Four Rivers

Cut east from Four Rivers leads to a Five Way junction
(To: Castle Weir,      Isis Lock to Oxford Canal South - End,     Oxford Canal North,
     Medley on the main river,     Four Rivers)

This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker
1920: Fred Thacker's map -

Fred Thacker's Map, 1920
Fred Thacker's Map, 1920.

1885: The Royal River -

For the University there exist two rivers;
one, The River, below Folly Bridge,
the other, The Upper River, above Medley Weir.
Between the two there is not one stream but many. The river goes out of itself and returns into itself again. And in this division it suffers various fortunes. It goes far afield and grows forget-me-nots. It turns mill-wheels, and is a servant of breweries. It is locked and sluiced for the passage of barges. It is constrained and laid away in low and discouraged quarters, where it keeps company with people out of repair, with philanthropic enterprises, with aimless smells, with exhausted dust, with retired hansom cabs. It is beguiled into obscure cuts for bathing. It is imprisoned under streets. And when it comes to itself again it is not allowed to have its name, but is called by the vain sound of Isis.

Leaving the main stream at Four Rivers / Four Streams -

Foot bridge

Oxford Old Navigation Footbridge
Foot bridge.

Sheepwash Railway bridge  

Oxford Old Navigation Railway Bridge
Sheepwash Railway bridge.

The narrow section is the site of the old railway swing bridge.
Rewley Road Bridge  
Five way water junction.

We shall go round it anti-clockwise.
a) SOUTH EAST downstream on the old Navigation into Oxford. A weir Stream. This has now been blocked in an emphatic way, with enormous floats on a cable.
b) NORTH WEST up the Isis Lock onto the Oxford Canal and then sharp right onto the stub of the canal into Oxford.
c) NORTH WEST up the Isis Lock onto the Oxford Canal and then straight on to the north.
d) NORTH WEST to the left of the Isis Lock, the old river which rejoins at Medley
e) WEST back to Four Rivers on the Main Navigation of the Thames / Isis DESCRIBED ABOVE
a) SOUTH EAST at the five way water junction:
The Old navigation, is a weir stream which goes through the city, NOW BLOCKED OFF - so what follows originated when it was still accessible.
  This is the stream that after a weir comes out just above the Osney Foot Bridge.
We are following parallel to the last few yards of the Oxford Canal.

  Horseshoe Weir from the canal into the old navigation

Oxford Canal Weir, probably by Henry Taunt -

Oxford Canal Weir, Taunt?
Oxford Canal Weir, probably by Henry Taunt
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D260020a

2005: Oxford Canal Weir -

Horseshoe Weir
Horseshoe Weir.

Hythe Bridge (A4144) also known as High Bridge

We are accustomed to think of Folly Bridge as the central river crossing - but in medieval days that honour was probably held by Hythe Bridge.
1200-1210:  The first known Hythe Bridge, probably of wood, was built by Osney abbey.
1373-1403: Hythe Bridge rebuilt in stone, with three arches.
1817:  Hythe Bridge view by Skelton shows three very irregular arches
Engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1895

Engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1895
Engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1895
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive;

1835: Another engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1907 -

1835 Engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1907
1835 Engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1907
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive;

1835: The original which was photographed by Taunt above!

Hythe Bridge 1835
Hythe Bridge, 1835

1839: The boatmen's Chapel a converted[!] river barge, was moored north of Hythe Bridge and consecrated by the Bishop of Oxford in his concern for 'that neglected and too often depraved class, the boatmen'.

Between 1839 and 1868 it provided a place of worship and schooling for some hundreds of people.

When St Barnabas was started in 1868 by the long serving vicar of St Thomas' - it was said of the floating chapel 'that being possessed of less endurance than the vicar, and probably weary and disgusted with its poor surroundings, it quietly sank one Sunday morning. It was not worth raising.'

1861: Hythe Bridge was replaced by the present iron Hythe Bridge, designed by a local engineer, John Galpin.
1913:  Hythe Bridge from the Oxford Canal, Henry Taunt -

Hythe Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1913
Hythe Bridge from the Oxford Canal, Henry Taunt, 1913
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT11720

1921:  The Oxford Canal from Hythe Bridge, Henry Taunt -

Oxford Canal from Hythe Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1921
Oxford Canal from Hythe Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1921
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT12617

1999: Hythe Bridge strengthened by Carbon fibre technique -

Pre-stressed Carbon Fibre Strengthening First:
Hythe Bridge is a busy 125 year old cast iron beamed bridge with brick jack arches in-between which carries the western approach road into Oxford with two 7.8m spans.
Assessment of the bridge revealed that it required to be strengthened and all other considered techniques were discounted including replacement, because of the massive disruption it would cause to traffic entering and leaving Oxford.
The selection of the technique of installing pre-stressed carbon fibre reinforced polymer plates to strengthen the 7.5Te capacity cast iron beams to full 40Te capacity was the most significant factor in achieving best value.
The process involved grit blasting and grinding the beam soffits, then bonding anchorages near to the ends of the beams. Once the connection bonds were cured the beams were coated with epoxy resin and immediately, four CFRP plates were stressed to 18t each and clamped tightly up to the prepared soffit so that they would bond over their full length. All 16 beams in the two spans were strengthened.

2005: Hythe Bridge -

Hythe Bridge, 2005
Hythe Bridge, 2005.

It is said that recently a narrow boat coming down the Oxford Canal, through Isis Lock, mistook this stream for the main channel and proceeded past the DANGER sign and crashed into Hythe Bridge. SO MAYBE THAT'S WHY IT HAS NOW BEEN CLOSED
[ I can tell you from punting long distance that a fatigue symptom is that one soon begins to welcome the danger signs - they come to mean that you are going to be able to sit down and rest for a while! ]
1937: "The Thames and its Story -

Now it is only on the stretch down to Castle Mills that any attempt is made by the town to come to public and pleasant terms with its river. The attempt is a shy one.
The Fishers Row of low houses - some comparatively new, some old, and one or two remarkable - straggles along a narrow quay, arched over by the bridges.
In the doubled stream, where it fronts the houses, fleets of old punts lie moored to their poles; not the varnished toys of the Cherwell, but the craft native to these shallow standing waters, as the gondola to the lagoons of Venice.
At the back of the houses, their gardens abutting upon it in all vaiety of confusion and decay, moves a furtive and even feebler stream.
There is a wealth of matter here for the artist to rescue from its odours; grey walls that have seen better days and other uses, bricks rough-cast, and timber, willow leaves and fluttering clothes, the most old and various dirt. All this is only to be won by glimpses from the bridges, or from the hospitality of back rooms; and it is only just to add that the tenants of this picturesque quarter show to the curious visitor an unvarying courtesy.
Hythe Bridge is a poor new thing.
Pacey's Bridge is defaced with a new top.
At Pacey's Bridge, the second in order downstream, there is a house bracketed out over the water of the back stream in a most extraordinary manner. But the jealousy that keeps the stream secret has shut away that last easy view, on the one side with a building astride the water, on the other with a mere wilful screen.
The next, Quaking Bridge, brings us to the Castle and the Castle Mill, the very heart of the old town; the castle older than the University, the Mill of older foundation than the Castle.

Pacey’s Bridge, Park End Street

1770: when New Road was made it crossed the mill-stream of Castle Mill between Quaking Bridge and Hythe Bridge, and was named, apparently, after the landlord of the adjacent public house.
1856: The bridge was widened.
1901: Abel Beesley, University Waterman with a punt load of rushes and the old Pacey Bridge in the background -

Abel Beesley at Pacey's Bridge, 1901
Abel Beesley at Pacey's Bridge, 1901

1920: Paceys Bridge, Henry Taunt -

Paceys Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1920
Paceys Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1920
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT12611

1922:  Pacey's Bridge rebuilt, its single arch being replaced by a flat span.
2005: Pacey's Bridge -

Pacey's Bridge, 2005
Pacey's Bridge, 2005.

Quaking Bridge (Tidmarsh Lane)

Quaking Bridge or Quakes Bridge or Little Hythe Bridge or St Thomas' Bridge – over the mill stream by the Castle

1297:  first mentioned by name but probably much older, crossed the mill-stream immediately west of the castle, on the line of a road which passed from the town into St. Thomas' parish before the castle's construction.

1324:  Close Rolls -

A bridge anciently constructed over the Thames, whereby the Canons of Osney were wont to pass into the Chapel of St George in the castle, which they are bound to do daily, had been broken down and wholly removed for the greater security of the castle in the late disturbance.  The King ordered it to be reconstructed at his own cost of 60s.

1616: Two arches
1685: the city undertook to maintain the bridge, while St. Thomas' parish made an annual contribution.
In the 17th century the bridge was supported by three columns of stone and was passable for a cart.
1821:  it comprised three arches and was railed with open-work timber. 
1835:  An iron bridge was built
1871: The Bridge was widened with timber on the downstream side.
1874 - rebuilt
1895: The widening timber was replaced by brick and masonry.

2005: Quaking Bridge -

St Thomas Street Bridge
Quaking Bridge.

Oxford Castle and Weir

Under the bridge on the left bank is the remaining part of Oxford Castle.

Oxford Castle
Oxford Castle.

An old drawing of the castle precincts area showing in dotted lines the routes of New Road, which cut across the northern part of the site in 1770-6, and the canal basin of 1790 on the present site of Nuffield College. Photograph by Taunt, 1907

Oxford Castle plan with new roads 1770s and canal basin 1790, Taunt
Oxford Castle plan with new roads 1770s and canal basin 1790, Taunt
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT9960


And immediately beside the Castle is the weir.  You would not want to see this sight in other than low summer levels -

Weir near Oxford Castle
Oxford Weir near Oxford Castle.

[ From the main river I reached to 50 yards below that weir, see just above Osney Footbridge. ]
Painting of Castle mill beside St George's by J.A. Shuffrey (1859-1939).
The mill, Norman in origin, was demolished in the early twentieth century -

Castle mill Oxford beside St George's, J.A. Shuffrey
Castle mill beside St George's, J.A. Shuffrey.

1935: Fisher Row and Remains of Oxford Castle -

1935: Fisher Row and Remains of Oxford Castle
1935: Fisher Row and Remains of Oxford Castle.


[ At the end of this section I have included other bridges and streams in Oxford that do not appear to be directly on the Old Stream. ]
Meanwhile back to the five way water junction -

b) NORTH WEST up the Isis Lock onto the Oxford Canal and then sharp right onto the stub of the canal into Oxford.
  You will need a lock key to go through Isis Lock.
There are two directions available up through the Isis Lock - left to the north west on the Oxford Canal or right onto the last few yards of the canal, south east into Oxford.

Isis Lock  

Isis Lock, Andrew Lang, 1896
Isis Lock, Andrew Lang, 1896


Isis Lock
Isis Lock


Isis Lock Footbridge
Isis Lock Footbridge.

Autumn Day, Isis Lock Iron Turnover Bridge by Michele Field -

Autumn Day, Isis Lock Iron Turnover Bridge by Michele Field
Autumn Day, Isis Lock Iron Turnover Bridge by Michele Field

1955: -

Save our Canal Poster, 1955
Save our Canal Poster, 1955
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D252330a

Up out of the Isis Lock sharp right turn takes you onto the stub end of the Oxford Canal, Hythe Bridge Branch -

Oxford Canal, Hythe Bridge Branch
Oxford Canal, Hythe Bridge Branch.

Horseshoe Weir

And then before Hythe Bridge, just at the Horseshoe Weir, the canal abruptly stops. There are said to be plans to reinstate the end of the canal at a basin a little further on. SEE BELOW
I photographed the Horseshoe weir from above.
In the Virtual Earth view you can just see two gentlemen seated to the left of the weir wall. They were still there when I visited. Indeed if you check all four pictures of the weir you will find the same two characters (dressed of course as Victorians in the earlier pictures).
“Smile Please!” I said to them. And do you know, I think they must have been Russian immigrants - anyway one of them introduced himself -
“Bugahrov” I think he said his name was. And he is holding up two digits - presumably to signify that the other gentleman also has that surname.

Above the Horseshoe Weir
Above the Horseshoe Weir, the brothers Bugahrov.

Oxford Canal Southern End
The Oxford Canal End.

FOXcan is the Friends of OXford canal and basin.

The Oxford Canal links the English Midlands with the River Thames. For 150 years Oxford had a canal basin near the city centre, between Park End Street and Hythe Bridge Street. A coal wharf branched off it at one end, passing under the south end of Worcester Street and nearly reaching Oxford Castle.
In the 20th century Lord Nuffield bought the basin, had it filled in and founded Nuffield College on the site of the coal wharf. The rest of the site was let to Oxford City Council, which runs it as Worcester Street public car park.

1822: Drawing by Westall of Hythe Bridge and the Canal Terminus to the left, photographed by Henry W Taunt -

Hythe Bridge & Canal Terminus,Westall/Taunt, 1822
Hythe Bridge & Canal Terminus, Westall / Taunt, 1822
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT10008


1876: Ordnance Survey Map showing Hythe Bridge, Pacey's Bridge, and the Coal Wharf.

1901: Coal Wharf near Oxford Castle, Henry W Taunt -

Coal Wharf near Oxford Castle, Taunt, 1901
Coal Wharf near Oxford Castle, Taunt, 1901
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT8474


When the Nuffield College was built in 1955 Thomas Photos recorded what was left of the basin.
There are seven relevant photos here Click Search
Back to the junction five way water junction -

c) NORTH WEST up the Isis Lock onto the Oxford Canal and then straight on to the north.
Straight on at the Isis Lock is the main route of the Oxford Canal to the North.  It can however be used as a round trip to the north of Oxford because of its other link to the Thames above Kings Lock.
1893: Ravenstein, The Oarsman’s and Angler’s map -

A branch stream leads to the Oxford canal, by which, for a small sum, steam launches and other craft up to 7ft beam may reach the Thames again above King’s Weir, avoiding the intervening difficulties of the river.

Back to the five way water junction -

d) NORTH WEST to the left of the Isis Lock, the old river which comes from Medley

Old Stream from Medley

Back down below Isis Lock the next stream anticlockwise is the old Navigation stream which links to the current navigation at Medley.
This is puntable at Summer levels (very low bridges mean lying down!)
1837: Memorials of Oxford by James Ingram -

The branch of the river Isis which runs from Port Meadow to the Castle mill, dividing into two streams near Rewley, forms a long and narrow bank or island : these streams unite again at the north end of Mr. Tawney's garden. The island is about 500 yards in length, varying in breadth from 50 to 10 yards, and was formerly known by the name of Wareham, or Weir-ham bank, probably from the Weirs at Rewley and the Castle mills. This bank to the mill weir below was called the Fisher- row when it was given by the Conqueror to Robert D'Oilly, which name it still retains : it is partly the property of the city and partly of Christ Church.

We follow the Oxford Canal a few feet west of it and a foot or so below it.  All along here are little overflows and weirs.  And at least one rather larger affair which I think must be an entry into an enormous flood drain -

Isis Flood Drain?
Isis Flood Drain

Site of Walton Ford

Where the old stream turns to the west just before it goes under the three bridges, is the site (I think) of the ancient Walton ford. And near here (at the junction of Walton Well Road and Southmoor Road) is Walton Well an ancient Holy Well.
1885: Alderman William Ward erected a drinking fountain on the site -

With the consent of the Lords of the Manor this drinking fountain is erected by Mr William Ward to mark the site of a celebrated spring known as Walton Well adjacent to the ancient fordway into Port Meadow called Walton Ford

Three Bridges on the old Navigation

Eventually we turn west and reach three bridges, all very low.  The first bridge is a disused railway bridge with no track.

Old Navigation Railway Bridge 1
Disused railway bridge


The second bridge is the main railway line with four tracks. The experience of lying on the floor of a punt with a railway bridge three inches above your nose as a train goes immediately above you is one everybody should have, once.

Old Navigation Railway Bridge 2
On my punt I almost had to lay the seats flat to get under that bridge!


The third bridge carries a track from the allotments to the car park on Walton Well Road which is a convenient place to park for walking on Port Meadow or going over to Medley Sailing Club or walking to the Perch

Old Navigation Bridge 3
The swans with young hissed their defiance.

The stream then widens and becomes very shallow as it approaches Medley.

Medley Old Navigation Weir and Footbridge

On the left is a footbridge under which is the main river,
but straight on is a larger footbridge.

Medley Weir

But look closely at that footbridge.  You can just see a line across in the water.  That is actually a weir with perhaps five inches of water over a concreted sill.  The drop would be maybe an inch or so.  There is no difficulty punting up it.  So canoes and punts only!  Motor launches and narrow boats would just pile up on that weir.
1897: And this is what it used to look like when Medley Weir was a significant height. The main navigation is the other side of the footbridge on the left. The flash weir was the other side of the bank joining the two footbridges, and the main weir is where the vestigial weir is now under the footbridge on the right. Photograph by James Dredge -

Below Medley Weir, James Dredge, 1897
Below Medley Weir, James Dredge, 1897
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230579a

Straight on is the main navigation joined just as it comes out from Medley Footbridge.

Back to Four Rivers
On to Medley Weir site
River Cherwell


1920: Fred Thacker's map, again -

Fred Thacker's Map, 1920
Fred Thacker's Map, 1920.


Other unidentified Bridges and Streams in Oxford -

1920: Morrells Brewery Waterwheel on the Whareham Stream, Henry Taunt -

Morrells Brewery Waterwheel on the Whareham Stream, Henry Taunt, 1920
Morrells Brewery Waterwheel on the Whareham Stream, Henry Taunt, 1920
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT12615

Paradise Bridge, under Paradise Street.

1912: A Bridge, Francis Frith -

1912:  A Bridge, Francis Frith
1912:  A Bridge, Francis Frith

Bookbinders' Bridge.
a short way west, carried the road into St. Thomas' parish over another small branch of the Thames. Its name, first recorded in 1377, is explained presumably by the fact that an adjoining tenement was occupied by monastic bookbinders, and the bridge may have been built by the canons of Osney shortly after the abbey's foundation; a charter of c.1190 mentioned a bridge leading to Osney not far from the castle mills, and in 1377 the bridge was said to lie within the abbey's jurisdiction. In the 17th century it was a single stone arch, and was replaced by a brick bridge c.1858.
Small Bridge (Lasse Bridge) (i.e. Lesser Bridge?)
Further west on the same road lay Small Bridge, first referred to in the 14th century. It seems to have been known as Lasse Bridge in the 17th century, when Christ Church was presented for its repair, presumably as successor to Osney abbey.
Preachers' or Littlegate Bridge.
crossed Trill mill stream from Littlegate to Black Friars. In 1285 the stone pile of a bridge lately built by the friars was said to be obstructing the stream, but the friars were allowed to keep the bridge.  Before 1787 it suffered a partial collapse, and a wooden bridge was built over the central stone column. It was replaced in stone c.1813. 
Trill Mill Bow.
Further east the stream was crossed by Trill Mill Bow, which carried the road from St. Aldate's into Grandpont. A presentment of Henry VI's reign attributed the bridge to St. Frideswide's priory; it was said to be ruinous and was replaced by a stone bridge. Both bridges over Trill mill stream disappeared when the stream was culverted in 1863.   It was presumably this culverted stream in which in the 1900s  a punt was found containing two skeletons – it may not be wise to try to follow underground …
Denchworth Bow.
a single stone arch, lay across the Shire Lake stream in St. Aldate's, about 100 yards north of Folly Bridge, its name possibly deriving from John of Denchworth a prominent 14th-century townsman. The bridge presumably disappeared when the stream silted up.
1910: The Canal, Station Road, Francis Frith -


1910:  The Canal, Station Road, Francis Frith
1910:  The Canal, Station Road, Francis Frith

Back to Four Rivers
(Upstream from Four Rivers to Medley Weir Site)


Tower Br
Custom Ho
London Br
; Frost Fairs
Cannon St Rb
The Great Stink
Southwark Br
Millenium Br
Blackfriars Rb
Blackfriars Br
Waterloo Br
Charing Cross Rb
Westminster Br
Lambeth Br
Vauxhall Br
Victoria Rb
Chelsea Br
Albert Br
Battersea Br
Battersea Rb
Wandsworth Br
Fulham Rb
Putney Br
Hammersmith Br
Barnes Rb
Chiswick Br
Kew Rb
Kew Br
Twickenham Br
Richmond Rb
Richmond Br
Kingston Rb
Kingston Br
Ditton Slip
Hampton Br
Walton Br
Desborough Cut
Chertsey Br
M3 Br
Laleham Slip
Staines Rb
Staines Br
Runnymede Br
Magna Carta Is
Albert Br
Victoria Br
Black Potts Rb
Windsor Br
Windsor Rb
Windsor Slip
Elizabeth Br
Dorney Lake
York Cut
Summerleaze Fb
New Thames Br
Bray Slip
Maidenhead Rb
Maidenhead Br
Below Boulters
Cookham Slip
Cookham Br
BourneEnd RFb
Quarry Woods
A404 Br
Marlow Br
Culham Ct
Aston Slip
Temple Is
Fawley Ct
Phyllis Ct
Henley Slip
Red Lion
Henley Br
Angel on Br
Hobbs Boatyard
Hobbs Slipway
Shiplake Rb
Sonning Br
K&A Canal
Reading Br
Caversham Br
Reading Slip
Hardwick Ho
Whitchurch Br
Hartswood Reach
Gatehampton Rb
Goring Gap
Goring Br
Moulsford Rb
Papist Way Slip
Winterbrook Br
Wallingford Br
Shillingford Br
Clifton Hampden
Clifton Church
Clifton H Br
Barley Mow
Long Wittenham
Appleford Rb
Sutton Courtenay
Sutton Br
Culham Cut Fb
Abingdon Slip
Abingdon Br
Nuneham Rb
Nuneham Park
Radley Boats
Rose Island
Kennington Rb
Isis Br
Iffley Mill
Oxford Rowing
Donnington Br
Riverside Slip
Lower Cherwell
Upper Cherwell
Head of River
Salters Steamers
Folly Br
Bacons Folly
Oxford Fb
Osney Fb
Weir stream
Osney Rb
Bullstake Stream
Osney Marina
Osney Br
Four Rivers
Medley Weir Site
Medley Fb
Godstow Nunnery
Godstow Br
Thames Br
River Evenlode
Swinford Br
Oxford Cruisers
Stanton Harcourt
Bablock Slip
Arks Weir Site
Harts Fb
Rose Revived
River Windrush
below Shifford
Shifford Fb
Tenfoot Fb
Trout Inn
Tadpole Br
Old Mans Fb
Radcot Cradle Fb
Swan Inn
Radcot New Br
Radcot Old Br
Eaton Hastings
Eaton Fb
Bloomers Hole Fb
Trout Inn
St Johns Br
Halfpenny Br
Marina Slip
Hannington Br
Castle Eaton Br
Marston Meysey
A419 Br