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.
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.”