Old Marston village has played a part in the history of the nation as well as Oxford, writes CHRIS KOENIG.

Many undergraduates in the early 19th century probably spent more time out hunting than studying dreary old books. Among such was Jack Russell (1795-1883), a student at Exeter College, who seems to have been much preoccupied with catching foxes.

Hacking about in Marston one day in 1819 he came across a milkman with a dog called Trump, whom he bought and who was to become the ancestor of the Kennel Club registered breed now named after Mr Russell.

In those day, Marston, name derives from Marsh Town, was rural - handy for an undergraduate huntsman keen to research whether a small but plucky dog could be trained to flush out foxes that had gone to ground.

Until November 12, 1971, when the bridge carrying Marston Ferry Road across the Cherwell was opened, the area was remarkably isolated for somewhere within the Ring Road. Indeed, the only link between North Oxford and Cherwell Drive until then - only 35 years ago but already as remote-seeming as the ancient Romans, at least to anyone stuck in a Marston Ferry Road traffic jam - was by the ferry which had existed at Marston since at least 1279.

Yet the present bridge was not quite the first to be built at Marston. General Thomas Fairfax, commander of the Parliamentary forces laying siege to Royalist Oxford from his headquarters at Headington Hill, built a temporary one there in 1646.

He planned to use it in an attack on the city which would have led to hand-to-hand fighting in the streets. In the event, the King surrendered and the bridge was not used.

The treaty ending the siege of Oxford was signed at the Manor House, Ponds Lane, near St Nicholas Church, in what is now often called Old Marston to distinguish it from New Marston which has grown up on its southern side.

The Manor, now known as Cromwell's House, belonged in the 17th century to the Justice of the Peace and sergeant-at-law Unton Croke, relative of Richard Croke to whom there is a splendid alabaster memorial dated 1683 in St Nicholas Church.

Despite the lack of a road bridge, Oxford had long been trying to expand towards Marston. Nine years after Mr Russell came across Trump, the church of St Clement was built at the Headington end of Marston Road.

It was built at a time when Newman was curate of the parish. It is of unusual Georgian Gothic design and contains a North window removed from St Martin's, Carfax, when all but its tower was pulled down in 1896.

Its East window, incidentally, is by someone called J.H.Russell. For a fleeting moment I wondered whether he could be one and the same gentleman as our terrier fancier. But no. Mr Jack Russell took holy orders and went off to become vicar of Swimbridge, near Barnstable, Devon, thereby explaining why said terriers are sometimes called Parson's terriers.

There is a pub in that village called the Jack Russell. It seems that the Rev Jack Russell, a founder member of the Kennel Club, crossed Trump with Devon hunt dogs to achieve his end of creating a working dog capable of facing up to a fox underground.

He must be turning in his Swimbridge grave at the very notion of a hunting ban - even if it is being largely ignored.