Dylan Thomas in Oxford

In March 1946 Dylan and Caitlin Thomas moved into the summerhouse at Holywell Ford, the home of Margaret and A.J. P. Taylor, the historian, in the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford, next to the river Cherwell. Their daughter Aeron lived in the main house with the Taylor's children. 

(An Oxford thing: the college is pronounced 'Maudlin', unlike St Mary Magdalen Church and Magdalen Street which are pronounced with the 'g').

Not entirely impressed with the extent of this abode, Dylan was heard to describe his new lodgings as a ‘converted telephone kiosk with a bed where the ledge for directories used to be.’ However, he put a slightly more positive spin on things in a letter to his friend Dan Jones, noting that he had access to ‘a river and a punt, a cricket ball and a choice of lawns’ and that ‘they have a tame robin and the swan calls on Mondays.’ 

Margaret Taylor ran a literary salon at Holywell Ford, inviting Graham Greene, Joyce Cary, Louis MacNeice and Dylan’s composer friend Elizabeth Lutyens, and Dylan would appear as a poetic turn. He drank at the Turf, Gloucester Arms or White’s Club and lunched at the Randolph Hotel with BBC colleagues.

The Thomases were familiar figures in the Cornmarket on Saturday afternoons loaded with string bags full of shopping. Deaths and Entrances had consolidated his literary reputation and he was a popular and familiar voice on BBC radio, working and drinking with John Arlott, Louis MacNeice, Reggie Smith and Bob Pocock. Norman Cameron, Roy Campbell, Dan Jones and others visited them.

Holywell Ford now provides student accommodation and is not open to the public. However, you can see the house from within the grounds of the College.

dylan thomas in south leigh

In September 1947 the family moved to the Manor House, South Leigh, near Witney, Oxford, where they lived until until February 1949. The house, actually a farm house and not the manor itself which had ceased to exist many years before, was bought for them by Mrs Taylor. She became Dylan’s patron and from now until his death she would provide a place to live for Dylan and his growing family.

There was a saviour
Rarer than radium,
Commoner than water, crueller than truth;
Children kept from the sun
Assembled at his tongue
To hear the golden note turn in a groove,
Prisoners of wishes locked their eyes
In the jails and studies of his keyless smiles

[The first stanza of 'There Was A Saviour' by Dylan Thomas]

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