– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Oxford Open Doors Days 2013

St Cross welcomed at least 525 people during Oxford Preservation Trust‘s Open Doors days on 14-15 September this year; this is arranged as part of the annual national Heritage Open Days event. At the same time, we also took part for the first time in Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust‘s Ride & Stride event, which is also part of a national fundraising endeavour. We didn’t have riders and striders out raising money for St Cross, but were open to sign participants’ forms. Some had time for a look round the building, but most were in a hurry to visit as many churches in the city and county as possible on the day!

This year there were familiar questions about the building’s history, the conversion project and the holy well, but there were noticeably more questions about the special collections held here.

Q: How many books are kept in St Cross?

A: We don’t know exactly! Some of the early printed books are still being catalogued, and some of them haven’t yet arrived here from the Broad Street library. Our guess is 10,000 or so – stay tuned for a more precise answer when cataloguing is complete!

Q: How many items are in the archives?

A: A similar answer to the above, but in the hundreds of thousands of individual items.

On display this year were several important early printed books, our recently acquired beautiful facsimile of the Book of Kells manuscript, some college-related family history resource books and two medieval manuscript books demonstrating the enormous range of sizes in the collection. One is 4 1/2 x 3″, the other 18 x 12!


It was great to see so many people studying the building and the displays in detail and asking lots of questions – so many, in fact, that we missed marking in some of our visitors, so our official total is ‘525+’. If the weather is as chilly and blustery in September next year, we may have to do teas as well, if only to keep our cheerful greeters/invigilators from freezing!

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