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.

History and folklore

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 but 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 sunbathing nude at Parson's Pleasure when a female student floated by in a punt. All but one of the startled dons covered their modesty — Maurice Bowra 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."

Robert Robinson's Landscape with Dead Dons contains a scene set in Parson's Pleasure.

In 1996, the Oxford University Beer Appreciation Society commissioned a local brewery to produce a barley wine that was called Parson's Pleasure Ale. There exists a church bell ringing method named Parson's Pleasure Surprise Maximus, which was rung for the first time in September 2010 by a band of ringers composed of alumni of Oxford University.

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

Position: grid reference SP521071