Although the present bridge is not that over which the enigmatic stranger crossed, it nonetheless marks the line he travelled and along that line are witnesses to the moment I’m researching. Below are a few photographs which I took today showing the famous landmark.
Magdalen Tower (above), as seen from the east, was completed in 1509 and would have seen the stranger pass below on his way over the bridge towards what was then the Watlington Road. The image below shows the route he would have taken with his two horses, from Magdalen Bridge on the right of the picture, towards what is now The Plain, but which in the stranger’s day would have been the church and churchyard of St. Clement, demolished in 1828.
The roundabout (below) stands on what was once the church and churchyard of St. Clement . To the right is the fountain, built in 1899 as a belated tribute to Queen Victoria who celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. This was built on the site of the old toll house. The houses in the background stand on modern-day Cowley Road, the road up which the stranger rode into obscurity.
As I walked up the bridge I wondered who had seen the stranger pass and where they’d been when they saw him riding the two horses. In terms of more witnesses, the walls of the Botanic Gardens (founded in 1621) and its gateway (built by Inigo Jones’ master-mason Nicholas Stone in 1632) would have been standing at the time. The two statues and the bust, positioned in the gateway still look towards the road…
…and I like to imagine their eyes would somehow have seen him.