Oxford’s Working Past:
Walking Tours of Victorian and Edwardian Industrial Buildings

by Liz Woolley

Not many of us would think of Oxford as ‘industrial’: the Industrial Revolution more or less passed the city by and in 1850 its population was still one of small tradesmen, shopkeepers, and servants, heavily dependent on the university. However, as Oxford expanded rapidly in the later nineteenth century—and as real wages rose and the mass media encouraged interest in manufactured commodities—the demand for gas, electricity, clean water, and consumer goods increased, and buildings associated with public utilities and a variety of light industries appeared throughout the city. A surprising number survive, albeit now in commercial or domestic use, and they serve as reminders of the development of Oxford during a period of great economic, social, and technological change. This booklet describes three walks which visit twenty-six of these sites.

“I took the book with me into Oxford and learnt more about the city's working buildings in a morning than I had in the previous 40 years living here.”—John Grundy, ‘Great Rail Journeys’ Tour Manager and former Open University tutor