Toppling Statues: An Oxford Tradition

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

It was Tuesday, and a rebellious crowd was thronging the High Street outside Oriel College. Although Britain and all Europe were being engulfed by a deadly crisis, for now they had one target in mind: a statue. The date was 20 September 1642, the crowd consisted of Parliamentarian soldiers, and the object of their ire was a sculpture of the Virgin Mary carved above the University Church’s porch. Local antiquarian Anthony Wood described what happened next: “passing by St Mary's church, one of them discharged a brace of bullets at the stone image of Our Lady over the church porch, and one shot struck off her head and the head of her child which she held in her right arm.” The #IdolsMustFall movement had just claimed another casualty.