We were delighted this summer to trial a new kind of project: we ran an open morning museum café at St Alban's Church every morning from 9 until 12 on weekdays from 29th July to 9th August.
The purpose of the museum café was for the public to visit and explore the beautiful and atmospheric building of St Alban's Church, including its art, architecture and history, as well as to explore some Roman artefacts. We designed educational trails and colouring activities for children, and ran a cafe with drinks and brownies. We brought some Roman original and replica artefacts from the Rumble Museum at Cheney, including replica shield, helmet, strigil, oil lamp, wax tablet, brooch, and original, local pieces of pottery excavated from Headington and Marston, as well as an original quern stone and hand stone.
St Alban's Church came into being through demand for a new church in what is known as the Robin Hood area (between Magdalen Road and Howard Street). Religious services and instructions had been carried out in the school room of the Robin Hood School since it opened in 1868. Eventually, a site on the corner of Catherine Street and Charles Street was purchased in 1892 and St Alban's Mission Church, a small brick building, was opened on 30 May 1889.
St Alban's began to function almost as a separate parish under Father Norman Hayward (1922-1925). His successor, Father Richard Lewis (1926-1929), started the St Alban's Scouts, raised money for a new church (on the site of the Mission Church) and commissioned Lawrence Dale to design a building for 390 people.
The angels at the entrance to the church were carved by local artist and educator John Brookes who went on to become principal of the Technical College in Cowley Road, which moved to Headington Hill, where it is now known as Brookes University. Brookes also founded what eventually became Cheney Technical School. The church on Charles Street was consecrated on 1 May 1933. It contains a series of panels on The Stations of the Cross by the sculptor and typographer Eric Gill.
We were delighted to welcome a range of visitors each day to the museum cafe, who enjoyed finding out more about the art, architecture, and history of the building, as well as exploring and handling the various Roman artefacts. We served freshly made brownies by our museum volunteer Jamie Pitt, also a chef at University College, which were much enjoyed, and a range of teas, coffee, hot chocolate and squash.
We plan to ran the museum cafe again, and will announce dates and times on our website and social media.