Sandford Lock

Sandford Lock

Infobox Waterlock
lock_name = Sandford Lock [ [ Statistics from - Environment Agency "A User's Guide to the River Thames:Part II"] ]

caption=Approaching Sandford Lock from downstream
waterway = River Thames
county = Oxfordshire
maint = Environment Agency
operation = Hydraulic
first = 1631
latest = 1973
length = 174’ 0” (53.03m)
width = 21’ 9” (6.62m)
fall = 8' 10” (2.69m)
sealevel = 176'
enda = Teddington Lock
distenda = 89 miles
endb =
distendb =

coordinates= coord|51.708048|-1.233104
extra= Power is available out of hours

Sandford Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England, situated at Sandford-on-Thames which is just South of Oxford. The first pound lock was built in 1631 by the Oxford-Burcot Commission although this has since been rebuilt. The lock has the deepest fall of all locks on the Thames at 8ft 9in (2.69) metres and is connected to a large island which is one of three at this point.

The main weir connects the second island to the opposite bank on the Kennington, Oxfordshire side. This is the location of the infamous Sandford Lasher, a treacherous weirpool where many have drowned. Another weir links the two lower islands.


There was a mill here built by the Knights Templar in around 1294. There are also records of a ferry and a fish weir in mediaeval times. In the reign of Edward III there is an account of the immemorial conflict between millers and bargemen when "the men of Oxon broke down the locks of Sandford". This was probably at the navigation weir or flash lock on the old river channel behind the second island. This was described in 1624 as ‘Great Lockes’. It was replaced in 1631 when the Oxford-Burcot Commission built one of the first pound locks in England here. The lock was passed on to the Thames Navigation Commission in 1790 and lengthened in 1795, under the direction of the Oxford gaoler. In 1836 a new lock was built on the current site alongside the old one and a lock house was ordered in 1839. The old lock has since been filled in after an incident when a miller opened the sluices and caused damage to the embankments. Its position is still visible (the position of the upper gates can be seen in the stonework above the present upper gates). An iron bridge above the lock was built between 1866 and 1877. [Fred. S. Thacker "The Thames Highway: Volume II Locks and Weirs" 1920 - republished 1968 David & Charles] The latest rebuild of the lock was in 1972.

At the weir, a 19th century obelisk records the deaths of five Christ Church College students who drowned here - Richard Philmore and William Gaisford in 1843; George Dasent in 1872 and Michael Llewelyn Davies and Rupert Buxton in 1921.

Michael Llewelyn Davies was the foster son of writer J. M. Barrie, and one of the main inspirations for the character of Peter Pan. He drowned just short of his 21st birthday in the Sandford Lasher [Paul Goldsack "River Thames: In the Footsteps of the Famous" 2003 English Heritage/Bradt] – in reportedly calm water – along with his close friend Rupert Buxton (also 21).

Access to the lock

The lock can easily be reached at the end of Church Lane from Sandford on Thames.

Reach above the lock

After the third island which is Fiddler's Elbow the river makes a sharp turn at Rose Isle. On the west bank is the town of Kennington, Oxfordshire. Further upstream are Kennington Railway Bridge where the Hinksey Stream joins the Thames again and Isis Bridge carrying the Oxford southern by-pass.

The Thames Path follows the western bank to Iffley Lock crossing the Hinksey Stream on the Kennington Towpath bridge.

Literature and the media

Sandford Lasher and its dangers are mentioned in chapter 18 of Jerome K Jerome's "Three Men in a Boat" (1889).

The pool under Sandford lasher, just behind the lock, is a very good place to drown yourself in. The undercurrent is terribly strong, and if you once get down into it you are all right. An obelisk marks the spot where two men have already been drowned, while bathing there; and the steps of the obelisk are generally used as a diving-board by young men now who wish to see if the place really IS dangerous.

Ironically, Jerome was a close personal friend of Barrie and so probably knew Michael Llewelyn Davies.

See also

* Locks on the River Thames


External links

* [ River Thames at Sandford Lock] at

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