Ox-Bridged

Last month we posted a photographic essay featuring ten of Oxford's historic bridges. Here's the full Story: There’s really only one place to start: Grandpont. Big bridge. The name says it all. The giant blocks of corallian ragstone which underpin it were hewn and levered into place nearly a thousand years ago at the command of Robert d’Oilly, henchman ... CONTINUE READING

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 ... CONTINUE READING

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 ... 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

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

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. In the words of one observer, there went up in ... CONTINUE READING

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. For maximum impact make your approach via the Turl and Market Street. The air is marginally warmer inside than out, thanks to a scattering of electric ... 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 ... CONTINUE READING

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 – Captain ... CONTINUE READING

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 ... CONTINUE READING