Places of Interest
Oxford City Centre
Oxford is a city in the South East region of England and the county town of Oxfordshire. With a population of 159,994 it is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom, and one of the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse. The city is known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Buildings in Oxford demonstrate notable examples of every English architectural period since the late Saxon period. Oxford is known as the “city of dreaming spires”, a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold.
The centre of Oxford is dominated by the University colleges, the most famous being Christ Church, Trinity, and Balliol (from a total of thirty eight).
Most visitors orient themselves around Carfax, a crossroads in the very centre of the town. From here stretches The High to the east – ‘One of the world’s great streets’ (Nikolaus Pevsner), St. Aldates to the south leading down to the river, Cornmarket to the north and Queen Street to the west – the latter two being the main shopping streets of Oxford.
Close to the Playhouse Theatre, the Randolph Hotel, and Oxford’s principle (and world famous) museum – the Ashmolean, St. Giles’ is well-known for many things.
At the south end lies the recently restored Martyrs’ Memorial which commemorates Archbishop Cranmer and Protestant Bishops Latimer and Ridley who were burnt at the stake in Tudor times by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary. A cross in the road outside Balliol College marks the actual spot of the execution.
The Radcliffe Camera (Camera, meaning “room” in Latin; colloquially, “Rad Cam” or “The Camera”) was designed by James Gibbs in neo-classical style and built in 1737–1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. It is sited to the south of the Old Bodleian, north of St. Mary’s Church, and between Brasenose College to the west and All Souls College to the east.
The Library’s construction and maintenance was funded from the estate of John Radcliffe, a notable doctor, who left £40,000 upon his death in 1714. According to the terms of his will, construction only began in 1737, although the intervening period saw the complex purchase of the site. The exterior was complete in 1747 and the interior finished by 1748, although the Library’s opening was delayed until 13 April 1749.
Upon completion, Francis Wise was appointed as its first librarian. Until 1810, the Library housed books covering a wide range of subjects, but under Dr George Williams it narrowed its focus to the sciences. Williams brought the Library from a state of neglect up to date, although by 1850 the Radcliffe Library still lagged behind the Bodleian. It was at this point that Henry Wentworth Acland, then librarian, laid out plans for the Radcliffe Library building to merge with the University and the Library’s collection of books to be moved to the newly constructed Radcliffe Science Library, which were accepted by the Library’s trustees and the University. It was at this point that the building became known as the Radcliffe Camera, serving as a reading room for the Bodleian.
Hertford Bridge (Bridge of sighs)
Hertford Bridge, popularly known as the Bridge of Sighs, is a skyway joining two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane in Oxford, England. Its distinctive design makes it a city landmark. The bridge is often referred to as the Bridge of Sighs because of its supposed similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice. However, Hertford Bridge was never intended to be a replica of the Venetian bridge, and indeed it bears a closer resemblance to the Rialto Bridge in the same city.
There is a false legend saying that many decades ago, a survey of the health of students was taken, and as Hertford College’s students were the heaviest, the college closed off the bridge to force them to take the stairs, giving them extra exercise. However, if the bridge is not used, the students actually climb fewer stairs than if they do use the bridge.
The bridge links together the Old and New Quadrangles of Hertford College (to the south and the north respectively), and much of its current architecture was designed by Sir Thomas Jackson. It was completed in 1914, despite its construction being opposed by New College.
The building on the southern side of the bridge houses the College’s administrative offices, whereas the northern building is mostly student accommodation. The bridge is always open to members of the College, who can often be seen crossing it.
The University of Oxford has 38 Colleges with their main purpose being to offer houses of residence and facilities for student teaching. Their other facilities include a dining hall, bar, common room and library. All teaching staff and students studying for a degree at the University must be affiliated with one. Further information and college maps can be found on the University’s website http://www.ox.ac.uk/about/colleges.
Punting in Oxford is a traditional and favourite past time of residents and visitors alike. You can hire a punt from Oxford’s Magdalen Bridge Boathouse for rowing along River Cherwell for short or long periods during the day. Chauffeured hires are also available. http://www.oxfordpunting.co.uk/
Bodleian Library and Sheldonian Theatre
The Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. With over 12 million items, it is the second largest library in Britain after the British Library. Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 it is one of six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom and under Irish Law it is entitled to request a copy of each book published in the Republic of Ireland. Known to Oxford scholars as “Bodley” or “the Bod”, it operates principally as a reference library and, in general, documents may not be removed from the reading rooms. http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/
In 2000, a number of libraries within the University of Oxford were brought together for administrative purposes under the aegis of what was initially known as Oxford University Library Services (OULS), and since 2010 as the Bodleian Libraries, of which the Bodleian Library is the largest component.
All colleges of the University of Oxford have their own libraries, which in a number of cases were established well before the foundation of the Bodleian, and all of which remain entirely independent of the Bodleian. They do, however, participate in OLIS (Oxford Libraries Information System), the Bodleian Libraries’ online union catalogue. Much of the library’s archives were digitized and put online for public access in 2015.
The Sheldonian Theatre, located in Oxford, England, was built from 1664 to 1669 after a design by Christopher Wren for the University of Oxford. The building is named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the University at the time and the project’s main financial backer. It is used for music concerts, lectures and University ceremonies, but not for drama until 2015 when the Christ Church Dramatic Society staged a production of The Crucible.
What came to be known as the Sheldonian Theatre was Wren’s second work and was commissioned by Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury. With the triumph of the Restoration and with it the Church of England, Dean Fell, Vice-Chancellor of the University, sought to revive a project proposed in the 1630s by the late William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury: a separate building whose sole use would be graduation and degree ceremonies. http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/sheldonian/
On the east side of Oxford is South Park (not to be confused with South Parks Road bordering the University Park). This is the largest expanse of greenery in the city. From high up the park offers breath-taking panoramic views of Oxford and its “dreaming spires.” South Park is a park on Headington Hill in east Oxford, England. It is the largest park within Oxford city limits. The park is a favourite location for photographers.