Museum of Oxford Walks: Rash or Rational? Victorian Leisure and Entertainment

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Explore the Oxford of the Victorian age and find out what Victorian Oxford did for fun on this unique 90-minute circular walking tour visiting the sites of historic entertainment venues in the city centre.

Led by local historian Liz Woolley, this city walking tour will introduce you to a different side of Oxford’s urban history. See the ‘city of dreaming spires’ from the perspective of ordinary townspeople, who found themselves with leisure time – and the money to spend on it – for the first time.

You will learn about both the rash and the rational sides of Victorian entertainment, visiting sites including the Pembroke Street Public Baths, where you could be attended by a “first-class shampooer and teacher of swimming”, and the YMCA on George Street which promised to guide young men away from the “temptations of city life”.

As part of the tour, you will see: The Town Hall and Public Library, the Wilberforce Temperance hotel (where alcohol was banned), The Jolly Farmers Pub, the New Theatre – and more historic Oxford locations.

Join our Rash or Rational? Victorian Leisure and Entertainment Walk to see Oxford through the eyes of an expert and discover a different side to this famous city’s history.

Please note that this tour was previously run under the name ‘Leisure and Entertainment in Victorian and Edwardian Oxford’.

Meeting point: Museum of Oxford Shop (located inside the Oxford Town Hall). Please arrive 5 minutes before the start of the walk and check in at the Museum Shop with our friendly front of house team.

Tickets cost £10 and are available to purchase online (booking fee applies) or at the Museum shop. Please note that this walk is suitable for ages 16+.

Meet your tour guide: Liz Woolley

Liz Woolley smiles at the camera as she stands in front of a view of the Oxford skyline on a cloudy day. She has light-toned skin, short curly brown hair and is wearing a teal-coloured jacket.

Liz Woolley is a local historian specialising in the history of Oxford’s ‘town’ – as opposed to ‘gown’ – and of the everyday lives of ordinary working people, chiefly during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Liz has lived in Oxford for forty years and has an MSc in English Local History from the University’s Department for Continuing Education. She is an experienced tour guide, speaker, tutor, researcher and writer, who enjoys helping people discover the perhaps less well-known history of Oxford and its citizens.

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