Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ah! Now I know

I have often wondered about the large ornate boats I remember from our last trip on the Thames back in 2008. As the weather was so good I was determined to get some good photos of them.

The first one I spotted is now a residence and I was delighted to identify it a Corpus Christi's College Barge. My brother is a Corpus Christi Alumni - so this one is for you, David!

Corpus Christi College Barge on its mooring
A closer look - note the large oval windows, a real design feature!

College barges go right back to the time when ceremonial barges were built for royalty and dignitaries, for special occasions. In this country, monarchs have had ceremonial barges - city liveries and Lord Mayors of London have had them, too. Indeed, our current Queen is having a traditional ceremonial barge built for her Diamond Jubilee, which I understand will be processing up the Thames in June 2012. Boris Johnson is hoping it will carry the Olympic Flame!

Ceremonial barge - http://www.city-barge.org/HistBarge2.html
By 1850, most processions had become land based and the existing barges needed expensive repairs. However, it is believed Oriel College bought the Goldsmith's Barge in 1848, thus beginning the tradition of College Barges. They were used in the days before College Boathouses for the rowing crews and were a bit like a "gentlemen's club on water". Only seven remain today. Have a look here if you are interested in reading more - clickety click

We saw one more College Barge - once belonging to St John's College and now moored outside the Oxford Thames Hotel at Sandford. I believe it is occasionally used for events.

St John's College Barge
St John's College Barge on its mooring

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