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Latest News

21/03/14 08:23pm
In April and May a series of exciting events will be taking place celebrating the industrial and cultural heritage of the Oxford Canal. Organised by the Heritage Lottery funded Oxford Canal Heritage...
28/03/13 09:58am
The Jericho Living Heritage Trust is seeking a part-time manager to lead a project which is ‘Celebrating the heritage of Oxford’s canal’. The post-holder will oversee implementation of a grant...
28/03/13 09:45am
Today, the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, working on behalf of the Oxford City Canal Partnership has received a £65,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project in Oxford....
30/03/12 10:34am
We have reached another key point in the campaign to acquire and develop the boatyard site for the community, and would like to bring everyone up to date. In the first stage of this project you...

Bill Bryson

A decade or so ago Oxford's planning panjandrums were deftly satirised by Bill Bryson in his Notes from a Small Island:
'You know, we've been putting up handsome buildings since 1264; let's have an ugly one for a change.' Then the planning authorities had to say, “Well, why not? Plenty worse in Basildon.”’

‘Then,’ Bryson continues, ‘the whole of the city -students, dons, shopkeepers, office workers, members of the Oxford Preservation Trust - had to acquiesce and not kick up a fuss. Multiply this by, say, 200 or 300 and 400 and you have modern Oxford. And you tell me that it is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the world? I'm afraid not. It is a beautiful city that has been treated with gross indifference and lamentable incompetence for far too long, and every living person in Oxford should feel a little bit ashamed.’

Bryson asked ‘What sort of mad seizure was it that gripped the city's planners, architects and college authorities in the1960s and 1970s? Did you know that it was once seriously proposed to tear down Jericho, a district of fine artisans' homes, and to run a bypass right across Christ Church Meadow? These ideas weren't just misguided, they were criminally insane.’

Bryson acknowledges Oxford's many virtues: in his view ‘it has moments of unutterable beauty’ and ‘a scattering of prospects that melt the heart’ and he speaks too of ‘being immersed in an architectural treasure house, one of the densest assemblages of historic buildings in the world’, but he also warns that in the light of the city's planners' appalling lapses over the years there is little room for complacency.

Last modified: 3 November, 2009