City walking tours: Discover a different side to Oxford

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Book onto a walking tour to find out about the hidden secrets, significant buildings and the people that made the city. Led by local historians Liz Woolley, Mark Davies and Maurice East. Themes will reveal a side of Oxford often overlooked including waterways, its industrial past, leisure and entertainment as well as famous literary connections and a local perspective on historic ‘Town and Gown’ differences. 

Circular walks of 90 minutes on Wednesdays (unless otherwise stated) at 2.30pm starting from the Museum of Oxford. Full details and dates below.

Tickets cost £10 per tour and are available from the MOX Gift Shop or buy online (booking fee applies).

Industry and commerce in Victorian and Edwardian Oxford, 16 August, 11 October

In the later Victorian period rapid increases in population, rises in real wages, and the advent of the mass media fuelled a growing demand for manufactured goods, in Oxford as elsewhere. Join local historian Liz Woolley on a walk around the city centre to find out how activities like brewing, clothing manufacture, and bookbinding developed here, and to look at buildings which remind us of Oxford’s perhaps surprising industrial and commercial heritage.

The Real Alice in Wonderland Walk, 30 August, 25 October

A circular walk around beautiful Christ Church Meadow with local historian and author Mark Davies, a trustee of the Lewis Carroll Society. The route will follow waterside paths familiar to the real Alice (the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church) and Lewis Carroll to highlight in particular the all-important role of the River Thames in the creation of the Alice books. With reference to relevant local history and geography, as well as other classics of fantasy literature, the walk will reveal some of the real people, places, and events which inspired some of the characters and episodes. The walk does NOT include entrance to the buildings of Christ Church itself.

Canal, Castle and Chapel Walk, 13 September, 18 October 

A linear walk with local historian, author (of Stories of Oxford Castle and A Towpath Walk in Oxford) and former canalboat resident, Mark Davies. The walk will focus on Oxford’s Saxon-origin castle and the 18th-century Oxford Canal, one of Britain’s first four strategically important trunk canals. The castle and the canal are interconnected by geography, economics and personalities. Featured in a walk which will conclude near the canal’s 1790 terminus at Hythe Bridge are a subterranean stream; an innovative floating chapel; public executions; a glimpse of Paradise; a lost abbey; some extraordinary Victorian railway engineering; and Oxford’s sometimes controversial boating families of the past and residential boating community of the present.

Leisure and entertainment in Victorian and Edwardian Oxford, 20 September

In the mid-nineteenth century changes in employment practices and rising real wages meant that ordinary working people found themselves, usually for the first time, with leisure time and with spare money to spend on recreation. All sorts of establishments arose to fulfil the new demand for entertainment, many of them aimed at keeping people out of the pub. Join local historian Liz Woolley  to find out where and how Oxford citizens spent their free time, and how the middle classes attempted to impose ‘rational recreation’ on their working-class contemporaries.

‘Vex in the City’ walking tour, 6 September, 27 September

Offbeat stories of how Oxford was made. Join local historian Maurice East on a 90 minute journey around the city to find out about Oxford’s turbulent past including Town vs Gown, troublesome transport and conflicts & curiosities. Discover fascinating hidden histories of another Oxford. All from a local’s perspective.

ute is suitable for wheelchair users, with the exception of the final (less informative) section where participants can carry on to the Museum, where numerous relevant objects are on display.

‘Pie in the Sky’ Walk: Oxford and the first men and women to fly, 4 October 

Uncover the inspiring, courageous and often humorous story of the remarkable James Sadler (1753–1828): an uneducated High Street pastry chef; hot-air balloon pioneer; designer of engines, guns and laboratory equipment; naval chemist; and creator of ‘Philosophical Fireworks’ (on the very site of the Museum). This special city-centre walk of about one mile will take place 239 years to the day since Sadler first, “with Firmness and Intrepidity, ascended into the Atmosphere” from Oxford. It will be led by Sadler’s biographer, local historian Mark Davies, and include the most significant locations – religious, domestic, commercial, cultural and academic – from cradle to (impoverished) grave. Sadler, ‘King of all Balloons’, also assisted the first British woman ever to fly, and encouraged the first British woman ever to fly solo. Her 1837 ascent from Oxford will also feature.

Beer, Sausages and Marmalade! Friday 10 November, 2.30pm

In celebration of Oxford Beer Festival at Oxford Town Hall (9-11 November), join local historian Liz Woolley on a walking tour around the city centre and discover Oxford’s history of beer, sausages and marmalade. The Oxford historian will examine the relationship between food production, tourism and politics in the city.

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