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Heritage Lottery Fund backs project: Celebrating the heritage of Oxford's Canal

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. The project aims to raise awareness of the Oxford Canal and to celebrate its history and will begin in Spring/Summer 2013.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Through the project people will learn more about the role that the Oxford Canal has played in the development of the city, and about the lives of people who worked on the canal and lived in neighbouring communities. Local schools will also be involved in the project which will include better signposting of the canal, an art exhibition, radio plays, an oral history archive and a community event later in the year. A web site will also be produced to ensure that information remains accessible after the project has been completed.

The story of the Oxford Canal is varied and colourful. From its beginnings as a busy industrial trade route in the 18th and early 19th centuries, through gradual decline, to its current role as a leisure resource and host to a floating residential community, this hidden green corridor of Oxford has a rich, if little-realised, heritage. Its importance to the city has been huge, bringing benefits to both Town and Gown. The canal has also been the focus of two high-profile campaigns in recent decades: one in the 1950s, championed by Sir John Betjeman, saved the canal from possible closure; and more recently there have been the ongoing efforts, in which JLHT has been instrumental, to retain a boatyard in Jericho.

A project manager is currently being recruited to lead the project, working with local volunteers, schools and writers. The team will also be drawing on the skills of local professional writers and experts in oral history. Potential volunteers are invited to visit www.jlht.org for more information about how to get involved.

“Tony Joyce, chairman of the Jericho Living Heritage Trust said: As the Canal  and River Trust’s resources are fully committed to their main responsibility, the operation and maintenance of the waterways, it is excellent news that the Heritage Lottery Fund can step in to fund this project which ensures that the very significant heritage aspects of the canal are not neglected.”

Commenting on the award Roger Hanbury, chairman of the Oxford City Canal Partnership and head of governance services at The Canal and Rivers Trust said:

“The Canal Partnership is delighted that we have won this grant which will help to bring a unique part of Oxford’s heritage alive, telling its story, improving signage and providing interpretation and opportunities for learning”.

Progress Report on the Castlemill Boatyard Project

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 helped us to raise £120,000 to cover the campaign and legal costs for protecting a very special part of Oxford. The funds ensured that we were able to put forward a compelling case to the Planning Inspector, who ruled that the proposed commercial development on the Jericho Boatyard site was quite unsuitable.

We then focused, working with the other local Jericho organisations, on our own plans to acquire and develop the site. In 2010 we were awarded a £70,000 feasibility grant from the Community Builders fund, with mentorship from Coin Street Community Builders. Using these funds we engaged architects Haworth Tompkins to develop a Masterplan for development of the site in a way that would meet the needs of the community. The plans were displayed during a community consultation event at St Barnabas Church in December 2010, and an abbreviated version of the Haworth Tompkins report can be accessed HERE. The plans were also discussed with senior Planning managers at Oxford City Council, and one result of these discussions is that the City has now proposed new development guidelines for the site which specify provision of all the components we have been campaigning for, including a new operating boatyard to support the community of live-aboard boaters in Jericho and on the Oxford canal.

The outstanding challenge is of course to raise the funds required for site acquisition and development. We need to raise an estimated £4.3 million in public grants and donations, out of a total project budget of £9 million. One of the things we have learned in confronting this challenge is the importance - to those who provide grants, to potential benefactors, and to the City Council – of having a single organisation to take full responsibility for the project. During 2011 the JLHT agreed, together with the Jericho Community Association, the Jericho Community Boatyard, and St Barnabas Parochial Church Council, to create a new Charitable Society – the Jericho Wharf Trust (JWT) – to take on this responsibility. Its Board members are drawn from across the four founding organisations, and include Tony Joyce, Stephanie Pirrie and David Feeny from JLHT.

JWT is now in full operation under the chairmanship of Phyllis Starkey, a long term Jericho resident who brings the experience of thirteen years as an MP and also several years as Leader of Oxford City Council. We very much hope that you will want to engage with JWT and continue your support for the project. You can find out more from their website www.jerichowharf.com where you can sign up to receive information on progress.

JLHT will continue to exist, and will increasingly focus its work on supporting the JWT’s understanding and planning of heritage aspects within the project. We are proud – as we hope you are – of the contribution that JLHT has made up to this point, a contribution that is formally described in our Annual Report and Accounts which you can access HERE. Thank you once again for your support. There is still much to do but the ultimate success of the project will ensure a Jericho future worthy of its history.