Pleasure P

Parson's Pleasure

Parson's Pleasure in the University Parks at Oxford, England, was a secluded area for male-only nude bathing on the River Cherwell. It was located next to the path on the way to Mesopotamia at the south-east corner of the Parks. The facility closed in 1991 and the area now forms part of the Parks.

Parson's Pleasure was traditionally frequented by dons of the University. To save the embarrassment of ladies who might be sitting in passing punts, they could be directed to a path that skirted the area behind a high corrugated iron fence. If a pretext were needed, the ladies could be told that the men needed to haul the punt over "the rollers" — a track made of concrete with metal rollers — next to the nearby weir. Women's use of the path declined in later years. The path and the rollers remain.

Parson's Pleasure is now part of the folklore of the university. One anecdote goes that a number of dons were skinny-sunbathing on the Pleasure when a group of students floated by in a punt. All but one of the startled dons covered their modesty — one placed a flannel over his head instead. When asked why he had done that, he replied haughtily, "Oh, well my students know me by my face.".

There are many variations of this joke. One, which appeared as a series of cartoons on a weekly wallpaper in Oxford about 1990, had a punt of camera toting Japanese tourists glide past the Pleasure, flashbulbs popping, much to the disgust of the dons enjoying their Sunday Times crossword. All but one of the dons covered their modesty with the crossword, and of course, the caption below stated something along the lines of" "Old Chap, I am rather known by my face in these parts!"

In 1996, the Oxford University Beer Appreciation Society commissioned a local brewery to produce a barley wine that was called Parson's Pleasure Ale.

A similar Dame's Delight for female bathers also existed nearby, but this closed even earlier than Parson's Pleasure.


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