In October 1554, a man called Wayte was appointed, with two others, to ride to London to give instructions to their Counsel about Port and Cripley Meadow. The next year Wayte was again elected Member of Parliament.
In 1865, it seemed that the Great Western Railway (GWR) might become the city’s major employer, because the company’s railway workshops, expected to provide 1,500 jobs, were to be sited at Oxford. The corporation, which thirty years earlier had led opposition in the city to the railway, was so eager to find new employment that it offered a lease of Cripley Meadow for the works. There was a sharp clash with the university, which opposed the scheme, but contracts for the Cripley land were already drawn up when a change in the chairmanship of the GWR led to the establishment of the works at Swindon.
From: ‘Modern Oxford’, A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4: The City of Oxford (1979),
Before 1891 Cripley Meadow was probably used to graze horses and cut hay but by March 1891 just over 14 acres was let to the North Oxford and Jericho Allotments Association to be laid out as allotments. Over the next few years the city engineer was instructed to deposit street refuse to raise the levels for cultivation. Street sweepings would have been horse manure and grit and household waste would have been ashes and bucket closets. This combination has led to the very fertile soil that still is a great asset to Cripley Meadow. However it is also thought that local industrial waste found its way onto the site and this would have been slag, sand and other hard waste that would have been good material for the roadways.
We know now that this and the more recent history of history of bottle digging has contributed to the heavy metals readings that were found when the site was surveyed in 1996. Cripley Meadow was tested along with a number of other city sites including our neighbour, Trap Grounds. The site has been in use as allotments for a long time and there is no sign of photo toxicity in the luxuriant growth. However times change and we are keen that our members understand the soil and work with it with the care that is needed. The advice is that with proper hygiene precautions the site is safe and Oxford City Council keeps this under review.
There is an interesting post about the history of Oxford’s allotments, with particular reference to their location along the rivers Thames and Cherwell, at https://jminnes.wordpress.com/2020/06/27/allotments/. Cripley Meadow features.
The site continues to evolve. In 2008, a successful bid was made to add Cripley Island to the Association’s lease and a heritage orchard planted, and in 2014, another orchard was planted along the boundary with Castle Mill. More information on the history of the orchards can be found on the Communal orchards page.