|Ugly chipboard walls hide the glorious Italianate church|
Still, it gave us a chance to meet CART Chairman Tony Hales – affable chap that he is – and earwig the talk. So what were the top brass doing here? It seems there's a Board of CART Trustees meeting today. This time round it's in Oxford and wherever they meet they like to have a pre-event tour of the local canal scene. It's possibly the only time some of them get to see a canal, he added unkindly.
|The Trustees of CART on their guided visit to Jericho|
And it won't be a moment too soon. The ugly chipboard walls that run along the canalside, hiding the remarkable St Barnabas Church from full view have been there for ten years now as reminders of the long and acrimonious battle to redevelop the old Jericho Wharf and its surroundings – a battle that included occupation of the boatyard site by protesters, one developer going bust and two plans being rejected by the council.
|And when the walls are down, this is what is planned|
And very nice it all looks too in the artist's impression though quite why a community where tiny terraced houses now sell for half a million quid needs its own boatyard I'm not sure.
So what will boaters see when the church is revealed? A pretty special place, I think. Even half hidden it looks impressive but almost freakish, like something arrived from an Italian city not a parish church on the corner of Canal Street. Its huge tower dominates the local skyline.
The style of the church came about because its founders, Thomas Combe, who was 'printer to the university' and his wife Martha, were both ardent supporters of the Pre-Raphaelites as well as members of the Oxford Movement who wanted the Church of England to return to some of the Catholic traditions (including highly decorative churches).
It was built in the 1870s to serve the workers at Oxford University Press who mostly lived in the developing Jericho streets and able to hold up to 1000 people which gives you some idea of the number of workers there and the popularity – if that's the word – of churchgoing.
|The spectacular interior of St Barnabas|
|Richly decorated pulpit|
|Exquisite wall tiling|
As if that wasn't enough culture for the day, I spent the afternoon at the Ashmolean Museum. (Look, I'm a boater and it's free so I'll go there!). The place is huge; five massive floors of art and artefacts, from the ancient world to modern art.
|An Egyptian mummy in all its various casings|
|A thousand pieces of Worcester porcelain are here|
|Wall covering belonging to Pocohontas's father|
|Lawrence of Arabia's impressive robe|
|And this naughty little fellow!|
Today we head out of Oxford and a return trip is already in our minds – to see Jericho and its church when the walls have come tumbling down.