History on the Canal

 

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Historical events in the canal mural under the Elizabeth Jennings Way bridge

  1. Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis dinosaur found in 1871 in a clay pit locally. It is now in the University’s Natural History Museum.
  2. James Sadler launched the first hot air balloon in this country from Merton Fields in 1784.
  3. Canal narrowboats pulled by horse traction from 1789.
  4. Twentieth century narrow boats started to use diesel power.
  5. The coal wharf in Hayfield Road (opposite the Anchor pub) was the main business of the canal at first.
  6. Women worked on the canal boats as well as men.
  7. Whole families lived on the working canal boats and travelled with them.
  8. 19th century brick works, including one on the site of the current Waterways estate, using local clay helped to build houses in north Oxford.
  9. The Oxford Gas, Light and Coke Company, with its chimney belching smoke, occupied a site in St Ebbe’s from 1818, and the last two gas holders were demolished in 1968.
  10. Steam trains came to Oxford in 1844 reducing the economy of the canal as a business.
  11. William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, started his business making
  12. Very soon after he made cars and vans and set up the famous Cowley motor works.
  13. Penny farthing bicycles (one large wheel, one small) were used in Victorian times before modern bicycles were developed.
  14. Morris’s company Osberton Radiators, on the site of the current Waterways estate, made radiators and parts for the famous World War Two Spitfire fighter plane.
  15. As Unipart, the company provided radiators and other parts for the Mini car which was (and still is) made in Cowley.
  16. In World War One, ten biplanes crashed on or near the Port Meadow airfield, with the loss of fourteen lives, and in Wolvercote there is a memorial to two airmen who died in 1912.
  17. Elizabeth Jennings the poet (1926-2001) went to the local Oxford High School for Girls & St Anne’s college.
  18. The white spot in the sky above the railway locomotive is a star and recalls one of her most famous poems Delay by Elizabeth Jennings*.
  19. The Oxford skyline of dreaming spires is only a short distance away.
  20. The building with a clock is from an old picture of industrial buildings near the centre of Oxford.
  21. The Waterways estate was built between 2000 and 2004
  22. Graffiti tagging along the canal has brought the community together to create the murals.
  23. Joggers now run up and down the towpath and commuters walk or cycle to the town centre.
  24. Swans nest in the local Trap Grounds and are often seen with their cygnets on the canal.
  25. Tesco’s plastic bags have paid for the mural project through a grant from the Bags of Help community fund.
  26. The four seasons as well as many centuries of historical events are all included in the collage.

 

* Delay by Elizabeth Jennings

The radiance of the star that leans on me

Was shining years ago. The light that now

Glitters up there my eyes may never see,

And so the time lag teases me with how

 

Love that loves now may not reach me until

Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse

Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful

And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

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