You know how it is when you think you know a place, and then you're taken by surprise ...
Well, I always thought that I knew the Jericho locality of Oxford fairly well. I spent a few weeks in the summer of, gulp, 1977 doing a project for the Oxfordshire Museum about working class housing there. Yesterday, I was back in Jericho - a very occasional visitor there in recent decades. I popped in at the spell-binding St Barnabas, took a stroll across Port Meadow, and walking down Walton Street on my way back, stumbled across the entrance to St Sepuchre's cemetery. I don't recall ever noticing it before.
It's one of three Oxford cemeteries opened in the 1840s or thereabouts, as the church graveyards become congested beyond redemption. St Sepulchre's has its own Wikipedia entry
, and a very impressive website
(as befits north Oxford). It's now hemmed in on all sides, largely by modern buildings fronting on Waltonwell Road. Among the gravestones, one stands out - featuring a racing car heading in to the sunset.
The story of Frankie Tayler's life and death have captured the attention of other bloggers - here's one
. And it is a remarkable, and tragic tale. Frankie, a machenic on the MG racing team, died in 1934 at the age of 28 - his widow Phyllis, whose ashes are also interred here, lived another 66 years. And there's also another memorial plaque, I suppose also an internment of ashes, from 2009 - of Margaret Knight, aged 96, who I imagine was Frankie's sister.
The story of Frankie Tayler's death on the Isle of Man is told on the board by the entrance to the cemetery - and I've posted that below.
Kaye Don (Kaye Ernest Donsky) lived until 1981, and was quite a celebrity as a car and speedboat racer and later set up Ambassador motorcycles. His entry in Wikipedia gives a detailed account of the accident on the Isle of Man
, for which he was sentenced to four months in jail for manslaughter. He was released early on health grounds.
I had an hour to spare in Oxford one evening recently, and went for a walk round Jericho, an area I used to know well 35 years ago. I never had a Jericho address, but lived for a while not far away and patronised the area's pubs - much less gentrified then, a mix of local and student. I also did a volunteer project for Oxfordshire Museums about working class housing in Jericho - my first serious use of primary sources.
So strolling round Jericho at leisure for the first time in decades was quite a journey back in time. The streets have survived largely in tact - there's some unsympathetic modern infill which I don't remember from the '70s, some of it already derelict, but on the whole the area has done well. The daft idea of zoning the area "light industrial" - which is why the council bought so many properties here in the late '60s and early '70s and so provided deeds and other raw material for that research project - has long been buried.
But what's happened to the pubs? I remember with particular affection the 'Crown', the 'Globe' and the 'Carpenters'. Now, unless I've got my bearings wildly wrong, all three have gone. Not just renamed. They aren't pubs any more. The buildings are still there, but all are now private houses.
The 'Crown' was a schitzophrenic place - one bar local, the other acid-style with the ceiling and all walls in black. The 'Globe' was a very homely and successful mix of town and gown. And the 'Carpenters' was something else. An old style beershop, tiny, run by Ron and Else. The beer was from wooden casks. If there were more than about eight people in the place, it was crowded - and you would be ushered into the parlour, which looked as if it doubled up as the publicans' front room: settee, comfy chairs, and a huge old radiogram.
Ron and Else, already ancient in the mid-70s, moved on from the 'Carpenters' (on Nelson Street as I remember it) about 1976. The place was already changing, modernising, by the time I left Oxford a year later. And now it's been erased from the streetscape altogether.
St Barnabas - Kaihsu Tai, CC
Still there, happily, on Canal Street is the marvellous St. Barnabas, parish church of the Oxford Movement (it features in Hardy's Jude the Obscure). The church was closed when I called but from the porch there's a viewing window - I had forgotten just how wonderfully ornate the interior is. An unlikely Oxford jewel.
I ended my stroll at another church - disused this time. What was once St Paul's on Walton Street. Now a bar, still replete with stained glass windows and some of the church fittings. I recall that one of the seminal intellectual events of my youth was held here. A debate beteen E.P. Thompson and (I think) Richard Johnson on Althusser - which mattered a lot then, for reasons I can't quite summon up. I was in Oxford that evening, but didn't make it to the debate. I ended up at the pub instead. Can't remember if it was the 'Crown' or the 'Globe or the 'Carpenters'.