ABOUT JERICHO - HISTORY
Jericho was Oxford’s first planned suburb - formed over six decades of the 19th century as the open fields to the north of Worcester College were transformed into today’s narrow streets of compact houses. The canal area resisted development longest due to the waterlogged terrain. When the canal reached Oxford in 1790, Castle Mill Stream was still an important branch of the Thames and highly prone to floods.
In 1829 Thomas Mallam auctioned some adjacent building plots near the Oxford University Press. A year later a coal merchant and boatbuilder called Henry Ward established Jericho’s first cargo wharf.
Jericho proper, however, remained clustered around the Press for 20 more years. Apart from access via the iron works (now Lucy’s) at Walton Well, the canal could be reached only by a track through allotments close to Worcester College wall. Ward’s Wharf was still very isolated, cut off not just by marshiness but also by the neighbourhood cesspool.
It was not until 1860 with the building of Canal Street that residential Jericho moved closer to the canal. Even then the houses were a safe distance from the canal itself. The reputation of the canal workers also served to keep Jericho at bay. In her 1956 Scrapbook of Jericho Mrs C.M. Hawtrey observed that this part of Jericho was “first a marsh and refuge of footpads and then to all intents and purposes a slum, through which policemen preferred to walk in company.” Local boaters were also “much addicted to a beer which went by the name of ‘Fourpenny’ and was extremely intoxicating.”
The influence of the Ward family extended over several generations. Henry Ward financed a floating chapel for boatmen. And his son, William (1808-86) donated the land on which St Barnabas’ Church was built in 1869. The canal and the community were also linked by the church. John Foster, sacristan for the first 40 years, sold coal from Ward’s Wharf in the evenings, for instance. And the sons of another coalmerchant, William Herbert, were ‘bearers of the incense boat’. Herbert was also the local ferryman, living in the now-vanished Ferry House at the end of what has been renamed Combe Road.
If the majority of Jericho’s residents feared the boatmen it seems the Canal Company may in turn have been fearful of the reputation of Jericho itself. The Scrapbook recorded that two boys who visited Jericho frequently at this time were told to stay away at night, “for they would probably have rats’ tails and oyster shells thrown at them.”
The Company had long resisted building a bridge to allow Jericho’s many railwaymen ready access to the station, and to allow its children access to the sports fields and bathing place at Tumbling Bay. As a result the ferry duly remained the only crossing, and was still operating in the 1960s. A second ferry, for school use, was provided by the Oxford Corporation at Nelson Street Wharf.
Author: Mark Davies
|Ali the postman||Working Class Housing in Jericho||Oxford Boy - A Post-war Townie Childhood||Jericho’s links with OUP||Happy days at the Scala||Looking back at Jericho’s gardens||A suburb of Victorian Oxford||Open fields to narrow streets||A brief history of Jericho||A magnet for Jericho’s children, layabouts and rats||Memories of wigs and cassocks||A Jericho childhood||Facing the past||Traces of ancient Walton||Living memories ... St. Giles Fair||Living memories ... shops and shopping||THE EAGLE IRONWORKS OXFORD||Thomas Combe||Press opens in Walton Street||The history of St. Paul’s Church||50 Years of Jericho||Memories from a resident of Jericho|
Cranham Street used to be a blot on the city
Before Grantham House was built, the site became notoriously derelict, making Cranham Street according to the local press a ‘blot on the city’ – wrecked by local children, and a refuge for rats and for ‘layabouts sleeping off the drink’ who were repeatedly evicted by the police.
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.