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SAVE OUR BOATYARD
Donate now to help protect the boatyard in Jericho from inappropriate development. Help us buy the site and develop a community-led scheme including a canal-side community centre and a working boatyard.
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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...
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...
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....
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...
Oxford Canal Heritage
The project will focus on the Oxford canal within the city boundaries. It forms the final 3.5 miles of the route from Coventry and opened in 1790, reducing the price of coal available in Oxford at a time when the country was suffering some of the hardest winters of the Little Ice Age.
Although a relatively short stretch of the Oxford canal as a whole it includes a number of important heritage features. Construction was not straightforward with financial problems causing delays. A new Act of Parliament was needed to complete the final stretch from Banbury to Oxford. It was built as cheaply as possible with wooden lift bridges instead of expensive brick ones wherever possible and locks with single rather than double bottom gates. The result is that this final stretch of the Oxford Canal includes a number of unique heritage features. Many of the lift bridges have now been removed; however, of the half a dozen still in use three are within the Oxford City boundary. The stretch of the canal within the city boundaries is framed by Wolvercote lock at the north end and Isis lock at the junction with the River Thames in the city centre (and until the Grand Junction canal opened in 1805 constituted part of the fastest route between the Midlands and London).
A rich history is contained in the lives and stories of those who worked on the boats along this stretch of canal, as well as in the businesses and communities that grew up alongside it. The first firm clearly to take advantage of a canalside site was the boatbuilding business of the coalmerchant Henry Ward in about 1812. The Carter Ironworks was established next door in 1825 (which later became Lucy's continuing in production until 2005). In 1789 the Duke's Cut had been built to link the canal north of Wolvercote to the River Thames to enable the boats to deliver coal to the papermill at Wolvercote/Godstow. The papermill supplied the Oxford University Press which relocated to a site near the canal, resulting in the housing development and community now known as Jericho.
The university printer Thomas Combe was the first patron of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and the benefactor of St Barnabas, a Grade I listed church built on land donated by Henry Ward’s sons.
The canal prospered until the end of the 19th century by which time it was being undercut by the railways (often built with materials delivered by boat). In 1937 Lord Nuffield bought the terminal basin and its wharves on which to build his new college and the Jericho wharves became the new Oxford terminus. . Trade continued at a low level with a slight resurgence during the 1939-45 war; in 1942, 223 boats docked in Oxford. Commercial traffic virtually ceased on the southern section of the canal in 1956 when only 16 boats were recorded.
However, that merely began a period of campaigning to keep the canal in use, including a well documented delivery of coal in 1955 to prove that the canal was still viable, a rally in Banbury in 1955 (led by Oxford poet John Betjeman) and a visit by Barbara Castle as Minister of Transport in 1967. Prior to the Minister's visit the local lengthsman did a spot of judicious opening of lock paddles to ensure that there was plenty of water for her boat trip just north of Oxford. It worked and the threat of closure was lifted.
Lucy's Ironworks and Wolvercote Paper Mill have ceased trading, and all the wharves are now closed except for that occupied by the Jericho hire boat company, College Cruisers; "Dusty" a local coal and gas delivery boat works between Oxford and Cropredy. An innovative approach to sustainable residential moorings was developed in the 1990s and there are a number of boaters who work from their floating homes in many different fields as writers, actors, musicians and craftsmen/women. This new generation of boatpeople, as well as those who have contributed to the development of the residential areas or worked along the canal in industries now gone, have stories that should not be lost in the nostalgia for an earlier age.
A particular link between Jericho and the canal is its boatyard. This is currently a derelict site following two attempts to develop the area with high density housing since British Waterways put the land up for sale in 2005.. Although often referred to as an historic boatyard it has in fact been used for a number of purposes over the years. One of the last of the working boatwomen, Rose Skinner, who died in June 2012, always referred to it as the "Corporation coal yard". Although not within the remit of this project, JLHT has undertaken a feasibility study on a community purchase and sustainable redevelopment.
Despite its key role in the development of the city, few who live in the city appreciate the significance of the canal and towpath. It has become a secret byway, a quiet passageway that takes visitors away from the rush and bustle of the streets around.
Last modified: 27 March, 2013