The area in Oxford covered by St Sepulchre’s Cemetery

St Sepulchre’s Cemetery, which opened in 1848, was restricted to the burials of people who lived in the north-west of Oxford, more precisely in the area covered by the three ancient parishes of St Michael-at-the Northgate, St Mary Magdalen, and St Giles, and the new St Paul’s district chapelry. The cemetery is strictly divided up into those four separate areas, so that people who lived next to each other in life lie near each other in death.

As you enter the cemetery, the four parish burial areas are as follows, running in long strips down to the opposite (west) end:

  • St Mary Magdalen parish runs along the entire length of the left-hand (south) wall
  • St Michael's parish (smaller and narrower) is the next one along, again running to the far west end
  • St Giles's parish (later including Ss Philip & James) is next, and again runs to the far west end
  • St Paul's parish (later including St Barnabas) runs along the entire length of the right-hand (north) wall.

The part of Oxford covered by the cemetery was until 1932 covered by two separate registration districts: Oxford (St Michael-at-the-Northgate, St Mary Magdalen, and part of the St Paul’s district chapelry); and Headington (St Giles’s and part of the St Paul’s district chapelry, and their subsequent daughter parishes of Ss Philip & James and St Barnabas). This means that when searching for deaths in Free BMD fit is necessary to select both Headington and Oxford as probable registration districts to find the people buried in this cemetery. (Note that when the people who are buried here died away from home, their deaths are registered in the area where they died, even if they were only very temporarily away: for example the death of a man buried here who lived in St Giles’s parish but was killed in the Shipton-on-Cherwell railway disaster was registered in the Woodstock district.

The descriptions below relate to the 1861 census, just before the four key areas began to be subdivided into these new parishes. The total population then served by the cemetery was 9,051.

Oxfordshire Family History Society map showing Oxford
parish boundaries in the early twentieth century

This also shows the four later parishes that continued to be covered by St Sepulchre’s: Ss Philip & James, St Margaret, and part of St Andrew (daughter parishes of St Giles), and St Barnabas (daughter parish of St Paul’s)

St Michael's Church

St Michael-at-the-Northgate parish
(including Exeter and Jesus Colleges)

This ancient city parish was the only one of the group within the city wall. It stretched from Broad Street southwards to Market Street/Brasenose Lane, and was in the Oxford registration district.

It was a small parish in 1861, comprising just one enumeration district, and so there is only one census book. The 1861 census enumerator described it thus:

  • Oxford Enumeration District 8: Parish of St Michael: Population 971
    The whole of the Parish of Saint Michael, Oxford. Comprising Nos. 9 to 31 on the East side of Corn Market Street, Nos. 32 to 67 on the West side of the same Street – Market Street – Bell Yard – Ship Street – Exeter College to Broad Street on the East side of Turl Street – Jesus College to Broad Street on the West Side of Turl Street – Tredwell’s Yard – the south side of Broad Street – Saunder’s Yard – Boxall’s Passage – nos. 1 to 12 on the South side of George Street – New Inn Hall Street from Corn Market Street to the House of Dr. N. Durell, Esq. and back again from the House of W. C. Bramwell, Esq to Cornmarket Street. – Elm Cottages and the Star passage.

* In 1861 New Inn Hall Street did not stretch up to George Street, but turned east to reach Cornmarket. When the extension to the north was made in 1872, the former eastern section was given the new name of St Michael Street.


St Mary Magdalen

St Mary Magdalen parish
(including Balliol, St John’s, and Trinity Colleges)

This ancient city parish stretched from Walton Street in the west to Parks Road in the east, and was in the Oxford registration district. From 1850 there was a chapel of ease in George Street for the poorer parts of this parish: this was closed in 1919 and demolished in 1835 to make way for a cinema.

In 1861 it was a very large parish, divided into two enumeration districts. The two 1861 census enumerators described them thus:

  • Oxford Enumeration District 8 (East side of St Mary Magdalen parish): Population 1,311
    Part of the Parish of Saint Mary Magdalen.
    Comprising the West side of Park Street [i.e. Parks Road] – the North side of Broad Street – Trinity College – Balliol College – Nos. 1 to 4 on the East side of Saint Giles Street – Saint John’s College – No. 58 to the Taylor Buildings on the West side of Saint Giles Street – Magdalen Street – Cross Yard – Friar’s Entry – Friar’s Court – Albert Court – Beaumont Place – Beaumont Street – Nos. 1 to 10 on the East side of Saint John’s Street – Nos. 49 to 63 on the West side of same street – Nos. 1 to 11 Beaumont Buildings and a Cottage at Beaumont Mews
  • Oxford Enumeration District 7 (West side of St Mary Magdalen parish): Population 1,244
    Saint Mary Magdalen Parish. Comprising remaining part of St Mary Magdalen Parish – Nos. 14 to 41 on the south side of George Street – the whole of the North side of the same street – Black Swan Yard – Farmers Row – Queen’s Court – Broken Hayes – Bown’s Yard – Victoria Court – Red Lion Square – Gloucester Green – the City Gaol – Gloucester Lane – the East side of Worcester Street – and the East side of Walton Street from the Workhouse Gardens to Beaumont Street

St Giles's Church

St Giles’s parish
(including Keble College from 1868)

This ancient city parish covered a huge area outside the original walled town of Oxford stretching right up to Summertown, but the northern part was originally sparsely populated. It was in the Headington registration district.

By the time of the 1861 census the church was already overcrowded, and its parish was divided into two enumeration districts. The two 1861 census enumerators described them thus

  • Headington Enumeration District 16 (East side of St Giles’s parish): Population 1,039
    Part of the Parish of Saint Giles’ from and including No. 38 St John’s Road [now renamed St Bernard’s Road]; along the North side of Saint John’s Road to the Horse and Jockey Public House; Crossing into and along the Banbury Road to the top of Batt’s Nursery; along the Parks Road to the Back entrance of St John’s College close; thence through the Stable Yard into Saint Giles Street; along the East side of Saint Giles Street to the Pheasant Public House [No. 30 on the corner of Keble Road]; Crossing through Saint Giles Church Yard to and along the East side of Saint Giles’s Road [= south end of Woodstock Road] to the Royal Oak Public House; then along the west side of the said Road to the Corner of Observatory Street; along the south side of Observatory Street to and including No. 8; returning along the north side of the same Street to Saint Giles’s Road and thence to the Corner of Saint John’s Road [now renamed Observatory Street]; Comprising the whole of Saint John’s [i.e. St Bernard’s] Road, with Horse and Jockey Public House, South Parade, Saint John’s Terrace, Observatory Street (south side) No. 1 to 8 inclusive and (north side) No. 64 to 72 inclusive, the Observatory, the East side of Saint Giles Road (part of this said Road is called Saint Giles’s Terrace) [south end of Banbury Road], West from Jeffreys Cottage to Corner of Saint Giles’s Church Groom’s residence in Saint John’s College Stable Yard, St Giles’s Street (East Side) Nos. 5 to 31 inclusive, Park Place, Bales Nursery, Browning’s House and Gardeners’ Cottages [= Northgate House at south end of Banbury Road, Park Villas [south end of Banbury Road] and Houses adjoining Church on Banbury Road, Dunbar’s Nursery, Parker’s Square and Cottage in rear Adams Yard and Windmill Yard, Parks Lane, Museum Terrace and cottages on Parks Road adjoining
  • Headington Enumeration District 17 (West side of St Giles’s parish): Population 1,311
    All that part of the Parish of Saint Giles which lies west of Saint Giles Street and Woodstock Road and to the South of the Infirmary Gardens and Premises including part of Beaumont Buildings and Saint John Street [Nos. 1–22 on the east side and 34–48 on the west side], St Giles’s Street [East side everything north of St John’s College, West side Nos. 32 to 57] with Drewitts Yard, Eagle & Child Yard, Wellington Place and Bridgewater’s Yard; Little Clarendon Street with East and West Courts; Walton Street East side [Nos. 75–83] including Saint Paul’s School; Cocks [sic] Row; and St Giles’s Road West side [= southern portion of Woodstock Road]

There was also a separate census book covering the two institutions in the area: the Radcliffe Infirmary (163 persons) and the Oxford Workhouse (192 persons).

With a population of 2,542 (compare St Michael with just 971), something had to give in this burgeoning parish, and in 1863 the new parish of Ss Philip & St James was created. This was followed by St Margaret (1896), and finally the southern part of the parish of St Andrew (1906). These parishes continued to bury their dead in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery.


St Paul's Church

St Paul’s district chapelry
(including Worcester College)

St Paul’s Church was built in 1835–6, and in 1837 a district chapelry was assigned to it. This combined a large outlying part of St Thomas’s parish (including the Jericho area) with a small part of St Giles’s parish. The three 1861 census enumerators described the chapelry area thus:

  • Oxford Enumeration District 18 (St Thomas’s Parish: St Paul’s District Chapelry south): Population 1,328
    Part of the Parish of Saint Thomas. Bounded on the south by Hythe Bridge Street, on the East by Worcester Street and Walton Street, on the North by other Portion of the said Ecclesiastical District No. 19, and on the West by the Oxford canal. Comprising the House at the corner of Worcester Street, Worcester College, Worcester Place, Nos. 1 to 35 Walton Street, Worcester Terrace [now Richmond Road], University Printing Office, Clarendon Street, Clarendon Buildings, Wellington Street, Nelson Street, and Albert Street
  • Oxford Enumeration District 19 (St Thomas’s Parish: St Paul’s District Chapelry north): Population 911
    Remaining part of Parish of St Thomas. Bounded on the South by District No. 18. On the East by Walton Street. On the north by Jericho Street. And on the West by the Oxford Canal. Comprising Nos. 36 to 54 Walton St, Jericho Street, Jericho Gardens, Cardigan Street, Portland Place, Union Street [now Hart Street], and King Street.
  • Headington Enumeration District 14 (St Giles’s Parish: St Paul’s District Chapelry east): Population 681
    [Description appears to be missing from the census book, but the area covered was Nos. 9–63 Observatory Street and 1–27 Adelaide Street. Then came two sections of Walton Street: on the east side: No. 56 (on the corner of Jericho Street) up to No. 74, and then on the west side (where the number starts off slightly differently from today) the Victoria on the corner of St Bernard’s Road southwards as far as No. 111 on the corner of Observatory Street]

Jericho continued to grow, and in 1869 a large chunk of the St Paul's district chapelry in St Giles's parish was given to the new parish of St Barnabas, which continued to bury its dead in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery. Almost a hundred years later, in 1964, St Barnabas was to absorb the whole of the chapelry area, and St Paul’s Church closed: the building has been Freud’s Café since 1988.

In September 2015 the parish of St Barnabas was united with that of St Thomas, and the new parish covers much the same area as that of the ancient parish of St Thomas up to 1836, but also includes the part of St Giles's parish taken into the St Paul's district chapelry that year.


Because the parishes covered by the cemetery were split from east to west, the long roads running from south to north could be covered by a number of parishes: hence Walton Street is spread over four separate census books in 1861: those for the parishes of St Mary Magdalen and St Giles, and the two St Paul’s district chapelry books for sections belonging to the parishes of St Thomas and St Giles: details

© Friends of St Sepulchre’s Cemetery 2012–2017