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Posts Tagged ‘River Thames’

After a fitful sleep brought about by a noisy crew at the inn (hostel) I woke early and partook of a hearty breakfast.

I had planned a side excursion for today – to the Battle of Britain Airshow at Headcorn Aerodrome…I wonder what Chaucer would have made of these flying beasts?? My train left from London Bridge which gave me the perfect excuse to explore the area before I left.
First I walked onto London Bridge once again; love that view.

 Then I popped in at The George Inn to get some photos before the place filled up with patrons intent on becoming merry!!

The George Inn is the last galleried coaching inn in London, and the current building dates from 1677; rebuilt after a devastating fire.

In Chaucer’s day there would have been many such inns, and in fact he and his pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn in Talbot Yard before setting off on their journey to Canterbury. I sought out and found The Tabard Inn blue plaque in Talbot Yard

and then made my way back to the station for my trip to Headcorn; the Airshow was fantastic. 😀😀 loads of photos.
I was back in London by 19:30 and went straight over to The George Inn for my final London Pilgrim’s meal; Battered Cod, chips and  mushy peas washed down with London Pride (of course 😉).

There were still a number of places I wanted to visit before setting off tomorrow; places Chaucer would have been familiar with, albeit some have changed dramatically and some are just remnants.  So after supper I waved fare thee well to the Patrons and set off on a quick whizz around the city:
1. Winchester Palace – once home to the very wealthy and powerful Bishops of Winchester.

2. The Clink Prison – oldest prison in London

3. Crossbones Garden – final resting place of the ‘Winchester Geese’, the prostitutes of the city and some of their children and babies.

4. The Ferryman’s Seat – Chaucer would likely have used a ferry to cross the River.

5. St Paul’s Cathedral – the one Chaucer knew would have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666.

6. The Thomas a’Becket sculpture in St Paul’s Churchyard.

Thomas a’Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and to visit his grave was the ultimate purpose of Chaucers journey.
7. All Hallows by the Tower Church – the oldest church in London; undoubtedly Chaucer would have visited.

8. The Tower of London – On 12 July 1389, Chaucer was appointed the clerk of the king’s works, a sort of foreman, organising most of the king’s building projects. During his tenure, but he conducted repairs on Westminster Palace, St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, and continued building the wharf at the Tower of London, as well as stands for a tournament held in 1390.

As I walked back across the River Thames via Tower Bridge I wondered what Chaucer would make of London today? Bet he wishes he’d hung around a few years longer for this view 😉

 And that brought my whistle stop tour to a close after which I hopped on a bus back to my abode.

Of course I also went past Southwark Cathedral that looked lovely with the light from the setting sun.

Tomorrow morning my walk begins. Wish me luck. 

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My journey started today at precisely 13:33 when I left the house in Oxted with Pepe (my backpack) settled firmly on my shoulders. I made my way to the station and boarded a 7000 horse-powered beast heading for London.

Arriving at London Bridge within 33 minutes I set off on shanks pony to visit Southwark Cathedral where I would collect my Pilgrim’s Passport

 and view the Chaucer window.

 I obtained my 1st pilgrim’s stamp 😀 and bought a small booklet featuring Chaucer’s story; The Wife of Bath 😉 who was one of the pilgrims featured in The Canterbury Tales. While I was walking around inside the cathedral a young lady wished me Buen Camino which made me cry. I was already feeling so emotional and overwhelmed at the journey ahead, so her greeting just tipped the balance. She had seen the scallop shell secured to Pepe. 😊😊 I was delighted.

 On the way I walked through Borough Market

and passed The Sentinel

before stopping to look at London Bridge and the Thames; “There are two things scarce matched in the Universe The Sun in Heaven and The Thames on Earth“.

Then once again using shanks pony I walked along the banks of the River Thames to my weekend lodging stopping briefly to see a favourite sculpture; The Navigators – seemed apt since I’ll be navigating my route to Canterbury.

After a few hours of sleep

 I walked back along the river upstream to Bermondsey beach to watch the sunset.

Then heading back downstream to Thameside, the intention was to have supper at The Mayflower Pub but it was so full and too noisy,

 so instead I returned to the hostel for tea and hot-cross buns, along the way passing another of my favourite London sculptures; The Sunbeam Weekly and the Pilgrim’s Pocket.

In all a brilliant start to my #Southwark to Canterbury walk #inthefootstepsofChaucer

Distance walked 8.70 kms / 5.44 miles. 16,823 steps. Temperature: wayyy too hot!!!  🌞🌞🌞🌡 

In case you were wondering, I’ve named my backpack Pepe in honour of my Mom. When I was a wee girl my Mother took me to see a film after my Grandmother’s funeral. In the film was a donkey called Pepe. Since I feel a bit like a donkey with my 7+kg load on my back and I’ll be using ‘shanks pony’ for 60+ miles, I thought the backpack deserved something more dignified than just being referred to as ‘the backpack’ 😉 Yes I know…too much time to think 🤣🤣🤣

Southwark Cathedral, the oldest Gothic Church in London is absolutely fascinating. There’s been a place of worship on this site since AD606 when it was a convent. A fantastic place to start my journey.

Famous people asdociated with the cathedral include: Chaucer, his friend John Gower, Shakespeare, Fletcher and Dickens amongst others.

Gower’s memorial; John Gower, Poet Laureate to Richard II and Henry IV.

William Shakespeare memorial.

Some of the memorials are very colourful and the stained glass windows are amazing. Definitely worth a visit.

I’ll be posting photos of my journey on instagram @notjustagranny 

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I may have mentioned before (or not) that we live very near to the river Thames in Richmond.  This is a constant source of enjoyment and pleasure to me and I try to plan a walk alongside or over the river at least once a day…if not more 🙂

Walking over the bridge was the highlight of my journey to work in the mornings and the view of the river as the train whizzed across the railway bridge near Gunnersbury was a constant source of amazement…..the view is wonderful.   The river holds a fascination for me that I have never experienced before and I get a lot of enjoyment from it.  There is nothing more enjoyable than a stroll along the banks past the Old Deer Park with my daughter.  In fact I would say that most of my happiest memories are tied up in those walks.

Sunsets from the top of the bridge are breathtaking and misty days no less so.  The changing of the seasons are easily visible along the banks and the view of the snow from the bridge painted a very pretty picture.  There are a number of houseboats tied up along the banks near Twickenham Bridge and these are a real pleasure to look at.

Despite the fact that the scene remains the same everyday….yet every day is different.  Just little things like a new boat tied up, or swans sailing by, a police craft patrolling, geese landing, river cruisers going by, the tide out or the tide in, sunny days and rainy days all create an ever changing pattern.  I am always surprised when people tell me they never noticed…….how could you not!  Some days the river is completely empty (well almost) and other days it is filled to overflowing!

So here is a collage of photos to give you a glimpse of my very own version of heaven on earth.

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My daughter recently moved to Twickenham, and after hearing her raving about the place and following her comment that she was never moving back to London, I had to go visit and find out why!
Twickenham is located on the River Thames between Richmond and Teddington; an ancient borough with a fascinating history dating back hundreds of years.  The earliest written evidence for a settlement is a grant of 704AD, mentioning “Tuican hom”.  By the time of the Norman Conquest it was part of the Manor of Isleworth.  By the 18th century it had become the ‘classic village’ and was described as having an “abundance of curious seats”, as it attracted poets, painters and writers including Sir Godfrey Kneller, The Court Painter in 1709, Alexander Pope in 1719, Mary Wortley Montagu in 1720, Horace Walpole in 1747 and painters Samuel Scott and Thomas Hudson in 1749 and 1756.  various members of the French Royal Family, in exile, spent time here in the 1800s.
I arrived via bus from Richmond and enjoyed the quaint houses and churches along the route. The  high street of Twickenham – King Street – is nothing to write home about….it’s lined with the usual array of stores and charity shops, Starbucks, banks, pubs and what-not!

an aerial sketch of Twickenham and the area we explored

Just off this main thoroughfare is where you will find the character that lies behind this town.  Church Street; a stroll along this delightful street will leave you enchanted with it’s character and quaint albeit modern shops.  A book shop,

a few restaurants and an ancient pub or two line the street on both sides as well as a number of other little shops and stores. Church Street has always been at the heart of Twickenham village, dating to back to when the parish was largely a farming community using the river for transport of goods and people.
Sweetshops, tandoori, bookshops,

Langton Books - 44 Church Street, Twickenham

 a pub and a gorgeous tea-room are a must-see.

Passing a store named Sweet Memories we stepped inside and indeed it was sweet memories….jars and jars of sweets that reminded me of the sweet shops we used to inhabit as children back in the 60’s. A delightful lass who goes by the name of Carla charmed us with her cheery greeting and sunny smile.  Sweet heaven all round.

Sweet Memories of Church Street Twickenham

Further along is the aptly named Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery….

Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery - 13 Church Street Twickenham

walking through the door your nostrils are assailed with the delicious aroma of cake and icing….eyes widening with delight as you first see the gorgoeus little cakes on display; decorated with swirls of butter icing and topped with icing roses, ice-cream cones, ducks, stars, hearts, 100’s and 1,000’s, in an array of pastel colours designed to tempt the tastebuds and makes it hard to refuse, never mind decide which to choose.

cupcakes at Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery

A short walk takes you past The Fox Pub,

The Fox Pub - oldest pub in Twickenham - Church Street

 probably the oldest pub in Twickenham, steeped in local history and first mentioned in the Sion Manor Court Books dated October 1700, by it’s previous name The Bell. It changed it’s name to The Fox around 1749.  At one time time there were at least 4 other pubs in Church street none of which remain, besides The Eel Pie Pub est 1777.
At the far end of Church Street is a little piazza, with a number of shops, none of which I really registered, coz I was so enchanted by the story board and a giant sized chess board! What fun 🙂

a summer piazza on Church Lane

chess set

Across the road from Church Street is of course the church!  St Mary’s, not one of the most beautiful or even quaint looking churches I have ever seen, but pleasant to the eye none-the-less.   The churchyard was sadly quite bare with most of the graves probably dug up in years gone by and the headstones that line the perimeter walls the only reminder of the folks buried there (or not).
Traipsing down Church Lane we passed Flood Lane,

Flood Lane

so named coz when the Thames floods the waters rise that high.  A plaque on the church wall reads : March 12th 1774 the water came rising up to this mark. The mark was a good 8foot from the road level.  The house on the corner had a flood board across the front door.
A couple of steps further (not far at all) is the River Thames, she of might and wonder.  A colourful boat named ‘Rastamedeus’ was moored in the berth, stranded by the tide now out.

Rastamadeus

I walked out as far as I could to take some photos of the river on both sides from a different angle (just because I could).  Retracing our steps we climbed a short flight of steps onto the start of Champion’s Wharf where we saw a couple of very interesting sculptures, one of which looked like a bed of square mushrooms. Very bizarre.

psychedelic mushrooms -sculpture on Champions Wharf

Strolling along the Thames path we ventured into York Gardens to behold the magnificent, marvellous, wonderful fountain adorned with a group of Italian marble statues representing the “Oceanides”.  What an enchanting sight. 

The Oceanides - fabulous statues in the York House Gardens

 A cluster of naked nymphs, either sitting on rocks or attemptimg to climb them, all gazing up at the beautiful venus that rides standing up and naked on the backs of two rearing, winged sea-horses.  There is quite a story behind these beautiful creatures and they were very nearly destroyed at one stage of their lives; thankfully for us….they were not!  There is some uncertainty as to who was the sculptor.
The gardens are beautiful; filled with roses and a fountain or two, and what were lovely green lawns a week ago, now browned in the searing heat of the last few days.
A flight of marble, balastraded steps take you to the top of a bridge that crosses the road below and into the gardens of York House.  A sight to behold.

York House

Imposing and enormous it sits majestically overlooking the lawns below.  York House was named after the Yorke family who owned the land from 1381 – 1539. The present house was built in 1637 and it’s first owner Andrew Pitcarne, later  followed by The Earl of Manchester, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, Sir Alexander Johnson, Anne Seymour Damer, Archbishop Cleaver, the Comte de Paris, the Duc de’Orleans and lastly Sir Ratan Tata.  It became a Town Hall when Twickenham became a Borough in 1926.  The Orleans princes left their mark with the fleur-de-lys on the stonework and rainpipes.
Continuing our walk was strolled along the Thames path, the river, calm and mighty, moving inexorably to the sea, just beyond the balstrades.

The River Thames

Lining the path are a number of wooden benches, some of which bore memorial plaques to people now residing in a place we cannot see:  Simeon Randall, Pauline Anne Hope and a wee lass of just nine years old. I love that people put up these benches in memory of loved ones, and it is my desire to have one too.  Problem is that I have so many favourite places I would not know where to be!  Maybe in all of them. 🙂  I need to set up a ‘bench’ fund.

If I don't see you no more in this world......

Continuing our stroll we passed beneath the wides and shady branches of a beautiful beech tree: York House cut-leaf beech, one of London’s great trees.  Across the way we could see the boat-yards of Eel Pie Island, still to be explored. Turning back at this point we once again passed the fountain for a 2nd look, as beautiful then as before.  A heron sat still as one of the statues, peering intently at the pond waters, looking for tea I am guessing; sensible bird 🙂

heron fishing for tea 🙂

Thence we made our way to the Sweetie Pies shop for tea and cupcakes; of course.
The shop is a delight, the proprietor a young lass as sweet as her fare.  We dithered over which to choose and for me the Black Forest cake with cherries on top, a creation with tightly budded roses and a wee hedgehog won the day. 

could you eat a face like that?

 My daughter chose one with ice-cream cones and another with a sprinkling of coloured stars. 

Sweetie Pies cupcakes

 That and a couple of pots of tea served on fine china with china tea-cups made us feel very posh.  The interior of the shop is tiny and cosy; the ‘Powder Room’ boasting a loo so small I asked they were expecting Snow-White and the 7 Dwarfs!?
Replete, our taste-buds satified we meandered on down towards the river-front once again and so on towards Eel Pie Island, passing the Barmy Arms pub, with a great view from the patio. 

The Barmy Arms Pub

 On the way I noticed a story-board with snippets of island history.  Once upon a time there was a great hotel that hosted the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart and David Bowie amongst others.

The Rolling Stones at Eel Pie Island

The South of England’s answer to Merseybeat.  The hotel met it’s demise in 1971 after a fire hastened it’s demise; now a housing estate – Aquarius.
Stepping by an armada of ducks and swans that thought I was there to feed them we marched onto Eel Pie Island via the narrow pedestrian walkway.  How thrilling to visit an island in the middle of the Thames!

crossing The Thames to Eel Pie Island 🙂

Eel Pie Island, also know as ‘Twickeham Ait’, it appears on Moses Glover’s map of 1635. Cropping of withies to make baskets for the trapping of eels continued until the 19th century.  By 1737 there was an inn called ‘The Ship’ later ‘The White Cross’.  In 1830, a new hostelry was built was built and the island became a resort for summer visitors. 
And what visit it turned out to be.  The island may be in the 21st century, but life on the island has remained entrenched in the 1960’s. 

The Loveshack - just gorgeous

The houses are tiny, cute and quaint (those that we could see), and at the far end via the boat-yard is an artist’s enclave that is seriously straight out of  the Woodstock era.

the artist's enclave

Ramshackle would best describe the air of fading history.  The enclave is a higgedly-piggedly mix of wooden and tins shacks, mostly in a state of external disrepair and look like they’re on the point of falling down.  The cyclists club boast a marvellous mix of old metal painted sign-boards recalling products of a bygone era.

relics of a byegone age - HMV metal sign

 ‘Punch’ ; ‘Lion’ ; HMV and others.  Scattered about as if tossed aside by a giant hand grown tired of it’s toys, now rusting and overgrown with weeds and wild plants, lie a variety of old machinery the likes of which you seldom see these days. Relics!

a giant's toys discarded and forgotten

Further along and illegally gained via a gated entrance (I don’t care for barriers) we entered what appeared to be a cluster of offices, a modern structure in a vintage setting.  If you were wonering what happened to Tweety Bird, well, he is held captive in the jaws of the monster, a now abandonded building crane.  Poor birdy. 

if you ever wondered what happened to Tweety Bird......

 Wonder if the same will happen to Twitter?!
We strolled about the enclave, amazed that people could actually reside amongst this conglomeration of chaos; a delight of everything and nothing….one such ramshackle structure asks ‘anyone for Pimms’. 

anyone for Pimm's?

I could probably pitch a tent in the wee forest we chanced upon at the far end of all this and live happily (albeit uncomfortably) and no-one would even notice.  I noticed a hanging cage that houed a skeleton and wondered if that was the remains of Hansel or maybe Gretel :). 

don't overstay your welcome......

The place is littered with junk and bits and bobs, a veritable hoard of what I guess an artist would call ‘useful’ stuff.  Flowers abound and a nasturtium in full bright orange glory dominates the scene lending some colour to what is despite all the ‘stuff’ quite a dull bleached area. 

a bright orange splash of colour

Making our way back off the island we headed off to The White Swan for lunch. Along the way we passed under the bridge that leads to York House and walked passed ‘Dial House’, home to a magnificent sundial mounted above the front door; gorgeous.  Dial House was owned by various members of the ‘Twining’ family till the death of Elizabeth Twining on Christmas day 1889. (

on Riverside at Twickenham takes its name from the painted sundial in the centre of the front of the house.

This type of sundial is known as a vertical dial and the enthusiast would describe it as a vertical, declining dial because it does not face due south. Such dials are said to be declining so many degrees east or west of south, so that the gnomon, the rod that casts the shadow of the sun, is angled to one side or the other of the vertical centre line. For the same reason, the hour markers are not quite symmetrical, starting in this case, after 6 o’clock in the morning and ending at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The perfect south-facing dial would start at exactly 6am and end at 6pm.)

(more…)

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Something arbitrary:

If there is one date that nearly everyone in England knows, it is 1066 when the Normas invaded England.   William the Conqueror became King when he invaded the country after Edward the Confessor died.

Edward was King of England but he wasn’t like most rulers of the time; he was a peace-loving man of God who put all of his energies into building churches.   His most famous church was Westminster Abbey.

It was built on marshy land by the River Thames in London, and it was Edward’s chief delight to watch the building grow.   When he died he was buried in his new church – as lots of kings and queens and famous people have been in the centuries which followed.

Lots of rulers have nick-names: Edward 1 was the Hammer of the Scots; Richard 1 was the Lion-Heart; all very warlike.   But Edward was called the Confessor because of the way he lived his life witnessing to his belief in Christ.

So each year on 13th October we remember the King who was a saint.

Nicknames or not?

All of these are nicknames of real rulers from the past:

Charles the Bald; Eric Bloodaxe; Ivailo the Cabbage; Boleslaw the Curly; Pippin the Short; Niall of the Nine Hostages; Ragnar Hairy Britches; Louis the Stammerer and there was a Viking king of Dublin called Glun the Iron Knee – but I don’t think he was into recycling!

sourced from Coleman’s Hatch cronicle for October.

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I had the good fortune of paying a fleeting visit to this amazing city today.   As I wandered through the streets, along the lanes and stepped through ancient college doors into courtyards filled with history, I marvelled at the exuberance of the ivy-clad architecture, the fine detail of gargoyles and kings, and the marvellous atmosphere of a scholarly city.   I even contemplated the possibility of applying to study English or History :).   I could not imagine anything more sublime than living in a University town and studying two of my favourite subjects.   I wonder what the lovely lithe young things would make of a ‘granny’ in their midst.   Oxford is a bicycle town and the students look quite relaxed as they dash about town, visiting friends, the library or the local pub.   As I meandered through the streets passing first the world famous  ‘Radcliffe Camera’, then under the Bridge of Sighs, into the Bodleian Library Quad and stepped inside beautiful churches ablaze with magnificent stained-glass windows, I enjoyed the sun on my face and the cosmopolitan mix of residents, tourists, a South American Pipe band, students and an eclectic mix of the strange and wonderful.

I stopped by the Carfax Tower to watch and listen to the Bell Chimes.

As always I am fascinated by the ancient graveyards and today they were dressed in their autumn finery, the leaves in colours of red, gold, yellow and orange littered the ancient paths and covered the final resting places of famous and forgotten.

The city is a fascinating mix of architecture, the college’s glow gold in the afternoon sun, the spires and domes lit up as the suns rays bathe them in a soft yellow light.   Most of the older buildings and colleges appear to have been built from the same lovely soft yellow stone that lends the city a golden colour.   Secret corners blackened with age and ravaged by the passing seasons withstand the tests of time.

I found a great site which offers a Virtual Tour of Oxford…fabulous!  Be sure to click on the various sites for a close up almost ‘right there’ feel of the city behind closed doors.

To tickle your fancy and give you a little bit of history I sourced a fantastic site on the internet (hooray for google).

a bit of a taster follows, for more info if you want to know more…visit the site

Oxford, The City of Dreaming Spires, is famous the world over for its University and place in history. For over 800 years, it has been a home to royalty and scholars, and since the 9th century an established town, although people are known to have lived in the area for thousands of years.

Nowadays, the city is a bustling cosmopolitan town. Still with its ancient University, but home also to a growing hi-tech community.

Oxford is home to a world famous university, and most of the colleges and university buildings are located in the centre of Oxford, within easy walking distance of each other.

Don’t miss the Bodleian Library,  and the nearby Radcliffe Camera, which is not open to the public, but is well worth a view from the outside.

Nearby, in Broad Street, is the Sheldonian Theatre, a venue for official university functions as well as a variety of concerts.

The University also owns the Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street (opposite The Playhouse), Britain’s oldest public museum.

The centre of Oxford is dominated by the University colleges, the most famous being Christ Church, Trinity, and Balliol (from a total of thirty six).

The origins of Oxford are not actually known with any certainty, being as they are, shrouded in the mists of time, but various ideas have been submitted (and disputed) regarding its genealogy.

Medieval historian, John Rous wrote in his 1490 work, ‘Historium Regum Angliae’, that Oxford was originally King Mempricius’ city, Caer-Memre, built on the River Thames somewhere between 1400 and 1500 BC.    However, other historians from Rous’ time were more inclined to support the popular legend that Oxford was in fact founded by the Trojans, after they landed on British soil in around 1100 BC.

Archaeological Evidence
Whilst there may be no definite historical basis for John Rous’ claims or for the Trojan story, there is some evidence of a settlement in Oxford possibly as early as 4000 BC.

Archaeological finds of Neolithic arrowheads and other remains from that period have been discovered in the city, and although no specific or more detailed evidence exists of an actual settlement at this time, it is known that a large Neolithic population once resided in Oxford.

In addition, a more permanent settlement between 2000 and 700 BC is suggested by evidence of Bronze Age barrows in the area.

Roman Times

Oxford in the time of the British Roman invasion appears to have been largely ignored by its conquerers. In fact, records show (or rather they don’t) that there was no town of  ‘Oxford’ in Roman times, although evidence of villas in the surrounding countryside does exist, together with a temple at nearby Woodeaton.

Instead, Brittania’s new leaders favoured Colchester, London (Londinium) and Chester, making Colchester their first capital of the new province, swiftly followed by London (once they realised the strategic importance of the River Thames).

Whilst Oxford has certainly not been recorded as being the centre of any importance during Roman times, evidence does exist of pottery kilns in the city and surrounding areas which may have supplied earthenware vessels to the new rulers of the realm. This is further supported by number of probable kiln sites unearthed in the region – at Woodperry, south of Stow Wood, Marston, Iffley, Littlemore, Kennington, and Headington (Churchill Hospital) – no doubt taking full advantage of the city’s rich clay beds.

Add to this the fact that Oxford was (and is) of course very close to the important trading highway of the River Thames, plus the fuel readily available from the Headington and Cowley woodlands, and you can see how the city would have made an ideal location for Roman industry.

Although there was no large-scale settlement in ‘Oxford’ at this time pottery making appears to have been widespread and prolific in the area. In fact, this industry is one of the earliest recorded in Oxford.

The Saxons

Although Oxford (or Ohsnafordia, as it was known in Saxon times) wasn’t really recognised by the Romans, in the Saxon age it began to assume a much greater importance within Britain. In the late Saxon period particularly, when it was positioned on a major trade route between the two powerful kingdoms of Mercia and King Alfred’s Wessex, growth was high.

St. Frideswide
According to legend, St. Frideswide was born in around 650, daughter of Mercian King Didan, and was brought up to holiness by Algiva. When proffered (and refusing) the hand of King Algar (also a Mercian) she fled her homeland to settle in Oxford and there she built an abbey (where Christ Church stands today) – reportedly to preserve her virginity.

And preserve her it did, for when King Algar followed her there and attempted to take both her and the abbey by force he was struck blind. Only St. Frideswide’s later forgiveness restoring his lost vision.

Long after her death in 735 and during the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the abbey was razed to the ground (in 1002) with Oxford’s Danish population being blamed for the burning, and a large number of them were massacred (as part of the then King’s desire to remove all Danes from England). It was later rebuilt as an Augustinian Priory, the cemetary of which has been excavated in Christ Church Meadow.

St. Frideswide is now the patron Saint of Oxford City.

Alfred the Great
King of Wessex (871 – 899) and leader of the Saxon resistance to the onslaught of Danish Viking invaders, but probably better remembered by many for the legend of his lack of culinary skills. Legend also records King Alfred as responsible for founding Oxford University, not as unlikely as it may first appear.

The Danes Revenge
During the uncertain reign of Ethelred the Unready, in 1009, the Danes sacked Oxford in retribution for the massacre of 1002 and just four years later the city, having increased in importance, was again forced to submit to Danish invasion by Swein Forkbeard and his armies. In fact, Oxford was viewed as so important during this period that Cannute (later to become king) chose the city for his coronation in 1018.

Medieval Age

After recovering from the Danish invasions it suffered in the latter part of the Saxon period, Oxford continued it’s growth and importance right into what is now known as the Medieval age. Not all ran smoothly however, as in 1138 the city suffered a huge fire which effectively burnt it to the ground.

Oxford Castle
From the Medieval age, and still very visible is Oxford Castle, originally built by Norman lord, Robert D’Oily in 1071.

In the winter of 1142, Oxford Castle became the scene of a seige when it was home to Queen Maud (Matilda), during her struggle with King Stephen. The queen only escaped the castle after her guards lowered her over the walls and, in a white dress which effectively camoflauged her against the backdrop of winter snow, she crept through enemy lines and across the Castle Mill stream to freedom.

The Black Death
Oxford was hit hard by the plague (1348 – 1350) and during this time the local colleges kept country houses outside of the city where scholars could flee, no such opportunities for the ordinary resident, however.  As a result, Oxford’s population dropped dramatically during this period, and the colleges took full and grisly advantage of the fact by buying up vacant property and greatly expanding their holdings within Oxford.

Tudor Oxford

Famous Tudor king, Henry VIII, founder of the Anglican Church left his mark on Oxford, taking control of Christ Church from Cardinal Wolsey and abolishing the study of canon law.   He instituted University chairs for medicine, civil law, Greek, theology, and Hebrew instead, marking a fundamental shift in emphasis for the University, away from its monastic beginnings.

The University

The exact origins of Oxford University are not known. Certainly many theories on how it came into being have been expounded, but none have been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.

King Alfred
It has been said for example, that the Saxon King of Wessex, Alfred the Great could have founded the University during his reign (871 and 899), due to his very un-Saxon penchant for scholarly pursuits, and although this is not as unlikely as it might sound, no cast-iron evidence supports it.

Long after Alfred however, during the late 11th or early 12th century, it is known that Oxford became a centre of learning for clerics, from which a school or university could have sprung or evolved.

Academic Centre
Firmly established as an academic centre by the 13th century, Oxford was drawing students from across Europe for studies focused on houses established by the Dominicans (1221), Fransiscans (1224), Carmelites (1256), and Augustinians (1267). end of excerpts.

and so today in 2009, as I walked the streets of this magnificent city, I met, listened to and observed the students of today.  I wonder of they appreciate the history that surrounds them on a daily basis.

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