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 Beaches of Oxford

It’s always worth reminding oneself of the benefits of a philosophical education. Parson’s Pleasure is a secluded stretch of grass embankment leading down to the River Cherwell at the point, just before you reach the land known as Mesopotamia, where the water curls south and makes for Magdalen Bridge. It was here, boarded off from the public gaze ... CONTINUE READING

Oxford and Stratford

With perfect patriotic symmetry, William Shakespeare, England’s greatest playwright, was born and died on the same day: St George's, 23 April (1564 -1616). The first folio of his collected dramatic works, published four hundred years ago in 1623, is visitable at the Weston library. And every year the citizens of Oxford are treated to an outdoor performance of ... CONTINUE READING

21 today

A lot has happened in Oxford on 21 March over the years: Colin Dexter, creator of the opera-, beer-, and jaguar-loving Inspector Morse, died on 21 March 2017, aged 87. There are no fewer than fifteen black-and-white photographs of his detective hero in the recently refurbished Morse Bar at the Randolph Hotel (one of Colin’s preferred drinkeries); and ... CONTINUE READING

Henry Taunt 100

Imagine, if you can, a world before mass tourism and before the internal combustion engine. A world where the summers were languid and the air smelt sweet. A world devoid of selfie sticks. ‘Those ancient courts and quadrangles and cloisters look so beautiful, so tranquil and so solemn … In other towns you hear at all times ... 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

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 Earth ... 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

Rivers Run

Last month’s Story about the Trout Inn prompted a flurry of peacock-, beer-, and river-related reminiscence – including this lyrical passage: And once we rowed together up the river To many-gated Godstow, where the stream Splits, and upon a tongue of land there stands An Inn with willow bowers: it is a spot Where still the flavour of old Merry England ... CONTINUE READING