An outline for The Isis, The Thames and The Normans


“Between Wytham Wood and Wytham Village, if one follows
the exact course of the river, comes Hagley Pool, and with it the
beginning of a reticulation of streams which is somewhat intri-
cate. The main stream proceeds due east to King’s Weir, formerly
a ford (where a bridge was built about 100 years ago by the then
Earl of Abingdon), and is then turned sharply to the right or

south-east. From that point it proceeds, meandering, and
with various bifurcations, natural and artificial, to Godstow
Lock, where the forked streams re-unite and continue as one to
Medley Lock, about two miles above Folly Bridge, Oxford.


After Medley there is fresh ramification caused by junctions
with the canal and the necessities of navigation, but the main
stream is that which passes a quarter of a mile, or less, to the
west of the Great Western station from Tumbling Bay and
through Osney (the bells of whose abbey are now at Christ
Church), and then curls round to be united with other streams
as the main river above Folly Bridge. But from Hagley Pool,
past Wytham proper and west of Medley, is yet another and
perhaps the most ancient channel, which appears to become
the main stream at Tumbling Bay. All this is mentioned, not
with a view to a historical dissertation on the alterations which
the ages have seen in the course of the Thames, but because
here there comes in a question of county boundaries. Thus
the river is the boundary of Berks and Oxon to King’s Weir
and for half a mile below. Then the dividing line leaves the
river, “goes inland from the right bank, almost if not quite cuts
through the ruins of Godstow nunnery, passes due south to the
west of Binsey Church, and, a furlong or so further south,
impinges on the branch of water between Hagley Pool and
Tumbling Bay, of which mention has been made. This it
follows, and we have once more a boundary, clearly defined
by running water. If the original course of the river, or the
eldest known course for there is no such thing in geology or
geography as an original course of a river was the branch
from Hagley Pool, then Berkshire has poached some of Ox-
fordshire in the past. If the elder stream be that from King’s
Weir, which is the more ample of the two, Berkshire has been
the sufferer, and that, having regard to the greatness of
mediaeval Oxford, is the more likely explanation. Thus much,
at least, is certain, that man has done so much to guide and
hamper the course of the Thames immediately above and
through Oxford that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to
produce a map of Oxford and its environs showing the various
watercourses of the tenth century, which was the period in which
most counties took their present shape. Perhaps it might not
be particularly interesting either; but the fact that, for this
little space, the Thames ceases to be a boundary is worthy of


Highways and byways in Berkshire

by Vincent, James Edmund, 1857-1909; Griggs, Frederick Landseer Maur, 1876-1938

2016-01-20 (4)

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Saxton’s map of England, 1574


William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Saxton’s map of England, 1574

Lost Rivers Oxford



2 thoughts on “An outline for The Isis, The Thames and The Normans

  1. Very good. I clearly know what you are proposing could be done. A question or observation is: Can we (humans) change the face of the earth to avoid the consequences of extreme natural events. Off the coast of Oregon there is a known fault which has not relaxed the stress that has been forming for more than a century. This according to geologists who observe and study these things. So there is much ado about how we should prepare for the emergency that will result when this built-up stress is relieved.

    Here is a link: Read about look at pictures of a historic fault of Oregon. Try to imagine how buildings, even ones built to withstand earth quakes, might react to the shaking of the earth that likely occurred when this fault was formed. I have, so I do not take precautions because I believe I can never survive some of nature’s extreme events if they occur too near me. For I know people have been killed by lightning which if they had not gone out-of-doors maybe would not have happened. But I prefer to have a life because I do not know what will happen tomorrow.

  2. Two things of note.
    1. This is the Northern most reach of the Thames. From there on it flows South or East to the sea.
    2. The Fred Thacker’s Map, 1920 shows the County Boundary between Berkshire and Oxfordshire exactly follows the line of the Norman Conduit and that in turn matches the river layout in Saxton’s map of 1574. Now that is just too much of a co-incidence!
    As is noted, this is the only place along the entire Thames where the County Boundaries do not follow ancient stream beds.

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