Toot Baldon, England
I was born in England and was brought up in the small village of Toot Baldon (53 households and 136 residents as of the 2001 census) The first church was consecrated in the village in 787 but a settlement would have been on the site for many hundreds of years prior to that. There is evidence of a Roman kiln a few miles away and as kids we often found broken bits of Roman pottery. A Roman road passed by the end of our back garden.
The village was predominantly a farming community; now mostly arable, the area used to be a mix of crops and dairy. Some interesting crop circles have been found over the last few years in the fields.
The village lies in the country, to the south of Oxford, the City of Dreaming Spires; in my opinion one of the most beautiful cities in the world with magnificent architecture.
The Town and Gown
Oxford is renowned worldwide for the university which dominates the city. Often referred to as the ‘town and gown’ the centre of Oxford is full of university buildings which are set around quadrangles where students can sit, relax, read and chat.
The Radcliffe Camera is a library, initially home to the Radcliffe Science Library. The science library was moved and the building has become additional reading rooms for the Bodleian Library. The Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It is entitled to receive a copy of all published works in the UK and those published in the Republic of Ireland.
Tom Tower houses ‘Great Tom’ a bell recast in 1680. Great Tom is the largest bell in Oxford and weighs over 6 tons. Tom is still sounded every night when it tolls 101 times at exactly 9.05pm. This signifies the 100 scholars of the original college plus one added in 1663. It is rung at 9.05pm as this corresponds to 9.00pm in what used to be ‘Oxford time’ (5 minutes later than Greenwhich), and was the time that colleges traditionally locked their gates; basically Tom is massive alarm clock for the students to ensure they were home on time.
Oxford also has some wonderful museums. The University Museum houses natural history; dinosaurs and so forth. The Pitt Rivers archaeological and anthropological exhibits including the macabre shrunken heads. The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology is the worlds first university museum. One of the museums most famous exhibits is the Alfred Jewel discovered in 1953. It was made in the reign of Alfred the Great (late 9th century) and it inscribed “AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN”, meaning Alfred ordered me made. The jewel’s purpose is unknown and remains a source of speculation. Although it is quite small it has a magnetising effect when you see it.