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 … By the time he came down to earth, some six miles away, near the village of Woodeaton, he had ascended an estimated 3,600 feet and written himself into the record books as England’s first aeronaut … Continue readingBalloon Madness

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

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” … Continue readingRivers Run

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 … Continue readingTreacle Well

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 … Continue readingA River Runs Through It

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

Binsey Poplars

The thatched cottages of the picture-postcard village of Binsey lie little more than a mile from the railway station. Its farm, Medley Manor, is a pick-your-own cornucopia. Its twelfth-century church protects a holy well dedicated to Frideswide, Oxford’s patron saint. And its welcoming pub, The Perch … Continue readingBinsey Poplars