Statement of significance

A well-used recreation ground with play and sports amenities, which lies adjacent to an historic canal and bridge.

 Historical context

The recreation ground was initiated in 1938 when the city council purchased a field from St John’s College. In 1965, Lucy’s Eagle Ironworks bought the adjacent 1.6 ha site from St John’s College to create a sports and social club. The two adjacent grounds continued alongside each other until at least 1994. Today, all the land that once belonged to Eagle Ironworks and their sports ground in Jericho is now occupied by housing, which was developed by Berkeley Homes between 1996 and 1999.

The recreation ground

The sub-rectangular ground of 1.3 ha lies on the south side of Aristotle Lane. The long east boundary is adjacent to the Midlands to Oxford canal that runs due south into the city. The low lying land was previously marshland and currently there are drainage ditches along the east and south edges of the recreation ground.

Amenities include a railed play area at the north-east corner with equipment aimed at younger children. Immediately outside the railings is a basketball goal and a table tennis table, and further south are six new exercise and climbing frames and swings intended for older children. To the west there is a multi-use goal and two football goals sited within the grassed field.

The ground is only 250m from Port Meadow via a bridge over the railway lines, which provides a popular route from Jericho. Port Meadow is one of the largest open spaces in the north of the city, with the River Thames flowing through and causing annual winter floods, but also attracting flocks of wildfowl and waders.

The playground has one mature golden weeping willow. The east, south and west edges of the ground comprise areas of scrub that include mature and younger trees, predominantly self-sown willow, cherry trees, ash, alder, hawthorn and bramble, which provide wildlife opportunities. In summer, the areas of scrub are very dense comprising abundant willow and bramble, but nevertheless pathways are mowed amongst the scrub.

Special features

Proximity to Port Meadow, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The adjacent narrow road bridge over the canal at the north-east corner of the ground was built by 1790 by the office of James Brindley and is listed Grade II.

Ownership and access              

Oxford City Council. Open 24 hours

Name of district

Oxford City

Grid reference

SP 504 078

Sources of information    

Winckworth, T. and Hobbs, M. (2009) The Lucy Story: Portrait of a Family Company. Oxford, W. Lucy & Co. Ltd

OCC (2021) Oxford parks and open spaces – Port Meadow. [Online].

HE (1972) Oxford Canal Road Bridge, List Entry 1046594, [Online]. (Accessed 23 May 2021)

Full research report – Aristotle Lane Recreation Ground

Arrival 27th July 1921

The Botanic Gardens

Magdalen College

The bike ride from Woodstock to Oxford would have been along the same road as today but a much quieter road. The 1921 [Oxford and District special edition one inch map] shows the road  passing by Yarnton, over the Oxford Canal, through Peartree Hill, past Upper Wolvercote and down the Woodstock Road. As Loyal and Sam arrived in Oxford on the afternoon of the 27th July, it was possibly quite a leisurely ride.

The following day they manage to squeeze in visits to the Botanic Gardens, Magdalen College, a glimpse of Merton, lunch at the University Museum, a flash past Wadham, St John’s College, the Bodleian (Duke Humphrey’s), the Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College.

In the Botanic Gardens Loyal was able to identify a tree that he had been unable to at Blenheim – (possibly) the ‘Cypress’ planted by ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II.  The specimen he recognised at the Botanic Gardens was a Taxodium disticheum – the cypress that Loyal may have been familiar with from the swampy south eastern States of America.  The tree planted in 1840 was unfortunately severely damaged by a freak gust of wind and the top snapped off.  It had to be felled in 1995.  To celebrate the 400 anniversary of the gardens (2021) it has been decided to plant a Taxodium very close to the original spot where the first tree grew.

Just over the road at Magdalen College, Loyal was greatly impressed with the ‘most beautiful tower  . . .but the finest thing there is the meadow with the deer, the walk along the Cherwell and best of all Addison’s walk with the beautiful trees overhanging’