This afternoon I gave one of my tours of Catholic Oxford to a friend and her companions who were visiting the city. Apart from going the last three Sundays to the Oratory for Mass and visiting a friend on the outskirts of Oxford this was the first time I had been walking around in the city centre since March 19th. This was to be a slightly strange experience. Usually at this time of year Oxford is crammed with tourists and summer schools, but today, which was beautiful with sunshine and warmth, the city was very quiet. This meant however that it was ideal for showing the group the architecture and talking about the history of the city and the University with particular reference to its Catholic heritage.
That heritage is particularly rich and so I spoke, inter alia, about the origins of the city with St Frideswide, the establishment of the University by the medieval Church, the impact of the reformation, the significant level of recusancy and martyrdom amongst Oxford men in the Elizabethan era, the residual Jacobite tradition and about St John Henry Newman and his influence as well as other Catholic writers such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Evelyn Waugh.
This was I think a successful afternoon and an opportunity to make new friends - the two young men in the group are intending seminarians.
The effects of the ‘lockdown’ are clear not only in far fewer people but also in shops with reduced opening hours or indeed which are closed for ‘the duration’, as well as those which had already closed before the current situation and are boarded up or standing empty, including Boswells department store which in various forms has served the people of Oxford from 1738 until economic circumstances led it to announce its closure at the beginning of the year. A sad loss there.
On the High two things caught my eye and did not meet with my approval. One was to see a ground floor window in All Souls and looking towards Oriel, plastered with “Rhodes Must Fall” posters. The other was at the screening put up by Lincoln College by the Mitre Hotel where they are carrying out major renovations. Here they allude to the history and alumni of the college and say it was founded by Bishop Robert Fleming.... As readers of the mast head of this blog will see or indeed know Lincoln was founded by Bishop Richard Fleming... I should know, as he is the subject of my research. When I saw this glaring error last autumn I went in to the Lincoln porters lodge and made the point. It has still not been changed or corrected. It does not say much about the college that it cannot get its founder’s name right.
Mind you, if they had ever in more than a quarter of a century invited me to go and address them on the life of Bishop Richard Fleming I might take seriously their interest in their own history. Last year I offered such a talk only to be told that in the lead up to their sesquicentenary in 2027 they do not have an hour to spare for me to give such a lecture....
It was very agreeable today to take the group round and to see the city centre again, and to stretch my somewhat arthritic legs. Hopefully such days will soon lose their novelty and become routine.