City of Oxford
Oxon OX1 4
The university city of Oxford is approximately 50 miles(80 km) north-west of London and easily accessed by both rail and road. Called “the City of Dreaming Spires” by 19th century poet Matthew Arnold, it is the largest town in The Cotswolds region of England.
The name ‘Oxford’ conjures up images of beautiful old buildings, cycling academics and Inspector Morse pondering a case whilst in a delightful riverside pub; a quaint, leisurely sort of place.
The buildings, cyclists and riverside pubs are all there but the city is a curious mixture of traditional academia in the centre and modern industrialisation on the outskirts.
The population is cosmopolitan with many migrants working in the manufacturing industries and hospitals. Hundreds of overseas students attend university so the town has plenty of entertainment venues, bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, ethnic shops and fast food outlets.
The city is home to the oldest University in the English-speaking world, and it is made up of a number of ancient colleges. Over the centuries its scholars have left their mark all over the world. There is hardly a spot in the town that is not associated with a famous cleric, scientist, author or philosopher.
The majority of the historic buildings are clustered together in the centre of the town and within easy walking distance of each other. Students use bicycles to get around and the town has several outlets where tourists can hire a bicycle for a few hours. Web:Oxford City Guide
Landmarks - Oxford Colleges
The Colleges and their associated Libraries and Museums make up most of the town’s landmark buildings although the famous Headington Shark sculpture is in the suburbs.
The Colleges are not open to the public all of the time and each one has different opening hours. All of them have fascinating histories and beautiful architecture but if you have a particular favourite you wish to see, it is a good idea to check that it will be open on the day to avoid disappointment. Full information on all the colleges is available at:
Landmarks - Memorials, Churches and other Treasures
Other landmarks include the Oxford Martyrs’ execution site in Broad Street, the Martyrs' Memorial Oxford, Tom Tower over the St Aldate’s entrance to Christ Church, the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin (St Mary's Oxford).
All sorts of treasures await the visitor in the museums. As adjuncts to the various colleges the collections are not designed to engage younger visitors but to display artefacts associated with the town’s famous academics. The Museum of the History of Science for example, has on display a blackboard complete with formulae used by Albert Einstein in a 1931 lecture.
Another historic location is the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. It is a beautiful spot and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world; it was founded in 1621 as a physic garden.
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Rivers & Punting
Two rivers and a canal run through central Oxford. The Thames which Oxfordians call ‘The Isis’ and the Oxford Canal run side by side for ten miles, (16 km) before meeting up with the pretty River Cherwell to the south. There is nothing nicer on a fine summer’s day to stroll through Christ Church Meadows beside the shady Cherwell watching the punts sliding by.
Visitors wanting to try their hand at punting should go to Punting on the Cherwell in this website for interesting details.
The famous Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities is held in March on the Mortllake to Putney, London reach of the River Thames. There are plenty of opportunities for visitors to hire a rowing boat or a motor launch to sample the delights of The Isis and the canal. If DIY is a bit daunting, a tourist launch leaves Folly Bridge on a trip downstream to Abingdon.
The many attractive pubs overlooking The Isis and the canal locks are ideal places to pause for a quiet drink and a snack while watching the boats and wildfowl floating by.
Lovers of the Inspector Morse TV Series know that the detective loved to frequent pubs beside the Thames. As the series was filmed in and around Oxford, the visitor can enjoy the same locations. Inspector Morse Tours are organised through the Tourist Information Office. For tours of Oxford go to Web:Oxford City Guide
Getting Around Oxford
- Open Top Bus Tour
One way to see the city is on an Open Top Bus Tour. A ticket lasts all day and you just hop on and off at any of the 19 stops as often as you like. Go to Web:City Sightseeing Tours
- Guided Tours
To discover the enormous variety of guided tours on offer Go to Web:Oxford City Tours
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A settlement grew up in Saxon times beside a ford. In the 8th century the nunnery of St Erideswide was founded at Oxen-ford. The settlement was on the boundary of two Saxon kingdoms, Wessex and Mercia and in the 10th century it became an important frontier town.
The most powerful authority in medieval England was the Roman Catholic Church and its religious foundations; even the monarch was subservient to the Church. In return for obedience and a tenth of any earnings the Church promised a path to eternal rest after death. A King would do all he could to earn his place with God by helping the Church in establishing religious foundations and building churches.
By the 12th century Oxford was so powerful and prestigious that King Henry II granted a charter giving citizens the same privileges and exemptions as those enjoyed by the capital of the kingdom (London).
All the great religious orders had houses of varying importance in or near the city, and parliaments were often held there during the 13th century.
The University is first mentioned in 12th century records but the first College to be built was University College (1249), followed by Balliol (1263) and Merton (1264).
These colleges were established at a time when Europeans were starting to translate the writings of Greek philosophers. These writings challenged European ideology – inspiring scientific discoveries and advancements in the arts – as society began seeing itself in a new way.
The Church (the ‘town’) thought it could reconcile Greek Philosophy with Christian Theology by supporting the new University (the ‘gown’) It was the start of an uneasy relationship between ‘town and gown’ that led to the town’s reputation as ‘a hotbed of radicals’.
In 1555 Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, and Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer were tried for their religious beliefs and teachings and were found guilty of heresy. They were burned at the stake in Broad Street and are known as the ‘Oxford Martyrs’. A small area cobbled with stones forming a cross in the centre of the road outside the front of Balliol College marks the execution site.
From 1642 the town became home to the court of King Charles I. Parliament had expelled him from London for ignoring their decisions, thus starting the first English Civil War (1642-46) Charles ignored the fact that the town supported the Parliamentary cause and subjected the town to a debilitating siege.
During the Restoration of the Monarchy, King Charles II moved his court to the city to escape the Great Plague of 1665.
The 18th and 19th centuries brought industrialisation to the city dramatically expanding the population. There had always been a port with ships sailing down the River Thames to London but as ships grew larger the upper reaches of the Thames were no longer navigable. Canal locks were then built at Iffley and Osney and the Oxford canal finished in 1790, then connected the city with the Midlands.
As with cities all over Britain the coming of the railway cemented the city as a manufacturing and administrative centre.
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The Motor Industry
The south-eastern suburbs of Cowley and Hadington are home to the Oxford Business Park where the successful BMW Mini is now manufactured.
Throughout the 20th century the town was associated with the manufacture of motor cars and remains synonymous with names such as Austin, Morris and British Leyland. There are superb collections of these companies’ product at the Oxford Bus Museum near Witney which includes the Morris Motors Museum.
Of course, all the pretty and historic villages of the Cotswolds are within easy driving distance of the city making it an excellent base for exploring the region.
Just 8 miles (13 km) to the north is Blenheim Palace, home of the 1st Duke of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Close by is Bladon churchyard, family resting place of the Churchills.
Only ten miles (16 km) away is the Didcot Railway Centre where you can get close up and personal with beautiful steam locomotives and Brunel’s Great Western Railway. It is located right beside the Didcot mainline station so visitors can either travel by road or rail.
Another fascinating yet very different attraction is the Uffington White Horse prehistoric hill figure cut into the Berkshire Downs. It is an easily visible landmark cut into the Ridgeway escarpment and a great place for an invigorating walk. It is approximately 22 miles (35 km) by road south-west of the city.
A useful link chock full of information and advice on where to go and what to see Web:Oxford City Guide
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1865 252 200
- By Mainline Rail
Take the First Great Western service from London Paddington to Oxford mainline station. Services normally every 15 minutes or so with a journey time of about 1 hour. For timetable, fares and tickets go to Web:National Rail Enquiries
- By Coach
There are several coach companies to chose from for journey's between London & Oxford:
* Oxford Express (Service X90) - From London Victoria Coach Station or Oxford's Gloucester Green Bay with departures every 15 minutes in peak times with journey time around 100 minutes. For Information go to Web:Oxford Express Timetable & Fares
* Oxford Tube - From London Victoria Coach Station stop 10 or Oxford's Gloucester Green with departures every 12 - 15 minutes in peak times with journey time around 100 minutes. For information go to Web:Oxford Tube Coach Service
- By Car
From the M25 London ring road, at Junction 16 take the M40 west through High Wycombe, Stokenchurch towards Oxford. At restricted Junction 8 leave the M40 for the A40 for Oxford - about 6 miles (9.7kms). We suggest that day Visitors to Oxford do not take their car into the City.
Travel and parking
In the City is severely restricted, however the Oxford Shire Council has provided 5 Park & Ride locations which have frequent bus connections to the City. For full details go to Web:Oxford Shire Council Park & Ride
Google Map - Oxford