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

Oxford Abridged

Oxford is a very watery place: encircled by rivers, criss-crossed by streams, perennially flood-prone. Its location has been defined by water, its destiny shaped by it. This is the (beginning of the) Story of Oxford in ten crossings – an abridged history you might say. Do you recognise the bridges below? They are captioned with extracts from next month's Story, ... 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 ... 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

Swing Bridge

Once it was pivotal. Now, ivy-clad and rusting, it tells of an era long since past. Yet still it retains a grandeur and a fascination, like the mouldering carcass of some giant metal dinosaur. It’s a railway swing bridge. It dates from 1851. It was designed by none other than Robert, son of George 'Rocket' Stephenson. And it stands ... CONTINUE READING

A River Runs Through It

Running through every story on this website is a silver thread: the river which has shaped Oxford’s destiny, indeed the very reason for Oxford’s existence. The water even takes on a different name as it flows here, turning briefly from Thames to Isis (supposedly from the Latin ‘Tamesis’) though few people now use that term, except in literary circles. ... CONTINUE READING

Flying Over Wolvercote

The members of Oxford Model Flying Club (which celebrated its half-century in 2019) consider Port Meadow to be one of their most important and highly prized gathering places. These aren’t people playing with annoying drones. They are cognoscenti, devoted to lovingly crafted replicas of the real thing. Their club meets monthly and abides by clear protocols. Flying – ... CONTINUE READING

Canalboats

Stretched out along the canal they lie, from Wolvercote to Hythe Bridge, in every shade and hue, from psychedelic hippy swirls, via sensible dark-blue college livery, to load-bearing gunmetal greys and rusty blacks. And it’s not just the canalboats themselves which fascinate. It’s what’s on their roofs, what’s on their decks, and what’s around them, on the tow-path and ... CONTINUE READING

Morris Oxford

It was hardly a surprise when, in 1892, fifteen-year-old William Morris secured his first job at a bicycle repair shop. He was a passionate cyclist who thought nothing of pedalling to Birmingham and back in a day, from the family house in 16 James Street, a round trip of over a hundred miles. He was also good with ... CONTINUE READING