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Community site for the Jericho district of Oxford, UK
Thu, April 24, 2014

Healthy Oxford

At the Community Centre

We offer Complementary Therapies from Massage,  Hypnotherapy & many more.

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Street Fair Stalls

Would you like to book a stall for the Street Fair on June 14?

£50 per full stall (£20 for half stall if you are a charity or resident of Jericho).

Please click HERE.

Tried and tested

Tried and tested

Need help? We maintain a list of reliable local tradespeople.

Check the current list.

ABOUT JERICHO - ARTS ITEM

Thomas Hardy in Jericho

Thomas Hardy

Item posted: June 05 2002

Clement Shaw on Jericho's role in Jude the Obscure

When Hardy’s fictional Jude arrives in ‘Christminster’ he lodges “on inexpensive terms in the modest type of accommodation he demanded; and after inquiry took a room in a suburb nicknamed Beersheba”. Christminster was Oxford and it’s not unfanciful to speculate that the suburb was Jericho, and that our very own Jude the Obscure hostelry in Walton Street is not a stone’s throw from his modest room.

Thomas Hardy’s masterpiece is the story of a young man of working-class origin, born in an obscure country town, who acquires a passion for art, culture and scholarship. Largely through growing up close to Oxford—yet at a sufficient distance from it—he is thrilled and inspired by the architecture of its colleges and churches and is exalted beyond reason by a pathetically idealised conception of Oxford as a place for all that is finest in culture and scholarship.

Jude’s struggles to reach his goal, entry into the University and a scholar’s life, are the main theme of the novel. Its tragedy is the cruel, embittering failure of all his efforts, and the bleak unredeemed wretchedness of his lonely and all-too-obscure end.

Though Hardy denied it, Jude surely is a uniquely personal work. We know he was articled to the architect and church restorer John Hicks in Dorchester at 16. In the period 1862-67 Hardy was assistant architect to Arthur Blomfield who was commissioned by Thomas Combe to design the church of St Barnabas.

Thomas and Martha Combe were devotees and patrons of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and members of the Tractarian Movement. They gave Blomfield a free hand “that it should be large enough for a thousand worshippers, sound in construction and the interior dignified. Nothing was to be wasted on external appearances”. The church, which was to be Romanesque in style after the cathedral of Torcello near Venice, was completed in 1869.

Jude the Obscure was published thirty years later when Hardy was 58. The novel makes many references to the Tractarians and the influences they had on Jude. What, we may wonder, were the influences on Hardy so many years before, working in Jericho on such a remarkable building with such remarkable men? Who was the fussy, snobbish parson who tells Jude to go back to his work as a builder’s labourer and not bother with matters ‘beyond him’? Whoever it was, Jericho and St Barnabas surely inspired one of the great passionate English novels. Even today the book is an indignant plea for making available to plain men, women and children (especially children) all the sources of joy and enrichment of life which cannot be “weighed and measured” by accountants in a ledger.

Author: Clement Shaw

This article appeared in Jericho Echo No. 50, June 2002.

Did you know ...

Why Jericho still has such a mix of houses?

Jericho’s intriguing mix of housing today owes a lot, to the Residents’ Association in the 1960s and 1970s which together with the then Vicar and some local councillors resisted plans to bulldoze the whole area and turn it over to offices and light industrial use.

Where the community centre came from?

The centre was built at the end of the 19th century as the Church Institute for St. Barnabas.

Margaret Thatcher used to live here?

In her Oxford days, she lived at 12 Richmond Road. It is alleged she shared the house with two red-hot communists who lived on a diet of sausages. This may account for her later views on socialists and known dislike of sausages.

 

Other recent postings

Jericho census profile

Happy days at the Scala

The Dead of Jericho

Frances Wright

Ted Harris

Cyril Pead

Looking for company

I am looking for a friendly lady who would like to spend a couple of hours a week, or fortnight, being company for another nice lady who likes going out to cafés, visits to local museums, or a bit of window shopping, but who doesn’t enjoy it much alone. If you think you could offer this, please contact Bee on 07786 277971