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The History of Oxford Waterside

An estate of houses which was only completed in 1999 does not have much of a history. Waterside does, however, sit in a context with a long history of its own which may be of interest to those who live here now.

A map of 1887 shows an area of small fields lying between the Oxford Canal (finished in 1790) and the railway which pushed north from Oxford in 1846.

Aristotle Lane played its part in history on 3 June 1644 when Charles I came that way with (it was said) 5,000 men, making a strategic withdrawal across Port Meadow and the river from what had been his temporary capital.


To the south lies Walton Well Road which was newly built in 1887.

The Lucy Works (so called from 1873) spread northwards across Walton Well Road in the 19th century. The story of the Lucy Company goes back arguably to 1760, named the the Eagle Ironworks in 1838, and Grafton & Lucy, then to Lucy's. The company no longer manufactures on it's original site and the Story of Lucy is told in a book, which you can borrow from the Waterside Residents Association, if you are interested.


T E Lawrence also passed this way from his boyhood home in Polstead Road on his way to dig in the mounds on Port Meadow.

As you reach the top of the slope to the railway footbridge, look down to your right. Until 1926 there was a railway stop there called Port Meadow Halt.

In 1957 the Walton Meadow (Waterside) site totalling some eight acres, mostly undeveloped, was acquired from Stevco, hauliers and coal merchants, and partly from St John’s. Small pieces of adjoining land were added in 1958 and 1967


A tunnel was constructed under Walton Well Road to link the main site and Walton Meadow during 1965. Although conceived with the very practical purpose of enabling fork lift trucks and employees to go to and from the Meadow without having to cross the public road, it also neatly symbolised the integration of the new site with the old. In December 1965 Lucy’s bought a four acre field adjoining the Meadow from St John’s to be used by the company’s Sports & Social Club.

A year later the undeveloped land on the other side of the canal opposite the Works followed.

The "Waterside" site was bought from Lucy's by Berkeley Homes and developed between 1996 and 1999.

Those from the City side of the canal who complained about the building of Waterside were presumably incomers who do not recall the noise of scrap metal being pushed around the concrete yard at the south end of what is now Waterside. The north end, by Aristotle Lane, was Lucy's playing field.

The Residents Association maintains membership of the Oxford Civic Society. They offer year-round free talks on Oxford.

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