On what was a beautiful Autumn day, I took a walk to Shotover wood to take some photos of trees. I’ve always loved Shotover, both for its place in my past and that of my family, and its own history, being as it once was the main road to London (the mounting steps at the top and bottom of the hill are particularly interesting). The following images are a few of the photographs I took.
Having photographed the grave of Henry Sides, I took one of another grave which had caught my eye whilst walking the same path. This belonged to an Alfred Wilmot:
Everyday, on my way to catch the bus after work, I pass by this grave at the edge of the path which cuts through St Giles churchyard.
Ten years on, in 1881, Henry and Harriet have extended their family still further, with the arrivals of Arthur, Herbert, Gertrude and Archibald. They had moved too, living now in Bradmore Road with a Cook and a Nursemaid. At 42, Henry is still an assistant librarian and partner in a firm of rope makers.
Henry John Sides died on 25th August 1883, aged just 45…
Whilst researching Jackson’s Oxford Journal, I randomly selected an edition from 1842 in which I found the following:
Following on from my last blog and my interest in the perception of time in the past as time passing I’m drawn to this piece which serves, I think, to illustrate the point.
For example, the first line:
“On Wednesday evening last we were visited with one of the most extraordinary storms of thunder and lightning ever remembered.”
Firstly, the words “Wednesday evening last,” pinpoints the storm in terms that are not ‘historical’. It’s not as if we’ve read in a book, “on September 7th 1842, a great storm hit the city.” Rather the event is located in time using a phrase we might use today. It locates the storm in relation to the present – even if that present is September 10th 1842 – and at once feels fresh and contemporary.
Secondly, the phrase “ever remembered,” reminds us, if you pardon the truism, that there was a time before this time. But whereas we know that before 1842 there was 1841 and so on, what this phrase describes is living memory. Again, if we were reading about the storm in terms of its being an historical one, we would know that everyone who experienced it was dead. Reading this article, they are very much alive. Not only that, but the whole of the nineteenth century – and perhaps a part of the eighteen is alive within them too.
It isn’t only this storm which lives within these words, but many others stretching back as far as the late 1700s.
The next description is something with which we have all experienced:
“Shortly after dusk, the lightning appeared in the south and western horizon, and soon became most vivid, blue sheets of lightning following each other in rapid succession, but unaccompanied by thunder.”
That lack of thunder is the punctum of this text. (Ironically, the last time I mentioned punctum in a blog was in an entry entitled ‘Silence‘ about the death of my great-great-uncle, Jonah Rogers.) All the sounds of Victorian Oxford, on that September night in 1842 are contained in that silence. Even within our imaginations, it would seem that the the absence of one sense, heightens all the others. We can sense the approaching storm, feel its presence on the horizon. We can see the muted colours of dusk, muted further still.
Then the thunder comes – “distant peals of thunder” as the writer puts it – which increase until by 9 o’clock, it accompanies every flash. This means of course that the storm was right above the city. The rain falls hard, and with it hail – or “pieces of ice,” which damage numerous properties and the turnip fields of Cowley. By 10 o’clock it was over.
One of the names mentioned in the piece is Sir Joseph Lock whose greenhouse was damaged to the tune of 500 panes of glass. An unpopular man, he built Bury Knowle House in 1800 (the gardens of which feature in another recent blog). Here in Headington, as it was in Cowley, the storm “was frightful” and we can imagine Mr Lock looking out the window of his house as the storm lashed his garden, his face, in the dark midsts of the past, illuminated for a moment by the lightning.
The following is taken from my Blog and is reproduced here as it refers to research concerning East Oxford, and in particular the area surrounding the road up which the ‘Gentleman’s Servant’ would have ridden:
I’ve spent a very interesting morning in the archives at Christ Church college, researching as part of the East Oxford Archaeology Project. I had no fixed idea as to what I wanted to look for but was interested to see where the various material on offer would lead me.
I started by looking at a large and beautiful map of 1777 which showed the field system in East Oxford along with the names of fields and some of the individual furlongs. The abundance of units of measurement are quite baffling but nonetheless very poetic: furlongs, perches, chains, rods etc. and the way locations of land are described equally interesting; for example “The field called the Lakes begins next to Drove Acre Meer shooting onto the Marsh.”
A meer as far as I’ve been able to ascertain is a boundary deriving from the Old English world mǣre. Interestingly, Drove Acre still exists today in the form of Drove Acre Road, which joins with Ridgefield Road, so named after the old Ridge Field on which it’s built. Before I go into other field names, I want to try and identify the different units of measurement.
A rood is a unit describing an area of land and is equivalent to 1/4 acre. An acre is therefore 4 roods. In terms of length, an acre is a furlong (a furrowlong) which is equivalent to 10 chains or 220 yards. A chain therefore is 22 yards. A rod, pole or perch is 5 1/2 yards. A mile is 8 furlongs.
I also found a unit called a butt, which I believe is where the oxen (ploughing a furlong) turned and rested where one acre butted onto the next creating a small mound of earth.
The names of the main fields in this area – as I discovered in a document of 1814 – are as follows:
Open Field Meadow
The name Far Field makes sense in that it’s situated some way from town. But The Lakes?
Within these fields, individual furlongs were also given names, such as:
London Way Furlong
Furlong by the Mead Hedge
Clay Pits Furlong
Furlong Shooting on Breaden Hill
Short Furlong in Catwell
Hare Hedge Furlong
Croft Furlong by Bullingdon Green
The word shoot or shooting is used a lot to describe the location of land, such as ‘Furlong shooting on Sander’s Marsh.’ I think this must mean that the furlong joins or abuts the marsh. ‘The furlong that shoots on the alms-house,’ for example seems to describe land that joins the alms-house which I think describes those in St. Clements.
What interests me is how differently this area of Oxford would have been known to those who lived 200 years ago. It’s an obvious point given that much of what were fields are now houses, but it’s the names that interest. How did these places acquire these names, and why have some survived and others haven’t? (It’s probably just as well that no-one lives in Shittern Corner today).