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South Park commemoration stone

A Grade II Listed Building in St Clement's, Oxfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.752 / 51°45'7"N

Longitude: -1.2365 / 1°14'11"W

OS Eastings: 452799

OS Northings: 206196

OS Grid: SP527061

Mapcode National: GBR 8Z5.077

Mapcode Global: VHCXV.J748

Entry Name: South Park commemoration stone

Location: Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4

County: Oxfordshire

District: Oxford

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Locality: St Clement's

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Listing Date: 4 April 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1445102

Summary

Stone commemorating the purchase and opening of South Park in E Oxford, designed and executed by Eric Gill in 1932, and erected 1935.

Description

A stone commemorating the preservation of South Park, commissioned by the Oxford Preservation Trust and paid for by Dr David and Mrs Joanna Randall-MacIver, designed and executed by Eric Gill in 1932, erected 1935. The stone is located in a gap in the roadside railings at the W boundary of South Park, on the SE side of Headington Road, near to the park's entrance.

MATERIALS: Portland stone

EXTERIOR: a roughly-dressed monolith approximately 3.6m high, slightly tapering to the jagged top, with the following carved inscription on an ashlar panel at the NW (roadside) face:
‘This park was/acquired by the/ Oxford/ Preservation Trust through/ the liberality/ of the/Pilgrim Trust/ and David/ and Joanna/ Randall-MacIver/ 1932’. The word 'Oxford' and the date '1932' are in a larger size font.

History

South Park was formed from the Morrell family’s Headington Hill Estate, and acquired by the Oxford Preservation Trust in 1932 with the financial assistance of the Pilgrim Trust and Dr and Mrs Randall-MacIver, an American couple who in addition to a donation to buy the land also paid for the memorial by Gill. The acquisition of the land and commission of the stone is recorded in the Oxford Preservation Trust's annual reports between 1931 and 1936. The eighth report of 1932-34 records that Dr Randall-McIver 'kindly consented to defay' the cost of the stone. The ninth report of March 1936 states that 'a monolith of Portland stone, twelve feet high, has been erected to commemorate the gift of South Park, Headington'. The stone was chosen by Eric Gill.

The Pilgrim Trust was founded by Edward Stephen Harkness, an American philanthropist, in 1930 by endowing it with a capital sum of approximately two million pounds. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, grants were given for heritage preservation in Britain and schemes for the welfare of the unemployed.

David Randall-MacIver (1873-1945), a British-born, American archaeologist and anthropologist, was educated at Oxford. He is best known for his excavations of Great Zimbabwe in Africa; he later served as the librarian for the American Geographical Society between 1911 and 1914.

The Oxford Preservation Trust was established in 1927 to preserve Oxford, and its environment, by acquiring land to provide open space within and at the edges of the City with the help of donations. The Oxford Preservation Trust gave South Park to Oxford City Council as a public park, part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951.

Eric Gill (1882-1940) was one of the most celebrated lettercutters, engravers, typographers and sculptors of his time. He built his reputation on his work as a lettercutter and engraver, but began to sculpt in 1909, preferring the unconventional direct carving style of practice. After the First World War he was commissioned to design war memorials including those at Chirk, Leeds University, South Harting and Trumpington. A number of his war memorials and monuments are listed, some at a high grade, such as the war memorials at Bisham (National Heritage List for England 1117603) and Briantspuddle (NHLE 1171702) both Grade II*. His work later included large architectural sculptures, including figures for the exterior of Broadcasting House, London and a large relief entitled The Creation of Adam at the League of Nations Palace, Geneva.

Reasons for Listing

The South Park commemoration stone, commissioned by the Oxford Preservation Trust, designed and executed by Eric Gill, and erected in 1935, is listed for the following principal reason:

* Artistic interest: a simple but well-executed commemoration stone by Eric Gill, one of the most important lettercutters, engravers, typographers and sculptors of the late-C19 and C20.

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