Woodstock, Oxfordshire

The legendary Rosamund's Bower was located in Woodstock Park, NNW of Oxford, and its purported site is marked by a well and fountain. It was some sort of maze to conceal Rosamund (de) Clifford, the mistress of Henry II (1133 1189), from the Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Legend says that about 1176, Eleanor managed to solve the maze and confronted Rosamund with the choice of a dagger or poison - she drank the poison and Henry never smiled again. [Fisher, p.105]. Historically, Henry had imprisoned Eleanor for fomenting rebellion by her sons and Rosamund was his acknowledged mistress. Rosamund probably spent her last days at a nunnery in Godstow, near Oxford [Headlam, p.62], though [David Sharp, The Thames Path, Aurum Press, London, corrected reprint, 1997, p.60] says she was brought back here for burial after a mysterious death. The legend of the bower dates from the fourteenth century and her murder is a later addition [A. Frederick Collins, The Book of Puzzles, Appleton, NY, 1927, p.121]. In the nineteenth century, there were many occurrences of a maze called Rosamund's Bower.

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Thomas Chaucer, son of Geoffrey, is said to have lived in a house on the site of Chaucer's House, Park Street, Woodstock. The poet is said to have stayed here at various times. [Eastman, p.191]

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Blenheim Palace, at Woodstock, is the seat of the Churchills, Dukes of Marlborough, and Winston Churchill was born in a cloakroom here when he arrived a bit early during a ball. In the grounds is the Marlborough Maze, designed by Randall Coate and Adrian Fisher in 1991 and claimed to be the world's largest symbolic hedge maze [Fisher, pp.105, 152-153, with colour photos on p.104; Palace leaflet].

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An extract from The Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles created by David Singmaster

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