OXFORD’S industrial past and present were brought together as the city threw open its doors this weekend.

About 60,000 visitors took part in the fifth annual Oxford Open Doors festival which saw more than 200 venues opened to the public for free.

Debbie Dance of Oxford Preservation Trust said: “The figures are up, for instances we had 4,500 visitors at All Souls in three hours, which is nearly 20 per cent up on last year.

“It’s definitely the biggest year for us, and it might make it the biggest one in the country.”

In keeping with this year’s Industrialisation theme, for the first time the BMW MINI Plant took part.

Among those taking a look around the site were former workers at the plant, at one time the Morris Motors factory and later the Pressed Steel Fisher plant.

Grandfather-of-two Peter Hedges, of Carterton, said the place was unrecognisable from his time working there from the early 1970s onwards. He said: “I worked there for 17 years. I have good memories.

“It was a dirty place to work in, and there were a lot of things then that would be frowned upon now, with health and safety, but we just got on with it.

“To be honest it looked complete paradise compared to what it used to be! I remember when I’d clock out in the morning, the shelves where the clock was were a quarter-inch deep in metal filings and dust working – it was like working down a coal mine.

“But I’m not complaining. It put food on the table, paid the mortgage, and gave me a good living.

“Apart from the shell of the building everything in there was different.”

As well as Oxford’s booming industrial present, visitors were also given a glimpse into its industrial past, when a 160 old ‘swing bridge’ was opened. The bridge, which was built by engineer Robert Stephenson in 1850, is undergoing work by the Oxford Preservation Trust to restore it to its former glory.

The rail relic was once an integral part of the line leasing into Oxford’s former Rewley Road station but has since fallen into disrepair.

Jacquie Martinez of the Oxford Preservation Trust, said the swing bridge played an important part in the city’s history. She said: “I’ave seen so many local people this weekend who wanted to know the story of this swing bridge – it tells a great story about Oxford’s transport history and with its links to Brunel and Stephenson.” The bridge tells the story of the individuals who constructed it and were employed to physically turn it, as well as the families who worked on the railways, lived in railway-owned properties or used the lines for both commercial and leisure activities.

“The stories of these individuals are woven into the very fabric of the swing bridge structure and these collective memories create a social value that cannot be maintained if the bridge is removed from its original position or left to decay,” added Ms Martinez.

“We look forward to starting our restoration project next year.”

Visitors took in rarely seen university sites including the wall of All Souls College chapel as well as Hertford and Exeter Colleges in the city.

Oxford University also opened up sites like research units and theatres for behind the scenes tours.

Oxfam, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, also hosted its own open house at its headquarters in John Smith Drive, Cowley.


  • To browse all our pictures of the events, visit our oxfordmail.co.uk/pictures