Posted - Oct 12, 2012
The Jericho wharf site dates back to the early eighteenth century.
Castlemill Boatyard comprises the very first wharf to be established in Jericho, set up by Henry Ward, a member of a successful and philanthropic Oxford family of coal merchants, boatowners, and boatbuilders in the early 19th century. Ward is described as a ‘Jericho Boatbuilder’ in Pigot’s Directory for 1842 - but may well have operated for some years prior to this. The Ward family still owned most of the land here when St Barnabas’; Church was built (1869), and as well as providing the land for the church’s construction, the Wards also provided the site for Jericho’s first school in 1856.
Later on, in 1927, it was this site which enabled the Oxford Canal Company (the pre-World War Two forerunner to BW which is now the Canal and Rivers Trust) to begin its strategic withdrawal from the centre of Oxford, on the basis that the Jericho wharves were by then considered ample alternative accommodation ... for delivery and stacking of all goods carried on the Canal’. Post-World War Two, the Jericho wharves contributed to the salvation of a canal threatened by closure, through providing a base for the embryonic leisure trade - including the hire fleet of British Waterways itself - which has grown to become one of the mainstays of the inland waterways in general. (Source: A Towpath Walk In Oxford by Mark Davies and Catherine Robinson, 2003)
It is therefore obvious, and very relevant, that this site has been integral to Jericho from the very beginnings of the suburb, which spread over the open fields of Great and Little Bear Meadows from the 1830s onwards. It has been intimately involved in the provision of employment, trade, prosperity, community facilities and local philanthropy for well over a century and a half.
170 years ago - Castlemill Boatyard listed as a coal wharf.
1920 -1946 Oxford canal used as a vital carrying link between London and Birmingham.
1960’s - Used as a yard for British Waterways’ Willow wren hire fleet, a fledgling company set up to explore the possibility of hire and leisure on the canal.
1970’s - 2007 Used as a boatyard for repair and hire fleets. More recently used as a repair yard for Oxford’s large residential boating community.