Skip to main content
Museum of Oxford - City Stories

Flooding in Oxford Exhibition

This exhibition discusses some of the issues around flooding in Oxford, past and present. Clicking on each image will allow you to view more information about that particular item. This is an evolving document so please feel free to comment on the issues raised and to submit your own items that can be included in the exhibition.

Types of flooding

There are three major types of flooding, all of which can potentially occur in the Oxford area:

  • River or fluvial flooding is the result of heavy rainfall accumulating in rivers and causing them to overflow downstream.
  • Groundwater flooding occurs when water levels in underground permeable rocks are so high that water comes up to the surface and into cellars.
  • Surface flooding is caused by water that runs off the land, particularly if that land is saturated with water.

Risk of river flooding has been lessened slightly in recent years by dredging and improvement of locks, mills and weirs, which helps river water to drain away more effectively. However, the removal of hedges, larger fields and building on fields which previously retained water have increased run off and contributed to worsened surface and groundwater flooding. Increased intensity of rainfall linked to climate change is likely to lead to more flash flooding.

Sources and further information

With thanks to Julie Ann Godson and all contributors so far.


Tina Eyre- Volunteer Digital Curator

Flooding in Oxford Exhibition