Oxford Ramble

Speed the Plough



A Taste of Ale

Six for Gold

Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell

The Robber Bird

Three Quarter Time

The 25th



Internet Source

Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads

Printed Source

Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd (ed.), The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs

Oxford City

Oxford Ramble track 4

The Robber Bird track 10

A ballad which appears to have been widespread in England and beyond. Sometimes referred to as Poison in a glass of wine, Oxford is often the setting for the story, but by no means always - the great Lincolnshire singer Joseph Taylor sang In Worcester City, while two Hampshire versions collected in the early years of the 20th century had it as It was down in Fleet Street and In Reading Town.

Our words are from a ballad printed by Catnach of Seven Dials in London, between 1813 and 1838, a copy of which is housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The tune comes from Mr Harper of King's Lynn, Norfolk, written down by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1903, and printed in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Oxford City, from the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballad collection

You can hear a version of the song collected in Oxfordshire - from Mrs Freda Palmer of Witney - on the Musical Traditions CD Up in the North, Down in the South: songs and tunes from the Mike Yates collection 1964-2000.


On The Oxford Ramble this is sung by Joanne Acty, with guitar by Pete Acty and flute from Tom Bower.

On The Robber Bird it is sung by Sophie Thurman, accompanied by Jon Fletcher on guitar.