Statement of significance

A well-used and popular recreation ground that has offered sports, leisure and play amenities since the 1920s and still contributes much social value to the local community.   The historic Tumbling Bay Bathing Place, created in the 1850s, lies at the rear of the park and is accessible on land only via the park.

Historical context

From the 19th century there was an increasing housing requirement in west Oxford mainly for workers at the nearby railways. But it was not until 1922 that the city council bought land on the north side of Botley Road to provide space for recreation and leisure. Initially this was a recreation ground divided across the centre with the sports facilities to the north and children’s play areas and communal buildings to the south.

The park

Botley Park lies 400m due west of Oxford rail station on the north side of Botley Road, opposite St Frideswide Church and to the immediate west of the allotments. The 4.7 ha ground is flat and low-lying being part of the Thames floodplain and frequently floods. Ridge and furrow lines, indicative of medieval ploughing, are visible running east to west.

Close to the entrance is the 2-storey community building of West Oxford Community Association. The park’s play and sports areas lie to the north of this building in a line running along the boundary with the allotments. A children’s playground lies adjacent, followed by a multi-use games area, two tennis courts and two bowling greens.

At the north-west corner of the park is Kingfisher Corner wildlife area comprising shrubbery, small trees and fallen trunks offering wildlife spotting opportunities, intended mainly for children’s education and entertainment. The middle of the park is an open grassed area with football goals. At the north-east corner of the park, amongst trees and shrubbery, is the entrance to Tumbling Bay Bathing Place, created in the 1850s, initially for men only. Access was originally via a ferry from the opposite side of the Thames, and entry from the park began in 1955. Its use as a bathing place formerly ceased when Oxford City Council closed all its Thames bathing places in 1990.

Special features                                   

West Oxford Community Association

West Oxford Bowls Club (established 1924)

Kingfisher Corner

Access to Tumbling Bay Bathing Place

Ownership and access                       

Oxford City Council. Open 24 hours

Name of district                                    

Oxford City

Grid reference                                               

SP 500 064           

Sources of information           

Graham, M. (1998) The Changing Faces of West Oxford, Oxfordshire, Witney, Robert Boyd

jminnes (2020) ‘Flood Meadows – Life in the Floodplain’, 28 June 2020 [Blog]. (Accessed 26 March 2021)

VCH (1979) The Victoria County History of the Counties of England. A History of the County of Oxford. Vol. 4, The City of Oxford, ed. Alan Crossley (Oxford University Press, 1979)

 

Full research report – Botley Park

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’