Above and Beyond

If ever you find yourself dreaming of spires then it is to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin that you must go. And, while you are there, you must surely invest the £6 required to take you up to the top of the tower. There is a sense of mounting excitement as you climb the creaking staircase, ... CONTINUE READING

Treacle Well

There are certain, special places where the modern world feels very far away. As you pass through the wooden gate into St Margaret’s churchyard, Binsey, the relentless thrum of the ring road seems to recede into the distance, and time starts to slip … For centuries pilgrims have made their slow journey to this sacred spot. Walking it today ... CONTINUE READING

Oxford and Stratford

With perfect patriotic symmetry, William Shakespeare, England’s greatest playwright, was born and died on the same day: St George's, 23 April (1564 -1616). The first folio of his collected dramatic works, published four hundred years ago in 1623, is visitable at the Weston library. And every year the citizens of Oxford are treated to an outdoor performance of ... CONTINUE READING

Monawar Hussain

Monawar Hussain isn’t your typical Eton tutor. And he certainly isn’t your typical Oxfordshire High Sheriff. But then, not much is typical about the Imam from East Oxford. The Hussain family first came to Oxford in 1985, from Maidenhead – and before that Kashmir. His brother had bought a small petrol station on Between Towns Road, and that’s ... CONTINUE READING

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. ‘I perceived no Inconvenience,’ he later commented, ‘and being disengaged from all terrestrial Things, contemplated a most charming distant View. With Pleasure and Admiration I beheld the Surface of the Earth ... CONTINUE READING

Peacocks and Trout

Quick! Out of the car park (thank goodness it’s too difficult for coaches to get here), across the narrow road (eyes right for the even narrower medieval bridge), through the porch (note the Stonesfield slate roof), over the flagstones (part of the original seventeenth-century fisherman’s cottage), along the refurbished interior (smells of 'artisan breads' and 'rustic thick-cut chips'), under ... CONTINUE READING

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 ... CONTINUE READING

The Morris Oxford Mini-History of Oxford

The clocks have gone forward – and there’s a full moon tonight. What’s more ... The Morris Oxford Mini-History of Oxford  is published  TODAY It’s concise. It’s historical. It’s about Oxford. ‘Absolutely brilliant.’ ‘Wow! I never knew that.’ ‘Without doubt my book of the year.’ ‘Amazing value.’ Just some of the things reviewers will surely say. It’s available at Daunt ... CONTINUE READING

John Bigg’s Other Shoe

This month’s story was supposed to have been about the ruined abbey of Godstow, but the response to Bradshaw’s Hat has been so rich and so interesting that we feel compelled to postpone the Dissolution for a while. Martin Sheppard, distinguished publisher of History books, got straight to the point with a reminder of the semiotics of millinery in the ... CONTINUE READING

A Little More Allotment

Mrs Thatcher was not a friend of allotments, despite (or perhaps because of) being a grocer’s daughter from the famously potato-growing county of Lincolnshire. In July 1980 her government attempted to repeal Section 8 of the 1925 Act. Had she succeeded it would have meant abolition of the last remaining safeguards against local authorities wishing to dispose of ... CONTINUE READING