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Logic Lane


Logic Lane

Notice in Logic Lane

Logic Lane runs south from the High Street, between University College’s 1903 Durham Building to the east and the older main part of the college to the west. It leads down to Merton Street. It is a bridle way belonging to University College, and there are gates at each end which are locked at night.

It was known as Horseman or Horsemull Lane in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when there was a horse-mill here. It had acquired the name Logic Lane by the seventeenth century, apparently after a school of logicians at its north end, although William Tuckwell, writing about the name changes of Oxford streets in his Reminiscences of Oxford, implies that name was older: “Only Logic Lane, quoted in the Spectator, as commemorating mediaeval combats, not always of words alone, between Nominalists and Realists, no one was profane enough to change.”


The controversial college bridge over the lane

With thanks to Robin Darwall-Smith, archivist of University College, for much of the detailed information below

Logic Lane bridge
Logic Lane, looking north, with University College to the left and its Durham Building to the right,
and the two domes of The Queen's College visible on the opposite side of the High

Logic Lane from the south
The bridge viewed from the south, matching the cartoon

The Durham Building of University College was erected immediately to the east of Logic Lane in 1902, and was thus separated by that lane from the main part of the college to the west. It had a tall metal fence on the Logic Lane side (shown in the above postcard), and this was locked at 9pm each night, meaning that the students who lodged in the Durham Building could not get in or out of the main part of the college after that time. The College planned to erect a bridge over the lane linking the two parts of the college, but after it submitted the proposal to the city council later in 1902, a town-and-gown dispute ensued:

  • Oxford City Council declared that they would only grant permission for the bridge's construction in return for a rent of £5 a year, justifying this charge on the grounds that it had an ancient right of fee farm over all the soil not in the hands of private owners. (It had rented this right from the Crown, but then bought the rights outright in 1787.)
  • University College claimed that Logic Lane was not a public highway, since for at least 200 years it had kept a post in the lane (shown prominently in the above cartoon) to make it impassable to traffic without the permission of the College.

The College refused the Council's conditions (claiming that it had no right to charge a quit rent on this land). The City Council would not budge either, and on 18 October 1902 had the post dug up and removed.

After an unsuccessful attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement, University College decided to sue Oxford City Council in court. The case was heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court in 1904, and in July that year the court found in favour of University College, who went ahead in 1905 and erected the bridge to unite the two parts of their college.

The cartoon postcard by Davis's of Cornmarket shown above is headed THE GAME OF BRIDGE and dates from about 1905. It shows Dr Bright, the Master of University College, standing on the west side of the lane and pointing to his reinstated post. The text on the right reads:

HERE STANDS A POST, / WHO PUT IT THERE?
BETTER MEN THAN YOU, / TOUCH IT IF YOU DARE.
    OLD SONG.

The text on the bridge itself reads:

THIS LITTLE BRIDGE / WAS ERECTED / AT A COST OF £3,000
£2,700 BY THE RATEPAYERS OF OXFORD / AND £300 BY UNIVERSITY COLLEGE.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 12 March, 2019

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