Oxford – Places to See
Oxford – Places to See
Oxford – Places to See
Among the most notable are All Souls, College of the All Souls of the Faithful Departed built to commemorate those who died at Agincourt, founded in 1437; BaiJiol, founded by John de Balliol in the thirteenth century, but although the gates are from that time most of the buildings are Victorian; Brasenose, named after a brass door knocker taken by students who went off to Brasenose Hall in Stamford during the riots, founded in 1509 – the hall and chapel are well worth seeing; Christ Church, one of the places you must visit in Oxford. Cardinal Wolsey was the first founder and it must be the only college with a cathedral as its church, built in the twelfth century. Corpus Christi, with its renowned library with chained books as well as the collection of founder’s plate; Exeter, founded by the Bishop of Exeter in 1314, with a chapel modelled on Sainte Chapelle in Paris, and don’t miss the Fellows’ Garden; Jesus, endowed by Hugh Price in 1571 under the patronage of Elizabeth I and has always had Welsh connections; Keble – red brick, Victorian and stylish, a memorial to John Keble, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. In a side chapel is the Holman Hunt painting, ‘The Light of the World’; Lincoln, originally the college of Priests and founded in 1427, its All Saints’ Library is a converted church and is one of the finest sights in all Oxford; Magdalen, with the 1458 Bell Tower, the grounds, deer park and gardens, and one of the most idyllic stretches of river. The grounds were those of St John’s Hospital. Founded in 1458, the Bell Tower was built in the same period but was recently restored at a cost of just under a million pounds, and you might think worth every brass farthing. The front quad is St John’s Quad and at its outdoor pulpit a sermon is preached on St John the Baptist’s Day in June. At six o’clock on May Day morning the choristers sing a traditional seventeenth-century Latin eucharist hymn from the top of the tower at the start of the May Day celebrations. Morris dancers hoof it in the streets and at Radcliffe Square, most of the pubs are open and students nearly all abandon studies for the day. Magdalen has about one hundred acres of grounds, including the Grove and a unique deer park, whilst opposite are the Botanic Gardens, which were originally laid out as a herb garden. This is one of the most idyllic stretches of the river where punts drift by and you can sit on the banks, if you have time, and admire the view. They have open air plays in the Grove in summer.
Merton is one of the oldest of colleges and the most perfect. 1264 was when it was founded and it has the oldest quadrangle, the Mod Quad, the Old Library and a large chapel, both of which are rich in treasures. The scholars were once known as ‘postmasters’ and Merton has a tradition of producing philosophers and mathematicians. New College, founded by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, has a magnificent quad and in the chapel are Epstein’s ‘Lazarus’, a glory of stained glass, El Greco’s painting of St John, and Bishop Wykeham’s pastoral staff; Onel was endowed in 1326 with King Edward II as founder and its most famous student was Sir Walter Raleigh. The Back Quad has the beautiful eighteenth-century library. You can see fragments of the medieval city wall at Oriel. Pembroke, which houses Samuel Johnson’s books and manuscripts, as well as the portrait of him by Reynolds; Queen’s, named in honour of Queen Philippa, Edward III’s wife. The statue which overlooks the High is of Queen Caroline, George II’s wife. Lovely classical buildings and carvings by Grinling Gibbons.
St John’s triumph is the garden laid out by Capability Brown; the south wing of the Back Quad is by Inigo Jones. Its arched windows and delightful arcades make it one of my favourite places in Oxford. William Laud was President from 1611 to 1621 and his diaries, skull cap and the staff which he used on his way to his execution are here. Trinity, founded in 1555, is next door to its rival, Balliol, and has an exquisite chapel; and University College which claims to be the oldest college. Wadham is there due to the strength of purpose of Dorothy Wadham of Somerset who, in the seventeenth century, made certain the college was built, and on time too. There is a clock in the quadrangle by Wren, who was a member of Wadham. Worcester is so far away from the other colleges that it was often called Botany Bay. ‘An ornamental pile’ is what Sir Thomas Cookes wanted for a college, and that is what it is. The classical front and the gardens are both equally striking. The garden has an ornamental lake to add to its tranquillity and beauty.