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 dogs scavenging for the bones … Continue readingBrasenose Lane

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 so much a destination as a way of being … Continue readingCrotch Crescent

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

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

Park Town Arch

In his article on ‘The Expansion of Towns – Planned and Unplanned’ [Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 43 (1957), p.106] D.W. Riley identifies certain towns as possessing ‘an efficiency, culture, and charm which are the gradually matured expression of generations of settled living’ … Continue readingPark Town Arch

Beaumont Palace

Pull aside the Springtime foliage which will have grown over it, and there, on the corner of Beaumont Street opposite Worcester College, on a stone pillar beside the iron garden railings, you will find a plaque bearing this inscription: NEAR TO THIS SITE … Continue readingBeaumont Palace

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 … Continue readingMartyrs’ Cross