A Murderous Student in Divinity Road
10 March 2021 (Updated 9 September 2021)
In years gone by parts of Oxford were considerably more rural than they are today. Folklorist James Orchard Halliwell recorded a tale in 1849 which was supposed to have taken place some years earlier in the region of 'Divinity Walk', presumably what is now Divinity Road in East Oxford.
A student Lothario turned murderer
According to the story recounted by Halliwell, a student of Oxford by the name of 'Fox' had seduced the daughter of a local tradesman and, not wanting to take responsibility for his actions, planned a violent solution to his problem.
The student arranged to meet the girl at a secluded spot to carry out his plan, but unbeknownst to him, the girl arrived early and concealed herself up a tree to surprise her lover.
Seeing him arrive, she was about to climb down when to her surprise he began to dig what was clearly a grave. Fearing his intentions were evil, the girl remained hidden in the tree until the student, assuming she was not coming, gave up his wait and left.
The student is confrunted
The next day when the girl encountered the student, she greeted him with the following lines:
One moonshiny night, as I sat high,
Waiting for one to come by,
The boughs did bend, my heart did ache,
To see what hole the fox did make.
The student reacted to this with furious anger, stabbing the poor girl in the heart and killing her.
Town clashes with Gown
These events reportedly caused a further rift in the always precarious relationship between 'town' and 'gown', with university staff and students defending the student and townsfolk defending the murdered girl. The resulting violence was so bad that 'Brewer's Lane, it is said, ran down with blood'.
The coda of the story is that the girl was apparently buried in the grave prepared for her by her lover, a seemingly cruel fate for the wronged girl to be denied a church burial!
James Orchard Halliwell's description of these events can be read in full in Westwood & Simpson's The Lore of the Land.
- 'The Lore of the Land' by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson (ISBN: 0141021039)