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Balloon Madness

Early on the morning of 4 October 1784 a thirty-one-year-old pastry cook by the name of James Sadler took off close to Merton Field in a hot-air balloon … By the time he came down to earth, some six miles away, near the village of Woodeaton, he had ascended an estimated 3,600 feet and written himself into the record books as England’s first aeronaut … Continue readingBalloon Madness

Brasenose Lane

The rain in Brasenose Lane still goes – mainly – down the drain. The difference is that this particular gutter is in the middle of the road rather than cambered to either side. The technical term for it is a ‘kennel’. Did it get that name, as some claim, because it was a favourite haunt for scrawny medieval dogs scavenging for the bones … Continue readingBrasenose Lane

The Gaffer’s Desk

Welcome, booklovers, to the inner sanctum! Basil Blackwell’s very own office. The room the ‘Gaffer’ (1889-1984) made his home for so many years. The hub, the heart, the epicentre of a book business that grew to be one of the biggest in the world … Continue readingThe Gaffer’s Desk

Rivers Run

Last month’s Story about the Trout Inn prompted a flurry of peacock-, beer-, and river-related reminiscence – including this lyrical passage:

“And once we rowed together up the river

To many-gated Godstow, where the stream

Splits, and upon a tongue of land there stands

An Inn with willow bowers” … Continue readingRivers Run

Crotch Crescent

You don’t have to be in the back seat of the car playing ‘I Spy’ to find yourself screaming out the names of certain Oxford road signs. Of all the streets in our fair city none quite matches Crotch Crescent. Squitchey Lane comes close in terms of mystery, and is arguably more onomatopoeic, but Crotch Crescent feels not so much a destination as a way of being … Continue readingCrotch Crescent

Godstow

Once upon a time there were three abbeys in Oxford: Godstow, Osney, and Rewley. Along came King Henry VIII. Then there were none. All that remains of Rewley Abbey (founded by Cistercian monks at the end of the thirteenth century) is a segment of the precinct wall, and an arch, easily missed as you walk down the side of Castle Mill Stream, across from the canal … Continue readingGodstow

Bradshaw’s Hat

At two o’clock on the bitterly cold afternoon of Saturday 30 January 1649, King Charles I stepped out from the balcony of the Banqueting House, Whitehall, and onto the executioner’s scaffold … A few minutes later, the masked axeman held up his bloody trophy for all to see … Continue readingBradshaw’s Hat