5:33pm Monday 17th February 2014
By John Chipperfield
JUST looking at this picture is likely to give you the shivers, but spare a thought for the brave volunteer who had to climb to the summit.
He is perched precariously on a ladder at the top of Martyrs’ Memorial, with no apparent protection.
This was the scene at the southern end of St Giles, Oxford, in November 1913 after a student had put what looks like a chamberpot high up on the monument.
The Oxford Journal Illustrated newspaper, which published the picture, couldn’t bring itself to name the object, simply referring to it as “an article which is not usually paraded in public”.
The paper reported: “A feat which required a large amount of agility and nerve – and it is said was accomplished in the short time of 10 minutes – was perpetrated by a junior member of the University.
“The article was placed on a pinnacle within a few feet of the top of the memorial. It remained there a couple of days before the authorities, with the aid of ladders and a man accustomed to building work, succeeded in removing it.”
The picture was sent in by former councillor and Lord Mayor Ann Spokes Symonds, of Davenant Road, Oxford, who tells me: “I have been up the memorial twice, but only to inspect it.”
No doubt, with health and safety rules, it was a good deal safer for her than it would have been in 1913.
This was not the first or last occasion on which students attached unusual objects to buildings, as the other two pictures show.
In June 1959, in an end-of-term prank, members of the Phoenix Club, a college dining group, put a clothes’ dummy on top of a dome at Brasenose College, and also used bricks left behind by builders to block a staircase to undergraduates’ rooms.
In the other picture, dating from June 1961, a bicycle suddenly appeared on top of one of the Bodleian Library’s 100ft high pinnacles.
High jinks were also evident in 1980 when members of the University College Rugby Club, after their end-of-season dinner, decided to give the city an extra zebra crossing – they painted zig-zag lines across High Street late one night.
That time, the authorities did not see the funny side. One student was arrested and accused of causing criminal damage to the highway.
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