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24 September 2014

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Secret Oxford
Mark Young uncovering the secrets
Mark Young uncovering the secrets

On this page you can listen and read about some amazing stories from Oxford.

You can find out more unusal stories from the rest of the county here.


Inside Lives

Oxfordshire County Council
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If you know any interesting or unusual stories about Oxfordshire then we want to know about it. Email your story here.


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Vincents Club
Vincents Club

This exclusive club was founded in 1863 by W.B Woodgate who offered membership to the best one hundred "social, physical and intelectual" candidates - and his club had one advantage over the Oxford Union, its members were allowed to smoke and drink. Vincents which occupies premises in Oxford's High Street is best known for playing host to the Beatles when Jeffrey Archer invited the group to Vincents on March 5th 1964 as part of his fund raising intiative for Oxfam.

The celebrated runner Roger Bannister was the president of Vincents in 1950. The rules of Vincents club ban the use of mobile phones and ladies are not admitted to the club before 6pm from Tuesday to Friday.

audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...

Court room
The Old Court Room is a little known treasure which lies on the first floor of Oxford's Town Hall. It continued to operate as a court untill 1969 and there are now plans to reopen it as a centre for citizenship where schoolchildren will act out the court process.

Many films have been made in the Court room including the memorable "A Fish called Wanda" staring John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis where the court posed as one of London's central criminal courts. One of the most celebrated cases heard in the Town Hall was of the kidnapper of Lord Nuffield who wanted a ransom of £100.000 for his release.

audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...
Check out our photo gallery of the old courtroom.

Real tennis
Real tennis balls
Oxford has had a Real Tennis court since 1595 and the game has been played on its current site close to Merton College since 1798. The game, which handicaps the superior player, is thought to have originated in French monasteries. Oxford University's Real Tennis club has over 250 members including the brother of Tim Henman and Tim himself is known to like this alternative form of the game. The club has two resident professionals who not only teach and coach but make the specialist balls on site.
audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...
Check out our photo gallery of Real Tennis.

The Painted Room
The Painted Room
The "Painted Room" which contains painted walls dating from 1564 was discovered in the 1920's when this property, which lies above a betting shop in Cornmarket Street, was undergoing redevelopment. These wall paintings were discovered at what was originally a tavern at 3 Cornmarket which was known as the Crown Inn and later renamed the Bull Inn. The tavern was run by John Tattleton, a tailor who leased the premises from New College untill his death in 1581. It's thought that Tattleton had the room painted as a guest room and this type of "posh wallpaper" was very common in the 17th century. The painting consists of a design of flowers in barbed quatrefoils on a terracotta background. The painted room is now used as an office but public tours are available on Saturdays - enquire at Blackwells Book shop.
audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...
Check out our photo gallery of the Painted Room.


It's generally thought that Oxford's public executions were held on the prison site close to the Oxford Castle. Local historian Mark Davies has revealed that contray to the public's belief hangings were often held close to North Oxford's Park Town and Oxford University carried out these acts often in St Margarets Road. Mark has also been active in shedding more light on who really murded the linen draper David Charteris in 1787 as he walked home to the Oxfordshire village Toot Baldon having visited the Abingdon Fair.

Oxford's historic prison site is currently being renovated to become home to luxury apartments and tapas bars. Prisoners from the Oxford jail were actually paid to build the Oxford Canal which opened in 1790 and runs 77 miles to Coventry.

audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...

The canal basin
Canal Basin
Oxford's Worcester Street car park was once the original basin for the Oxford Canal which was designed by the celebrated engineer James Brindley who died before it opened in 1790. The canal runs 77 miles to Coventry and only a blue brick pillar remains from the canal basin which was once a hive of activity with barges bringing coal for the thousands of rooms in Oxford's colleges. In 1821 the Park End Coal Company advertised coal as being available in their wharf on the Oxford Canal. Park End Street, now better know for its clubbing culture, takes its name from the Park End Coal Company who were based in Gloucestershire's Forest of Dean.
audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...
Check out our photo gallery of the Canal Basin.

Kings door
Loggan's view of Corpus Christi, 1675
Loggan's view of Corpus Christi, 1675
Copyright Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive

During the English Civil War which began in 1642 King Charles I moved his court to Oxford and made his base in Christ Church. Charles choose Christ Church because it was the largest and most grand of the Oxford colleges. While the King took up residence in Christ Church his queen had her apartments in Corpus Christi College, which led the construction of a secret gateway which would enable Charles to meet his Queen by walking across Christ Church garden through Corpus Christi College and into Merton Chapel. Hear when this secret door was last opened.


audioHear BBC Oxford's Mark Young explain more ...

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If you know any interesting or unusual stories about Oxfordshire then we want to know about it. Email your story here.

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