Think of Oxford and the image that comes to mind for many is Inspector Morse and his long-suffering Sargeant Lewis! But those who have visited Oxford know only too well that there is a lot more to this city the Colin Dexter’s characters portrayed on our televisions by John Thaw and Kevin Whately.
Today, Oxford blends history with technology, classic with modern, traditional with cosmopolitan… and with great skill! The city that for 800 years has been synonymous with scholars and royalty, towering spires and an ancient university, is now home to a high tech community that is growing and a cosmopolitan lifestyle that is bustling.
Located in the south of the UK, the Thames and Cherwell rivers run through the city to meet at a point to the south of the city centre, and plays host to a range of industries – manufacturing, publishing, education, brewing, science and technology – which brings with them a diverse economy.
The city has become known as the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’; a term coined by Matthew Arnold when he saw the spires of the world-famous University buildings. Built in the 13th century, the colleges of Oxford initially weren’t open to women – that didn’t happen until 1878 when they were allowed into the university, although they weren’t awarded degrees until 1920! But it wasn’t until the 70s when all the colleges in Oxford became accessible for women. And we all know about the rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge! Well, the University of Cambridge was actually founded by scholars that had fled Oxford during the 1209 riots in the city! Now that’s irony!
As you walk through the streets of Oxford and around the colleges, you may get the feeling that you’re being watched… and you are! Gargoyles are a particular feature of many historical buildings and take many a different shape – animals, people and faces – and some of them are actually quite amusing! Keep a look out for the one taking a bathroom break… oh, and there’s one picking his nose – see if you can find it when you visit the City!
On the educational front, have you heard of the Oxford Comma? If you haven’t, don’t worry, it’s a term that originates from the Oxford University Press; the Oxford Comma is used before a conjunction (i.e. ‘and’) in a list of three or more items… see, now you’ve learnt something new! And for those fans of Harry Potter, Christ Church’s Great Hall was the inspiration for the dining hall at Hogwarts in the films!
Oxford is a hustle and bustle city – music, food, literary, festivals, open top bus tours, botanic gardens, concerts, art, attractions, shopping, golf… and more! Cathedrals, museums, exhibitions, restaurants, bars… there’s plenty to do... but most of all, it’s the people of Oxford who make the city what it is, and they’re a welcoming bunch!
And we couldn’t talk about Oxford without mentioning Roger Bannister… He was a medical student at Oxford University and at the Iffley Road track in the city he ran a mile in 1954 – what made it so special is that Bannister was the first man to run the in less than 4 minutes! Of course, the sub-4 minute mile has been achieved by many athletes and has become the standard for long-distance runners, but no-one will ever forget Bannister’s achievement!