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Oxford Inscriptions: Nuffield Needle, Oxford Business Park


Nuffield Needle

The Nuffield Needle is on the roundabout where the Garsington Road (B480) meets John Smith Drive, and commemorates both Viscount Nuffield and the Morris Motor works. It is modelled on the badge of the early Morris Minor cars, complete with an ox fording a river, which is not only the coat-of-arms of Oxford but was also adopted by Nuffield as his arms.

A plaque was set nearby on the pavement with the following inscription:

The Nuffield Needle was commissioned by Arlington Securities Plc to commemorate William Morris, Lord Nuffield and the Morris Motor Works which formerly stood on this site. This plaque was unveiled by Eddie Jordan of Jordan racing on 3rd July 1995.

This 88-acre business park was developed on the site of the first Morris Motors factory, which began production in 1913. It was sold by Rover in 1992 to the property group Arlington Securities, which was later taken over by the Australian Goodman Group, who still own the site.

Planning permission for the layout of the business park was approved on 2 February 1994 (93/00706/NR), but consent specifically excluded the details of the Needle (which were shown on Plan No. DLP/1915/204), and revised details were required by the City Council before the buildings in the Oxford Business Park were occupied.  

Many people seem unaware that this is the City of Oxford's main memorial to Viscount Nuffield, and those that do know tend to be unimpressed. Patrick McGuinness in Real Oxford (Seren Books, 2021) writes:

If I wanted to make a memorial so banal it was really just a prompt to amnesia, I'd come here, to Oxford Business Park, built on the site of Morris's car plant, and learn from the masters.
   “Nuffield's Needle” stands in the middle of a roundabout on Garsington Road. The pavements here are purely ornamental, like plastic fruit in furniture shops. Signposts stuck into dead roadside grass offer units to let; a sign bent around a lamp-post points ambiguously at the city centre; there's a petrol station, the last before the ring road, with a fridge full of pasties; brick and glass buildings of companies whose names give no clue about what they do, and whose offices, judging by their lobbies and staircases, may be empty anyway.
   The area feels like it was flattened in a hurry, then rebuilt in another. In the middle of it all is a mound of unkempt grass with a pale futuristic obelisk in memory of William Morris, Lord Nuffield. It has an air of Italian fascism, but is in fact modelled on the Morris Minor badge – at its base is an ox on the water, with the front grille of a car on either side evoking wings.

 

Stephanie Jenkins