The idea that Oxford is full of nasally accented young English students “sent up” from the shires and foreign students studying to the highest level is one that is conjured in the minds of most people. Whilst the city is crowded with colleges, dating back to the twelfth century, the area has been driven to prosperity by successful commercial businesses such as BMW at Plant Oxford on the ring road which circumnavigates the centre, the Cowley factory was home to such household names as the Morris Oxford, the Bullnose Morris, the mini, first time around and the new one in production now. The first mass produced car rolled off the production line in the mid 1920’s and produced a huge demand for labour which has held up ever since. Many diverse and interesting local businesses are also prosperous because of the giant car plant.
The first historical evidence of the town’s existence is that derived from the oxen fording points at shallow crossings along the River Thames from which comes the name. Post Roman development has always indulged scholastic endeavour, coupled with religious devotion. Oxford city centre boasts the smallest cathedral in the country built by the Normans under William I which is situated in Christ Church College, accessible to all and host to many academic and non-academic activities alike. This is also the only cathedral in the world built in a college. From this sprang the predominantly ecclesiastical colleges built by rich bishops, shunning women who were only allowed to be granted degrees after 1920 and not allowing lecturers to marry. Each of the thirty five colleges has its own charm and grace, steeped history and famous students, they can all boast the most of course. Tensions between the city and colleges have been named “town and gown” and have surfaced on occasion throughout history and still remain a focal discussion point today.
Oxford straddles the confluences of the Cherwell and Thames rivers, the Cherwell also being known as the Isis. The past is no better represented than by Carfax Tower from Saxon times casting a view at the top across the city and down the pedestrian Cornmarket. As to the colleges, most famous names include Magdalen, Balliol, Christ Church, Exeter, Hertford, Jesus, Keble, Merton, Pembroke, Trinity, Wadham and Ruskin, to name but a few. Not to forget St Hilda’s the last single sex, in this case women’s college to go co-ed.
Although an old city which can trace its origins back to Roman times and beyond, modern life gripped the city when it became the back drop to the very famous Harry Potter films, the Hogwarts School locations in the film Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone include the Bodleian Library and Christ Church college cathedral. The recent Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have also been filmed in the city.
For the more serious tourist visiting England, the newly updated and magnificent Sheldonian museum plays host to thousands of British and international artefacts complementing Pitts River museum and the Ashmolean.
Oxford, based in Oxfordshire, truly is an English city of dreaming spires and commerce, a cultural and educational centre, a monument to modern living within an ancient labyrinth of our past.
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Article Added on Wednesday, November 2, 2011
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