Pocket Britain

One of Britain's most beautiful and historic cities, packed full of history, educational landmarks and scenic beauty

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Oxford is a city of just under 165,000 people in the south east of England. It is built upon the rivers Cherwell and Thames, which meet just south of the city centre. The city is one of Britain's most beautiful and historic. Famous for its world class University, Oxford is packed full of history, educational landmarks and scenic beauty. A lot more than just study though, Oxford has also developed a wonderful culture of fine food, shopping and entertainment.

Keble College Chapel.
Photo Diliff
Oxford was first occupied in the Saxon times and originally known as 'Ohsnafordia' meaning Ford of the Ox. Now the city is so world famous that one can easily miss its humble beginnings described by the name Oxford. The first written record of the settlement was in 912 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, beginning with the foundation of St Frideswide's nunnery in the 8th century. St Frideswide is the patron Saint of the city and the university. The town took on military importance in the 10th century when it became a frontier settlement between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. The city really took on life with the establishment of the University of Oxford, which is first mentioned in 12th century records and is the oldest university in the English speaking world. The earliest colleges were University College, Balliol and Merton built in 1249, 1263 and 1264 respectively. The birth of the university coincided with a time when Europeans were beginning to translate the work of the great Greek philosophers, resulting in a boom in scientific discoveries and artistic advancements. These early colleges were supported by the Church in a hope to reconcile Greek philosophy and Christian Theology. Ever since its construction Oxford has been at the centre of art, science and theology and few places in the world can rival its educational prowess.

Jesus College.
Photo Oxfordshire Churches
The University has not always been popular though and in 1355 as many as 93 students and townspeople were killed in the St Scholastica Day Riot. And would you believe it, this violent altercation started after some students complained about the quality of beer in a local tavern?! The tension between "town and gown" has always been a part of the city. Apparently, as far back as 1209, the University of Cambridge was set up as a result of a fall out between some Oxford Scholars and local townsfolk.
The architecture of Oxford is just stunning. Dubbed the 'city of dreaming spires' by 19th century poet Matthew Arnold, the university buildings, church spires and now modern structures, reach up into the sky; reflecting the educational, religious and technological aspirations of this unique city. Buildings across Oxford reflect every British architectural period since the arrival of the Saxons and so a trip to the city allows any visitor to get a snapshot of evolving Britain. One of the city's most iconic features is the Radcliffe Camera or to use its common name the 'Radder'. This 18th century Palladian style building was designed by James Gibbs to house the Radcliffe Science Library.

Bridge of Sighs.
Photo jo-h
Other key attractions include the Gothic Bodleian Library, the Botanic Gardens and the world famous Ashmolean Museum; with its fine assortment of Raphael drawings and the largest collection of pre-Dynastic Egyptians material outside of Cairo. Christ Church Cathedral is also a must visit, with stunning architecture ranging from Norman to perpendicular gothic. You can even take a punt down the River Thames. A truly memorable experience, especially if you fall in!

Natural History Museum.
Photo Andrew Rivett

Inside Christ Church Cathedral.
Photo Mike Peel
Oxford is a majestic city, full of history and towering spires. As one of Britain's most beautiful settlements it is well worth a visit; fascinating history, wonderful architecture and fine food awaits you.
Visitor Information
Oxford Tourist Information 15/16 Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AS. Tel: 01865 252 200
Ashmolean Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday (and Bank Holidays) from 10am to 6pm. Entry is FREE. Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH. Tel: 01865 278 002
Oxford Botanical Gardens are open daily from 9am to 5pm (6pm in high summer, 4:30pm in winter). Entry is FREE for children and costs around £3.50 for adults on weekdays (FREE on weekends). Rose Lane, Oxford OX1 4AZ. Tel: 01865 286 690

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