Old Lectures

(Some lectures, outings, and events from previous years are shown here to indicate the range of topics that can be included in our programmes.)

Date & Time Topic Speaker
14th Sep 2017 7.30pm

Compton Verney: Past, Present and Future 

A grand aristocratic 18th-century country house with a ‘Capability’ Brown landscape around it; now a cutting-edge gallery hosting top-quality art exhibitions in the middle

Professor Steven Parissien

Director of Compton Verney museum and gallery in Warwickshire. Steven studied at Oxford and has a D.Phil. in 18th century architectural history. He has worked for the Georgian Group, English Heritage, Yale University’s Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and was Dean of Arts and Professor of Architectural History at the University of Plymouth. He joined Compton Verney in January 2009. Steven has written extensively on architectural, transport and cultural history and is now Visiting Professor of Architectural History and Visual Culture at Coventry University, and a Visiting Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford University. 
12 Oct 2017
7.30 pm

Westgate Oxford: Initial results from Oxford’s largest excavation –

A prehistoric floodplain, a medieval Friary, civil war defences and Victorian terraces.
A richly illustrated talk on the archaeological results from the largest excavations to have been conducted in the City of Oxford. Ben Ford will discuss the changing landscape on the southern edge of the Oxford promontory, where the city meets the Thames Floodplain and how it was used and changed by human action over the last 3000 years. The talk will touch on possible prehistoric and Saxon activity, deal in depth with the extensive structural and artefactual remains of the Greyfriars complex (1244 – 1538), before revealing evidence from the Civil War, and more recent Victorian terraces of St Ebbes.

Ben Ford–

Director of the Westgate Oxford Excavations – is a Senior Project Manager at Oxford Archaeology, who, for the last 20 years, has specialised in the excavation of urban environments, a passion that was first ignited at an early age in his home town of Dorchester in Dorset. Since then Ben, who graduated from Reading University in 1990, has led many of the largest excavations to have taken place in some of Southern England’s most significant towns and cities including Bristol, Reading, Winchester and Oxford, as well as undertaking large scale investigations at Hampton Court Palace and the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.
9 Nov 2017
7.30 pm

The Edge Hill Light Railway

Is probably one of the most remarkable railways that has ever been built in this country. But the cost of the engineering works necessary to transport ironstone wagons down the Edge Hill escarpment made it uneconomic and it was abandoned nearly 100 years ago. 

Andrew Baxter, who is a consulting engineer, lives in Edge Hill and with his engineering background has been able to interpret the ruins of the complicated and extensive engineering works of The Edge Hill Light Railway that can be seen on site to this day.

14 Dec 2017
7.30 pm

Wychwood Forest and Cornbury: recent work by the VCH.

Wychwood was one of the great royal forests of England. Drawing on recent VCH research, this illustrated talk will look at its origins and organization, its use as a deer reserve and source of timber, and its clearance in the 1850s, as well as at the neighbouring Cornbury Park.

Dr. Simon Townley is Editor of the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, for which he has researched and written the histories of over 25 towns and villages including Witney and Henley-on-Thames. He is currently working on Wychwood Forest and the surrounding area for a volume to be published in 2019. 
11 Jan 2018
7.30 pm

Nation and Region: Banburyshire in the Oxford DNB.

The Oxford DNB, comprising entries on over 60,000 figures from the British past, is a record of noteworthiness in a national or even global context. Readers can also explore its subjects’ local or regional connexions. This talk will look at the Dictionary’s entries on people associated with Banbury and its wider region. 

Dr. Mark Curthoys,


Research Editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Mainly working on entries on people active in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. Was joint editor (with Michael Brock) of the volumes of the History of the University of Oxford covering 1800-1914 (OUP 1997, 2000). 

8 Feb 2018
7.30 pm

“Old Obadiah, sing Ave Maria”: the Strange Case of Obadiah Walker, Master of University College, Oxford, 1676-1689.

Obadiah Walker was an undergraduate, Fellow and Master of University College from the 1630s to the 1680s. A much-loved tutor, he was devoted to his College. He therefore caused upset and amazement when, under James II, he converted to Roman Catholicism. This lecture tells the remarkable story of Walker’s journey.

Dr. Robin Darwall-Smith (FSA, FRHistS). Robin is now the Archivist of University and Jesus Colleges, Oxford. Until 2016 he was also Archivist of Magdalen College. He has written a history of University College, and is currently helping to write a new history of All Souls College. He has published extensively on the history of Oxford.
8 Mar 2018
7.30 pm
Medieval farms, farming, and the rural economy. Studying medieval farms and farming can give us an interesting ‘bottom-up’ perspective on some ‘top-down’ accounts of changes in the rural economy. Dr. Rosamond Faith. Ros Faith studied history at Oxford and did her PhD at the new Department for English Local History at Leicester under HPR Finberg. She has written much about peasant farmers in England and Provence, (The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship in 1997, and, with Debby Banham, Anglo-Saxon Farms and Farming in 2014,) with many articles in between. She has taught at the universities of London, Oxford and Cambridge, and was a tutor for OUDCE for many years.
 12 Apr 2018
7.30 pm
 Workshop session:how to use your sources to find out about your community in the past.
Details to be confirmed
 Led by Barrie Trinder, and others to be confirmed
12 Sep 2019
7.30 pm

Provision for the poor:  the crisis in the parishes in the 18th century

During the 17th century the Old Poor Law had seemed to manage to cope with those who were unable to support themselves, and local communities looked after their own poor.  However in the 18th century numbers and problems escalated till many parishes were overwhelmed by the demands made upon them
Deborah Hayter  is a Tutor in Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education, and has taught many courses in local and landscape history.  How the poor were looked after in the past is a particular interest and she has taught courses on this subject, ranging from medieval charity to the modern benefit system.  The 18th century proved to be a crisis point as the Old Poor Law and the parish system it set up could no longer cope with the growing numbers of unemployed.  This crisis is what led to the draconian reforms of the New Poor Law and the Union Workhouses in the 1830s. 
 10 Oct 2019
7.30 pm

The Battle of Edgcote 1469:  re-evaluating the evidence

2019 sees the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Edgcote. Often overlooked or misunderstood, the battle had a major impact in both England and Wales. Graham will examine the sources in depth to explain what we actually do and do not know about this apparently obscure piece of medieval history.
Graham Evans  studied Modern & Medieval History at the University of Sheffield. He is the Secretary of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, and edits the Society's quarterly newsletter, "The Wild Rat". A regular writer and blogger on military history, his book on the Battle of Edgcote is his first full length publication. 
14 Nov 2019
7.30 pm
Changed at short notice due to election Changed at short notice due to election
12 Dec 2019
7.30 pm

Lost Prophets: The Unfinished Dream of the Nineteenth Century

In this lecture, Ewan Fernie will explore the efforts of various nineteenth-century thinkers, artists and activists to imagine and create a morally and politically better world which remains ahead of us even today.
 Professor Ewan Fernie is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, and Director of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, a collaboration with Birmingham City Council which aims to unlock the first great Shakespeare Library in the world for people and communities across Birmingham today.  His latest book is Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter.
9 Jan 2020
7.30 pm

Peter the Great:  architect of a superpower

Russia’s evolution into a superpower was far from inevitable. To create it involved superhuman energy, ambition, and imagination. It also required a brutal indifference to opponents who stood in the way. It is the product of ruthless tyrants whom fascinatingly Russians remember with adulation and love. None was more important in this process than Tsar Peter I.
Chris Danziger
Christopher Danziger is a long service tutor in the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education where he teaches European History, specialising in Napoleonic France and Romanov Russia, on both of which he has written extensively.
13 Feb 2020
7.30 pm

“I shall expect you sister” the lives and letters of frontier households in the Imperial Roman Army

Successful men from Rome’s provinces could command military units on the frontiers. With them went their households, their wives, children, freed and enslaved men and women. These people wrote to each other, using ink pens on thin slips of wood. Extraordinarily, some letters survive and offer a glimpse of household life at Roman forts.
Claire Millington
Born and bred in the Midlands, a posting to Rome as a diplomat sparked Claire’s interest in Rome’s empire. Once back in the UK she embarked on an MA, thanks to the OU, and is finishing a Classics PhD at King’s College, London.
12 Mar 2020
7.30 pm

What is Common Land? Background history and why work is going on to re-register it.

Formerly an integral part of the farming landscape, much common land was enclosed, with surviving land preserved and registered under the Commons Act 1965. Re-registration involves correcting mistakes made under the 1965 Act.
Dr. Frances Kerner, Open Spaces Society
Frances Kerner undertook her PhD at the University of Lancaster, researching the enclosure and survival of common land in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns. She works with the Open Spaces Society to re-register common land under the Commons Act 2006.
23 Apr 2020
7.30 pm 

Historical Artefacts Quiz

 Cancelled because of COVID-19

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