Author: Kit Ward

St Frideswide

Frideswide and the treacle well

The Saxon princess-abbess-saint Frideswide was not the founder of Oxford: there was certainly a settlement at the confluence of the Cherwell and the Thames well before her time. But she has a claim to be one of the founders of the idea of Oxford, the notion of the city as a nexus of learning, religion, and occasional miracles.

TE Lawrence camera Oxford

Sexing up the camera

Among the objects gathered in the collection of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford are a number of devices coated with the patina of past celebrity. You can find Elizabeth I’s astrolabe, Lewis Carroll’s photographic developing kit, and a blackboard, chalk-inscribed equations intact, used by Albert Einstein.

Stoke Mandeville old village

A neglected spot

My last post was about the effects of Victorian railway construction on a London churchyard. The present day High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project is a twenty-first century counterpart, carving a route through several hundred miles of rural England. And on this route are three burial grounds containing 30,000 graves, all of whose occupants will have to be exhumed and reburied elsewhere.

Hardy Tree

Human jam

The coming of the railways gouged, scoured, and re-made the British landscape more dramatically than any process since the glaciers of the Ice Age went to work millennia before. Embankments, cuttings, bridges, tunnels were built, embedded, imposed, as the web of iron, wood, and stone was spun across the island.

Old Sarum OS monument

Mudge’s buried cannon

Anyone visiting the Iron Age hill fort at Old Sarum in Wiltshire is likely to miss the weathered, lichen-speckled monument opposite the entrance, on the other side of the main road into Salisbury. The inscription on this irregular block of stone is very difficult to decipher, not just because of its age but also because of its unusual (perhaps even unique — certainly, I have seen nothing in this style before) lettering.

Cupid in Fitzrovia

Cupid in Fitzrovia

Flying through Fitzrovia, Cupid collided with a drone. He fell to earth in New Cavendish Street, landing in a bin filled with fast-food detritus. By the time he got himself out, his wing feathers were so tacky with grease, ketchup, and mayonnaise that he couldn’t fly.