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

The Lincoln Imp(s)

It's amazing what you can see in Oxford if you look up. A globe bobbling over the dome of the Radcliffe Observatory. A giant figure staring out across the roof of Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop. Tiny people dotted around the tower of St Mary the Virgin. A cycling don on the Harris Manchester weathervane. ... CONTINUE READING

Saints Daze

Oxford boasts a rich assortment of saintly associations – not least the former Cardinal, John Henry Newman, canonised as recently as 2019. His bust sits on a quiet plinth in the garden of Trinity College, greening serenely with age. Some saints are very obvious, their names visible on churches and road signs: St Andrew, St Edward, St ... 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

St Frideswide’s Door

The great architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner had little time for St Frideswide’s Church in Osney. ‘Violently high Victorian’ was his verdict; an example of architectural ‘ruthlessness’, with its ‘very low octagonal central tower’ and ‘stunted north transept … squeezed in between mighty buttresses’, not to mention its ’lean-to roof’. Worse still, he lamented, ‘It has all been left ... 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

Bonn Bones

How many people today have heard of the Tirah Expedition? Or could even say where Tirah was/is? So much for remembrance … The answer is that Tirah is a mountain region at the North West Frontier of what was once British India, on the border of present day Pakistan and Afghanistan. And the expedition, which took place in ... CONTINUE READING

Martyrs’ Cross

Far at the end of the long sweep of St Giles, dark and pointedly brooding (some say it resembles the needling spire of a subterranean church) lurks the Martyrs’ Memorial, one of Oxford’s best-known monuments. It is a grim reminder of the often bloody history of our nation, and of Oxford’s special part in that gruesome tale: the ... CONTINUE READING