Community prepares to celebrate canal heritage

9:00pm Tuesday 22nd April 2014

By Damian Fantato

A community heritage project based around Oxford Canal is set to culminate after months of preparations.

It is part of a major drive to get more visitors using the 222-year-old waterway through North Oxford.

Oxford City Canal Partnership has been given £65,000 of Heritage Lottery money for its project for an Oxford Canal Heritage Trail.

A Canal Heritage Day has been organised with a day of events at the Old Fire Station in George Street on Saturday, May 3, from 11.30am to 5pm.

Visitors will also be able to download a map and “audio trail” sound file to guide them through more than 200 years of history.

Project manager Maria Parsons has gathered old pictures of the canal and interviewed people who lived or worked on the canal.

These will be desposited at the Oxfordshire History Centre in Temple Road.

She said: “I am very pleased with the range of communities that have got involved in this project.

“There will be a PDF you can get from the website and there will be an audio trail.

“It will be a lovely illustrated canal guide with all the places of interest and the oral histories will be placed in the Oxford History Centre.”

Plays about the canal by county writers will be performed at Jericho’s St Barnabas Church, with author Philip Pullman choosing a winner.

She said: “My job will be over at that point, but I would hope that this is just the start of something.”

It is hoped the project will draw more people to the three-and-a-half-mile stretch of canal that runs through the city.

This will lead from Hythe Bridge Street to Duke’s Lock, north of Wolvercote.

Tony Joyce, of the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, said: “It is proceeding very well.

“I think that for some time it has been realised that the heritage of the canal and the part that it can still play in the enjoyment of the city is something that could benefit from further publicity.”

The Oxford Canal opened in 1790 and became a key trade artery, but business declined as the railways grew in the mid-19th century.

Firms that used the canal included the former Wolvercote Paper Mill, Oxford University Press, Lucy’s ironworks in Jericho and breweries such as Oxford firm Morrells.

In the 1950s the poet Sir John Betjeman joined a campaign to save the canal from closure, which was successful when Minister for Transport Barbara Castle stepped in.


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