27th July 1928

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

The following day they managed 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.

The Botanic Gardens

Photo © Oxford Botanic Gardens, University of Oxford

In the Botanic Gardens Loyal identified a tree that he had puzzled him at Blenheim – the ‘Cypress’,  (possibly) planted by ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II. The specimen he recognised at the Botanic Gardens was a Taxodium disticheum – a tree that Loyal may have been familiar with from the swampy south eastern States of America. The tree planted in 1840 was severely damaged by a freak gust of wind in 1998 and a third of the height lost. (The photograph, right, taken on 9th September was taken two hours before the disastrous damage). Eventually it had to be felled. 

Eleanor S. Rohde comments on the specimen in her Oxford’s College Gardens, (1932):

‘Of the trees in the garden perhaps the most beautiful is the taxodium, the deciduous cypress.  . . . Its exquisite pale green of its foliage in the spring bears no resemblance to any other and its russet gold in early autumn is also curiously distinct. . .   This is a very fine specimen, but in its native land would be reckoned to be small, for in Mexico this tree, which lives to a great age, attains a girth of 90 feet’.

Loyal comments that the Botanic Garden holds many American species and photographs Sam standing by a bed of Hypericum Calycinum.

Magdalen College

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’

Merton, Wadham and St John’s

Loyal Johnson’s photo: ‘Cricket on Merton College Field – Oxford, 7-28-28’ [S]

At Merton Loyal and Sam saw “an interesting game in progress” on the college cricket ground, lunched at the University Museum and were fascinated with the Pitt Rivers collection.  They popped into the quad at Wadham and on to St Johns. Loyal regards the college as “very fine”.  He erroneously notes that the famous quadrangle was designed by Inigo Jones and the garden designed by Capability Brown, between the wall of the Canterbury Quad separating it from the park. He may have got confused with St John’s Cambridge. He also mentions “fine rockery along the north and west walls, made by a former gardener and now dedicated to his memory”. In fact the monument is dedicated to the bursar Henry James Bidder.  It was a monumental piece of garden construction which took over thirty years to complete.    

Leaving St Johns they stopped at Balliol and then went to the Bodleian Library (Duke Humphrey’s).  On from there to the Radcliffe Camera, which left little time for All Souls as it was now 7 00pm.  Apparently Sam was complaining about “his poor dogs’ [feet], so we pulled into camp”.

On Sunday Loyal and Sam felt socially uncomfortable as they had failed to pick up their suits from the cleaners before closing time on Saturday afternoon.  However ‘We thought that perhaps people would not consider us entirely too gally [scary] if we strolled down Broad Walk with our jacket or sweater on rather than a suit’ and were reassured going into Christ Church ‘we couldn’t see that we looked any more unusual than we ordinarily did and it really didn’t feel so bad’. 

Fortunately their laundry was not going to be ready till noon on Monday morning so they were able to catch up on the missed Chapel at All Souls and a hurried glimpse into New College where they noted a ‘very fine iron gate’.

In the final diary entry for Oxford Loyal writes is diary:

Oxford certainly is a very beautiful city. The many colleges and buildings  . . .

Loyal’s final entry in his diary before leaving Oxford


Buxton, J.  and Williams P., ed The Antiquaries Journal New College Oxford 1379-1979 pp. xviii+380. Oxford: the Warden and Fellows of New College, 1979. Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 November 2011

Richardson, T. Oxford College Gardens, 2018, White Lion

Rohde, E. S. Oxford College Gardens, 1932, Herbert Jenkins

Taylor, P., ed.  The Oxford Companion to the Garden, 2006, OUP