Oxford City Council proposes renaming St Clement’s ward

The name of St Clement's Street will not be changed as part of the plans

Oxford City Council has proposed changing the name of St Clement’s ward to Bannister in memory of Sir Roger Bannister, an Oxford athlete and former Master of Pembroke College who passed away in March.

The proposal comes as part of the council’s review of city wards, which began last November.

Source: The Local Government Boundary Commission for England

The ward in question – which is surrounded by the wards Holywell, Churchill, and Bartlemas – includes the Iffley Road running track, where Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes in 1954.

After winning a gold medal at the 1954 Commonwealth Games, Bannister went on to become a leading neurologist and served as Master of Pembroke College between 1985 and 1993. He was knighted for his services to sport in 1975.

Bannister was also conferred the Oxford Freedom of the City in 2004 and is an Honorary Fellow of both Exeter and Merton Colleges.

Councillor for St Mary’s ward and Green Party member Craig Simmons proposed the name change as a way of honouring Bannister. His party’s original proposal to the Council and Boundary Commission was to rename the extended St Mary’s ward, but the Labour-run Council made a counter proposal which instead applies the Bannister name to a re-shaped St Clement’s ward.

Simmons told Cherwell: “I had the great pleasure of meeting Sir Roger Bannister on a number of occasions and, following his death earlier this year, it felt right to further honour his contribution to the City of Oxford.

“The opportunity came when the City was asked to by the Boundary Commission to review its ward boundaries. The area currently known as St. Mary’s Ward, which I represent along with Councillor Dick Wolff, includes the north edge of the running track on Iffley Road. It needed to grow slightly to accommodate demographic changes – and it seemed obvious that the streets to the east of the running track should be included.

“This expanded ward needed a new name and, as it wraps around the running track with Bannister Close at its heart, it seemed an obvious choice to name it after Sir Roger.

“Of course, as an eminent neurologist, his contributions to modern medicine extended well beyond his relatively brief time as an athlete and I hope that this small contribution to his memory is seen within this wider context.”

Simmons added that there was a “good chance” the ward would be renamed. However, he worried that renaming St Clement’s as opposed to St Mary’s made less sense geographically and community-wise because people in St Mary’s associate much more with Iffley Road, their main route into Oxford.

Council leader Sarah Brown confirmed that the name of St Clement’s Street (A420) would not change as part of the new plans.

She added: “It’s a really important tribute to a lovely, lovely man who deserves the honour.

“I suspect lots of people in the city don’t know which wards they live in, but we try to reflect, with the ward names we choose, the local area in some way.

“I hope he would understand this is a small way the city can honour that connection with him and it seems entirely appropriate considering this area includes the track in which he made that absolutely astonishing historic achievement.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. While I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Sir Roger Bannister I think there are other ways to celebrate his life and treasure his memory other than renaming a very old and important part of Oxford history.

    My ancestors, like myself are true Oxonians, born and raised in Oxford for many generations. As you are probably aware, the parish of St Clement’s, Oxford was outside the city of Oxford until boundary changes in 1835. It was originally sited where the roads into Oxford from the east meet to cross Magdalen Bridge into the centre of Oxford. In 1004 AD, the manor was granted to St Frideswide’s Church (now Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford). In 1122 King Henry I gave the royal chapel of St Clement to the priory.

    It seems inconceivable to me that anyone can propose renaming an historic part of Oxford. This is an insult to the memory of hundreds and hundreds of Oxonians born and raised in the St Clements borough. My grandparents and my father who were St Clements Borough boys would be turning in their graves at this suggestion.

    There is already a road named after Sir Roger Bannister and I understand the running track is to be named after him, so if the councillors believe this not to be enough, why not consider a statue near to the Iffley Road running track. Perhaps Pembroke College would like to rename the college he attended Bannister College (although I doubt if they will find much support for that amongst the Oxford gown!)

    St Clements borough/district is a name that has too much history to be wiped off the map of Oxfordshire.

    Dianne Parker

  2. Tend to agree -otherwise we should be naming Headington `Tolkien’ etc.
    Better to have a Bannister room in the Town Hall with photos and memorabilia.

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