SANDFORD LASHER (Sandford Weir)

Sandford to Iffley, Sandford to Abingdon, Environment Agency 'Out and About' Guides

Sandford Lasher or weir is on the LEFT bank, well upstream of Sandford lock which is on the mill cut. The Lock has a fall of 8'10" (2.69 metres), this is the largest on the Thames. This makes the river above it deep water with too much silt (the current is lower because of the depth and therefore more silt drops out).
It is ironic that this reach, between Iffley and Sandford Locks, is the most difficult for punts on the whole Thames - and the results are that Oxford punters rarely venture down here, and also of course the fearsome reputation of Sandford Lasher.
Sandford weir is too high! (In My Humble Opinion)

Sandford Lasher memorial
Sandford Lasher memorial

1843: Sandford lasher memorial -

The obelisk was erected following the deaths in 1843 of Richard Phillimore, who drowned in a vain attempt to save his friend William Gaisford, son of the Dean of Christ Church, Thomas Gaisford.
The inscription on the memorial at Sandford is inaccessible, but an account of the tragedy is given in Latin on two memorial tablets in the north walk of the Christchurch Cathedral cloisters:

IUXTA CONDITUR RICARDUS PHILLIMORE
AEDIS HUIUS ALUMN.
JOSEPHI PHILLIMORE I [URIS] C [IVILIS] P[ROFESSOR] R[EGIUS]
FILIUS NATU SEPTIMUS, QUI AMICO IN INSIDIS FLUVIO LABORANTI CUM NEQUIQUAM SUBVENISSET
VORTICIBUS CORREPTUS PERIIT
Dl. IUN XXIII A.S. MDCCCXLIII ANN. AETAT SUAE XX
NONDUM COMPLETO QUISQUIS ADSIS SCIAS HUNC QUEM DEFLEXUS ADOLESCENTEM INGENIO
MORIBUS PIETATE ET VARIA DOCTRINA INTER AEQUALES SUOS
ELUXISSE LAPIDEM HUNC
IN MEMORIAM DESIDERATISSI ME SOCII AMICI POSUERINT.

Nearby is buried Richard Phillimore,
seventh son of Joseph Phillimore Regius Professor of Civil Law,
a member of this House [ie Christchurch College]
who, when vainly attempting to rescue his friend
struggling in the treacherous waters of the river,
was caught up in the whirlpools and perished
on 23rd June 1843 before he had reached his twentieth birthday.
We mourn him as a young man who stood out among those of his own age
for his intellectual gifts, his character, his piety,
and his breadth of learning.
His friends and colleagues have erected this stone
to his memory in the deepest grief.


GUILIELMO GAISFORD
AEDIS HUIUS ALUMNO QUI QUUM D. IUNII XXIII A.S. MDCCCXLIII
AD CATARACTUS SANDFORDIANAS IN FLUMEN SE INCAUTIUS DEMISISSET
AQUIS AFFUSO IMBRE ABUNDANTIBUS VORAGINE ABSORBTUS EST.
VIXIT ANN. XXI MENS IV D. XIX.
IUVENI INNOCENTI AC SUIS CARISSIMO COMMILITONES
ET AMICI H.M. MOERENTES P. ATQUE DESIDERATISSIME.

To William Gaisford, a member of this House,
who on 23rd June 1843 rashly entered the river at the Sandford weir
when it was swollen by excessive rain and was sucked down into its depths.
His age was 21 years 4 months 19 days.
He was a much loved young man of unblemished character
and his comrades and friends have erected this monument to him
in mourning and deep grief.

George William Erskine Russell, Autobiography -

... glancing for a moment from your book, you saw the two most brilliant young Christ Church men of the day going down to bathe in the Isis.
You described the gifts and graces of the pair, who, between them, seemed to combine all that was best and most beautiful in body and mind and soul.
And then you told us how, as your friends disappeared towards Christ Church Meadows, you returned to your work; and only were roused from it two hours later, when a confused noise of grief and terror in the quadrangle below attracted your attention, and you saw the dead bodies of Gaisford and Phillimore borne past your window from their 'watery bier' at Sandford Lasher.

1872: The name of another Christ Church man, George Dasent, was added to the Sandford obelisk.

1879: A Balliol College man drowned -

Clarence Sinclair Collier
The dear and only child of Colonel Clarence Collier and Anne his wife,
who was drowned in the River Isis at Sandford, June 1879, aged 19 years.

1881: Charles Dickens Junior. 'Dictionary of the Thames -

It is notorious to all rowing men and habitués of the river that Sandford Lasher had almost yearly demanded its tale of victims, and it is almost inconceivable that people will continue year after year to tempt fate in this and other equally dangerous places.

1889: Jerome K Jerome thought it was funny -

The pool under Sandford lasher, just behind the lock, is a very good place to drown yourself in. The undercurrent is terribly strong, and if you once get down into it you are all right. An obelisk marks the spot where two men have already been drowned, while bathing there; and the steps of the obelisk are generally used as a diving-board by young men now who wish to see if the place really IS dangerous.

1891: The Stream of Pleasure, Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell -

Nothing could be prettier than the Thames about here, even in the rain ...
Trees in long straight lines cross the flat meadowland, the river winds lazily between low reedy banks, and large families of ducks come out for a swim where willows bend low into the stream.
But this I really discovered the next morning. While we were working our way down to Sandford, I was too much taken up with [ Joseph's ] entreaties not to send him over the lasher, to think of anything else.
Remembering Tom Brown [ "Tom Brown at Oxford by T Hughes" (who went over the weir in a skiff) ], I did my best to leave all the river between it and our boat.
We found that a lasher, which we had never quite understood, is merely a place above the lock where the overflow of water falls to a lower level, but a place not to be trifled with, as the monument at Sandford reminds all who need the reminder.

1921: The weir was to claim two more victims from Christ Church, one of them, Michael Llewelyn-Davies, the ward of the playwright J. M. Barrie.
Barrie had written the story of Peter Pan for the five Llewelyn-Davies boys and when the sculptor, Sir George Frampton, wanted a model for his statue of Peter Pan, Barrie sent him a photograph of the six-year-old Michael dressed as Peter Pan. Michael therefore became immortalised in the well-known statue in Kensington Gardens, which was unveiled in 1912.
His body was recovered from the Thames clasped to that of his friend Rupert Buxton, and it was the verdict of the coroner that Rupert had died while trying to save Michael. Barrie caused to be inscribed on the obelisk the words:

Michael Llewelyn Davies and Rupert Errol Victor Buxton,
Commoners of Christ Church, were drowned here on 19th May 1921.

Aerial view of Sandford Lasher
Sandford Lasher