A disappearing culture

Posted - June 06, 2009

Losing our industrial heritage

The City Council is to be congratulated on this decision. As an historic suburb and the principal working-class district of nineteenth-century Oxford, Jericho still has the architectural evidence and ambience of a vanished industrial past. Factory workers’ dwellings, pubs, worksheds and yards, shopfronts, wharfs, canal-front buildings, and backstreets that have remained little changed in over a century, all bear witness to the activities of the poorer men and women of Victorian Oxford and recall a working-class life that is in danger of being forgotten.

Buildings and landscapes represent the irreplaceable artefacts of social history – offering tangible, material evidence of people’s lives, and conveying a sense of the past that cannot be gained from written records.

Oxford’s industrial past is as important as the history of its more affluent educated inhabitants, and its lesser buildings as deserving of protection as the monumental structures and large mock-Gothic houses of wealthy Victorians. The fate of many characteristic Jericho sites – the demolition and re-development of Lucy’s, the construction of the unappealing (and now redundant) Grantham House, and the conversion of The Globe, to name but a few examples – foretell the district’s disturbing future if unsupervised change is allowed to continue. Jericho is a truly unique monument both to England’s industrial heritage and to Oxford’s own evolution. It must not be allowed to deteriorate further.

Designation would be be a critical first step, but not the end of the story. It will not protect the individual features of privately-owned buildings, and it will not stop the replacement of original doors and windows with plastic.The care, concern and continued vigilance of Jericho residents will be an imperative if we truly wish to preserve an irreplaceable piece of Oxford’s, indeed England’s, industrial past.

Did you know?

About the church bells?

Originally the Church only had the single ‘Barney’s Bell’. In 1890, when the clock was installed, it was decided to add a set of tubular bells to ring the chimes and the hour strike, as well as a tune or ‘carillon’. The are driven by an elaborate mechanical contraption.

Where the name Jericho comes from?

The name Jericho is probably taken from the parable of the Good Samaritan. Traditionally the name was given to places where travellers who arrived after the town gates had closed at sunset could find lodgings overnight.