A disappearing culture

Losing our industrial heritage

Posted - June 06, 2009

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?

The origins of Walton?

Walton is derived from “wall town” which was used centuries ago to indicate a location outside the Oxford city walls. The ancient manor of Walton was certainly in existence before the Norman conquest in 1066.

Where we work?

According to the 2001 Census, in Jericho 28% of those working were self-employed, while 18% worked part time. Around 20% were in higher professional occupations compared with 14% for Oxford. We also tend to work nearby: 72% of people worked within five kilometres of their home; 18% went to work on foot, 13% by car and 6% by bike