Headington history: Miscellaneous

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The Bayswater Brook

The Bayswater Brook runs westwards from near Forest Hill and eventually joins the River Cherwell to the east of Cutteslowe: see its course marked in red below. It has long marked the northern boundary of Headington, although farms such as Wick Farm, Stowford/Stafford Farm, and Barton Farm (now renamed Lower Farm) just the other side of the brook were loosely regarded as being in Headington.

Robert Plot in 1676 named the Bayswater Brook in Headington as Bayard's Watering Place. (A bayard was originally a bay horse, but came to be used as a mock-heroic name for any horse.)

Since 1975 the Bayswater Brook from the Bayswater Road to just before the Marston flyover has formed the boundary between the City of Oxford and the Green Belt land of South Oxfordshire District Council (and also the boundary between the parliamentary constituencies of Oxford and Henley).

In 1298 there was a perambulation to establish the boundary between Shotover Forest and Headington, and this brook was then named as Edenebroke, or Hedena's Brook (Headington was originally known as Hedena's Dun).

1. Forest Hill to the Bayswater Road

The brook starts just north of the A40, near the Church Hill turn-off to Forest Hill, and runs along the northern edge of Sandhills.

This bridge over the brook (replaced in 2020) is part of the footpath from Forest Hill to Sandhills:

Bridge at Sandhills

The photograph below, looking east, shows the brook just before it reaches Bayswater Mill. This mill probably already operated here at the time of the Domesday Book, and survived until 1898.

Just before Bayswater Mill

The former mill, shown below, is now a private house:

Bayswater Mill

After passing the mill, the brook continues to the south of the 29 homes in the Bayswater Mill site that are run by Buswell Parks, and passes under the farm path shown below just before it reaches the Bayswater Road:

East of Bayswater Brook

The brook then passes under the big bridge that takes traffic over the Bayswater Road:

Under Bayswater Road

There was a Roman settlement here in the third and fourth centuries AD, and during housing development in the 1940s sixteen Roman coins were found 300 yards to the south of this bridge in a 100-yard stretch each side of the main road.

2. Bayswater Road to the Marston flyover

After passing under the Bayswater Road the brook then winds its way along the northernmost edge of Barton:

Entering Barton

A little further on, the footbridge over the Bayswater Book shown below leads to a long straight footpath that passes northwards through some of the Green Belt land currently threatened with development by Christ Church. This footpath goes all the way up to the B4027 at Beckley, or it is possible to turn off to the left near the top when you see Sydlings Copse.

Bridge to Beckley

Continuing westwards, the original footpath runs alongside the brook and reaches some grass leading straight on to Barton Village Road. Immediately on the north side of the road is this bridleway passing over the brook and leading to the Buswell Park housing site and Wick Farm.

Wick Farm turn off

Llewellyn Jewitt, an amateur archaeologist and brother of the famous wood-engraver Orlando Jewitt, lived in St Andrew's Lane in Old Headington, and in 1849 he discovered the remains of a Roman villa just to the north west of Wick Farm, on ground sloping southwards to the Bayswater Brook. Orlando's collaborator, William Reynolds, lived at Barton Manor, and his son George died at the age of nine on 1 April 1855 after a short illness, allegedly caused by drinking water from the Bayswater Brook.

In 1953 three intact Romano-British pots were recovered from the brook.

The brook continues westwards at the point where Barton Village Road turns north, and the footpath continues westwards alongside the south side of the brook. For a short distance it is part of the private road towards Lower Farm (formerly called Barton Farm), shown below:

Lower Farm

It then becomes a footpath again, running to the north of the new Barton Park development and forming its northern boundary. This footpath can get very overgrown, and it is easier to take the modern footpath through the Barton Park development.

3. Barton Park to Marston flyover

When the footpath beside the brook comes to an end, there are three options:

  • An ancient footpath running southwards to Old Headington has been preserved through the Barton Park building site, marked by railings and then a wooden enclosure beside the electricity substation. This leads to the bypass, and It is possible to cross it here as the traffic does stop periodically stop at the Barton Park and Green Road roundabout traffic lights. After crossing the bypass, the route continues along the bridleway up to Stoke Place.
  • You can also turn right and cross the bridge shown below and follow the footpath all the way to Elsfield.
  • You can continue walking on the new footpath through Barton Park to Northway.

Bridge to Elsfield

Although there is no path beside the brook at this point, it continues on its journey, travelling diagonally through private land to meet the Northern Bypass. It then runs along the north side of the bypass, as shown below, but there is no footpath here, so it is not safe to walk along it at this point:

Northern bypass

4. Marston flyover to the Cherwell

Just before the Marston flyover, the brook runs diagonally north-west over private land for a short distance and then reaches the east side of the road to Woodeaton. It then runs in a north-west direction alongside that road, and can be followed easily here:

Road to Woodeaton

After a considerable distance running beside this road, it turns left and passes under the road.

It then runs through private farmland (Sescut Farm) until it joins the River Cherwell.

Map showing Bayswater Brook in 1900 (drag the map to follow it to the end of its journey)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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