12:10pm Monday 8th April 2013
By John Chipperfield
AN EVENTFUL tour of Oxford led by the mayor included an undignified punch-up on Wolvercote Common. We recalled last week how the civic party witnessed a drowning, suffered a ducking in the River Cherwell, was stung by wasps and confronted by an angry bull on a 16-mile perambulation of the city’s boundaries in 1892.
Halfway round, the mayor, Frederick Anson, and other city dignitaries were also confronted by an angry group of Wolvercote parishioners. Council officials claimed the boundary line ran along the Wolvercote side of the ditch dividing the Common from Port Meadow. Workers moved the boundary stone from the Meadow across the ditch to the Common.
Wolvercote parishioners argued this was “an encroachment of their rights” and retaliated by putting the stone back on the meadow side. The next day, the city sent men for a second time to move the stone to the Common, this time using a large quantity of concrete and heavy stones to secure it.
Our sister paper, The Oxford Times, reported: “They had scarcely left the spot when children gathered round and before the concrete had time to set, they scraped out as much as they could. “At 6.30pm, many of the parishioners, together with the vicar, the Rev F W Langton, assembled near the stone. After excitedly discussing the matter for some minutes, pickaxes and shovels and a rope were produced and in a brief space of time, the offending stone was once more uprooted and, with a cheer, rolled on to the Meadow side of the ditch.”
The vicar took no part in this, but told everyone to meet him at the spot when the civic party arrived on their walk the next week “to assert their rights”.
The Oxford Times continued: “As soon as the procession crossed the ditch to the Wolvercote side, the mayor was confronted by the vicar and a strange clerical gentleman whose name could not be ascertained, at the head of several parishioners. Mr Langton formally protested in the name of the parish against the procession coming on to that side of the ditch, on the ground that it was an encroachment. The mayor replied that they were following the boundary settled by Parliament.
“At this juncture, someone shouted ‘Oxford, forward!’ and in an instant, there was a struggle between the opposing parties, the Wolvercote men doing their level best to prevent the mayor and the mace proceeding.
“The Oxford burgesses were, however, much the stronger in numbers and a passage was soon forced through. The strange clerical gentleman accompanying the vicar became considerably excited and, it is said, struck with his umbrella a young man employed in the city engineer’s office and wearing the Corporation uniform. “The latter immediately returned the blow by effectually bonneting the reverend gentleman, whose tall silk hat was thereby doubled up and presented the appearance of a dilapidated concertina. “He was seized by one of the city police and thrown down, and it is rumoured that a summons for assault will be the result.”
Meanwhile, the mayor and his entourage walked along the Wolvercote side of the disputed ditch, passing the boundary stone lying across the ditch on Port Meadow. The mace and the city flag were placed in the empty hole where the stone had stood – and the boundary had been ‘marked’.
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