Godstow

Once upon a time there were three abbeys in Oxford: Godstow, Osney, and Rewley. Along came King Henry VIII. Now there are 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

Covered Market

Tis the season! Time to deck the halls, fill the mead cup, drain the barrel, and troll the ancient yuletide carol. Time also for a long overdue visit to Oxford’s Covered Market … Continue readingCovered Market

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 … Continue readingTreacle Well

Radcliffe Observatory

Thomas Hornsby, the Savilian Professor of Astronomy, was lying on his sick-bed in the Radcliffe Infirmary when he observed a small black disk transiting the face of the sun. It was the planet Venus. The year was 1769. This was a rare and momentous astronomical event. More than that, it was a phenomenon of worldwide significance … Continue readingRadcliffe Observatory

Castle Mound

Of all the many wonderful (and often true) stories about Oxford none is more magical or dramatic than the tale of Lady Matilda and her escape from the Tower. Matilda (1102-1167) was daughter of King Henry I of England. When her father died she was ousted from her rightful inheritance by her rivalrous cousin, Stephen. Anarchy and Civil War ensued. Matilda fled to Oxford for safety. But when Stephen’s forces encircled the castle they appeared to have her trapped … Continue readingCastle Mound