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The Counties of England by  Charlotte Mason
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MORE ABOUT OXFORDSHIRE

[205] OXFORDSHIRE is a farming county, with broad meadows and pasture-fields in the river valleys. It has hill ranges in the north-west, and also in the south-east; those of the north-west are the Edge Hills of Warwick, and at the foot of this range there are wide heaths.

Copredy is in this part of the county; the town is interesting because, during the Civil War, a fight took place upon Copredy Bridge in which the king's side was victorious.

Banbury, too, is near here, a fact which you know when you steam into the station, for "Banbury cakes ! Banbury cakes!" are brought to the carriage windows for sale. It has some quaint old - inns, and is a town with a history, having stood two long sieges for the king during the Civil War.

In the old town of Woodstock there was, until quite lately, a royal palace, where many of our kings dwelt. Henry II. had a bower made in a maze near the palace, to be the secret abode of the Fair Bosamond. Here the Black Prince was born; and in a house close by the park gate it is thought that Chaucer, the first of our great English poets, was born, and

"Dwelt for many a cheerful day."

Near Woodstock is the splendid palace and park of Blenheim, a present from the nation to the Duke of Marlborough, in memory of the famous victory he gained over the French near the village of Blenheim [207] on the Danube, in the reign of Queen Anne. Woodstock is famous for its doe-skin gloves. Witney, farther south, has a Blanket Hall in its High Street; but "Witney blankets" are no longer made here, but in Wales and in Yorkshire.

The interest of the shire centres in the ancient city of Oxford. Here perhaps Great Alfred dwelt, and the University may have been founded by him, though there are no records to prove the fact. The castle, whose grey walls are still to be seen, was held by Queen Maude against Stephen. When the fortress could hold out no longer, the queen and her attendants, olad in white sheets, escaped in the snow, unchallenged by the sentries.

Far more interesting is the Martyrs' Memorial, which has been lately erected. The martyrs were: Eidley, Bishop of London; Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, whose hearty ways, plain speech, and love for the truth made him dear to the people of England; and Cranmer, the Archbishop, who gathered together the beautiful prayers and services in the Book of Common Prayer. These three, like Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and Dr. Taylor, of Hadleigh, were burned at the stake in the persecution under Queen Mary.

Latimer and Ridley perished together; while the flames shot up around him, the old preacher cried to his comrade, "Hay the man, Master Ridley: we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out."

The horrible agony of a death by burning filled Cranmer, who was not a strong man, with fear. In a moment of dread, he had signed a paper, denying the truth he held. But when the awful hour came his fear departed. He thrust the hand that had offended into the fire the first, saying, "This was the hand that wrote. [208] it, therefore it shall suffer first punishment;" and holding it still in the flame, he never stirred nor cried till life was gone.

Of the University, little need be added to what has already been said of that of Cambridge. The early history of both is very much the same. Oxford claims to be the elder sister. This University owes a great deal to Wolsey, who built and endowed Christ Church, one of the largest and most beautiful of the colleges, and who caused Henry VIII. to benefit the University in various ways.

Oxford has twenty colleges altogether; perhaps the finest are in the High Street, a street of palaces, in which are Magdalen and Queen's and All Souls'. Balliol and Trinity are in Broad Street. Keble College Has been founded lately in memory of the author of the * Christian Year.'

Great Tom, the famous bell of Christ Church, is one of the shows of Oxford—a huge bell, more than seven feet across, which tolls 101 times every night at ten minutes past nine.

We should see, before we quit Oxford, the Cathedral, the great printing-works of the Clarendon Press, and the Radcliffe Library.


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