Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Carfax - At a Crossroads

Carfax Tower as seen from St Aldates
(photo by Ozeye)


Noun. Also (now rare) carfox. Middle English.
[Anglo-Norman carfuks = Old French carrefurcs (modern carrefour), from popular Latin, from Latin QUADRI- + furca FORK noun.]

A place where (usually four) roads or streets meet. Now chiefly in proper names.

Anyone that ever visits Oxford will, on a stroll through the city, pass by Carfax Tower, which overlooks the centre's four principal streets of St Aldates, Cornmarket, Queen St and the High St. There has been a building on the site of Carfax since at least 1032 when the Church of St Martin was first recorded as being there. Carfax Tower was itself built at some time in the 13th century, and is now all that remains of the church which was demolished in 1896. If you're ever in Oxford and are feeling fit enough, it's well worth climbing to the top of the tower as it provides an excellent panoramic view of the Oxford skyline.

Of all the Oxford landmarks, Carfax has a particular poignancy for me personally as it was there that I first asked out my dear wife, my cara sposa, back in October 2000. At the time I wasn't thinking of the symbolism of standing atop Carfax, but that moment did represent a crossroads from where my life could have gone in any number of directions. She didn't say yes immediately - her first words were "Oh that's an unusual ambulance," as she was looking down on the intersecting streets and, apparently, a particularly unusual ambulance was also competing for her attention. After the ambulance had pulled away, however, she did say yes, and the road it took us on has been a very happy one indeed.

The view looking down from Carfax - the 'unusual ambulance' was driving past the yellow taxi rank
(photo by David Glover)

Have you ever been to Carfax Tower in Oxford?

Have you been to another, or is there a carfax where you're from?

Do please feel free to comment below.


  1. Ha! Your wife wins best response to a romantic advance in the history of crossroads. I love it! But on your end of the deal--nice choice of a romantic location, unusual ambulances and all.

    As for crossroads in my experience... most of the streets in the American West keep the same name for a long, long way. Thus you have University or Broadway running for miles and miles in mostly straight lines. So a carfax is just two streets crossing and way too much asphalt. Nothing particularly romantic about it. Perhaps Oxford would be more suited to my sensibilities...

    1. It was a romantic place to be asked out and I love going back there when we are in Oxford. In my defence I sensed he was going to ask me out so the distraction of the ambulance was to make him sweat a bit! We continue on our great adventure :-)

  2. Have I already mentioned that I like mrs. Lexi? I like mrs. Lexi. Lady's damn funny she is! Gonna try that ambulance trick next time I'm on a tower with a guy.

    (Like, never, probably. Men my age wouldn't recognise romance even if it smacked them in the face.)

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