As we reach closer to the centre and see the Carfax Tower in the centre, we walk past Brasenose college. A college with some sinister and strange traditions that are now becoming the norm as we continue our trip through Oxford.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Brasenose College, which has the name supposedly due to the brass knocker at its front gate, has a reputation for being connected to the hellfire club. Through another sinister tale of several witnesses claiming to have seen a student being dragged through the tiny and barred windows of a college room. On a cold, winters day in December 1872, a meeting of the hellfire club was taking place, when one of its members was dragged to hell, supposedly by the devil, and according to accounts this was witnessed by member of the college, an employee of the college and witnesses outside the college testify that they saw a man in a long cloak outside this students room.
This was supposedly happening because the student was notorious for being bad and an unfortunate event happening during the Hellfire meeting. You might not think much of this, yet we do hear strange rumours rearing its pig’s head even today. David Cameron attended this college nothing sinister there. Other members of this college include the inventor of Rugby football, William Webb Ellis, an Archbishop, a Prime Minister of Australia and a Python (Monty kind), trying not to make this sound sinister promise.
From these tales of terror, we move to the centre of the city and Carfax Tower, (St Martin’s Church), which has an interesting and important tale for the city. The tower is what remains of a church from the 12th Century. The Tower set two rules, no University students can live a certain number of miles from the tower and no building can be built above this tower. So roughly four storeys or 73/74 feet in height. The partial reason for this is to protect the architecture of the Oxford buildings. Even Hitler, the nasty piece of work that he was, recognised that this city was not to be bombed due to him wanting to keep the architecture and supposedly to turn the city into his capital. However, the current city council in its wisdom has decided to debate whether to keep this up. (You can tell a campaign is brewing here.) I first heard about this, before I left once more for Sicily, I even had the day in Oxford, yet the town council meeting was held at 5 pm. Literally, what idiot would want this time when no one can attend due to either finishing work at this time, or picking up the kids from school, oh wait, that’s why, because they don’t want people, citizens, taxpayers to attend…
The city has been known for decades and centuries for its beautiful sandstone buildings, with classical architecture, and ‘Dreaming spires.’ You can see these by climbing to the top of several buildings including Carfax Tower. The law is obviously there to protect these views and buildings which help to give Oxford a unique feeling. Yet the council seem oblivious to this, nor caring, only hoping to build tall high-rise buildings probably to help its tax income by having more people in the town. The issue with this is that it helps to make and continue the trend of making cities look generic. Exemplified by the way the made the new shopping mall. (That I will save for a later rant.) They have even put forward plans for a new tower to be installed in Cornmarket street, which was one of the main streets of the city, again this will come into discussion later. Many members of the public denounced this as it was not in keeping with the views. The real kicker was when a spokeswoman came out to defend the design, a key point was that it would allow the board of directors, in charge of the project to have a good view of Cornmarket during board meetings in the tower. We seem to be continuing a trend of we have money, we are building this, and we could care less about what others think as we are getting a great view. It feels like a sinister scene out of an episode of the Simpsons, with Mr Burns. I can picture the boardroom, with his hellfire chair, triple the size of any other chair, with demons coming out of the back and two fierce guard dogs chained to the side, as he looks out onto the town of dreaming spires, citing his famous line of,
‘Excellent. How long till the trap door is built?’
I demonise, but with justice, there are other parts of the city that could do with development, with investment and support, that would not damage the view, yet no word is spoken of these areas, as the city centre seems to continually be the focus point.
Not all posts can be full of promise and delight, the unfortunate realities of the world.
If this stirs some form of passion or conservatism in you, I’ve created a petition below.