THE VICTORIA ARMS at Marston on the River Cherwell

The River Cherwell is shown here on seven web pages:
Cherwell Mouth (from the Isis to below Magdalen Bridge)
Magdalen Bridge
Mesopotamia (from above Magdalen Bridge to the boat rollers)
Upper Cherwell (above the boat rollers to below Bardwell Road Punting station)
Bardwell Road to below the Victoria Arms
Victoria Arms
Islip (Cherwell above the Victoria Arms)
Other pages of interest to punters are:
Bullstake Stream (Other side of the Isis (aka Thames) - for punters to explore)
To Old Navigation (Punt up above Osney Lock and then round to Oxford Castle)
There are also two round trips including going up the Oxford Canal and coming back down via Kings Lock and Godstow

Site of Marston Ferry

Left bank with boat mooring. Pub food in a delightful country setting. I had previously commented on how slow the food was here, but recently I had hardly begun to sip my drink when it appeared!
The following history is on the pub wall -

The first mention of a ferry at Marston is in 1279 in the Hundred Rolls, when it was held as a freehold of the Manor of Headington by Ralph le Wal and Walter de Pilars, two fishermen of Oxford.
The position of that ferry cannot be identified and indeed it is not marked on any map before the Ordnance Survey map of 1876 when it is shown close to the public house.
Both the ferry and the fishery were important in the economic life of Marston Village. The ferry made a very useful short cut to Oxford, two and a half miles away by road, for the transport of agricultural produce - fruit, corn, beans and bacon. The fishery, which was in the control of the churchwardens from as early as 1532 until at least 1720, had declined in commercial importance by the end of the eighteenth century, when angling was permitted, and said to be a 'favourite diversion with the gentlemen of the university'.
The Gentleman's Magazine of 1800 (vol. 70 part 1) says that there was no out-lying habitation to the village of Marston except the hut of a solitary fisherman, 'where he resides for the purpose of attending his nets and his wheels'. His catch included pike, perch, chubb, eels and grigs (a type of large eel) as well as a species of roach peculiar to the stretch of the Cherwell called finscale, reputed to be delicious. There were crayfish in abundance and these were sold in Oxford at that time for three shillings a hundred.
The earliest record of a building on the site [of the Victoria Arms] is in the census returns of 1841 when a fisherman, Charles Cantwell lived here.
On the tithe map of 1843 the building is called ALESWORTH and the occupier was Susan Cantwell, grazier.
At the 1851 census she still lived here but the house name had changed to FERRY HOUSE.
This name evolved by the 1861 census into MARSTON FERRY and it was the home of Charles Fox, a fisherman his wife and four small daughters.
Then by the time of the 1871 census, William Bateman, described as a pensioner and publican, was living here at what was then called THE FERRY PUBLIC HOUSE.
The 1881 census records that Victor Biovois, then 57, who was born in France, was the publican of THE FERRY. He planted arbours made of the Duke of Argyll's Tea Plant (Lycium barbarum L) on the river terrace, which are still [1991] well remembered.
It may be that the name of the pub was changed to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.
After purchasing the VICTORIA ARMS in 1959 to protect this part of the Cherwell Valley from development and to preserve its charm, Oxford Preservation Trust's first landlord was Fred Elkins.
He and his wife worked hard to transform the shabby house and ruinous outbuildings. The roadway from Mill Lane was constructed for the delivery of supplies and the path alongside the river to the ferry repaired.
A tearoom, which made the pub a popular destination on summer afternoons with punting parties, was destroyed by fire in August 1963 and later rebuilt.
One of the landlord's duties was to maintain the ferry for the benefit of walkers using the footpath between Summertown and Marston Village.
In 1971 the Marston Ferry Link Road was constructed and the Cherwell bridge made the ferry virtually redundant; so the pub's landlord was relieved of his obligation to operate it in 1975.
Wadworth & Co Ltd, the Devizes brewers, took a 125 year lease on the pub in 1986.
O.P.T. 1991

1885: Marston Ferry, Henry Taunt

Marston Ferry, Henry Taunt, 1885
Marston Ferry, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT04951

1887: Marston Ferry with the river frozen. The ferrywoman stands ready to punt across the ice free channel. Presumably the ropes had been dispensed with since the punt could hardly go anywhere else! The three nearest figures are standing in the middle of the river.

1887: Marston Ferry frozen
Marston Ferry frozen in 1887

2004: The ferry post in the photograph below can be seen in the 1885 and 1887 photos -

Marston Ferry Post
The old Marston Ferry post still stands in 2004.

The ferry was a punt on a rope, and this was one of the anchorage points.
The trip from Bardwell Road Punting Station to the Victoria Arms is the standard Oxford punting outing. I have seen a web site that recommends at least several hours over it. The distance is 0.6 of a mile (or fifteen minutes gentle punting by my reckoning) ...
After a suitable pause here, either return, as most people do, or why not just go on to see the finest stretch of the puntable Cherwell? The Bypass Bridge is another mile - and then comes Water Eaton - and Islip weir is another 3½ miles beyond that.

If you do return see John Betjeman's guide to the Cherwell from the Victoria Arms to Magdalen Bridge

1761: Warton -


All pensive from her osier-woven bower
Cherwell arose. Around her darkening edge
Pale eve began the steaming mist to pour,
And breezes fanned by fits the rustling sedge :
She rose, and thus she cried in deep despair,
And tore the rushy wreath that bound her streaming hair.

"Ah! why," she cried, "should Isis share alone
The tributary gifts of tuneful fame !
Shall every song her happier influence own,
And stamp with partial praise her favourite name ?
While I, alike to those proud domes allied,
Nor hear the Muse's call, nor boast a classic tide.

"No chosen son of all yon fabling band
Bids my loose locks their glossy length diffuse ;
Nor sees my coral-cinctured stole expand
Its folds, besprent with Spring's unnumbered hues :
No poet builds my grotto's dripping cell,
Nor studs my crystal throne with many a speckled shell.

"In Isis' vase if Fancy's eye discern
Majestic towers embossed in sculpture high ;
Lo ! milder glories mark my modest urn,
The simple scenes of pastoral imagery:
What though she pace sublime, a stately queen?
Mine is the gentle grace, the meek retiring mien.

"Proud nymph, since late the Muse thy triumphs sung,
No more with mine thy scornful naiads play,
( While Cynthia's lamp o'er the broad vale is hung,)
Where meet our streams, indulging short delay;
No more, thy crown to braid, thou deign'st to take
My cress-born flowers, that float in many a shady lake.

"Vain bards ! can Isis win the raptured soul,
Where Art each wilder watery charm invades ?
Whose waves, in measured volumes taught to roll,
Or stagnant sleep, or rush in white cascades :
Whose banks with echoing industry resound,
Fenc'd by the foam-beat pier, and torrent-braving mound.

"Lo ! here no commerce spreads the fervent toil,
To pour pollution o'er my virgin tide
The freshness of my pastures to defile,
Or bruise the matted groves that fringe my side :
But Solitude, on this sequestered bank,
Mid the moist lilies sits, attired in mantle dank.

"No ruder sounds my grazing herds affright,
Nor mar the milk-maid's solitary song :
The jealous halcyon wheels her humble flight,
And hides her emerald wing my reeds among ;
All unalarmed, save when the genial May
Bids wake my peopled shores, and rears the rippened hay.

"Then scorn no more this unfrequented scene
So to new notes shall my coy Echo string
Her lonely harp. Hither the brow serene,
And the slow pace of Contemplation bring :
Nor call in vain inspiring Ecstasy
To bid her visions meet the frenzy-rolling eye.

"Whate'er the theme ; if unrequited love
Seek, all unseen, his bashful griefs to breathe ;
Or Fame to bolder flights the bosom move,
Waving aloft the glorious epic wreath ;
Here hail the Muses : from the busy throng
Remote, where Fancy dwells, and Nature prompts the song."

This ode first appeared in the Oxford collection of verses on the death of George II in the name of John Chichester, brother to the earl of Donegall, Gentleman Commoner of Trinity College.
It was afterwards published in the first edition of Warton's Poems, with variations in general not important.

The original (on the death of George II) had these two last stanzas instead of the above:

Then hither haste, ye youths, whose duty brings
To George's memory the votive dirge ;
Lo ! pensive Peace shall tune your solemn strings,
To saddest airs along my lonely verge ;
Here Grief with holy musings may converse
In sounds, that best shall greet the glorious hero's hearse.

Or if auspicious themes your harps would own,
In airy visions here shall meet your eye
Fair scenes of bliss : a blooming monarch's throne
Hung with the wreaths of righteous victory.
The decent trophies of domestic ease,
A people's filial love, and all the palms of peace.

Iffley Lock           Folly Bridge           Punting the Bullstake Stream