St. Margaret’s Church in North Oxford is an important piece of late-Victorian architectural and social history. It was designed by H.C.W. (‘Harry’) Drinkwater, and completed by George Frederick Bodley. Drinkwater, who built the main body of the church, was the son of a local publican, and also designed schools, public houses and Debenham’s department store. A talented amateur actor and musician, Drinkwater also built and often performed in Oxford’s original ‘New Theatre’, before its demolition in 1933. The choice of Drinkwater as architect of a north Oxford church was an unusual one at the time. It reflected the fact that this was a church, not for bachelor fellows in hallowed cloisters, but for printers, college servants, penniless tutors, and a new generation of married dons with young families. G. F. Bodley, who designed St Margaret’s porch and added to the church’s interior, was a disciple of Ruskin and friend of William Morris. While working on St Margaret’s in the early 1900s, Bodley was also constructing the Episcopalian cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the chapel of the Cowley fathers in Cowley Road.
One of the chief glories of St Margaret’s is the Lady Chapel, which boasts fine stained glass by Frederick Charles Eden. Eden was a close disciple of Charles Eamer Kent, the most prolific and inventive stained-glass artist of the late-Victorian Anglican revival. Vital conservation work to make the windows safe and restore them to their full glory has recently been completed. This will preserve these wonderful works of art (representing in particular the Nativity, Crucifixion and Pentecost in ‘modern’ settings) for generations to come.