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The History of Oxford

The History of Oxford

Oxford, the county town of Oxfordshire, is renowned for hosting one of the most reputable universities in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world.


Oxford, the county town of Oxfordshire, is renowned for hosting one of the most reputable universities in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Matthew Arnold, a notable poet, coined the name “the city of dreaming spires”, in honor of the magnificent architecture of the University’s structures.


There are two major rivers that flow through Oxford: the Cherwell and the Thames. It is because of these bodies of water that Oxford got its Saxon name, “Oxenaforda’. This means “Ford of the Oxen”. Hundreds of years ago, Oxford was a major frontier town in between two different kingdoms: Mercia and Wessex. Later on, a castle was built in the location - first in wood, then in stone. The castle was a major location for quite a few bits of English history, before it was finally destroyed as the English Civil War waged on.


Nobody knows the exact founding date of the University of Oxford, although it seems to have been instituted sometime during the 12th century. It grew quickly when Henry II of England outlawed English students from enrolling in the University of Paris. Soon, however, there was an unfortunate incident where a student murdered his mistress and then escaped from the town. A riot ensured, and somehow two more students were hung. The St. Scholastica Day Riot of 1355 was bloody, with near a hundred fatalities of both students and townspeople. There was definitely bad blood, and quite a number of students made their way over to Cambridge, later on establishing the University of Cambridge.


The University of Oxford is made up of 38 different colleges, the oldest being University College, Balliol, and Merton, which are all several hundred years old. Christ Church is the largest college, and also the Cathedral seat of Oxford. Even if you aren’t enrolled, you can visit most of the colleges. Be sure to check the opening hours ahead of time and make sure that you don’t walk into any areas that are marked as private.


The heart of Oxford is best explored on foot, as you can get there easily from the bus station and the train station. There are many perspectives from which you can see the city. You could take a bus tour, a walking tour, or even a river cruise. Another thing to not miss out on is a punt from Magdalen Bridge or Cherwell Boathouse. Any of these things will give you a view of Oxford that you’ve never seen before.


One of the most recognizable structures in all of Oxford is The Radcliffe Camera in Radcliffe Square. It has a particularly memorable dome and circular shape. It was originally built a couple hundred years ago to be the home of the Radcliffe Science Library. Now, it is a reading room for another library.


Oxford’s incredible architecture has been the set for quite a few movies and TV series. Some scenes - the Great Hall and Library scenes, in particular - from the Harry Potter movie series, for example, were shot in the University of Oxford.


However, Oxford is most recognizable in the “Inspector Morse” TV series. One might even say that it is one of the reasons the series took off.


If you’re looking to see the sights & history of Oxford, stay at the Hawkwell House! Situated in a strategically convenient location for sightseeing, we are the ideal hotel for your trip. Book or get in touch today.


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