlement in the Saxon period. Originally of strategic significance due to its controlling location on the upper reaches of the River Thames at its junction with the River Cherwell, the town grew in national importance during the early Norman period, and in the late 12th century became home to the fledgling University of Oxford. The city was besieged during The Anarchy in 1142.


Background and dispute

Site of the Swindlestock Tavern Site of the swindlestock tavern.jpeg
Site of the Swindlestock Tavern

The seed of the riot was an altercation in the Swindlestock Tavern in Oxford (now the site of the Santander Bank building at Carfax, on the corner of St Aldate's and Queen Street) between two students of the University of Oxford, Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, and the taverner, John Croidon. They complained about the quality of drinks, which led to an exchange of rude words that ended with the students throwing their drinks in the taverner's face and assaulting him. [2] Retaliation for the incident led to armed clashes between locals and students.

Oxford City and non-metropolitan district in England

Oxford is a university city in south central England and the county town of Oxfordshire. With a population of approximately 155,000, it is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom, with one of the fastest growing populations in the UK, and it remains the most ethnically diverse area in Oxfordshire county. The city is 51 miles (82 km) from London, 61 miles (98 km) from Bristol, 59 miles (95 km) from Southampton, 57 miles (92 km) from Birmingham and 24 miles (39 km) from Reading.

Santander UK plc is a British bank, wholly owned by the Spanish Santander Group. Santander UK plc manages its affairs autonomously, with its own local management team, responsible solely for its performance.

Carfax, Oxford Crossroads; central area of Oxford in England

Carfax is at the junction of St Aldate's (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street (west) and the High Street (east) in Oxford, England. It is considered to be the centre of the city, and is at 51.752°N 1.258°W. The name "Carfax" derives from the Latin "quadrifurcus" via the French "carrefour", both of which mean "crossroads".

The mayor of Oxford, John de Bereford, asked the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Humphrey de Cherlton, to arrest the two students, to no avail. Instead, 200 students supported Spryngeheuse and Chesterfield, allegedly assaulting the mayor and others. [2] As the situation escalated, locals from the surrounding countryside poured in, crying: "Havac! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!" [3]

Humphrey de Cherlton was an English medieval churchman and university chancellor.

A riot broke out and lasted two days, which left 63 students and perhaps 30 locals dead. [2] [4] The students were eventually routed.


The plaque commemorating the site of the Swindlestock Tavern from 1250 to 1709 Swindlestock tavern plaque.jpeg
The plaque commemorating the site of the Swindlestock Tavern from 1250 to 1709

The dispute was eventually settled in favour of the University, when a special charter was created. Annually thereafter, on 10 February the saint's day of St Scholastica, the mayor and councillors had to march bareheaded through the streets, attend Mass, and pay to the university a fine of one penny for every scholar killed, a total of 5s, 3d. The penance ended 470 years later in 1825, when the mayor refused to take part. [5] [6]

Scholastica is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Born in Italy, according to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia. Her feast day is 10 February.

Mass (liturgy) type of worship service within many Christian denomination

Mass is a term used to describe the main eucharistic liturgical service in many forms of Western Christianity. The term Mass is commonly used in the Catholic Church and Anglican churches, as well as some Lutheran churches, Methodist, Western Rite Orthodox and Old Catholic churches.

Shilling unit of currency formerly used in the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, and other British Commonwealth countries

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In an act of conciliation on 10 February 1955, the Mayor was given an honorary degree and the Vice-Chancellor was made an Honorary Freeman, at a commemoration of the events of 1355. [2]

The riot was a culmination of other riots in Oxford, which resulted in over 90 deaths. [7] In the 1850s novel The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green by Cuthbert Bede, students still saw St Scholastica's Day as an opportunity for a confrontation.[ citation needed ]

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  1. "Top_ten_astonishing_facts". Oxford City Council, UK. 15 December 2009. Archived from the original on 15 December 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Miller, Carol M. (June 1993). "The St. Scholastica Day Riot: Oxford after the Black Death". FCH Annals – Journal of the Florida Conference of Historians. 1: 29–42. Archived from the original on 7 December 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015. (PDF of entire volume Archived 14 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine )
  3. Morris, James (1965). Oxford. Harcourt. p. 69.
  4. "10 February". Ward's Book of Days. 19 August 2010. Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  5. Selwood, Dominic (10 February 2017). "On this day in 1355: University fracas ends with 93 dead and the birth of a 600-year-long tradition". The Telegraph. ISSN   0307-1235. Archived from the original on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  6. Sullivan, Paul (31 January 2012). Bloody British History: Oxford. History Press. p. 54. ISBN   9780752481975 . Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  7. Koenig, Chris. "Rioting over wine led to 90 deaths". The Oxford Times . Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2012.