The hill used to be almost bare and had fine views - northwards to the city of Oxford, southwards to the Downs and westwards to the upper Thames valley. The first poet to leave a record of a visit to the hill was Arthur Hugh Clough. In his diary for 1841, edited by Anthony Kenny, he describes how a walk across the hill inspired the ninth of his 'Blank misgivings of a creature moving about in worlds not realized'; however, he was concerned over his family's financial straits and his impending final exams, and he found the barrenness of the scene under a grey February sky depressing.
When Matthew Arnold came up to Oxford later in 1841, Clough introduced him to Boars Hill, which later provided the inspiration and setting for two of his best-known poems, The Scholar Gipsy (1853) and Thyrsis (1866), the latter written in memory of Clough. The famous phrase in the latter "the dreaming spires" encouraged people to follow in his footsteps, and some of them bought plots, built houses, planted trees and erected fences and walls; within a few decades they had hidden the celebrated views from all but a few places.
Three poets eventually came to live on the hill, the first being Margaret Louisa Woods in the 1880s and 90s. She was followed by Robert Bridges and John Masefield, successive Poets Laureate. For a couple of years after World War I, they were joined by three of the war poets: Robert Graves - Masefield's tenant - and Edmund Blunden, both future Oxford Professors of Poetry (as Arnold had been) and (for a few months) Robert Nichols. Bridges' daughter, the poet Elizabeth Daryush, continued to live on the hill until her death in 1977. The hill was also home to Gilbert Murray, famous for his verse translations of classical Greek drama. Proposals for the redevelopment of former site of his home, Yatscombe Hall, have been the subject of an ongoing controversy since 1997.
Other notable residents were the sculptor Oscar Nemon, who came to it after fleeing fascism in 1940s Europe, and the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who lived on Boars Hill from 1894 until his death in 1941. His house, 'Youlbury', notable for its Minoan decoration, has since been burnt down (as were those of Margaret Woods, Robert Bridges and Gilbert Murray). He had Jarn Mound built (by hand), in order to create a view-point from which to see the famous vistas that had been hidden by development. The surrounding trees have continued to grow taller, and the views are again obscured. Evans left most of his estate to the Boy Scouts and Youlbury Camp is still available for their use.
ADVICE FROM A FOURTH-YEAR MAN: "… Keep clear of Boar's Hill"
My Penthouse - in the Country; HIGH FLYERS: Peter Randles at Bank House, Falmouth, Left, and Debbie Jackson- Rastelli, Right, at Oxford Are Letting Their Flats STREAMLINE: Justin Stannard Spent [Pounds Sterling]115,000 Upgrading His Penthouse in a Former Victorian Mill near Bury, above Left, to Give It the Wow Factor
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