From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Godstow Nunnery

51° 46' 42.4" N 1° 17' 59.0" W

  • History
  • Gallery
Godstow Nunnery is to the west of the River Thames opposite Lower Wolvercote north of Port Meadow at Oxford. It is now mainly known for the ruined Godstow Abbey. Godstow abbey was built on what was then an island between streams running into the River Thames. It once boasted a magnificent church, courts, cloisters and a chapter house. Only the outer walls and ruins of a private chapel remain. The site was given to the foundress Edith, widow of Sir William Launceline in 1133 by John, of St. John and built in local limestone in honour of St Mary and St John the Baptist for nuns of the Benedictine Order; with a further gift of land from him, the site was later enlarged. The church was consecrated in 1139.The abbey was again enlarged between 1176 and 1188 when Henry II gave the establishment money because of the site being the burial place of his mistress Rosamund Clifford. The Abbey precincts were entered from the Wolvercote-Wytham road, which ran through the outer court. Here there was a two-storey main gatehouse which had one large gate for carts and a second smaller one beside it for foot traffic. The abbey was suppressed in 1539 under the Second Act of Dissolution.

Then abbey was converted into Godstow House by George Owen. It was occupied by his family until 1645, when the building was badly damaged in the Civil War. After this damage, the building fell into disrepair and was used by the locals as a source of stone for their buildings. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the ruined abbey was used for collecting livestock during the annual rounding up of animals on Port Meadow.

In Victorian times, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) brought Alice Liddell (aka Alice in Wonderland) and her sisters, Edith and Lorina, for river trips and picnics at Godstow.

Also alongside the Thames at Lower Wolvercote and Godstow is The Trout, a well-known public house, close to Godstow Bridge. The bridge, in two spans, was built in 1792, the southern span being rebuilt in 1892.