Oxford was founded in the 9th century when Alfred the Great formed a network of fortified towns called burghs around his kingdom, one of which was at Oxford. There could have been a village already there or Alfred may have formed a new town. The streets of Anglo-Saxon Oxford were in a regular pattern implying a new town but we are not certain.
By 1066, when the Normans invaded, there were said to be about 1,000 houses in Oxford, which meant it probably had a population of roughly 5,000. By the standards of the time it was a significant town (even London only had about 18,000 inhabitants). It was said at the time that Oxford was the 6th largest town in England.
Oxford in the 16th Century
In the 1700s Oxford fell further in terms of national importance though it remained a fairly large town by the standards of the time. In the mid 16th century it may have had a population of about 3,500.
Tudor Oxford was economically dependent on the university. The students provided a large market for beer, food, clothes and other goods and the town had plenty of craftsmen who supplied these needs. By this time hostility between ‘town and gown’ had died out.
Oxford in the 19th Century
From 1819 Oxford had gas street lighting. There were some drains and sewers in Oxford in the early 19th century but the sewers emptied into the river. In the 1870s a modern system of sewers was built. In the 18th century a private company provided piped water – to those who could afford it. It wasn’t until the 1880s that everybody in Oxford had piped water.