The making of Professors.
Oxford is so often high on visitors list, however, for some reason or another Gary and I had never quite managed to make it there. Often passing close by on our way to another town or city.
Oxford’s roots can be traced back to the 8th-century and has some fascinating history. However, it’s the University, the exclusiveness and the incredible architecture of the colleges that are the main draw.
Having said that the University of Oxford is known to have been teaching as far back as 1096, which makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world, so I suppose it does have some credence of its own.
Therefore, Gary and I set about exploring the city and where better to start than around the cobbled lanes of Radcliffe Camera.
This is a beautiful piece of architecture; the circular neo-classical building was completed in 1748 to house the Radcliffe Science Library.
John Radcliffe attended Oxford University and later became a prominent doctor.
One little lane here is Brasenose Lane, believed to be the last remaining street in Oxford to have central guttering; and often used during films & dramas based around Oxford.
Just beyond the Radcliffe Camera is Bodleian Library built in 1602 and is the second largest library in Britain after the British library, it has available over 12 million items of literature.
Stroll into the elegant inner courtyard to see the intricate architecture on the Tower of Five Orders.
“Bridge of Sighs”
There are so many lovely historic buildings & structures is such a small area.
Just behind Bodleian Library is the Hertford Bridge nicknamed “Bridge of Sighs’, due to its resemblance to the one in Venice. Although I agree with others that say it has similarities to the Rialto Bridge instead.
The bridge was completed in 1914 and connects Hertford College on either side of New College Lane.
Just a stone’s throw away is the beautiful Sheldonian Theatre, built in 1669 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
Adjacent to the Sheldonian Theatre is the Clarendon Building, built in 1715 and once housed the Oxford University Press.
Too many to show
As mentioned there are sooo many lovely buildings around here, another that caught our eye was Rhodes House, which runs its own scholarship programme.
Given more time
If time is on your side, then there are two wonderful museums in Oxford. The first is the Ashmolean Museum which houses Art and Archaeology, it’s the world’s first university museum and the oldest museum in the UK.
Then there’s the University Museum of Natural History, which is adjoined by the Pitt Rivers Museum that houses archaeological and anthropological collections.
It’s all about the Uni
As you stroll around Oxford the number of colleges is impressive, charming courtyards hidden behind huge doors and gates. Some colleges you can manage to sneak a peek, but others the porters keep a close eye on you.
The University of Oxford is made up of different institutions of which there are 38 colleges.
Some of the more well-known are Christ Church, Corpus Christi, Oriel, Magdalen & Merton to name a few.
Often the colleges are open to visitors in the afternoon, although there may be an entrance fee to visit the popular ones.
We chose to go and have a look around Magdalen College, which is one of Oxford Uni’s icons and was established in 1458. It had an entrance fee of £6 per adult, but I was quite inquisitive to see what went on behind closed doors.
Within each college, there is a chapel, a hall for dining, library, a college bar and lodgings. However, Magdalen College even had a deer park in The Grove.
Uncovering the mystery
We wandered across St John’s Quadrangle, into the chapel, which was rather impressive in size, and had some incredible sepia colour stained glass windows.
Heading around to the cloister you pass memorials to Magdalen’s lost members during the First & Second World Wars. Two of whom were honoured with the Victoria Cross.
The grounds of the college are so well kept, and the cloister is immaculate.
Then we come across The Hall which was also built during the 15th-century and used by members of the college for mealtimes and entertainment. It was like looking at a scene from Harry Potter.
Magdalen College is located near the River Cherwell along the Holywell Mill Stream, so it’s really pleasant to take a wander passing the New Building (built in the 1720’s) and take a stroll along the river.
And as then there’s the Old Kitchen Bar, decorated with oars and paddles from Magdalen’s success of rowing in the Summer Eights.
Magdalen College can boast at having Sir John Betjeman, Erwin Schrodinger, Oscar Wilde, C.S.Lewis, Cardinal Wolsey, Ian Hislop & Dudley Moore, as some of its famous alumni.
What else may spring to mind when you think of Oxford, is the famous English Boat Race along the River Thames, held annually against Cambridge.
You can stroll along the Thames by Christ Church Meadow and see the colleges taking to the water.
If you are not quite to Olympic standard then I suggest you go punting, it looks a lot more fun.
Or even more sedate.
It’s not all academia
There’s a charming Covered Market in the centre of Oxford, along Market Street. Go take a look there’s a great cheese shop, and it goes without saying a lovely ice cream parlour as well.
Quirky Shops & Charming buildings
Within any town or city, you can always come across those little unusual shops and houses, go take a look for yourself.
Now if you need a bit of refreshment, and want to reminisce about the wonderful British drama series starring John Thaw as Inspector Morse, and his sidekick Lewis, then pop into The White Horse pub.
From the number of photos on the wall, they were in there quite a bit.
Now, honestly just for research purposes, we popped into to The Turf Tavern, it’s down a little side alley, but it looks like a few famous alumni have frequented here.
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