Radcliffe Camera
Radcliffe Square
Oxford OX1 3
The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford is instantly recognisable and a magnificent piece of architecture.  It is now used as a reading room in the University’s Bodleian Library and not normally open to visitors.
However, the Bodleian does conduct special guided tours of the library which include access to the Radcliffe.Camera.  Click on our ‘Contact Details’ link on this page to find out more.
Camera is another name for 'room'
The building was built in 1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library and its name has nothing to do with photography; - ‘camera’ is merely another name for ‘room’.
John Radcliffe, physician to King William III and Queen Mary II had made it known that he wished to build a library at Oxford two years before his death but it was not known until his Will was read where it would be sited.  He named the houses that were to be purchased and demolished to make space for the library and left £40,000 to fulfill his request.
He also endowed the Library with £200 per annum in perpetuity for a Keeper and for the purchase of books.
Several famous architects were considered but the job went to James Gibbs.  Gibbs was a great admirer of Sir Christopher Wren and this influence can be seen in the building.  The ‘Rad Cam’ is the earliest example in England of a circular library.
It is built of local Cotswold stone and the dome and cupola are covered in lead.  Each stage of the building is of a completely different style blending harmoniously into a magnificent structure. The ground stage is heavily rusticated and has a series of eight pedimented projections alternating with niches.
The central stage is divided into bays by paired Corinthian columns supporting a continuous parapet.   The top stage is a lanterned dome on an octagonal drum, with a balustraded parapet ornamented with vases.
If you get a chance to look inside the building it is actually only two stories with a mezzanine balcony.  All the decorative work is carved stone except for the dome which is plastered.
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A View of the Radcliffe Camera
A great view of the overall building can be obtained from the tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin (St Mary's Oxford).
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)1865 277 000
Google Map - Radcliffe Camera