Hear the history of Headington at new story stations

Published: Monday, 19th October 2020

Headington residents can now hear stories about the history of their area at eight new story stations installed by Oxford City Council.

The story stations feature wind-up and solar powered audio devices. These play recordings that draw on Stephanie Jenkins’ Welcome to Headington website for inspiration and were written and read by Headington residents. Oxford Brookes University’s School of Arts produced the audio for the stations, which were installed by the council’s direct services company, ODS.

Residents will now be able to use the story stations to listen to stories that include the history of:

  • Headington’s Roman clay pots, exported as far as northern Europe around 300AD
  • King Æthelred the Unready, who ruled England between 978 and 1016 and is believed to have had a palace in Headington
  • Bury Knowle Park, with its sculptures inspired by the work of more recent Headington residents CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien

They will also be able to learn local stories, including:

  • the history of the Headington Shark
  • how Headington United became the football club Oxford United
  • the life of John Henry Brookes, principal of the college that became a university now bearing his name

Signs at the story stations remind people about social distancing guidance. This includes the need to sanitise their hands if possible. The full list of locations is:

  • a wind-up audio unit on a mounting pole by the bus stop outside Oxford Brookes University (Headington Road)
  • a wind-up audio unit on a mounting pole across from Headington School (London Road)
  • a solar-powered audio unit in a new bench outside Dorset House (London Road)
  • a bespoke cut-out shark and inset wind-up audio unit on the corner of London Road and New High Street
  • a wind-up audio unit on a mounting pole between the benches in front of Cancer Research UK (London Road)
  • a wind-up audio unit on a mounting pole behind the benches in front of Barclays Bank (London Road)
  • a wind-up audio unit in the Narnia-themed structure in Bury Knowle Park playground
  • a wind-up audio unit on a mounting pole within the circular benches in Bury Knowle Park

The story station project was conceived by former Headington councillor Ruth Wilkinson and its delivery was a joint venture between local councillors, the council’s property services team, local residents and Oxford Brookes University.

Oxford Brookes University funded the story stations under a planning permission agreement.

“From Roman pottery to John Henry Brookes, the story stations bring the history of Headington to life. They describe significant figures from Æthelred the Unready to Tolkien, and preserve the stories of important landmarks like the Headington Shark.

“The story stations will help revive the oral history tradition and they’re a great way for people to learn about their local area.”

Councillor Marie Tidball, cabinet member for supporting local communities

“Headington has a long and rich history that long predates it becoming part of Oxford. The story stations will help bring this to life and bring our community together. As a ward councillor for Headington, I am proud to be involved in this project.”

Councillor Stef Garden, ward member for Headington

“The Forum welcomes these installations. Our neighbourhood plan recommended schemes such as this which help develop the identity of Headington and promote our rich history.”

Patrick Coulter, chair of Headington Neighbourhood Forum