Railway in Oxford

“…those rampageous, dragonnading fire-devils…”:
The coming of the railway to Oxford

In 2019 we celebrated the 175th anniversary of the opening of Oxford’s first railway line. Find out more here.

The railway arrived relatively late in Oxford, partly due to the objections of the university, which feared for the morals of its students. When it did come, however, it had profound effects on the city physically, economically and socially. This talk includes the story of how a house made of paper almost delayed the building of Oxford’s first line; of the station erected by the engineers of Crystal Palace; and of how the railway affected the coaching, river and canal trades, industries like brewing and marmalade-making, and the development of Oxford’s “base and brickish skirt”.

Watch a podcast of this talk given at Rewley House, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, on 26 September 2015.

“It’s always a pleasure to have you to talk to our society, as we know that we are guaranteed a well-presented, extensively researched and entertaining talk. Thank you for such a clear illustration of the impact of the railway on all aspects of the city’s life. It was much enjoyed.”  Sally James, Bicester Local History Society, June 2018.

“As usual your talk added a good deal of information to a topic I thought I knew well. More importantly it was equally well received by the non-railway buffs. Many thanks for an excellent evening.”  Bill Orson, Hanney History Group, November 2015.

“It was a great pleasure to listen to your informative and amusing account of the Oxford railways – I was amazed at the sheer volume of narrative and imagery that you put across.” Brian Wilson, Weston on the Green Society, September 2015.

“A most interesting talk, packed with information. Our members were enthralled.” Jill Adams, Adderbury History Association, September 2012.

“Your talk was great and I learned a lot from it.”
Richard Brown, City of Oxford Society of Model Engineers, February 2012.

“Liz Woolley’s talk whizzes along like an express train. It is a first-class ticket to an hour of sparkling history, with telling, well-chosen illustrations. Liz explains how the railways came to Oxford despite the university’s fear for their immoral effect on undergraduates, the opposition of coaching inns and canal-owners, and the rival route which would have linked the city to Euston instead of Paddington. And when the trains did arrive, what was the impact? Days out and seaside holidays became possible. New industries (beer and marmalade among them) flourished and the tide of tourism flowed in, never to retreat. Oxford was changed for ever. Don’t miss the train!”
Chris Hall, Editor, Oxfordshire Local History, March 2012.

Contact me on 01865 242760 or liz@lizwoolley.co.uk to book this talk.

A guided walk on this topic is also available.

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