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Uncomfortable Scavenger Hunt

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Summertown: Location 1

Beech Croft Road, OX2 7AZ

Welcome to Summertown - A suburban oasis in north Oxford.

From Village to Suburb

The Welcome sign to Summertown as you drive in from the north

Summertown is a north suburb in Oxford with a romantic name invoking images of sunshine and warmth. The legend behind its founding is similarly romantic: two travelling peddlers in the early nineteeth century fell in love and toured the country in a caravan to sell their wares. They eventually decided to settle down. Of all the places they had visited, they agreed there was no place in England as beautiful as the golden fields north of Oxford, so they built a house there in 1820. One neighbour would later record their story, describing the land as a "rich green array and the harvest bended in golden ripeness over the then open fields." The couple became horse dealers and called the spot 'Somers Town', as it was, to them, the pleasantest place in all England. 

More residents soon purchased land nearby and a small village grew up in the area.

The village grew with the additions of churches and schools, maintaining a unique character and identity for much of the century. However, housing pressure was increasing in Oxford as the University expanded and the city industry grew. By 1889 the northern municipal boundary was extended to encompass the parish of Summertown. The transformation was significant, as municipal authorities paved roads, established new drainage and sewer systems, and installed gas-lighting. The 1890s saw the building of a number of new housing developments - if you look at the top of many of the houses in this neighbourhood you will see the date inscribed at the peak.

Raised painted speed bumps created by residents on Beech Croft Road, installed to prevent speeding traffic down the long street.

One of the local houses on the road, most of these houses were built in the 1890s.

This street has another significance - take a look at the colourful squares you can see painted on the road, and the large plant pots along the side of the pavement.

 

These are the result of a community initiative in 2007 to lower traffic on the steet. Over the past century this road went from a local lane to a major thoroughfare for vehicular traffic. Known as the 'Roadwitch Trial' the experiment began as a serious of halloween pranks meant to keep traffic down and protect children on the street. Led by civic designer Ted Dewan, residents would host outdoor picnics, set up tables and install the large potted trees to narrow the road. The painted chevrons you see were part of this initiative, serving as speed bumps to traffic. The street has continued to host various arts events and has been very successful in reducing traffic flow. You can watch a short video on the project by BBC here.

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With friends or family? Discuss the following:

Summertown has changed significantly from a small idealic village. It now hosts the BBC Oxford Radio Station, and most high-street banks, insurance companies, and estate agents alongside major chains. It has grown into a major location of transit as people in the city connect to the main highways.​​

  • Which other steets in Oxford are experiencing similar tensions with high traffic volume and safety concerns for pedestrians?

  • What impacts do community projects like the Roadwitch trial have on the traffic in the city?

  • How do these projects affect the neighbourhood?

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Want to see more?

Today most of the original village buildings have been knocked down due to redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s. However the sole surviving cottages from the village can still be seen - built in 1824, today they host a pub called the Dew Drop Inn, on Banbury Road (OX2 7DX). Why not pop by after the trail to take a look?

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