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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...

Celebrating the Oxford Canal

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 project, the events aim to raise the profile of the final 3 mile section of one of England’s oldest and narrowest canals from rural Duke’s Cut to Hythe Bridge Street in the city centre.

A quiet green corridor, lined by residential boats, the canal brings pleasure to many who walk, feed ducks, fish, cycle along the towpath, cruise for leisure into Oxford, or on the water. What a contrast to the days when the Oxford canal bustled with narrow boats bringing coal from the Midlands and driving the development of industries such as ironworks, brick making, breweries and the Oxford University Press Paper Mill.

Tuesday 1st April sees the start of Oxfordshire Artweeks at the Jam Factory, Oxford, with an exhibition that is ‘Inspired by the Canal’. The winners of Oxford Canal multigenerational Art competition will be presented with their prizes by David Pollock, the Chair of Oxfordshire Artweeks at this Private View.

The exhibition is open to the public from Wednesday 2nd to Sunday 27th April when Oxford Canal prize winning pieces will be exhibited alongside paintings, photographs, and an installation by professional artists inspired by canals at the Jam Factory.

On Saturday 27th April between 2.30 and 3.30pm, local historian Mark Davies presents a free talk ‘The Oxford Canal: an artistic history’ at the Jam Factory, Oxford

The Oxford Canal Heritage Day on Saturday May 3rd offers an exciting free May Bank holiday event for young and old. Besides showcasing new Oxford Canal heritage information and resources, there will be talks, presentations, performances, poetry and music, an art show, community stalls and books for sale.

At 10.30am on Saturday 3rd May, the Deputy Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Tony Brett and Ron Heritage Chairman of the Oxfordshire Branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) will open a new Oxford Canal Heritage Trail at Pocket Park, Hythe Bridge Street.

After the ceremony, the public are invited to join in Oxford Canal Heritage Day taking place between 11.30am and 5pm at the Old Fire Station. The programme includes

A tour of the new website www.oxfordcanalheritage.org with its downloadable new Oxford Canal Heritage Trail Guides in audio or as a PDF.
A discussion about past times on the canal at Wolvercote showing how oral histories were gathered from people interviewed about their canal memories.
A talk about the 300 year history of the canal, its boats, boaters, buildings, bridges and locks by 2 historians of the Oxford canal.
Performances by children at St Barnabas, Phil and Jim, Wolvercote and Cutteslowe schools interpreting the canal.
Presentations of prose, poetry and plays inspired by the Oxford canal.

There will also be stalls run by local societies and books about the canal, exhibitions of Oxford Canal art competition winning art, a photo gallery of boats and boaters and demonstrations of traditional Castles and Roses canal folk art.

The full programme is available at www.oxfordcanalheritage.org/.There is no need to book, just drop in for an hour or why not make a day of the visit? The Crisis café in the Old Fire Stations serves delicious food and drink from 9am until 4pm.

In the evening of Saturday May 3 there will be an Oxford Canal Celebration concert of singing, music and dance featuring local musicians, poets and performers and local choir the Jericho Singers. This wll be taking place at the Old Fire Station from 8-10.30 pm. A raffle will be held to raise money for a signature gateway for the canal. Tickets for the event are available from Tickets in Oxford and cost £8 with £5 concessions. Details from www.jlht.org/celebration

On Sunday 4th May and Bank Holiday Monday 5th May at 10am and 12noon, Oxford based canal historian and author Mark Davies will lead short and undemanding one hour historical and literary walks taking in the canal, Castle Mill Stream, Oxford Castle, and Jericho. Tickets cost £3 via email from towpathpress@btopenworld.com

On Thursday May 29th radio play enthusiasts will be gathering at the The Old Bookbinders public house in Jericho (next to the canal) for a live performance of the winning radio plays from the Canal Play competition (?) with opportunities for questions and discussion with the writers.

Background

Over the last year, the Oxford Canal Heritage project, led by the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, has worked with the Oxford Canal Partnership Board, local people, and voluntary organisations to produce information and resources about the history of the canal from 1790 to the present day.

Maria Parsons, Project Manager of the Oxford Canal Heritage Project, said: “I’m delighted that we’re able to launch new information and resources that raise the profile of the Oxford canal which as Oxford author and canal enthusiast Philip Pullman observes: ‘comes into the centre of town, quietly, almost surreptitiously, without many people being aware of it’. The project helps to make more people aware of this once working waterway and the fascinating hidden history of one of the country’s oldest, narrowest canals.”

“Local residents and visitors will now be able to learn much more about the three stretch of the 77 mile Oxford canal from rural Duke’s Cut to busy Hythe Bridge Street in the city centre. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped with the project and everyone taking part in the series of events in the next few weeks. This project would not have succeeded without their input and the Heritage Lottery funding.”
Ends

Note to News Editors: You are invited to cover

Oxford Canal Art Competition winners receiving prizes at the opening of Oxfordshire Artweeks at the Jam Factory at 6.30pm Tuesday April 1

The opening of the Oxford Canal Heritage Trail at Pocket Park, Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford city centre, on Saturday 3rd May at 10.30am.

The Deputy Mayor and other VIPs speaking at the opening of the Oxford Canal Day at the Old Fire Station at 11.30am. Also the programme of events between 12.00 and 5pm as outlined in the Press Release.

You are very welcome to attend all events.

For more information and to record pre-event interviews, please contact Maria Parsons on 07801 509993 or mariastparsons@gmail.com

A brief history of the Oxford Canal

The 77 mile Oxford Canal from Coventry finally reached the city in 1790 after which narrow boats began bringing in coal from the Midlands coalfields. A fall in the price of coal triggered a period of considerable economic development.

The boaters and their families worked very long hours and lived on their boats in the smallest of spaces. They were a tightly knit, largely illiterate, and somewhat marginalised community whose traditional lives inspired Phillip Pullman to create the ‘Gyptians, who feature in his famous trilogy: Dark Materials.

By the 20th century rail and then road replaced narrow boats. Many canals fell into disuse. In Oxford, Nuffield College and a council car park occupy what was once the canal basin and a busy canal terminus. By the 1960s a rubbish strewn Oxford canal was saved from being filled in by the Oxford City Council by community action. The case for retaining the canal championed by Sir John Betjeman, and the rising popularity of leisure boating, saved the Oxford canal.

In the 1990s, the British Waterways sale of the Jericho boatyard and its environs to property speculators outraged many people in Oxford City. Boaters and communities protested against the loss of the nearest boatyard for many miles and new housing proposals that were unsympathetic to the architecture of this historic canal suburb and iconic St Barnabas Church. After the ending of the boatyard occupation, a period of planning blight was ended when Oxford City Council published stricter planning guidance that favoured local community interests. The Jericho Wharf Trust continues to play a crucial role in ensuring that new commercial development plans by Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF) prioritise community needs for a new boatyard, public space, community centre and accessible bridge over the canal.