We had such a powerful response to our recent Westgate Story that we were prompted to dig back further into the Morris Oxford archives. Once the dust had settled, we came across the piece below. Alas – or perhaps mercifully – there were no accompanying photographs, so we’ve added some present-day images of similar artistic merit …
This is what we found:
It is difficult to contemplate the concrete horror which is the Westgate multi-storey car park without feeling a spasm of pain and disbelief. The pain turns to a stab in the heart when you espy, on Level 1 East side, a sad little plaque noting that this was the site, eight hundred years ago, of the Franciscan friary where Roger Bacon (1241-92) one of medieval Europe’s greatest scholars, lived, breathed and fine-tuned his brilliant, sensitive mind. Nearby was a natural haven, a place called Paradise Gardens, where he loved to sit in quiet contemplation. (A memory survives in the names of today’s Paradise Street and Paradise Square.)
How does the Joni Mitchell song go?
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved Paradise
And put up a parking lot
How could it have happened? Who allowed this grey, lumpen ugliness to come about in the heart of our city? Who gave the sign for the mechanical diggers to move in and gouge away over twenty per cent of the ancient world below the surface – the settlements, the streets, the origins of Oxford destroyed forever?
It was 1972. The year of the platform shoe and the cod war, of the mullet and the first miners’ strike. The year when unemployment in the UK topped one million and Gilbert O’Sullivan topped the pop charts with ‘Alone Again (naturally)’ …
Enough said. This is too depressing. Every cloud has a silver lining surely? Let’s try to look on the bright side, pick out some of the positives.
1. The horror will never be repeated (we sincerely trust).
2. It could have been even worse (see Unbuilt Oxford – a Story about plans for a motorway through Christ Church meadow).
3. It prompted a wave of revulsion which resulted in the strengthening of the Oxford Preservation Trust.
And – wait for it –
4. There are plans to pull it down and start all over again!