The Trout Inn at Godstow
By water, coming upstream, ignore left turning into Godstow Lock, pass next side weir on your left,
and take next left which is a weir stream. Be careful of St Edwards rowing club which may have many small boats
coming and going. There is very little mooring space here (small boats only),
and if you do tie up you may have to climb the locked gate into the pub garden.
Altogether it might be better to go up through Godstow Lock, moor on the left if you can, and walk over Godstow Bridge to the Trout.
The Trout website -
The Trout in Lower Wolvercote is genuinely part of the rich tapestry that is Oxford life.
With a large terrace looking out onto the river Thames, it is easy to see why The Trout is the pub of dreams;
from Lewis Carroll to CS Lewis you can understand why so many people love to sit outside
on a summers day with a lovely glass of wine or a chilled beer and watch the fast moving waters.
Step inside and you'll find an exquisite country pub with a great atmosphere that has been tastefully restored incorporating historic values with stylish modern aspects.
The Trout, famous long before it was immortalised in Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse novels is a pub that rolls with the seasons; warm and cosy in the winter, cool and colourful in the summer, it's the perfect place to be for any occasion surrounding good food and wine.
The Trout, one of Inspector Morse's favourite pubs, is featured in several of the 30 films. In The Wolvercote Tongue Morse and Lewis stand on Godstow Bridge looking at the floodlit pub down below. In a subsequent scene Morse interviews Mr. Poindexter and his daughter on the terrace. The Trout is also seen in the background of a later scene where a police diver recovers the valuable Anglo-Saxon Wolvercote Tongue artefact from the river. In "Who Killed Harry Field?" Morse takes Helen Field for a drink there to further interview her about her husband's murder.
Walter Hooper notes on page 790 of Volume III of The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis:
The Trout Inn, one of Lewis's favourite places, is a few miles outside Oxford on Godstow Road and faces the Thames. It was built in the sixteenth century and by 1625 it was serving as an inn. The two-storey building was rebuilt in 1757. Its interior is very cosy with flagstone floors, beamed ceilings and log fires.
The Inklings [ C S Lewis' literary friends - among them Professor Tolkien ] went there often in the summer when they could have their drinks outside by the river.
Here is a photo of Lewis with James Dundas-Grant, Colin Hardie, R. E. Havard and Peter Havard at the Trout:
C S Lewis at The Trout Inn
Walter Hooper also notes, "Dr. R. E. Havard and James Dundas-Grant often took Lewis to the Trout Inn
at Godstow after meetings of the Inklings.
Dundas-Grant said in 'From an "Outsider"', Remembering C. S. Lewis, p. 371:
'Sometimes, in the summer, after we had dispersed, Havard would run Jack and me out to The Trout at Godstow, where we would sit on the wall with the Isis flowing below us and munch cheese and French bread.'"
(Collected Letters, Volume III, p. 1481.)
John Betjeman, in 'An Oxford University Chest, 1938' -
... The open lane to Wytham still skirts the woods, and the meadows stretch with their willows to the Isis,
without the bricks of progress. Wytham Village is still grey and covered with creepers.
The churchyard with its little door looking through to the peacock-trodden lawns of Wytham Manor,
is still dank and dark and green like some pre-Raphaelite picture.
Better still that lane with its gates, crosses the meadow to Godstow, and, as you reach the Isis, there are the ruins of Godstow and there is the Trout Inn. The weir still roars so that you cannot hear yourself speak ...
St Edward's School has a long and proud tradition of rowing.
Crews compete at local, national and international level.
Events include the National Schools, Henley Royal and Women's Henley Regattas.
Each year we are delighted to see individuals achieve selection to race on the international stage.
This has been achieved in recent years from U16 through to U18 levels.
Our alumni include World Junior and Senior medallists and have featured prominently
in the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race.
The Boathouse overlooks Port Meadow and the famous 'dreaming spires' of Oxford. The new boathouse provides showers, changing facilities, refurbishment of the long standing club room, space for a fleet of rowing machines and staff accommodation.
This is a wonderful facility that offers far more than that utilised by our elite athletes. With kayaks, punting and skiff expeditions there is something for anyone who is into messing about on the river.
However, with International standard coaching and facilities, the boat club is set to continue racing and winning at the highest level.
For the Trout moor above Godstow Lock and walk over the bridge.
In a small manually propelled boat you could take the weir stream from below Godstow Lock, then passing a small weir take the left turn so that St Edwards School Boathouse is on your right, moor on the right before the foot bridge.
HOWEVER - the access the pub garden is derelict and maybe locked. It is possible if you are able to negotiate a rickety landing stage and climb the gate - AT YOUR OWN RISK!
The footbridge from the pub to the island is also locked and there seems to be no other access to the island. It is guarded by a large lion! - see C S Lewis, above.
The Trout is said to be 12th century in origin and related to Godstow Nunnery.
1662: The Trout Inn 'popular with undergraduates'
1720: The Trout Inn extended.
1737: The Trout Inn rebuilt by Jeremiah Bishop, Landlord.
1808: Letters from England by Robert Southey -
... we started soon after six, and went by water, rowing up the main stream of the Isis, between level shores : in some places they were overhung with willows or alder- bushes, in others the pasture extended to the brink; rising ground was in view on both sides. Large herds of cattle were grazing in these rich meadows, and plovers in great numbers wheeling over head. The scenery was not remarkably beautiful, but it is always delightful to be upon a clear stream of fresh water in a fine summer day. We ascended the river about a league to Godstow, where we breakfasted at a little ale-house by the water-side.
1822: The Etonian, TO FREDERICK GOLIGHTLY, ESQ. -
M....... College, Tuesday Evening.
MY DEAR GOLIGHTLY ...
Sterling stepped in at One, to ask me if I would take a row up the river to Godstow. Leaped at the proposal. Embarked by Worcester College, and had a most delightful voyage.
We rested half an hour on our oars opposite the Port Meadow, to take a view of the Archer-Club and their exploits.
Dined at the Pothouse near the Abbey Ruins upon fried eels.
Mem. To detail the whole expedition in a letter to Montgomery. It will give him a subject for a Sonnet.
Returned to Oxford about Seven, and hurried to the Christ Church Meadows, to see the boat-race between the Brazen-Nose and Jesus. The former won the day by a foot or two. Eton and Westminster support their reputation on the Isis. The stroke is rather in favour of the latter: our men pull too quick; - the stream is nothing here, comparatively speaking.
On leaving this animated scene, for both banks were crowded with spectators, who testified their enthusiasm by their clamours, we found the tea things laid in Sterling's room; ...
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
Godstow Bridge is highly picturesque; the river divides here, and at the brink of the older and more shallow channel is a pleasant inn - "The Trout", well known to anglers, but better to the "Oxford scholar", as a place accessible to the rower, who here seeks refreshment after toil, and finds the homeward voyage with the current an agreeable and easy evening task.
1870: The Trout at Godstow, Henry Taunt -
The Trout at Godstow, Henry Taunt, 1870
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1058
Gascoigne Mackie -
AND once we rowed together up the river
To many-gated Godstow, where the stream
Splits, and upon a tongue of land there stands
An Inn with willow bowers : it is a spot
Where still the flavour of old Merry England
Lingers : And softly flowed the silver Thames
Beside the garden, while we fed the fish.
There 'mid the twilight and the trellised roses
We sang the ballad of fair Rosamund :
And when at last we loosed the boat, we saw
Above the ruined Nunnery where she sleeps
A star : and from the reeds a mournful gust
Whispered and rippled round the shallow prow
And passed : and all was quiet. At that moment
The Mighty Mother touched me, and I felt
The first strong throb of that which rules me still.
1880: The Trout at Godstow, Henry Taunt -
The Trout at Godstow, Henry Taunt, 1880
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3474
The Trout Inn at Godstow lantern slide, 1883-1908, W C Hughes, research by Dr Wilson, courtesy of Pat Furley.
1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thacker
[ Note that Fred deals with the Trout Inn above Godstow Lock, Nunnery and Bridge ... ]
One of the alluring glimpses of Thames scenery is the vista of wood and meadow and stream up the
wide Trout backwater. They say you can avoid two tolls by voyaging therealong and coming out just above
King's Weir; but it is barely worth while, considering the terribly hard going ...
This Godstow Trout is a pleasant house, with its shady alleys, waterside bowers and rustic bridge.
The original building was perhaps a guest house for visitors to the priory.
1909: Advertisement -
1909 Advertisement for The Trout at Godstow.
(c) Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; troutad
In 'Oxford' by Frederick Douglas How -
... The Isis, the Upper River as here it is commonly called,
has a special beauty as it flows along the edge of Port Meadow, for
above it hang the Witham woods, and on its edge is the little hamlet of
Binsey, giving a touch of human interest and rural picturesqueness to
It is worth while to row or sail against the stream until the whole of the meadow is passed by, for then comes Godstow, where Fair Rosamond found refuge, and where she was at last laid to rest.
It must in all honesty be confessed that to the average undergraduate the place was reckoned desirable, not so much on account of the historical interest just mentioned, as because, after a long pull up the river on a summer afternoon, it was possible to obtain at the little inn upon the river bank what was euphemistically called "eel tea", a meal which, as a matter of fact, consisted of stewed eels washed down by unlimited libations of cider-cup!
1911: The Trout at Godstow, W Parker -
The Trout at Godstow, W Parker, 1911
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230386a
1922: Henry Taunt -
A summer afternoon with tea and dinner at the Trout at Godstow, with a stroll around the Abbey and to Wytham, is a red letter day in one's life to be repeated at the earliest opportunity.
1930: The Trout at Godstow, Dr A H Church -
The Trout at Godstow, Dr A H Church, 1930
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D213610a
The Trout at Godstow.
[ Don't let anyone tell you you can't go under the footbridge into the weir pool.
You have the right to navigate and anchor wherever Thames water flows.
However, it may not be safe, the current may be swift and there may be a lot of spectators to witness your discomfiture if you misjudge your turn. You do not necessarily have the right to tie up and land. No mooring above the footbridge. ]
Edith, Lorina and Alice Liddell, and Charles Dodgson and Robinson Duckworth had tea on the bank, and Charles began to tell a story -
Alice was beginning to get very tired of
sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do:
once or twice she had peeped into the book
her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversation in it,
"and what is the use of a book," thought Alice,
"without pictures or conversations?"
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid) whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly ...
a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her ...
All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.
Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale of breath too weak
To stir the tiniest feather!
Yet what can one poor voice avail
Against three tongues together?
Imperious Prima flashes forth
Her edict "To begin it" -
In gentler tone Secunda hopes
"There will be nonsense in it!" -
While Tertia interrupts the tale
Not more than once a minute.
Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast -
And half believe it true.
And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by,
"The rest next time -", "It is next time!"
The happy voices cry.
Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.
Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined
In Memory's mystic band,
Like pilgrim's wither'd wreath of flowers
Pluck'd in a far-off land.
Lewis Carroll also wrote an acrostic poem on a similar theme - naming "Alice Pleasance Liddell" -
ALICE MOVING UNDER SKIES ...
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July -
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear -
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream -
Lingering in the golden gleam -
Life, what is it but a dream?
John Betjeman came here as a boy on a school trip, Summoned by Bells -
. . . The skiffs were moored above the lock,
They bumped each other side to side:
I boarded one and made her rock -
"Shut up, you fool", a master cried.
By reed and rush and alder-bush
See soon our long procession glide.
There is a world of water weed
Seen only from a shallow boat:
Deep forests of the bladed reed
Whose wolves are rats of slimy coat,
Whose yellow lily-blossoms need
Broad leaves to keep themselves afloat.
A heaving world, half-land, half-flood;
It rose and sank as ripples rolled,
The hideous larva from the mud
Clung to a reed with patient hold,
Waiting to break its sheath and make
An aeroplane of green and gold.
The picnic and the orchid hunt,
On Oxey Mead the rounders played,
The belly-floppers from the punt,
The echoes that our shouting made:
The rowing back, relaxed and slack,
The shipping oars in Godstow shade . . .