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Museum of Oxford Digital Exhibitions

Remembering all martyrs

Photo credit: LepoRello, CC BY-SA 4.0

Installed in 2008, this plaque commemorates all the martyrs of Oxford, regardless of their faith.

Designed by Martin Jennings, it was placed in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin to commemorate 23 ‘Martyrs of the Reformation’. Unlike any of the other memorials, however, it is dedicated to both Protestants and Catholics. Rightly assuming that the effects of the Reformation lasted centuries, it names all those who lost their lives on account of their beliefs between 1539 and 1681. Beneath the names are the words: ‘Those whose names are known stand for all who suffered’.

The proposal to erect the memorial originally came from Diarmaid MacCulloch, then Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, and Sir Hugo Laurence Joseph Brunner KCVO KStJ JP, then Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire (1996-2008). Brunner's wife is Catholic and the great-granddaughter of John Hungerford Pollen (1820–1902), a decorative artist and architect, Anglican divine and Tractarian (a term explored in our section on the Oxford Movement) who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1852. The proposal was seconded by the Chancellor Chris Patten, the first Catholic to hold this position since 1558. But the idea was not welcomed by all. Not least, some still argued that Catholics who had been found guilty of treason should have no place of honour in a Protestant church. Yet those keen to commemorate all martyrs won out.