Some things you can do while at COMPSAC
Perhaps your first visit should be to the Information Centre.
This is located just off Beaumont St a little way towards Worcester Street from the Randolph Hotel.
Here you can pick up many useful guides and brochures about Oxford.
Be prepared for delays as it gets busy and 2 or 3 assistants have to deal with queries and tills.
It is recommended that you approach Blenheim from the old village of Woodstock, taking a leisurely stroll along the main street If you enjoy fine old mellow stone and brick work clad in ivy and creeper prepare to be charmed. Resist the allure of antique shops but allow time for refreshment at one of the ancient coaching inns or traditional tea-shops. There are so many you'll be spoilt for choice. If you garden, explore the winding lines that lead off the main street and steal ideas from old cottage gardens. But the best is yet to come. You will arrive at an imposing lichen encrusted gateway. This is in fact the Triumphal Arch and the Woodstock access to the palace of Blenheim. The inscription reads:
"This gate was built the year after the death of the most illustrious John Duke of Marlborough by order of Sarah his most beloved wife to whom he left the sole directory of the many things that remain unfinished".
Once through the gate, a magnificent vista unfolds before you; green pastures where sheep graze and roam at will; Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge spanning Queen Pool and the Lake, acre upon acre of rolling parkland, and beyond, the Palace itself, resplendent, dignified, all grey and ochre stone, its colonnades leading the eye to the roofscape, where statues and great golden balls stand aloft against the sky.
Take time to let this gladden the eye and soul; to notice a pair of white swans gliding effortlessly on the water, the way a great tree in the foreground leans its lower boughs to sweep the grass.
Then you might choose to walk the 1 mile circuit of Queen pool, enjoying the changing views of the Lake, or take the straight path (across which the sheep wander with a proprietorial air) to the visitors main entrance.
is so enriched and densely packed with historical fact and anecdote that to absorb all would need a
second or even a third visit. So be selective. There is much to enjoy and learn (for example,
do you know the derivation of the Order of the Garter, or the technique of Boulle and Counter-boulle?)
Why Visit Blenheim Palace?
For the price of admission (eight pounds and fifty pence), we can tour the palace and grounds. Yet the architect Vanbrugh was refused entry, when 277 years ago he wanted to go and view his creation. (The building of the palace had been troubled and contentious, ending in Vanbrugh's resignation. When, several years later, he felt a sudden need to see the palace, he was 'rudely refused' by the porter at the gate by order of the Duchess). There are many other reasons to visit Blenheim:
Where to Eat
Twenty pence will buy you a very satisfactory guide to eating in Oxford (from the Information Office). It has been compiled by the Oxford Tourism Management, 'helped and supported by those restaurants and cafes who particularly welcome visitors and value your custom'.
All the establishments mentioned in the guide are known and popular with local residents, which is reassuring. Eat nothing till you've checked the guide. On second thoughts, go to Brown's Restaurant & Bar, St Giles (five minute's walk from Keble) of which we have had first hand experience and can heartily recommend.
Service is fast, efficient and friendly. There is a comprehensive menu, served all day (but 'specials' tend to sell out fast), including pasta, salads, traditional British, vegetarian, hot sandwiches and puddings. Servings are generous, food is well cooked. Brown's is spacious, (at least by U.K. standards),with a bustling but relaxed atmosphere. Decor is plain cream painted walls, bentwood chairs and round tables, lots of plants.
A cream tea for two with substantial home-made scones and a large pot of tea will cost you around £5. A three course evening meal (without wine which will cost from eight pounds per bottle) will cost between about twelve and eighteen pounds per person.
A pianist plays on Mon-Thurs evenings from 8.45 to 11p.m and on Saturday and Sunday from 4pm to 6.30p.m. (Anything from songs from the shows to Thelonius Monk.) It's busy and popular, especially with young families.
Chutney's Indian Restaurant
Not included in the Guide, but another restaurant of which we have had first hand experience is Chutneys Indian Brasserie in New Inn Hall Street (about seven minutes walk from Keble). Chutney's is reasonably priced and has a pleasant decor. Dishes are freshly cooked for you. Courteous, efficient service. Dine here early if you're going on to a concert or theatre - you will be fed well, within one hour leaving you plenty of time to reach your venue. You can choose to sit upstairs or down, which is cooler and more spacious. A popular restaurant. Without wine, an evening meal here will cost as little as ten pounds per person.
Go left on leaving, towards Queen Street to see the Methodist Meeting House dated 1783 where John Wesley preached on several occasions. Opposite you'll find a Culpeper shop, highly recommended as a source of special and unique gifts and to treat yourself! (see the shopping section of this page for more details).
North Parade Avenue a small lane off Banbury Road has several eateries - there is a choice of Indian, Italian, a pattiserie, a cafe and a creperie. None appears in the Guide but you might care to try your luck.
One restaurant that does get a mention in the guide is Gees, at 61a Banbury Road.
We have not eaten there, but it has an imaginative menu and it looks elegant,
Victorian conservatory style, with nice white damask tablecloths.
The food is described in the Guide as 'contemporary, with a Mediterranean influence'.
Gees is about seven minute's walk from Keble.
"The character of Morse is one that strikes an immediate empathy in many and sympathy in others. There is a little piece of Morse in us all, or at least in somebody we all know, and this is the great attraction of the man brought to life on the small screen by the excellent portrayal of John Thaw. However, Morse is nothing without Lewis, just as Holmes is nothing without Watson, and so much credit must also go to Kevin Whately for his splendid characterisation of Sergeant Lewis."
Words from the Foreword in "The Oxford of Inspector Morse" by Antony Richards & Phillip Attwell which you can buy for £3 from The Information Office. The writers compiled the booklet which 'surveys some of the locations used in the novels and television adaptations from an historical perspective' to accompany an Inspector Morse Society weekend held in Oxford in 1997. You may not be a fan of Inspector Morse. But this scholarly booklet, delightfully illustrated with old prints from the l9th century, will greatly enhance the Oxford experience for you. Do buy it!
John Thaw is making another Morse next year which he says will 'definitely be the last one, not a Frank Sinatra-like the last one, but definitely the last'. It is not yet certain that Kevin Whately will agree to play Lewis although John Thaw and the producers are very much hoping he will.
There is an Inspector Morse walk. You can find out more about this on the Oxford Link
Whether you've been entreated to bring back specific items, or are simply wanting to buy souvenirs, each can be accomplished without difficulty in Oxford. Museums are a good source of unusual gift ideas and if you have only ten minutes or so to dash out and buy something, you could do so at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History opposite Keble College. Its shop offers tee-shirts, mugs, posters, mobiles, ties, tea towels, jewellery crystals, gemstones, soft toys, and all the usual pocket money toys.
All the museums and galleries of Oxfordshire are listed in a booklet available from the Information Centre.
If you want clothing from chain stores, head for Queen Street. Many of the famous names are there. Try also Cornmarket and Magdalen streets.
Quality toys are to be found in Little Clarendon Street, off St Giles. Also trendy items for the home.
Go to Broad Street for old and new books, silverware and quality gifts of all kinds. Don't miss Castell's (no. 13 Broad Street), also known as The Varsity Shop, for college clothing and accessories.
Also in Broad Street (nos. 9-10) is Oxford Campus Stores which claims to stock Oxford's best selection of University souvenirs. It is also the sole Oxford stockist of Liberty presents and scarves. You can find Mulberry leather bags and accessories, Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries and Steiff bears. Friendly, helpful staff and the added bonus of air-conditioning!
Flaggs (18 Broad Street) offers 'traditional and friendly service of the old style' and claims to be one of Oxford's favourite stores. They stock a wide range of quality merchandise, including products that reflect their close association with the student body.
Before you leave Broad Street visit Boswell's Department Store. They don't make them like this any more! (Boswell's Department Store is on the corner of Cornmarket Street and Broad Street ).
If you collect model cars you might enjoy The Miniature Motor Museum at 1/3 Golden Cross, Cornmarket Street. This little museum displays hundreds of model vehicles, and you can buy models, including the Corgi range.
Do also visit Culpeper (New Inn Hall Street). If you are not familiar with the shop, you have a treat in store. If you are, then you need no further recommendation.
From here, walk toward the Railway Station to Park End Street to visit the Jam Factory (once the home of the renowned Oxford marmalade). It's now a centre for antiques and has stalls selling china, jewellery, retro clothing, books and various other odds and ends.
The University of Oxford Shop is actually owned by the University and is the only shop where you can find the full range of its official merchandise. Here you can find original and distinctive gifts. (106 High Street). The large range includes clothing, housewares, clocks, souvenirs, prints, ceramics and books. They offer a free gift wrapping service.
Between High Street and Market Street is the Covered Market.
Fortunately, today we don't have to witness the sight of butchers slaughtering the animals in front of us.
The covered market was set up in 1774, before which it was held in the street and shoppers would have needed strong stomachs.
Today, as well as meat, fish, cheeses and fruit, you will find the usual market paraphernalia.
The best place from which to view Oxford's famous skyline of spires is from Carfax Tower. Its location at the ancient heart of the city thus providing a view with a central aspect. The tower is all that remains of the 11th century St Martin's or Carfax Church which was rebuilt in 1818. It is open everyday from 10.05.30. Ninety nine steps to climb! Carfax Tower in St Aldate's.
Oxford Town Hall
If Carfax has put you in a receptive mood for more local colour, don't leave the area without popping into the Town Hall (virtually next door). The interior reflects the civic pride of the Victorian age, but the main reason for your visit is to meet Ken and Tim, two very genial chaps who look after the building. Ken's father was head waterman at Blenheim; Tim is a mine of information about Oxford. (He told us that when the students were sitting their exams at Merton College, straw would be laid over the cobbles to deaden the rattle of carts on the cobble stones. For the same reason, rubber bricks were laid in St Aldate's but these were taken up when trams were introduced).
St Mary the Virgin: Broad Street.
You might like a comparative viewing point, which can be obtained from the tower of this University church, worthy of a visit in its own right The church is situated on the High Street by Magdalen Bridge. It was here that in 1556, during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary and her attempt to reverse the Reformation, that Archbishop Cranmer was tried for heresy. You can see where the section of a stone pillar was removed to allow for the building of a platform from which Cranmer was to recant his 'heretical' views. At the last moment, however, he withdrew his written recantation and before dying at the stake at the foot of the tower, he held out to the flames the hand with which had signed.
There is a fine slab of Purbeck marble to be seen here on the tomb of Adam de Brome appointed rector of the church in 1320.
Sadly, the brasses have been stolen.
Be sure to visit the Turf Tavern in New College Lane, one of Oxford's oldest pubs. Heaps of atmosphere. But beware, if you're over 1.7m "duck or grouse"! The ceilings are low, but low, the beams make them even lower. There are 11 varieties of ale on the cask menu, ranging in strength from 3.6% (Archers Village) to 5.2% (Old Speckled Hen). Also available is a range of Belgian beers and a selection of International wines. If the weather is clement, you can sit outside in one of the three large beer gardens. The Turf Tavern is five minute's walk from Keble.
When you leave the pub turn left into New College Lane. A few yards further along is the charming house where Edmund Halley lived and had his observatory, and presumably first sighted the comet. Further along still, New College Lane becomes Queens Lane and fine examples of gargoyles can be seen.
The Eagle and Child pub was a favourite venue for teh
Inklings literary group
to meet and discuss their work and ideas.
Getting out and about
On foot: walks in Oxford
Your very first walk must be to the Information Centre. There is such a vast wealth of colourful anecdote and history in this city - looking with an informed eye cannot but enhance any sightseeing you do. The Centre can provide so much to enrich your experience of Oxford.
Towards the back of the shop you will find the slim booklets with sturdy buff covers, the 'Oxford Town Trails'. Each trail focuses on a particular Oxford association (e.g. 'Presidents, Prime Ministers and other Political Persons', or 'Poets, Novelists and other Literary Persons'). These are immensely good value for £1.50, packed with information, illustrated with simple line drawings and fitting comfortably into the palm of the hand, they are the perfect accompaniment on a walk.
'Women In Oxford': with this guide you can follow in the footsteps of famous women achievers - all Oxford graduates. Women were not given equal status with their male counterparts until 1920, following much vocal opposition (e.g. "A woman is a creature that cannot reason and pokes the fire from the top"). Even more damning; "Inferior to us God made you, and inferior to the end of time you will remain."
Catherine Moore, a centenarian who became a writer in her seventies and won the prize for ‘Best First Novel’ at the age of 85, was up at Oxford just after the First World War. She can remember how in 1918, bells tolled all over Oxford because of the flu epidemic. Catherine, daughter of a very enlightened mother, speaks of her Oxford years as the happiest time of her life, where she made life-long friends. In her day, if you wanted to entertain a man in your room, you had to have a "poor, long-suffering don" as a chaperone.
During her final year at Oxford, women were awarded degrees. Queen Mary came to give the awards.
But, Catherine's English professor told her, only one first could be awarded in each of the women’s colleges, otherwise it would seem as though men were inferior. At her college a beautiful girl was given the degree on the basis that it would be no threat to anyone, since she would be sure to marry anyway.
Catherine is a Quaker who believes in the power of faith and love. Still writing, "about things that have disappeared in my lifetime", still pursuing other interests and participating fully in life, Catherine advises "Be as interested as you can be in as many things and as many people as you can be".
If you have your children along, pick up the 'O for Oxford' guide. 'Over 100 things to do in Oxford and near by'. This alphabetical town trail is most edifying and entertaining and features 'things to find' and an intriguing quiz. Fun for adults, too.
If your time budget is strictly limited get the 'Quick Guide to Oxford', which is designed to help you make the most of a day or two in the city. It lists places of interest , features an excellent colour keyed map, and an illustrated guided walk, taking you through the most significant parts of the city. Although the walk 'requires only an hour or so at a gentle pace', you'll need to allow time to explore at least some of the places of interest.
The Oxford Science Walk
The is an excellent booklet called the `Oxford Science Walk' by Sophie Huxley.
The walk spans the time between the founding of the University (and the work of `Doctor Mirabilis'’) in the 13th century and milestones in the current century (e.g. the development of penicillin).
It begins in the august and ancient Botanic Garden. Built on the banks of the Cherwell before the English Civil War, it is the oldest botanic garden in Britain.
(It was here that the wanton yellow flowered Oxford Ragwort (Senecio Squalidus), native of Sicily, escaped her confines, colonised Oxford walls, then set about conquering the rest of Southern England by way of the Great Western Railway (opened in 1844 between Oxford and London). Her parachute- like seeds were swept along in the turbulence created by the locomotives, and she was rather partial to the clinker which reminded her of the volcanic soil in her native land).
From such illustrious beginnings the walk ends on a down-beat note. In the Westgate shopping centre (Who was it said that shopping centres are the new cathedrals?) only a plaque indicates that this was once the site of the friary where Roger Bacon lived and worked and where, in 1267, in his Opus Majus he predicted both cars and aircraft, and that the world is round and could be navigated. He gave us the magnifying glass and definitions of reflection and refraction. Bacon, a Franciscan, who displayed prodigious energy and zeal in the pursuit of experimental science, was imprisoned for his pains and although he had friends in high places, they could not prevent his incarceration for an unknown period.
Here, then, is a rewarding, thought provoking walk that takes in along the way the work of Alexander Fleming and his team, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Edmund Halley, Albert Einstein and others.
The booklet is available from the Oxford Museum of the History of Science. The museum is unfortunately closed for building work until 2000. However you can order the booklet by mail to
The Secretary (Book orders), Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ U. K.An abridged version of the booklet is also available on the web.
The Inklings Walking Tour
Presented by the Museum of Oxford, in conjunction with the Oxford Inklings exhibition, you can follow in the footsteps of C S Lewis, JRR Tolkein and their fellow Inklings. An experienced local guide will take you to the places they lived, the pubs and colleges where they met to discuss their work and where they read aloud to each other instalments of their latest books. All venues are in the heart of the city.
Tickets: £5, which includes entry to the Exhibition.
Times: Every Wednesday at 11 am (afternoon tours by arrangement).
Duration: About 90 minutes
Booking: Advisable. Tel: 01865 252761
The Museum of Oxford presents the Oxford Inklings: CS Lewis, C Williams, JRR Tolkein.
This exhibition, running from 11 June to November, celebrates the lives and work of Oxford’s most famous literary group. Lewis and Tolkein were both Oxford men. They came up as undergraduates and lived all their lives in this city (apart from Tolkein who taught in Leeds for a while). Lewis, a fellow of Magdalen College where he lectured on Medieval and Renaissance English, was the central figure in the Inklings during the 1940s. Tolkein became Professor of Anglo Saxon in the University in 1973.
The exhibition includes exchanges of letters between Tolkein, Lewis and Williams, First Editions from the archives of the Oxford University Press and art work from the large collection of Tolkein’s paintings and pictures, including sketches and paintings used to illustrate The Hobbit.
There is also a special Children’s Exhibition, featuring activities for families and children from toddlers to young teen-age. Included are games, stories, dragon activities, drawing and writing based on the Narnia stories.
The Inklings fervently believed in the usefulness of fiction to propagate the Christian faith. Tolkein always denied an allegorical content in his work, but readers will inevitably find within its framework of a created mythology, conflict between good and evil.
The watershed in the life of CS Lewis was his conversion to Christianity in 1929, before which he had been a confirmed atheist. But this apparently sudden conversion had in fact been underpinned by his close study of 17th century poetry, the novel Phantastes by the Scottish writer George MacDonald (which he first read as a boy) and by conversations and arguments with Tolkein, Owen Barfield, Nevill Coghill and HVD Dyson, the nucleus of the Inklings.
Although Lewis’s post conversion work argues strongly for the kind of fundamental religion of one’s childhood, (anti-scientific,anti-intellectual), his later religious work is reflective and personal rather than discursive and crammed with logic. It was significantly influenced by the death of his wife in 1960.
That Hideous Strength, which he wrote in 1945 is a powerful fiction about the destructive, dehumanising impulses of science, and seems today particularly poignant in the light of genetic engineering and the terminator gene.
In this secular age, the Chronicles of Narnia have appeal perhaps because, rather than in spite of their underlying tenets of Christian belief and traditional morality.
Guided Walking Tours
For a guided tour of the town of a two hour duration (pace is described as 'leisurely') buy a ticket from the Information Office. Tours leave here every day of the year (even on Christmas Day!) at 11.00am and 2.00pm. Even if the Office is closed the guide will be outside.
Head for Christ Church Meadow, a vast ecological reserve and place of relaxation. A refuge for town-and-gowners, and satiated tourists. Find the River Thames at the end of Poplar Walk.
One of the few places in England whose use as grazing land has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. Listed in the Domesday Book, it pre-dates this to the Iron Age. The Meadow has never been ploughed and until recently, had never been sprayed. The River Isis meanders through its vast acreage. Come here and be peaceful amidst space and sky. Put a few sugar lumps or an apple in your pocket for the horses and roam the meadow with them.
There is also river access from Angel and Greyhound Meadow on the East side of Magdelen Bridge. A good place to relax after shopping and sightseeing, or for a picnic lunch.
Taxi ranks are located at St Aldate's, St Giles and the Railway station. Or you can telephone: ABC Taxis (add 01865 if you're outside Oxford, add 44 1865 if you're outside the UK) 775577 or 770077
A popular and efficient way to explore the city. Hire from: Denton's Cycles, 294 Banbury Road, Summertown, (01865)53859
By Bus or Coach
For details of local services, call at Gloucester Green Bus Station (behind the Information Office in Beaumont Street). The Oxford Bus Company (395 Cowley Road; Tel (01865) 785400 runs local Cityline bus services in and around Oxford, and Park and Ride. Citylink express coaches from Oxford to London, Heathrow airport and Gatwick airport. Fax. (01865) 711745 Website: http://www.oxfordbus.co.uk.
Oxford Classic Tours
Tour of the City and University Buildings of Oxford by open topped bus. The bus departs from Bay 14 outside the Information Centre, plus many other points. Tel (01865) 240105
Stagecoach Oxford and Oxford Tube
Tel (01865) 772250. Provides high quality bus services both in Oxford City and throughout Oxfordshire.
Oxford Tube is a frequent (every 10 minutes at peak times) express coach linking Oxford and London.
Fax. (01865) 747879
Touring from Oxford
Oxford is an idea place from which to visit London.
You might also consider `Cotswold Roaming'.
Cotswold Roaming Runs daily tours from Oxford.
Full-day tours include Bath, North and South Cotswolds, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Avebury and Stratford-upon-Avon.
Half-day tours to Blenheim & Bladon and Cotswold villages.
They specialise in small group tours.
They can be visited at the Information Centre.
Tel (01865) 308300
Fax. (01865) 763232
Churches and Places of Worship in Oxford
A comprehensive list detailing denominations and times of services is available from the Information Office. Christ Church College in St Aldate's has its own choir school. Sunday and weekday services as follows:
Punts can be hired from:
Details of other boat hire and boat trips can be obtained from the Information Centre.
Where to Stay
You are strongly advised to take up the offer of accommodation in Keble college. This will place you within 1 minute's walk of the conference rooms, in a charming and quiet quadrangle of the impressive 19th Century College. From Keble you will be in an ideal location to travel out to the other sites mentioned on this page. Apart from Blenheim, nothing will be more than 20 minute's walk away from where you are staying.
The is also a map of the conference site at Keble at http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/tour/index.php. The conference itself will be held in the ARCO building. The conference dinner will be held in the Hall and accommodation is provided in Liddon Quad. There is a picture of one of the rooms you would stay in should you choose Keble at http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/conferences/accommodation.php.
The web page http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/support/location.html provides details of how to get to Keble.
Of particular interest in the Keble museum (apart from the building itself with its massive glass roof supported on cast iron shafts) is a photographic display charting the local dinosaur finds "On the Trail of the Oxfordshire Dinosaurs". Staff of the Department of Earth Sciences recently completed the measuring and description of the largest dinosaur trackway site in Britain, just 13 miles from the centre of Oxford. A 60m long trackway made up of casts of footprints of the giant Megalosaurus has been installed on the lawn in front of the museum. The conference post session and tools fair will be held in the Museum.
If you prefer to book into a hotel, there are a range of hotels listed on the Oxford Link web page, you might consider. Many of these are within 10 minutes walk of the conference site, but all will be more expensive and further away from the site of the conference. If you do plan to book into a hotel, you would be advised to make you booking at least four weeks in advance of the conference as places tend to fill up quite fast.
If you would prefer to opt for cheaper accommodation, and are prepared to travel (perhaps 20 minutes walk) to the conference,
then you might consider the wide range of Guest Houses, which offer "Bed and Breakfast".
These will typically be cheaper then the hotels and perhaps a little cheaper than the cost of staying in Keble itself.
You can find a list of guest houses
on the Oxford Link web page. A good road to pick is Iffley road,
where there are many guest houses and where the (pleasant) walk in to Keble take about 10 to twenty minutes
(depending upon which end of the road you stay at).
The Thames River
The rivers have played a leading role in shaping the city of Oxford. It is cited on the Thames but here this great river, known to the Romans as Thamesis, becomes the Isis. However, the exact point at which the river changes its name has never been defined. The river Cherwell (pronounced Charwell) joins the Isis just south of Folly Bridge.
Further downstream at Dorney in South Buckinghamshire, the Oxford Archaeological Unit have discovered the oldest bridge on the River Thames. The two lines of massive oak posts have been radiocarbon dated by the British Museum to between 1300 and 1400 BC. The remains of the Bronze Age bridge was discovered during excavations for a rowing lake, built to international standards, by Eton College. A series of former channels of the River Thames have also been revealed. Formed at the end of the Ice Age, as the climate warmed up, gradually reed swamp developed in the channels and an Early Mesolithic settlement developed. Flint and animal bones have been discovered.
The Neolithic Age (6,600-3,000 BC) brought an increased flow to the major channel. This was the prehistoric river Thames, nearly 2km of which survives within the site. Remains of a beaver lodge have been found, complete with the creature's skeleton, and flint, burnt sandstone and pottery indicate that man and beaver co-existed. The College, in conjunction with the Unit, are taking the opportunity to turn the excavation into a major educational event during a number of summer vacations. No doubt there will be no shortage of volunteers!
The Thames was an important river in the Bronze Age (3,000-1,200 BC) as can be witnessed by the clusters of barrows that occur beside the river. If you were an important person you wanted to be buried in a conspicuous place.
A great river was a potent symbol. Weapons dating from 1200 BC have been found and it is assumed that these were deliberately put into the river, since they were not being used again. This may have been a sign of prestige - you had sufficient wealth to be able to afford to offer your weapons to the river. The river has proved to be a rich source of archaeological finds - the finest of their type.
Crusaders returning from the Crusades would throw souvenirs into the river in thanks for safe deliverance.
In the 17th century there was frequent journeying from Westminster to Oxford. For those who could afford it, Oxford was a centre of culture and a refuge from the ills of London (e.g. plague). Because it was a seat of learning, it was perceived as an alternative to London. At that time the river was crowded with many small craft, the main source of transport for rich and poor alike.
The Thames was a conduit of power - the place where important institutions were sited. This river was a great arterial highway until about the mid 17th century when a coach with decent suspension was designed and roads without potholes were built.
Ceremonial uses of the Thames began in the 18th century and continued through to the early part of the 19th century.
In Dickens' time the Thames was perceived as fit only for sewage and rubbish.
Currently work is underway to create an "Official Thames Path". This will be "A path for everybody" (after much negotiation with landowners). The path is still being perfected. The aim is to democratise the river. In London more and more riverside access is opening, so that now it is almost possible to experience the whole river.
All of Britain's history, all Britain's past has gone into the Thames. It embodies its own history. For many people it has a spirituality and is regarded with great affection ("Old Father Thames"). Especially since the expansion of Docklands in London, people have come to realise its value. They want to travel on the river.
Recently a Hindu family chose to scatter their uncle's ashes on the Thames in formal ritualistic style. Hindus believe that all rivers merge together so the ashes will eventually end up in the Ganges.