Claire and Faith and I went to Oxford on Tuesday (July 17).
Doing Oxford in a day, I noticed last time we went, is similar to trying to read (and digest) The History of the Known World in one day. You just can't do it. But you can get a really good overview of the University and its traditions, and get a tingly feeling along your spine as you look at the architecture and imagine all the students who've gone there over the years.
Oxford came into being as a University at some time, but nobody is sure when ... there was teaching in Oxford as far back as 1096.
The University is comprised of 38 self-governing colleges, and 6 permanent private halls. (The colleges are governed by the fellows of the college. The private halls are governed, at least partially, by different Christian denominations. )
Faith and Claire and I decided to take a free (tips only) Footprints tour of Oxford, because they were number one on Trip Advisor. :) It was great! Our guide was really knowledgeable, really smart (he hadn't just memorized a spiel ... I listened to him answer people's random questions, and he was incredibly witty and well-read), and very funny. It was a very pleasant two hours.
A nice bonus is that the place you meet to take the Footprints tour is across from a Cath Kidston, where you can shop if you're a bit early for your tour. :)
So in this post, my descriptions are for the photo(s) that follow the description. (It's hard to tell sometimes in a post that is all about inanimate objects.)
Here is the original, Broad Street branch of the famous Blackwell's bookshop, which has been in business since 1879.
Benjamin Henry Blackwell opened the first shop (then called B.H. Blackwell's), and it did very well. The Blackwells were heavily involved with the Temperance Society, which promoted self-education, reading, and religion as well as tee-totaling. Their pleasing offering of books and tea went over well, and today Blackwell UK is the leading academic bookseller in the UK, and has over 60 outlets across England, Scotland and Wales. The company is still in the hands of the Blackwell family.
The Blackwells were also involved in publishing, and attracted up-and-coming authors such as WH Auden, Graham Greene, and JRR Tolkien. :)
Here's the south entrance to the Sheldonian Theatre.
Sir Christopher Wren, who designed EVERYTHING IN ENGLAND (just kidding) designed it. (And EVERYTHING IN ENGLAND.)
I can't really remember what this building is. Something important and famous close to the Sheldonian. It's pretty, huh?
Actually, it looks like it is the Sheldonian. Maybe a different entrance. I don't know. I was looking up.
And here is the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library. That, I remember. It was built in 1488 for the teaching of theology ... it's the oldest building at Oxford that was purpose-built for university use. You may recognize its Perpendicular Gothic style. Your eyes are drawn up, up, up.
Sir Christopher Wren added the door you see in 1669, I guess because he was mad that he didn't get to actually design the school itself.
Here is the Clarendon Building, which my nerdy friends will like because it was originally built to house the Oxford University Press. (They're not there anymore.)
Christopher Wren's greatest pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor, designed the building. But I bet Wren was right there looking over his shoulder and suggesting things.
Oxford is a dream for people who like interesting architecture.
Here's the Bridge of Sighs. (Its official name is "The Hertford Bridge.")
It's not to be confused with the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, or the Bridge of Sighs at Cambridge.
However, we had a girl on our walking tour from Cambridge, and she told us something funny about Cambridge's Bridge of Sighs, which I shall relate here since I have nothing to say about Oxford's Bridge of Sighs except "It's really pretty."
Apparently Venice's "Bridge of Sighs" is named that because it was the last thing Venetians would see before their imprisonment or execution. And Cambridge's "Bridge of Sighs" is named that because it's the last thing students see before they go take their exams.
Here's King James at the Bodleian Library. You know, we have been talking about him a lot lately ... this is the same King James VI (Scotland)/James I (England) who was Mary, Queen of Scot's kid.
He was quite smitten with the Bodleian. In a visit there in 1605 he said that he would love to spend his life chained alongside the library's chained books. The Bodleian seems to also have liked him, because here is a big statue of him.
It says "Soli Deo Gloria" underneath him.
The tower itself is interesting ... extremely eclectic, and such a weird mix of architectural styles shouldn't really be allowed. Look at the spires. :)
Here is Brasenose College.
You can see the "brazen nose" on the big-nosed little verdigris face behind the light and above the door in the second photo.
Before CS Lewis was an Oxford don or had ever even seen Oxford (or walked past this doorway), this doorway existed.
Two faun corbels flank a door with an inset lion.
If you stand facing the door and look to your right, there is a big black lamppost.
You never know where creative inspiration will come from ... maybe from something you walk by every day.
Here is the lovely Radcliffe Camera, which is probably the most famous building in Oxford. It was designed by James Gibbs and built between 1737 and 1749. This must have posthumously ticked off Sir Christopher Wren, who couldn't design it because he was dead.
One of my favorite mystery novels, Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, is set in Oxford, and Lord Peter Whimsey and Harriet Vane have an important conversation on the circular balcony of the Radcliffe Camera. You've seen it if you've seen the movie The Golden Compass, and if you've ever read The Historian (by Elizabeth Kostova) (and gotten scared to death by Vlad), you will remember a scene set inside the Radcliffe Camera.
And of course it's in Morse a lot. :)
You can see Magdalen Tower off in the distance looking across the sports fields of Christ Church Meadow.
Here is Christ Church from the east. It's one of the largest colleges at Oxford, and also the cathedral church of the diocese of Oxford.
This college has produced 13 British Prime Ministers!
And, more importantly, the staircase inside the Meadow Building was in the Harry Potter films.
John Locke went here, and so did Christopher Wren, who designed its gate-tower, because he cannot keep his hands off anything. So did WH Auden, and Edward VII, and John Wesley, and Charles Wesley, and William Penn, and Albert Einstein. Phew!
Lewis Carroll also went to college here (as his dad had) and then taught mathematics at Christ Church for 26 years. You can take Alice-in-Wonderland-themed walks of Oxford.
And here's The Meadow Building of Christ Church. It looks out onto Christ Church meadow. :)
The Bear dates from 1242 and is the oldest pub in Oxford. :) (Our walking tour went into town, also.)
After our Footprints tour, I really wanted Faith to see Magdalen College (pronounced "Maudlin" ... its official name is "The President and Fellows of the College of St Mary Magdalen in the University of Oxford") because it's so lovely and such a surprise inside (as if you'd fallen through a wardrobe into another world), and so we went over there and walked around.
I want my mom and dad to see it, too, so here are a whole bunch of photos of Magdalen. :)
John Betjeman, Dudley Moore, Oscar Wilde, and (the fictional)(except he's real to me) Bertie Wooster went to Magdalen, and CS Lewis taught as a fellow here for thirty years. \
Some other famous people also went here, but those are the only guys I care about. :)
Here's Claire sitting in the middle of St. John's Quad. Those are the President's Lodgings behind her.
The Grammar Hall is to her left.
And that's the Chapel to her right.
Here's the inside of the Chapel. It's okay, but ...
... I love the Cloister the best.
And the hydrangeas were in bloom. :)
If you head through the Cloister and out a back door, you're suddenly in a different world. This is the back of the chapel.
This is "New Building," from the early 1700s. :) (This is where CS Lewis taught for 30 years.)
And then there are the grounds ... the Grove, where a herd of deer has existed since (at least) the 1700s, and the Water Meadow, and Holywell Mill Stream, and the River Cherwell, and punts to float around on ... oh, it is just all so lovely, and you'd never know when you were standing on High Street at the entrance to Magdalen that ALL OF THIS is going on back behind it.
So, besides a bite of lunch and some shopping at Cath Kidston (plus a cab ride to and from the train station), this was our lovely, lovely day in Oxford. :)
I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you can visit Oxford one day if you would like to and you haven't yet.