Boswells Blog

26th October 2018

Meet The Ghost of Boswells of Oxford

Meet The Ghost of Boswells of Oxford

280 years is a long time for any business to survive and thrive as Boswells has, and so you may not be surprised to hear that over time we've acquired our very own ghost. With the nights growing dark, and the ghouls of Halloween creeping from their hiding places, as they do every year, we thought we'd share our own chilling tales with you.

The legend goes that George worked as a Pharmacist at Boswells in the early 20th century, and met his untimely end at the bottom of the dumb waiter shaft, which runs through the building to this day. Stories of George clattering about the building, knocking stock on the floor have been common amongst the staff ever since. And, on the odd occasion, he's even been seen in the building! He also commonly vanishes useful objects such as stationary, and so, if you're reading this George, the Web Team would like their marker pens back please!


Your Memories of George the Ghost

Dumb Waiter Lift Base Image

When gathering customer recollections of Boswells, earlier this year,  Peter reminisced about seeing George when working in our Pharmacy.

"Whilst doing a temp role in Boswells Pharmacy department/store room I had a great experience of the resident ghost. I was told of old 'George.' I saw his ghost by the dumb waiter. Not at all scary--in fact I felt his happiness to re-visit the department he worked in. But I also felt his life was ended tragically. I guess he loves the old store a lot! Good old George!"

He's typically quite a shy character, and so sightings are very rare, but other forms of spooky encounter are fairly commonplace around here.


Poltergeist or Prankster?

Ghost ImageWe asked current and former members of Boswells staff if they had ever personally encountered George the ghost, and here's what they told us...

Sharon works in our Pharmacy, and on one occasion encountered George's mischievous side. She told us: "I was in the Toys Department one day and a piece of LEGO was thrown at my leg. Nobody was there. Stock [often] falls off the shelves...George is a very cheeky ghost."

Sharon was not the only one to come across stock thrown from the shelves, in fact quite a few people mentioned this to us. Kim, a former member of Boswells staff, told us that: "One time I was speaking with [a colleague] and all the stuff fell off the shelves in Linens!" Being on the 2nd floor of the store, in an area with no external windows, she pointed out that this could not have been the wind. 

Bella used to work in our Linens department, and not only did she see stock inexplicably fall on the floor, she told us that she once also felt a hand brushing through her hair!George Writing Image

All in all, we'd have to say that George is a pretty friendly and well meaning ghost. On one recent occasion, in our web office, the printer suddenly sprang into life, unexpectedly printing off a sheet that simply said "good morning." It's certainly good to know that George has been keeping up with technological advancements since his death...

He's Behind You...

Creepy Manekins Image

Have you ever been somewhere completely by yourself, but sworn that you could hear footsteps? Perhaps you've just met George, going about his daily haunting business. Invisibly sneaking up on our staff is one of George's favourite pastimes! 

Angie from our Accessories department described her encounter with George to us. "One afternoon while I was taking some empty boxes out to the bins, I heard footsteps behind me, quite clearly. As I turned around there was no one there, just an eerie feeling!"

Creepy Moon ImageWho knows what a ghost gets up to when he has a whole department store to himself at night. Anne from Toys told us a chilling story of some of George's late-night antics.

She said that: "A couple of years ago, my manager and I were behind the till (Games) and we served a student who had not long arrived to the city. She was staying in a room that joins onto Boswells and mentioned that she could hear the night security guard walking about and banging about. Both my boss and I looked at each other, then back to the customer and informed her that we had no night security guard, nor was anyone working over night in the building." Our apologies to anyone else out there who has found our resident ghost to be a noisy neighbour while staying nearby!


The Scene of the Crime

Staircase ImageLaura from our Luggage Department has been un/fortunate enough to have had more than one run in with our resident phantom. "I was covering in China and Electrical when the till [used to be] by the stairs. It was really quiet and no one was around and I heard footsteps coming from the sub-basement stairs as they are wooden. I waited for someone to come one did." But George wasn't done there, as he felt like startling Laura once again...

"One weekend I was up on fourth-floor pricing stock. I was on my own...when I heard footsteps coming towards me. Once again, the floor was wooden. I looked, and no one was there. I assumed it was George."

We don't think that Laura is aware of this, but the sub-basement, where she first heard the footsteps, is where the base of the dumb-waiter shaft is, and the fourth floor stock room is where this shaft would have originally begun at the time of George's demise. Her two encounters were in precisely the parts of the building where George fell, and where he landed.

Spooky coincidence? We'll let you decide...


22nd October 2018

Celebrating Bonfire Night in and Around Oxford 2018

Celebrating Bonfire Night in and Around Oxford 2018

Gunpowder Plotters ImageRemember, remember the 5th of November, or so the saying traditionally goes. It was, of course, on this infamous date in 1605 that a group of 13 gunpowder plotters attempted to bring both King and parliament to an explosive end with 36 barrels of hidden gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, the most remembered of the plotters—not, in fact, the leader of the conspirators but rather the man caught holding the lantern in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament—will be burned in effigy up and down the country in the coming days to mark the anniversary of the thwarting of the plot, as has become the custom.

Those who enjoyed last year's BBC series Gunpowder will understand that a with many of our traditions the reality was somewhat more gruesome and serious than our current celebrations which as well as bonfires aplenty include fireworks, hot dogs, burgers, and even funfairs to accompany the burning of "the Guy." So yep, 410 years on from Guy Fawkes’ arrest the act of remembering gunpowder, treason and plot is far from being “forgot,” and has grown into a full scale annual tradition. 

To mark this occasion, and to help you make the most of Guy Fawkes Night, we’ve gathered up a list of upcoming bonfire and firework events in and around Oxford!

Fireworks Image

2nd November

22nd Oxford Sea Scouts Firework Display—OX4 4BJ (Fundraising firework display, BBQ, 5pm).
Botley School Fireworks, Oxford—OX2 9JZ (Fireworks and BBQ, 6pm).
Hanborough Musical Fireworks—The Pavillion, OX29 8JG (Fireworks to music, refreshments and funfair, 6pm).

3rd November

Bicester Round Table Firework Display and Bonfire—Pingle Field (Fireworks, fairground and refreshments and music, 6pm).
Oxford Round Table Fireworks Display—South Park (50th annual charity fireworks display, live music, refreshments and funfair, gates open 4:30pm, fireworks 6:45 followed by bonfire). Using KimBolton fireworks the same company we sell in store.
Blenheim Palace Halloween Firework Display—Woodstock (Firework Spectacular at Windsor Racecourse with pyrotechnics, spooky projections, 5:30pm).

4th November

Dorchester on Thames Village Firework Display—Recreation Ground, Dorchester on Thames (5:30pm).

Witney RFC Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular—Witney Rugby Club (Fireworks, bonfire and refreshments, Guy competition, 6pm, fireworks 7pm).


5th November

Bonfire Night at the Plough, Wolvercote—OX2 8BD (Fireworks and BBQ, 5pm).

10th November

Abingdon Festival of Fireworks—Norden Farm Centre for the Arts (Fireworks, bonfire, funfair, food and pyromusical display, 5pm).


Lantern Image

We also recommend taking a November trip to The Ashmolean Museum where, in the basement, you will find the lantern purported to be the very one Guy Fawkes had with him in the cellars of Parliament on November 5th 1605.

If you know of any other firework or bonfire events taking place nearby we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at or contact us via facebook or twitter.

Image copyright of Ben Sutherland.

We also sell a range of KimBolton fireworks in store—which are also available through the click and collect option on our website—so if you’re planning your own display, big or small, we can help you to make this bonfire night something a bit special. If you’re not sure what kind of fireworks you need you can always pop in to store to talk to one of the members of staff on our fireworks desk (near the Cornmarket entrance) who will be happy to help.

So wrap up warm, get to a display nice and early for the perfect view, and remember, remember the 5th of November in sparkly, spectacular style!

19th October 2018

Making the Most of Autumn

Making the Most of Autumn

Image Credit: Wondrousink Ltd, cropped from original.

The evenings are getting darker, the leaves are changing to hues of red and gold and there’s an unmistakable crispness in the air. There’s no denying it, Autumn is finally upon us! To prepare you for the chilly months ahead we’ve put together a guide to some useful products to help you make the most of this gorgeous, if frosty, season.

Staying Cosy at Home

Banishing the Cold


Stay warm: this is really the key to the season. There are a number of ways to go about making your home warm and welcoming this autumn, from the little things such as warming up a hot water bottle, to burying yourself under a mountain of warm and snuggly blankets.

Perhaps the most important change you will need to make in your home as the long nights draw closer is to get hold of a warm Autumn/Winter duvet, preferably 13.5 tog or more (the higher the tog rating, the thicker and warmer the duvet!). 

Hudson Throws Image

For those who particularly feel the cold, we have one crucial word for you: layers! Blankets and throws can be added to your bed to keep you extra-warm, and they’re great for curling up under on the sofa too. 

For added reinforcement against the chill weather a hot water bottle can be a loyal ally, as can a microwavable warmer. These come in standard wheat pouches—some of which can be used to soothe aches and pains as well—as well as in cuddly-creature form. A halogen or convection heater may also be worth investing in to take the edge off the weather.

Making the Most of the Weather

It may be getting cold outside, but it’s really the perfect excuse for spoiling yourself with a warm drink and a hot bath (not necessarily at the same time). In fact, while tea and coffee are year-round mainstays, hot chocolate and cocoa are never better than when enjoyed on a cold Autumnal evening.

A milk pan will help you to make delicious and warming beverages—we highly recommend adding some marshmallows, and if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, a little whipped cream too! Alternatively, stop by our 1738 Tea Room or our Broad Street Cafe to enjoy a hot drink without the fuss of having to prepare it yourself!

Candles Image

As for the bath, we suggest throwing in a scented bath melt to help you unwind while you thaw in the tub. You could also try a reed diffuser or an oil burner to spread soothing seasonal scents around your home.

As we plunge into the darker portion of the year a little light goes a long way. For atmosphere some candles can make a big difference, we have a huge selection to choose from. However if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder you may want to try a daylight bulb to bring a little more brightness to your home.

It’s also a good idea to have a torch on hand for unexpected power-cuts or even just a small one to fit on your keyring to help you to get into the warm that little bit faster. If you're a dedicated cyclist, bold enough to get on your bike at any time of the year, then we have some bike lights to help you light your way. 

Venturing Outside

Wrapping up Warm

Scarves imageWho knows what the typically unpredictable British climate will have in store for us this Autumn, but it pays to be prepared. After all, stepping out your door needn’t be an ordeal.

By now you’ve probably dug your winter coat out from the back of the cupboard and reunited yourself with whatever it was you left in your pockets the last time it was cold, but throwing on a scarf, hat and gloves as it gets colder will also help make outside all the more hospitable.

You could also try a thermos flask so that you never need be parted from a hot drink or soup while you’re out and about. The Thermos ThermoCafé range has a whole host of great flasks to choose from.

And, as with bedding, the key word for staying warm this time of year is layers! Bundling up under your coat is one of the best ways to keep in the heat, so layers are a wise choice if it gets especially nippy.

 Keeping Dry


The other important thing to remember about the weather this time of year is actually a year-round concern—sooner or later it is bound to rain! Nevertheless, getting caught in a downpour on a cold Autumn day can be infinitely more unpleasant than on a warm summer’s one, and the cold and flu season is indeed now here. It’s more important than ever, then, to have a good umbrella  to hand.

Autumnal Festivities

Pumpkin It’s finally that time of year again when gruesomeness becomes a matter of décor and ghoulishness is positively encouraged. Halloween is a bit of spooky fun, and the occasion warrants a perfectly chilling costume, whatever your age! 

If you’re planning on transforming your home into something a little scarier this Halloween, or if you’re throwing a party, some fake spider webs can be a fun way to add some eerie atmosphere. If you’re planning on carving something magnificently ghastly into a pumpkin then tea lights are a great way of showing off your work—just be sure to watch those fingers!


As we near Bonfire night, we will have a  whole host of fireworks available in store, ready fro the big night itself. Keep an eye out for updates on local firework displays on our website and social media, or pop in to store soon to see if we can help you light up the night sky from your own garden.

Whatever you do this Autumn though, just remember to enjoy this beautiful season while it lasts!

14th October 2018

Winter City Breaks: What to Pack for Your Long Weekend Away

Winter City Breaks: What to Pack for Your Long Weekend Away

Image: Pixabay

With the cold and dark nights of Winter right around the corner, there’s no better time to book that weekend getaway. But whether you’re a greenhorn globetrotter or a veteran voyager, when it comes to deciding what clothes to pack, we’re all just as hopeless as each other. Luckily, today we’ll be offering our best tips for packing a suitcase that ensures you remain versatile, comfortable and stylish no matter where you’re jetting off to.


The key for packing for your weekend away is versatility. As such, consider a day outfit and a night outfit to ensure you have something to wear for any occasion. A classic day dress, for example, assures comfort and style throughout the day. Whether you’re navigating your way around the streets of an exciting new city or exploring fascinating museums and attractions, a day dress typically lends itself to a number of different styles and climates to make sure you’re looking your best whatever the weather. 

Once night falls, it’s always nice to be able to glam it up. A classy evening dress for that fancy restaurant on the harbour or that scenic rooftop bar ensures you’re looking and feeling your best during those unforgettable holiday moments.


Lightweight layers are ideal for weekend getaways as they can be packed tightly into suitcases with limited space (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t have limited space in their suitcase). Thin cashmeres and silks can be easily taken on and off without the burden of lugging heavy layers around, meaning they’re the perfect versatile addition to any outfit. Furthermore, layers often lend themselves perfectly to mixing and matching, so you can get multiple outfits from fewer items. 

If you're visiting a country that favours modest dress, or if you simply love a modest style, consider packing a couple of stylish hijabs to ensure you can mix up your style daily. Abayas also offer the same great benefit of supplying that extra layer whenever needed, and offer you the opportunity to choose a light style that matches your headwear.


Accessories are often overlooked during the hectic packing stage, as many people feel they’re not a travel necessity. However, accessories are the golden secret to looking stylish on holiday. Why? They can add that extra little oomph to any outfit, without taking up too much space in your suitcase. Throw in a couple of pairs of your favourite earrings, necklaces and bracelets to have the option of adding that extra ‘wow’ factor to your outfits, both day and night.

The Little Things

Occasionally overlooked at the last minute; remembering the little things will make all the difference to your weekend away.

Whether it’s making sure you have the correct travel adaptor to ensure your phone stays charged for those holiday snaps, or packing particular travel essentials for a seamless and stress-free flight, remembering the little things is vital to making your weekend away the very best it can be.


We saved the most important for last - a pair of comfy shoes are an absolute must on any holiday. Likelihood is, you’ll be doing a lot of walking whilst exploring the ins and outs of your destination, so prioritise comfort over style to save yourself that trip to the pharmacy for plasters on day two. But this doesn’t mean you’ll be getting a call from the fashion police. A simple pair of Converse will provide a suitable walking pump that still looks cute with any daytime outfit. 

For nights, pack a pair of multi-purpose heels that will look just as at home in the theatre as they will in a trendy bar or restaurant. Opt for a neutral colour with a smaller heel - both your suitcase and your feet will thank you! 

     Passport Image

Image Credit: Pixabay

The key to packing for any weekend getaway is to make outfit choices that are versatile and comfortable, whilst remaining fashionable. Following these tips will ensure you have something for every occasion, without filling an extra suitcase - just don’t leave your packing to the last minute!

4th October 2018

Discover Kate's Toy and Linen Recommendations

Discover Kate's Toy and Linen Recommendations

Have you ever wondered which products the staff here at Boswells would personally recommend? Kate has shared some of her favourite ranges with us, which she's discovered over the past year of working in our Toy and Linen Departments. 

Schleich Model Animals

Schleich ImagesThe range of Schleich animals at Boswells has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Here is a collage showing the beautiful detail given to both ancient and modern animals. The dinosaur collection is particularly impressive because their jaws can open and shut! Schleich models are hand-painted and attention is given to creating as realistic a representation of each animal as possible. The Schleich range includes domestic pets, farm animals, birds and dinosaurs and wild animals from around the world.

Image Credit: Kate MacFarlane

Get Knitting!

Wool ImageOn the occasions when I work in the Linens Department I spend many happy hours choosing from the wide range of wools that form part of the haberdashery on offer at Boswells. I have gradually stock-piled balls of wool in a huge variety of colours, textures and blends, and my family are beginning to enjoy wearing my knitted scarves. I’ve bought craft books stocked at Boswells and refreshed my memory for different stitch combinations, and so have been able to add extra textures and patterns to my knitting. There’s nothing nicer than sitting in front of a fire as the nights draw in, watching a bit of telly and knitting a special scarf to keep you or someone you love warm!

Image Credit: Kate MacFarlane

We stay well stocked with Schleich figures and wool and knitting accessories throughout the year. Stop by to take a peek!

14th September 2018

Flu Vaccination - What you need to know

Flu Vaccination - What you need to know

Winter is well on it's way and so we're pleased to say that we are now offering flu vaccinations in our Pharmacy, to help you make the  ost of the season. The flu vaccination is one of the best ways of protecting your health over the Autumn and Winter months and of preventing the spread of infection between familes, friends and colleagues.The jab itself only takes a few seconds and there are qualified staff available whilst the store is open.

Updated for Autumn 2018 (Available from October 2018):

Adult flu vaccine £12.99

Child flu vaccine £18

Boswells Student Club members & Business or Institution bookings £9.50

So here's what we think you need to know to make a decision on whether it's right for you.

What does the flu vaccine do?

As with all vaccines the injection includes a tiny amount of the flu virus to get your anti-bodies ready to fight off a larger dose. Vaccines have proved the most effective way of fighting viruses. This vaccine helps protect against the viruses most likely to be responsible for causing most cases of flu this winter including the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

What possible side effects are there?

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

Can I get the flu vaccination for free at Boswells?

Can children get a flu vaccine?

Who shouldn't get a flu vaccine?


What possible side effects are there?

All medicines can have potential side effects. For the flu vaccine most of the potential side effects are not serious and should disappear on their own in a day or two. Most people have no side effects at all.

The most frequently reported side effects include: Fever, Feeling unwell, Shivering, Headache, Sweating, Muscle and joint pain, Skin reactions such as redness, pain, bruising and hardening of the skin at the injection site.

Rare reactions include: Nerve pain and inflammation, Numbness, Tingling, Fits, Thromboctyopaenia (a blood disorder), Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), Rare nerve disorders. On rare occasions anaphylaxis may occur (we have procedures in place to deal with this). You should get medical advice straight away if you experience any of these reactions.

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Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No. Although the side effects (if you get some of them) can seem similar you don't have the flu itself.

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Can I get the flu vaccination for free at Boswells?

Yes if you meet the following criteria. Don't worry if you aren't sure. Tell our pharmacy staff & they can advise you before treatment.

1) You are registered with a GP in the Clinical Commissioning Groups of; Aylesbury Vale, Bracknell & Ascot, Chilterns, Oxfordshire, Newbury & District, Reading, Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead or Wokingham AND

2) You are between 18 and 65 years at the time of vaccination AND

3) You have one of the following medical conditions and have a medical exemption certificate. See how to apply for these at the NHS Website.

  • Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • Carers in receipt of carers allowance
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Respiratory disease
  • Chronic Heart Disease
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Chronic Liver Disease
  • Chronic Neurological Disease
  • Imunosuppression due to disease or treatment.

If you aged over 65 see your GP for a free flu vaccine as this can't be administered in a pharmacy.

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Can children get a flu vaccine?

Yes, between 18 months and 18 years there is a different vaccine. For young children there is also an alternative delivery method than the needle. If necessary raise this with our pharmacy staff. Prices vary based on the type of vaccine and the number of children being treated at one time so speak to our Pharmacist to find out more. 

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Who shouldn't get a flu vaccine?

Our pharmacy staff will go through a short questionnaire to check suitability before treatment but here is a guide on when NOT to take the flu vaccine.

  • If you have a known hypersensitivity to egg products
  • If you are acutely ill on the day of vaccination
  • If you have a history of anaphylactic (allergic) reactions to vaccines. Any allergy should be checked against the specific ingrediants of the flu vaccine.
  • Anyone who has already received the flu vaccine within 12 months.

In addition anyone with the following medical conditions should see their GP before having a flu vaccine. Cerebal Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, any hereditory or degenerative disease of the nervous system or muscles, an allergy to latex, bleeding disorders or those receiving anticoagulant treatments.

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14th September 2018

Streamlined Storage Hacks for Every Room of the House

Streamlined Storage Hacks for Every Room of the House

Image: Unsplash

Modern homes are becoming smaller, thanks to a variety of factors. This means that the demand for smart storage hacks has never been greater, as people seek ever more creative ways to make the most of the available space.

In this post, we’ll run through the ways in which enterprising homeowners and renters alike can maximise the space at their disposal through a variety of strategies all across the house—delivering a zen-like feeling of decluttered calm…sounds good, doesn’t it?

The Living Room

Shelves are an obvious place to start with regards to living room storage. Make sure the books and photographs you’re most proud of are given pride of place on floor-to-ceiling shelves, which offer far more in the way of storage options than a standard bookcase. If you’ve got any ‘dead space’ in your living are, such as below a staircase or alongside a patio door, fill it with custom shelving that you can either make yourself or commission.

Depending on what type of sofa you have, you may be able to store things underneath with the addition of some small-scale boxes that can slide out when needed. This particular storage hack is especially useful if your living room is multi-purpose, as you could hide an air bed and pillows very easily.

The Bathroom

When not addressed, your bathroom can become a clutter-filled mess: various bottles of shower gel and shampoo, half-used from Christmas gift sets, a medicine cabinet filled with things you don’t use anymore—it’s not a pretty picture.

Paring down your bathroom to the essential components is all about what storage to use. Decanting your favoured shower products into soap dispensers and recycling the plastic bottles is the way forward, as it’ll promote relaxation in a decluttered space. In terms of non-shower products, consider utilising the space below your bathroom sink as storage for toilet cleaners and spare loo rolls—making a small shelf or cabinet in this space will be a fun DIY project that won’t take up too much time.

The Kitchen

While there’s no panacea for kitchen organisation, especially in a busy family home, there are some things you can do to store away awkward items and make sure the space is fully optimised.

In terms of worktop space, make sure your spices are well-organised and you don’t have several small supermarket pots spilling out of a tired old rack. Just like with the bathroom, decanting is the way forward—so invest in some small spice jars and banish the plastic pots for good.

Under the worktop, make sure your cupboards are working hard to accommodate everything you’ll need for a fully functioning home kitchen. The addition of hooks or magnetic boards to the inside of your cupboard doors could be a game-changer, offering a convenient storage space for awkward items like cleaning sponges and rubber gloves.

The Garage and the Attic

Storage in your garage needs to be streamlined, as, all too often, the space ends up becoming a cluttered nightmare realm of abandoned DIY projects and battered old bicycles. The attic is much the same; as a storage space, it’s often neglected, which means any grand plans for an attic conversion are shelved almost immediately due to the sheer weight of the disorganised items living up there.

A garage organisation overhaul can be arranged easily with sturdy garage shelving systems, which will make sure that everything you need is easily visible and comfortably stored, while the attic can be dramatically improved if you’re willing to be ruthless rather than indulge your inner hoarder. A quick audit combined with a smartly organised set of plastic boxes will make the space infinitely more manageable.

       Storage Image

Image: Unsplash

We hope this post will prove to be an important resource in your battle against home clutter. Just remember: everyone’s home is different, so use a little of your own judgment to work out what’s best for your space and you’ll be well on your way to an expertly optimised home.

21st August 2018

Meet the New LEGO® Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Sets and Minifigures!

Meet the New LEGO® Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Sets and Minifigures!

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

Every summer LEGO® releases a new wave of sets in various themes. The LEGO City line is inviting you to explore the arctic as researchers, uncovering prehistoric animals, while the 3 in 1 Creator sets range from a roller coaster to a skate house! But, more unusual, is the return of one of LEGO’s old themes: Harry Potter! First released in 2001, the theme was shelved after the last film came out, around 2012.

Yet, with the Fantastic Beasts franchise set to return us to the wizarding world (and Hogwarts as seen in trailers) this November, LEGO has decided to release some new magical sets. The range is comprised of eight sets based on the Harry Potter films and two based on the Fantastic Beasts films.

LEGO® Hogwarts Great Hall 75954

The largest set released in the Summer wave is The Great Hall. A staple of Hogwarts architecture, the great hall featured prominently in the Harry Potter films. This is where Gryffindor won the house cup, the place where the goblet of fire stood, where every school year began and ended, accompanied by a large feast.

This massive set is packed with nods to multiple films such as the mirror of Erised, a rowing boat, the sorting hat, Fawkes the phoenix and many more. The set includes a whopping 10 minifigures, including many of the staff and pupils. Personal favourites would have to be Sir Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost with silvery printing, and an adorable Hagrid who comes complete with his pink umbrella.

                          LEGO Harry Potter Great Hall Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Hogwarts Whomping Willow 75953

Was the great hall not enough? Does your Hogwarts layout need more parapets? LEGO thought you might, and here is their solution. Able to be added to the great hall as an expansion or perfectly fine as a smaller Hogwarts, this set is deceptive in its name. The Whomping Willow makes its first appearance in LEGO but also included is the ford Anglia of the second film. This, added with a driveway and scene accurate clothing printed on Harry and Ron, points towards the set being based on the beginning of the second film where the flying car crashes into the magical, moving willow tree.

The titular tree is also built with a mechanism that swings the trees branches, which are also capable of clutching the car, brilliantly recreating the scene. Of the six minifigures included, Filtch the caretaker has to be my favourite for the hilarious hairpiece used to make him balding!

           LEGO Harry Potter Whomping Willow Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Quidditch Match 75956

Quidditch, the wizarding sport, even played here in Oxford, may not have been as present in the films as in the books but it is still prominent in people’s recollections of the series.

This fast-paced game on brooms is brilliantly recreated here by the various balls that can be launched from the ground, Flint’s black broom, and the unique piece that LEGO created especially for the coveted golden snitch. Each house is represented by a stand, with the Hufflepuff stand providing a scoring system to keep track of points. Six minifigures are included in the set and Marcus Flint stands out to me thanks to his goofy evil smirk.

                     LEGO Harry Potter Qudditch Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Aragog’s Lair 75950

Looking for a smaller bite sized chunk of Harry Potter LEGO? Then Aragog’s Lair is the set for you. The spider is a fantastic design and its new printed eyes make it that much more believable. An additional five smaller, and even more realistic, spiders are included in this set. …Perhaps keep this one away from those who fear eight legged creepy crawlies!

A tree from the Forbidden Forest is included, with a neat firing web mechanism that can knock over a figure. Speaking of which, two minifigures are included in this set, Ron Weasley and, of course, Harry Potter.

                 LEGO Harry Potter Aragog's Lair Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Hogwarts Express 75955 

Every now and then LEGO releases steam trains and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint: The Hogwarts Express. The fleshed-out engine is perfectly detailed, even using technic pieces as working driving rods on the three wheels on each side. A coal tender is included, which also functions as storage for the suitcases included in this set, while a passenger car has seats for four figures (although I’m sure more can be stuffed in).

Not only is there a train, but also a platform—complete with a bridge, which is detailed with a clock. The figure selection is also desirable, the dementor gliding on its mist for legs being the highlight of the six.

              LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Newt’s Case of Magical Creatures 75952

Fans of the newer Fantastic Beasts films will be pleased to know that LEGO has also created two sets especially for you!

The first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, centred around Newt and his magical “Mary Poppinsesque” case full of wonderous magical animals. The designers for this set had the ingenious idea of having the various living quarters of the creature’s fold in and transform into a suitcase.

All the major creatures are included here, from the rhino like Erumpant to the tiny gold hungry Niffler. All four major protagonists are present in minifigure form, with special mention here for Kowalski, the charming muggle dressed up in rugby gear as protection from the Erumpant.

                  LEGO Harry Potter Newt's Magical Case Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Grindlewald’s Escape 75951

Although the second instalment of the Fantastic Beasts films is yet to be released, LEGO has given us one set depicting the villain Grindlewald using a thestral drawn carriage escaping the American minister for magic; Seraphina Picquery.

Based on a scene featured in the trailers, the set comes with a brilliant new thestral with new dual coloured wings. The figures are also equipped with power blasters which can be launched when pressed.

                         LEGO Harry Potter Grindelwald Escape Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Harry Potter Brickheadz

Under LEGO’s relatively new line, Brickheadz, three more Harry Potter sets have been released: Harry Potter & Hedwig (41615), Hermione Granger (41616) and Ron Weasley & Albus Dumbledore (41621).

These miniature figurines are highly collectable and each set has unique printed bricks. The characters have all been seamlessly translated into the quirky Brickheadz style and a cute little Headwig even comes with Harry Potter!

LEGO Harry Potter and Hedwig Image      LEGO Harry Potter Hermione Image      LEGO Harry Potter Ron and Dumbledore Image

Images ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Harry Potter Minfigures 71022

Last, but certainly not least, LEGO has released a Harry Potter series of collectible minifigures.

Each minifigure is packaged in a blind bag and there are a range of 22 figures to collect, six of which are from Fantastic Beasts. The range of figures is huge and includes the leads of each franchise, Harry and Newt, as well as more obscure characters like Credence and Cho Chang. Each figure comes with a plethora of accessories, from the pets of our three heroes to more interesting pieces like a book with a sock inside for Dobby or a screaming mandrake plant for Neville. All but three of the figures comes packed with a set of two wands so you can have fun making magical duels between your figures.

                         LEGO Harry Potter Minifigures Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

Overall this brand-new wave is sure to have something to fill everyone’s Wizarding world needs. Whether it’s a Hogwarts castle, a Brickheadz Hermione, a magical suitcase like Newt or a minifigure of Professor Trelawney, there’s sure to be something for you in Boswells’ Toy Department.

LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Minifigure, DUPLO, BIONICLE, LEGENDS OF CHIMA, the FRIENDS logo, the MINIFIGURES logo, DIMENSIONS, MINDSTORMS, MIXELS, NINJAGO, and NEXO KNIGHTS are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2018 the LEGO Group. All rights reserved. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the terms of use. & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s16).

17th August 2018

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

280 years ago, Boswell’s flung open their doors and the till’s have been singing ever since. To celebrate this occasion, we have launched our very own Name That Sandwich competition in conjunction with our Tea Room. The winner not only gets a prize, but the sandwich of their own creation is put on our menu, along with the other great sandwiches we have been feeding to the public. I have the honour of judging the winner (I have become John Montagu, lording over all entrees). So, what delights and bespoke culinary sandwiches will you create for me to judge and celebrate?

The Ancient Sandwich

Spice Image

Sliced and stacked, hot or cold, savoury or sweet, I think I can safely say there isn’t a single living Englishman that hasn’t devoured this national finger food—the sandwich! This single, layered culinary staple isn’t leaving the world's collective menu anytime soon, nor ours here at Boswells.

Any way you slice it, the origin of the sandwich is difficult to trace. There are, however, several people throughout ancient history who have been seen with one in their hands (and mouths). The first recorded was Hillel the Elder, a prominent Jewish rabbi who lived around the 1st century, B.C. When not crafting the Golden Rule, Hillel is believed to have placed a mixture of chopped nuts, spices, apples, and wine (somehow) between two matzos, which were to be eaten with bitter herbs. It seems that he was the first person to have a sandwich named after him: Hillel’s concoction became so ingrained in the observation of Passover that the food became known as a “Hillel sandwich.”

The Original Sandwich Platter

Bruschetta ImageDuring the Middle Ages (between the 6th and 16th centuries A.D.) people ate not from plates, but blocks of stale bread known as trenchers. Among other foods, meats with sauce were piled on top of the trenchers and eaten with the fingers. The trencher would soak up the excess juices due to its thick and absorbent texture and would then be eaten if the diner was still hungry at the end of the meal. Otherwise, the trencher was either thrown away or given to the poor.

Lord of Sandwiches

Ciabatta Image

The sandwich didn’t become the sandwich until the 18th century. In the middle of a 24-hour gambling event, the story goes, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, wanted to be able to continue betting without taking a lunch break. He had previously visited the Mediterranean, where he had seen the pita breads and small canapes served by the Greeks and Turks. Montagu instructed an aide to put together a similar meal for him, which could be eaten with one hand, leaving him able to continue his gambling spree. So, we have a lot to thank all these fancy dans and their foreign breads for.

Create Your Own Sandwich Masterpiece...

Sandwich ImageWe, here at Boswells, will be embracing the noble ciabatta to hold together the wonderful ingredients for the winning sandwich, as we needed a bread a little more street wise and robust than our glorious white farmhouse or granary sliced. 

Once I've eaten my way through all of the entries, the winner will be announced on Monday the 3rd September. The winning sandwich will appear on our menu for you to try for yourself this Autumn.

To enter, simply pick up an entry form in store, or email your recipe to Good luck to la sandwich!

10th August 2018

Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Combine Fitness and Fun During the Summer Holidays

Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Combine Fitness and Fun During the Summer Holidays

Image source: Pixabay 

With the Summer holidays finally upon us, thoughts are turning to the inevitable challenge of keeping young ones active and entertained while school’s out. From trips to the coast, when the weather permits, to making the most of local parks and playgrounds, in today’s post, we’re looking at ways you can get your kids back outside and active this Summer.

1. Encourage family time

One of the best things about the Summer holidays is it’s a great time for families to spend some quality time together—and while in the evenings this might mean cosying up on the sofa to watch a classic blockbuster, the world is yours for the exploring during the daytime.

Whether you’re blessed with an outdoor area or heading off in search of an open space, outdoor toys are great for encouraging activity in the summer months. From the beach to the park, make sure you’ve packed playtime essentials like the  Extreme Fun Tech Ring Frisbee in order to enjoy hours of family fun while the sun shines.

2. Explore the great outdoors

The UK is a veritable treasure trove of outdoor hotspots - essentially providing your family with their very own playground which is ripe for exploration. We’re fortunate enough to have naturally beautiful locations on our doorstep—so why not make a map of places to visit and let your children choose their next destination?

Keep costs to a minimum by making the most of free travel by heading out on foot or on road bikes as a family or investing in weekly transport passes that allow you to explore further afield. With a little research, you’ll soon find there are a number of exciting places for you and your family to discover together.

3. Get animals involved

Girl with Dog Image

Image source: Unsplash

Part of the problem with exercise is that it seems like such a strenuous task, particularly for those who have grown up surrounded by mobility-limiting technology. One way to counteract this is to work fitness into ordinary aspects of life.

Whether your family pet is a dog, cat, rabbit or hamster, you’ll be surprised at how you can use this to your advantage when encouraging your youngsters to become more active. From dog walks together around the local area to cleaning out the rabbit hutch, why not combine fitness with practicality and experiment with giving your little ones more responsibility for their pets?

4. Turn chores into activities

While school might be out for Summer, for parents, carers and family friends who are helping out with the little ones, day-to-day jobs still need carrying out—so why not turn these into an activity? Getting the kids involved with everything from washing the car to putting away the grocery shopping will free up your time and help them get up and moving.

It doesn’t need to stop with the everyday activities, either. If you’ve been meaning to clear out the garage, paint the decking or just tidy up the spare room, you can turn these mundane jobs into fun projects for children to get involved with. This way, even if you’re not fortunate enough to have the whole Summer off, you can make the most of your time together and square away those long-standing chores.

5. Get involved in the community

Whether you’re out saving the bees or litter picking in the park, getting involved in local community projects is a great way to get your kids away from their computer games and out in the fresh air. With play schemes, Summer fairs and council-led events popping up at this time of year, you shouldn’t need to look too far to see what’s on in your local area.

If there’s nothing happening that quite suits what you’re looking for, why not set up your own activities? Encourage your youngsters and their friends to pick plastic up from the beach or paint pictures for nearby care homes. This will help them learn essential life values as well as keeping them stimulated during the long period off school.

However long your little ones have off this Summer and whatever budget you’re working with, with a little creative thinking, you can find plenty of ways to combine fitness and fun during the school holidays.

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