Westgate, Oxford

Westgate Oxford lies in the centre of modern Oxford, in the south-west part of the historic city just to the south-east of Oxford Castle. The development entailed both new build and refurbishment of the former Westgate Shopping Centre (built in the early 1970s). The new Westgate Oxford included a new double storey basement car park, new retail and leisure outlets, a residential block, and office space. 

Oxford Archaeology undertook archaeological trenched-based evaluation in 2006-2008 and carried out large-scale excavations in 2015 and 2016. Since then, Oxford Archaeology has undertaken a comprehensive programme of post-excavation work, which will culminate in the publication of an Oxford Archaeology monograph at the end of 2023 or start of 2024.

After drawing up the full project written scheme of investigation in collaboration with the project’s academic panel, Oxford Archaeology supplied a large excavation team to deliver the site work (this included geoarchaeological and osteoarchaeological specialist site services). A project outreach officer was included in the team to help deliver the extensive programme of public engagement that was required during the excavations. Our post-excavation department and in-house artefactual and ecofactual specialists subsequently completed the post-excavation assessment report and are nearing completion of the full analysis and publication. 

Oxford Archaeology worked very closely with Laing O’Rourke and Westgate Oxford Alliance to deliver all the required archaeological services without any significant effect upon the construction finish date and the shopping centres scheduled reopening. 

The programme of outreach included a pop-up museum, which travelled to four different locations and attracted over 10,000 total visits, as well as numerous media and press stories (some with international reach). Oxford Archaeology organised a programme of well-attended public talks and two extremely successful site open days, which brought over 3000 visitors to the site. The project also had a dedicated webpage. Three information panels, and a decorated tiled pavement are permanently displayed at the shopping centre. 

The project won the British Archaeology Award for Best Archaeological Project in 2016.

The archaeological work was carried for the Westgate Oxford Alliance (a joint venture between the Crown Estates and Land Securities), Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd (initial enabling works only), and Laing O’Rourke (Main Contractor).