Uncomfortable Scavenger Hunt


South Parade: Location 2


South Parade, Oxford, OX2 7JL and OX2 7JN.

Welcome to a northern street with a peculiar name.

The Inversion of the Oxonian Compass

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1905 postcard of South Parade, Summertown


It's always confusing to see Summertown's South Parade at its northern edge, much further away from the southern areas of Oxford than its counterpart North Parade. 

Actually, this street has known many names over the years. When 'Somer's town' was no more than a few houses aggregated in a field, it was known as Double Ditch. By 1829 it had become Prospect Road, while  in 1832, local inhabitants called it Union Street, because it connected Banbury and Woodstock roads.

Summertown officially became part of the municipal borough Oxford in 1889, and in 1930, Double Ditch was renamed South Parade.


The name is another local legand: one professor of the university claimed that the street was the southern patrolling boundary of the Parliamentarians in the siege of Oxford (1644-1646) during the English Civil War. When King Charles I lost control of London, he made Oxford his capital. Cromwell's troops soon encamped near the city and the street name was meant to signify their southern boundary - while North Parade was claimed to be the north boundary of the Royalists' patrolling area.


However, this claim is no longer believed to be true and it is now thought that the troops would have been encamped around Port Meadow.

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Summertown Landmarks from when it was a village.

Source: The Changing Faces of Summertown, p.18

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1973 Soviet Map of Summertown

Source: Kinchin, Perilla, and Paul Thompson. Seven Roads in Summertown: Voices from an Oxford Suburb. Oxford: White Cockade Publishing, 2006. p.30

It has not been established which came first (south or north parade), but it subverts the traditional geography of Oxford, creating a new stress on the interstitial space between the former fields and the city.

Imagined locations weren't just the purview of professors at Oxford. In the book Seven Roads in Summertown (2006) a number of maps of the summertown suburb can be found, all made by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.


These maps are often incorrectly labelled, and generate nonexistent roads and connections which never were. The geography of the neighbourhood has shifted much since it's village days, being imagined and reimagined through maps, legends, and stories.

While you stroll along South Parade, take a look at:

  • No 1 South Parade (today A Cut Above): originally the location of a Beer Shop called the ‘Rising Sun’ (1820s, village of Summertown). In 1830 John Badcock, a local resident declared that no less than 6 had been opened in the village over the course of two years, and lamented the evils of beer shops.

  • St Edward's School: an example of the 19th century religious culture of the Northern areas of Oxford, with a multitude of High Church and Anglo-Catholic institutions.

  • The North Wall: an Arts Centre in Oxford that was created in 2006 on the site of a disused Victorian swimming pool,which provided a theatre, drama and dance studios, and an art gallery

  • The Turrill Sculpture Garden: located behind the public library in South Parade,this large garden was transformed in 2000 into a public space showcasing series of sculpture exhibitions.


With friends or family? Discuss the following: 


Another false legend of North Oxford is that it developed “when the dons were released form celibacy and became prolific”, meaning when the fellows of the university were allowed to marry and have families, thus seeking new residences in the north of the city.


However, this only happened after the Royal Commission of 1877, and by that time, both North Oxford and Summertown were already developed, housing a number of local industries and newly immigrated residents. 

  • Where does Summertown sit in the traditional town and gown binary of Oxford? 

  • How did it reflect other economic and social divides in the past? Does it still reflect these today?


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​If you are interested in Civil War history, be sure to check out the commemorative plaque put on Mansfield Road next time you are in town. This plaque is located on the ground in front New College's Clore Music studio and it marks the site of some remaining sections of 17th century Civil War ramparts.


Pavement Commemorative Plaque

to English Civil War Ramparts

Mansfield Road

Something to see later:​