Last edited 05 Jan 2022

Oxford Movement


[edit] Introduction

The Oxford Movement was a period of religious reform that took place in England in the early 1800s. It originated with a group of intellectuals (described by some as ‘men of large designs’) at Oriel College at the University of Oxford. The movement gradually spread to Cambridge (specifically to Cambridge University's Camden Society and Ecclesiological Society) and other parts of the country.

Although its roots were based in theological tracts (including the writings of John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey - also referred to as Tractarians), the Oxford Movement had a significant influence on architecture and other artistic movements of the same period.

[edit] Stylistic characteristics

The Oxford Movement was the ideological inspiration behind the Gothic Revival movement that appeared throughout England during the 1800s. It was considered ‘the only suitable style for new churches,’ according to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (also known as A.W.N. Pugin). The young architect embraced the Oxford Movement and eventually became known as the father of 19th century English Gothic Revival.

The Oxford Movement is described as mediaeval revival in terms of its appearance. Buildings constructed in this style were adorned with ornate, decorative touches such as castle-like towers, parapets, tracery and pointed windows and arched entries.

The style was also incorporated into cemeteries, universities and other noteworthy structures. It was promoted as an appropriate design for rural settings as well, with its complex and irregular shapes and forms that fit into the natural landscape. It was seen as a physical representation of the integrated and organic nature of the spiritual beliefs at the theological heart of the Oxford Movement.

Later buildings in this style began to incorporate motifs associated with Victorian architecture.

[edit] Examples of Oxford Movement architecture

Palace of westminster.JPG

1840: Palace of Westminster, London (Architect: Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin)

Hurstpierpoint College Inner Quad 800.jpg1851: Inner quad, Hurstpierpoint (Architect: Richard Cromwell Carpenter)

Big ben.jpg

1859: Big Ben Clock Tower (renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012), London (Architect: Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin)


1868: Royal Courts of Justice, London (Architect: G.E. Street)


1876: Keble College, Oxford (Architect: William Butterfield)

--Heidi Schwartz

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