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Ancient plan of Oxford Castle.
Oxford Castle (2007)
HMP Oxford was converted into the Malmaison Hotel

Oxford Castle, located in Oxfordmarker city centre, was built by a Norman baron, Robert D'Oyly, in 1071 (shortly after the Norman Conquest of Englandmarker in 1066).

It was originally an earth mound with a wooden keep on the top, which was later replaced with a stone keep. known as St George's Tower, and later a fifty foot wall with towers was built around the structure.

In 1120 Robert's younger brother, Nigel D'Oyly, was Lord of Oxford Castle. It is 12 miles northwest of Wallingford Castlemarker, also usually credited to Robert D'Oyly.

It was the home of Empress Matilda in 1141 when Robert D'Oyly the younger declared his support for her over King Stephen. The castle was besieged by the king for three months. She escaped from the castle by being lowered over the walls, supposedly dressed in white to act as a camouflage in the snow. She passed through the enemy lines and across the Castle Mill Streammarker.

The site became the seat of the county government and courts although the castle had fallen into disrepair by the 14th century.

The county gaol gradually grew to take over most of the site. In 1888 it became HM Prison Oxford (Oxford Prison). The prison was closed in 1996 and the site reverted to Oxfordshire County Council. It has since been redeveloped as a shopping and heritage complex, with guided tours of the historic buildings, open courtyards for markets and theatrical performances. The scheme also includes a hotel in the Malmaison chain, Malmaison Oxford, occupying a large part of the former prison block, with converted jail cells as guest rooms. This is the first time in the UK that a prison has been turned into a hotel. The redeveloped site also includes apartments, bars, restaurants, events venues, and the award winning visitor attraction "Oxford Castle–Unlocked".

Film location

The prison was featured in a scene in the 1969 version of The Italian Job, A Fish Called Wanda and the television series Inspector Morse. The prison has also been used as a film set on several other occasions, with stars such as Gerard Depardieu, Glenn Close, Robert Redford and Brad Pitt filming there. It was also used as a set for the ITV1 prison drama series, Bad Girls. The exterior shots that featured in Series 1–3 of the show were shot at Oxford prison, and the set itself, used in the show, is a replica of the wing set-up at Oxford. For series 4–8, a replica set of the prison was constructed and built to look similar to Oxford. However, a number of exterior shots were re-used in the later series, which were very obviously different from the new set.
This was due to the prison in Oxford being reconstructed to become a new hotel complex.


  1. Illustration from: The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Vol. 12, Issue 328, August 23, 1828, from Project Gutenberg.
  2. Victoria County History of Oxford Volume IV by Alan Crossley, 1969

Further reading

  • Davies, Mark. Stories of Oxford Castle: From Dungeon to Dunghill. Oxford Towpath Press, 2001

External links

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