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Community site for the Jericho district of Oxford, UK
Wed, October 01, 2014

Last Bookshop

Quality remainder titles

From children’s books and cookery to art, literature and philosophy - with a café space

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Football Coaching and ‘Keep Fit for Young Women’

St Barnabas School Field. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5.30pm – 7.30pm
Free, just show up.  Age 13 years plus
For further information contact 07788 244 890

Table tennis

Table tennis in St Barnabas Church. Available to Jericho residents on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Sign up in the church porch.

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.

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Did you know ...

Why Juxon Street?

Juxon Street is named after William Juxon, President of St John’s College from 1621-33.

How many people live in Jericho?

In 2011 Jericho had a population of 1,400 residents living in households.  There are no communal establishment residents. There has been little change in the total number of residents since 2001.

How religious we are?

In the 2001 Census, some 50% of Jericho residents said they were Christian, 2.2% Muslim, 1.9% Buddhist and 1.2% professed other religions, while 34% of people said they had no religion. In Oxford as a whole the proportion with no religion was 24%.

 

Other recent postings

Jericho’s links with OUP

Jericho census profile

Happy days at the Scala

Frances Wright

Ted Harris

Cyril Pead

Table tennis

Table tennis in St Barnabas Church. Available to Jericho residents on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Sign up in the church porch.