A floating chapel, horse drawn boats and a Victorian sex scandal have all been playing on the mind of Oxford historian Mark Davies.

Mr Davies has been researching the industrial history of Jericho's canal for a new edition of his book A Towpath's Walk In Oxford.

The 51-year-old author, who lives in a boat on the canal, said he hoped to use his research as a defence against plans to build luxury flats on Jericho's former Castle Mill boatyard.

He said he was particularly concerned with a blacksmith's forge located on the proposed site of the development, near St Barnabus Church.

The single storey forge was known as Corporation Yard for much of the 20th century, and Mr Davies said he wanted to hear people's memories of the building from before the Second World War.

He said he was particularly keen to know if the forge was used to shoe horses, which pulled boats along the canal.

The 40ft by 12ft forge has been sealed off while developer Spring Residential appeals against the city council's decision to reject plans for a four storey block of flats on the site.

Mr Davies said: "Oxford is all too keen to sweep away its industrial history because of the dominance of Oxford University.

"The forge is a really important and rare reminder that Oxford does have a past that is not purely based around the University.

"It is not a beautiful building, but neither is it an ugly one. It is something that I would love to see retained in the new development."

Mr Davies has also been researching three generations of a family that provided the land for the forge and the adjacent church.

The Wards were coal merchants and boat builders who played an important role in the area from the canal's opening in 1790.

The family business was started by William Ward, who took the unusual step of referring to his son Henry as his "natural born and adopted son" - implying he was illegitimate - in his will.

Mr Davies said he believed William Ward was a former boatman who had "sowed a few wild oats" while working on the water, and added: "It is an extraordinary thing to put in a will when you think about Victorian sensibilities."

The son - Henry Ward - built up the business before creating the Boatmens' Floating Chapel, which was moored on the water north of Hythe Bridge between 1838 and 1869.

His son William later became mayor of Oxford in 1851 and 1861.

Mr Davies has asked those with memories of the forge, or knowledge about the Wards, to contact him on 01865 798254 or to email him on mark.oxford1@btinternet.com