This enjoyable little book takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the buried heritage of one of Britain’s iconic historic cities. Each chapter addresses a key excavation or discovery that illuminates a particular aspect of the city’s past, and the development of antiquarians’ and archaeologists’ efforts to understand it: from Herbert Hurst’s 19th-century investigation of a ‘British village’ beneath the Angel Inn (in fact, late Saxon rubbish pits) to the modern excavation of Greyfriars priory in advance of redevelopment of the Westgate shopping centre. Along the way, we see Oxford’s development from a burh guarding an important crossing-point of the Thames to a thriving medieval town and then to a modern university city. We also visit its earliest recorded inhabitant, the remains of a massacred Viking raiding party, and a remarkable collection of 18th-century wig curlers.
As City Archaeologist, David Radford is well placed to provide an insight into the significance of each finding, which he does through clearly written text, generously illustrated with photographs and site plans, to produce a very readable volume.
This review appeared in CA 344.