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13 November 2014

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You are in: Oxford > Places > Places features > How do you pronounce Cherwell?

Punts under Magdalen bridge

Punts under Magdalen bridge

How do you pronounce Cherwell?

How do you pronounce the name of North Oxfordshire's main river? We wouldn't take a punt on it…

The picture above shows punts moored under the Magdalen Bridge (pronounced Moordalin) where the Isis (also known as The Thames ((pronounced Temes)) meets The Cherwell (pronounced Charwell) - or is it?!

The whole thing is ridiculously confusing but there is general agreement on all but the correct pronunciation of one Oxfordshire’s main rivers, The Cherwell. This in turn leads to problems naming the District Council, colleges and everything else that takes its name from the river - not to mention the complaints we get at BBC Oxford whichever way we say it.

Go back 400 years, and the documents spell it out: it's The River Charwelle.

That's how it appears on John Speed's 1612 map of Oxford, now in the city's Bodleian Library.

And that's what John Leland called it in his 16th Century description of marshy Banbury.

But nowadays it's spelt Cherwell, and as a result, communities that are joined by the river are divided over how to say its name.

Oxford University sticks to the old pronunciation, but in Banbury, they think that to "err" is divine.

So once and for all we decided to put the issue to bed. We sent our investigative reporter Simon Pipe to bring home the definitive answer in a three part series on the correct pronunciation of Cherwell. Can he do it without saying “you say tomato…”?!

last updated: 26/06/2009 at 08:53
created: 24/06/2009

You are in: Oxford > Places > Places features > How do you pronounce Cherwell?

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