Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1355, took place the St Scholastica Day Riot.

The St Scholastica’s Day Riot was an altercation between the Oxford students and the Oxford townspeople, which resulted in nearly 100 deaths and permanently soured the relationship between ‘town and gown’.

On Tuesday 10th February 1355, St Scholastica's Day, a group of Oxford students were drinking in the Swindlestock Tavern. [Now Abbey National Bank, Abbey House, Carfax, Oxford, OX1 1HB]   Some of the students made derisory comments on the quality of the beer, as students are wont to do, nothing much has changed over the centuries. The landlord, John Barford, who was at the time Mayor of the town, retorted with ‘stubborn and saucie language’, whereupon he was hit on the head by a tankard thrown by a student. At this, he went to St Martin’s, the City Church, and rang the bell, to summon the townsmen to arms. In response, the students ran to St Mary’s, the University Church and rang the bell to call out the students to fight. In the resultant fray, the students got the better of the townsmen, forcing them to retreat.

The next day, Barford rode into the countryside, seeking support, and gathered 2,000 men, who advanced on the town crying ‘Slay, Havock, Smyte!’ They broke into the colleges, killing students, and although the students fought back, a total of 63 were killed. The townsmen suffered a death toll of about 30.

The king, Edward III, ordered an investigation, which found in favour of the University. The Mayor and Bailiffs were ordered to walk bareheaded through the town and attend a Mass for the souls of the dead, on every subsequent St Scholastica's Day, and to swear an oath to observe the University's privileges, and, if that were not enough, to pay an annual fine of 63 pence to the University.

When these annual processions were made, the Mayor and his entourage were jeered and pelted by the students, and over the years, many petitions were made to the Crown, asking for the penance to be lifted. In 1825, the Mayor refused to go ahead with the ceremony and no action was taken by the University authorities, and so the annual procession ceased. Relations between students and townies at Oxford have never been good since that time, and even today, there are unofficially designated student and townie pubs.

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