PART of Oxford’s history has been towed into the city centre and is on display for the first time in five years.

The 19th century St John’s College Barge – usually moored at the Four Pillars Hotel in Sandford-on- Thames – has been brought down the river to tie in with one of the city’s best-known rowing events, Eights Week.

Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance said: “It is part of Oxford’s heritage and you don’t see it very often.

“I saw it five years ago when the Trustees of St John’s College Barge brought it down for Eights Week and it looked wonderful.”

The barge was built in 1891 and only survived thanks to former members of the college’s boat club who bought it in 1961, and have looked after it ever since. It is currently used for weddings and special events.

Oxford Preservation Trust owns another boat, the former Corpus Christi barge, which is now used as a house boat off Meadow Lane, and a third is used as a pontoon for the Swan pub at Streatley.

The trust will host a party for supporters in the St John’s barge tonight but it will be on display all week for the hundreds of visitors lining the banks of the Thames to watch college rowers working up a sweat, before being towed back to Sandford.

Mrs Dance said: “It’s quite a job for them to have moved it and we are delighted they are sharing it with us.

All the colleges had them in years gone by.

The boathouses we now see are the permanent replacements of the original college barges.

“It is a fantastic piece of history because many of them have been lost and we are really keen that Oxford celebrates that kind of stuff.”

The barges were used to store the sculls, other boats and paraphernalia used by rowers at each college, and also served as changing rooms.

Supporters stood on the top deck to cheer on their college teams in events such as Eights Week or the spring races, Torpids.

The Oxford barges were modelled on the ornate London City Guild barges used by livery companies for river ceremonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Oxford’s college barges were replaced by the modern day boathouses which line the Thames near South Oxford.