Oxford, from near Binsey. Artist: W. S. Coleman. 1859. From The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall, p. 81. Inscribed with the artist's name at left and “Butterworth Heath” at left.

Commentary by the Halls

Having passed through Godstow Lock, Oxford City comes in sight; the village of Wolvercot is passed, but that of Binsey claims a moment's thought. The voyager will pause at Binsey Weir, for here a charming view is obtained of ancient and venerable Oxford — its pinnacles, and towers, and church spires rising proudly above surrounding domiciles. Nowhere do we obtain a more striking view, and here especially do we recall the expressive lines of the poet: —

Like a rich gem, in circling gold enshrined,
Where Isis' waters wind
Along the sweetest shore
That ever felt fair culture's hands,
Or spring's embroidered mantle wore —
Lo! where majestic Oxford stands.

We step ashore awhile to visit the little village, and to walk to its church, half a mile or so distant from the river-bank. At Binsey, a. d. 730, the holy virgin Frideswide had a chapel constructed of "wallyns and rough- hewn timber;" hither were sent of her nuns "the most stubborn sort," to be confined in a dark room, and to be deprived of their usual repast; and here, too, was the famous well of St. Margaret, which St. Frideswide, "by her prayers, caused to be opened;" here came the people to ease their burthened souls, and to be rid of their diseases; consequently the adjoining village of Seckworth became a large town, containing twenty-four inns, — the dwellings chiefly of the priests appointed by the prior of Binsey to confess and absolve the penitents. Binsey has now but a dozen poor houses; its church has a heart-broken look; and of the well there is but an indication — a large earth-mound in a corner of the graveyard completely dried up, there being no sign of water; the spring is lost; and so, indeed, is its memory — for we inquired in vain among the neighbouring peasantry for St. Margaret's Well, of which they had heard and knew nothing — sic transit! [81-83]

Text and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Pittsburgh and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Hall, Mr. and Mrs. S. C. The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall. London: Arthur Hall, Virtue, and Cp., 1959. Internet Archive version of a copy in the William and Mary Darlington Memorial Libray, the University of Pittsburgh. Web. 10 March 2012.

Last modified 10 March 2012