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Oxford in Oxfordshire

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Oxford, Oxfordshire. This great university town is, for its history and associations and for its architecture, one of the most rewarding in England. “That sweet city with her dreaming spires”, as Arnold called Oxford, seen from the top of Boar's Hill 3 miles away is an evocative and unforgettable sight.

The university is the second oldest in Europe, acknowledging only the Sorbonne in Paris as its senior. One theory as to its origins attributes its foundation to the expulsion of foreign students from Paris in the 13th century, but in fact evidence of organized teaching there can be traced to the 12th century. A chancellor was appointed in 1214 and the collegiate system began in the latter part of the 13th century. with the establishment in Oxford of various religious orders. There was much conflict between “town and gown” in the Middle Ages as charters from successive monarchs conveyed privileges upon the university which caused hardship to the city merchants. During the Civil War Oxford was important as the Royalist headquarters and the seat of Charles I's parliament.

All Souls College was founded in 1437 by Henry Chichele to commemorate Henry V and those who fell at Agincourt. It has no undergraduate members, only graduate fellows elected for their academic distinction. Its architecture is among the finest in Oxford. The frontage on the High Street with the gateway over which a carving depicts souls in purgatory and the front quadrangle remain virtually unaltered since their foundation. The north quadrangle and the twin towers are by Hawksmoor, also the architect of the Italianate Codrington library. The chapel is remarkable for its reredos, which was uncovered and restored by Scott in the 19th century, its oak stalls and misericords and The l5th-century glass in the ante-chapel.

Balliol College, originally founded in the 13th century by John de Baliol, has always enjoyed a high academic reputation, associated with Benjamin Jowett, the famous Master in the 19th century. Most of the buildings, by Salvin and Butterfield, are l9th-century and two modern blocks have just been completed.

Brasenose College was founded in 1509 on the site of an earlier community. Its name is thought to be derived from an ancient brass knocker in the form of a nose brought to the college from a house in Stamford called Brasenose Hall to which some students retired in the 14th century from the unrest rife in Oxford. The front of the college, the first quadrangle and the gateway tower date from the foundation; the hall and chapel are attributed to Wren (1663 and 1666).

Christ Church occupies one of the finest positions in Oxford overlooking the beautiful meadows leading down to the Thames and the Cherwell. It was founded by Cardinal Wolsey and licensed by King Henry VIII under the name of Cardinal College in 1525, several religious foundations having been suppressed to make way for Wolsey's grandiose design. A new see was created in 1542 and the Church of St Frideswide became the college chapel and the cathedral of the diocese. The front quadrangle, known as Tom squad, from the great bell in the tower over the gateway which is dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, is the largest in Oxford. There is a magnificent hall, notable for its fine timbered roof and its collection of portraits, among them those of Henry VIII and Wolsey, traditionally by Holbein. The cathedral, the smallest in England, has many beautiful features from many centuries: Norman vaulted aisles, Perpendicular fan-tracery in the roof of the choir, the Decorated Latin Chapel and window in St Lucy's Chapel, a 15th-century shrine of St Frideswide and the fine Early English chapter house, adjoining the cloisters on the south side.

Corpus Christi College, though small, has much rich, Perpendicular architecture dating from its foundation in 1516. Among its treasures are the altar-piece in the chapel, which has been ascribed to Rubens, its library of rare books and its fine collection of old plate.

Exeter College was founded by a Bishop of Exeter in 1314, but most of its buildings have been restored or rebuilt. The Victorian chapel is by Sir Gilbert Scott and contains tapestries by Burne-Jones and William Morris.

Hertford College occupies the site of several earlier halls but in its present form was incorporated in 1874. Its buildings are all 18th-, 19th-and 20th-century.

Jesus College has always been associated with Wales since its foundation by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571 at the request of Hugh ap Rice who endowed it and provided scholarships for Welsh students. its chapel and library date from the 17th century.

Keble College was erected by subscription as a memorial to John Keble and aimed originally at providing an education based on the precepts of the Anglican Church. Its red-brick buildings designed by Butterfield can be regarded as hideous or as a fine example of high Victorian architecture, according to one's taste. The chapel is well worth visiting for its rich mosaic decoration and Holman Hunt's famous picture The Light of the World.

Lincoln College, founded in 1427 by Richard Flemyng, Bishop of Lincoln, has an interesting chapel built in 1630, an example of very late Perpendicular architecture.

Magdalen College, founded by William of Waynflete in 1458, is one of the largest and most beautiful of all the Oxford colleges. Its most striking feature is the Perpendicular bell-tower, begun in 1492 and completed in 1509. Here the choristers sing their traditional Latin hymn at five o'clock on May-day morning. The main quadrangle is surrounded by cloisters and above the west walk is the library, which contains an exceptionally valuable collection. To the north of the cloisters are the New Buildings, an 18th-century Classical range, overlooking the Grove, a deer-park where open-air plays are performed every summer.

Merton College, founded in 1264, is one of the three oldest colleges. Among its fine buildings the library and chapel are outstanding. The library, lying on two sides of the so-called mob quad, dates from the 14th century; the choir of the chapel is of pure Decorated workmanship and has exquisitely tracened windows. There is also a beautiful garden.

New College was founded by William of Wykeham, the founder of Winchester School, in 1379, and the connection between the college and the school still survives today in the form of a number of closed scholarships. Many of the original buildings, in the Perpendicular style, survive as evidence of Wykeham's magnificent design. The cloisters and the chapel, the latter restored by James Wyatt and Sir Gilbert Scott, should be seen, as well as the pleasant garden enclosed by the remains of the ancient city walls.

Oriel College, though endowed by Edward II in 1326, has no buildings of this age, the oldest being 17th-century. In the 19th century it became associated with the Oxford Movement, Keble, Thomas Arnold, Newman, Pusey and Froude all being elected fellows.

Queen's College is named in honour of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward 111, and was founded in the 14th century by Robert de Eglesfield. The statue overlooking the High Street depicts Queen Caroline, wife of George II. The splendid Classical buildings are by Wren and Hawksmoor, and the library is of particular interest for its valuable collection and its carvings by Grinling Gibbons. There is some medieval stained glass in the chapel, preserved from the earlier chapel on the site.

St John's College, founded in 1555, has particularly fine gardens and an interesting back quadrangle with a south wing attributed to Inigo Jones in Classical style and cloisters of the same pehod on the north and west sides.

Trinity College, the traditional rival of Balliol next door, was founded in 1555. Its most interesting feature is the chapel, with a rich alabaster tomb of Sir Thomas Pope, the founder, and a carved screen and altar-piece by Grinling Gibbons.

University College is the oldest of all the colleges, although the exact date of its foundation is difficult to determine. Whether or not claims that Alfred the Great established it in the 9th century are justified, it is certain that a college in something like its present form was in existence in the mid-13th century. The oldest part of the present buildings was begun in 1634 and the chapel, though redesigned by Sir Gilbert Scott, contains woodwork and windows of this period. There is a romantic statue in white marble of Shelley lying in the building to the right of the lodge.

Wadham College has some fine Classical buildings coeval with its foundation in 1612. In the quadrangle is a clock by Wren, an undergraduate of the college.

Worcester College also has a frontage in the Classical style dating from its foundation in its present form in 1714, but the buildings surrounding the quadrangle are of much earlier date. The beautiful gardens and lake are well worth visiting.

Among the colleges of comparatively recent foundation are the five women's colleges: Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville, St Hilda's, St Anne's and St Hugh's.

Nearby towns: Abingdon, Bicester, Goring, North Leigh, Thame, Witney, Watlington, Woodstock

Nearby villages: Appleton, Arncott, Barnard Gate, Bletchingdon, Botley, Bunkers Hill, Chalgrove, Chislehampton, Church Hanborough, Clifton Hampden, Cuddesdon, Culham, Cumnor, Drayton St Leonard, Eaton, Eynsham, Frilford, Frilford Heath, Fyfield, Garsington, Headington, Holton, Horton cum Studley, Kidlington, Littlemore, Marcham, Netherton, Oakley, Piddington, Stadhampton, Stanton Harcourt, Stanton St John, Steeple Aston, Waterperry, Waterstock, Weston on the Green, Wheatley, Wytham

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