The Sheldonian Theatre
Oxford University, Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AZ
The Theatre is the ceremonial hall of the University. It is named after Gilbert Sheldon, Warden of All Souls College and later Archbishop of Canterbury; who paid for its building between 1664-9. It was the first major design of Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), Professor of Astronomy. The name and design of the building are derived from Roman theatres, open to the sky, and the painted ceiling by Robert Streater also expresses this characteristic. It shows Truth combining with the Arts and Sciences to expel Ignorance from the University, a task successfully accomplished. The Theatre is now also used for lectures and concerts.Tel 01865 277299, Fax 01865 277295 e-mail Custodian@Sheldon.ox.ac.uk
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Oxford University Tours
Oxford, OX1. (Map Ref 1.)
The walking tour of Oxford is one of the most complete tours you could wish to experience. Visiting all the buildings affiliated that make up Oxford University, plus a few other sights besides, you get to appreciate the beautiful classical architecture and the city's timeless sense of history.
The tour, starting at the Tourist Information Centre, concentrates on no more than 66 famous spots around Oxford. Among the Oxford University highlights are Magdalen College, with its sumptuous 15th century bell tower considered accordingly to be Oxford's most famous landmark. University College, thought to have been built in 1249 and probably Oxford's oldest college is also visited. I could go on forever, with The Queens College, New College, Christ Church, Corpus Christi College, as well as Merton College and numerous others.
What will impress you as you study all these colleges is their arched windows, towering Romanesque pillars, the huge stone slabs that distinguish the buildings, and the solidity and gravitas injected into each stone. I felt that the buildings were a grander version of Eton College - certainly the architecture was very similar but each college was built on a larger scale. The academic prowess that the colleges suggest are also quite intimidating.
There is a huge list of famous kings, writers, chancellors, bishops, and prime ministers dating back to the 13th century who have graced all these hallowed halls. You will also have the opportunity to see the Awesome Bodleian Library, the Botanic 'teaching garden', and the Examination School's Building. By the end of it all, you will know more about the university than the students who attend it.
One of the main reasons for visiting Oxford is so that you can witness the magnificent size, scale and beauty of the university buildings. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you take time out to try this tour out and fully experience Oxford's beating heart. You can contact the Tourist Information Centre for details of the tour on 01865 726871.
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The University Of Oxford Botanic Garden
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest in Great Britain. For over 370 years it has stood on the banks of the River Cherwell in the centre of Oxford. In that time it has evolved from a collection of medicinal herbs for seventeenth century physicians to the most compact diverse collection of plants in the world. In two hectares 8000 species, representing almost every botanical family, can be found. Visitors to the Garden can see tropical glasshouses, herbaceous borders, a bog garden and a rock garden.
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Beaumont Street, OX1. (Map Ref 2.)
When you look at The Ashmolean Museum, there is only one thought and image that should come to mind - temple of the gods. If there is a building that should by rights be up on that palatial cloud in the sky, then it is this one. Built in the middle of the 19th century, the Ashmolean houses some of the world's greatest paintings, sculptures, musical instruments, and treasures in general. Essentially owned by the University, the items on offer are priceless. The gigantic pillars that introduce you to the museum are just a foretaste of what you are about to experience. As you regard the Greek and Roman sculptures, the legendary Alfred Jewel, and the diverse paintings from all over Europe, you will feel that the Ashmolean, although perhaps not quite as massive in scope than London museums such as the Victoria and Albert, is hard to beat for atmosphere, mysticism, and certain transcendental qualities.
The exhibitions at the Ashmolean tend again to reflect their dramatic tendencies, ranging from Chinese landscape painting to Old Master Prints; the Rothschild Collection of Coins to Tibetan Thangka paintings, and you just have to wonder what the museum archives must look like.
The art and antiquities that pervade this classical building are a constant source of amazement and beauty to me and you can come here one thousand times and still fall in love with the objets d'art on display. Whilst you are in Oxford it is imperative that you experience and recognise the glory of the Ashmolean Museum, no matter if you are an art collector or a Philistine. You can contact the Ashmolean Museum on 01865 278000.
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Museum of Oxford
St. Aldate's, OX1. (Map Ref 3.)
Every town and city along the River Thames seems to have its own localised museum these days. Most of them are only of interest to locals and maybe the odd avid historian, but the Museum of Oxford, mainly because it has a far more illustrious and significant life span than the others, has quite a lot to talk about. As a result, the traveller should be utterly enthralled with the experience.
It tells the story of Oxford and the University from the Ice Age to modern times by using startling archaeological treasures, in particular to illustrate its Medieval collection, which includes the town's first charter of 1192. The museum again, like the Ashmolean, has a certain mysticism to it, even though the building is not as impressive architecturally than a lot of the grander old constructions that mark the university colleges and city lodgings.
As you would expect from other local museums, the Museum of Oxford follows a very close thematic pattern. It is just that it has more to say for itself. I would certainly recommend a visit here though. Oxford definitely takes pride in its museums. You can contact the Museum of Oxford on 01865 815559.
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The Old Horse Ford, Magdalen Bridge, OX1. (Map Ref.)
Situated at the lower end of Oxfords world famous 'High' by Magdalen College Tower is the 'Home of Oxford Punting'.
Come and try the art of punting - propelling a flat bottom boat with a pole on the River Cherwell. Set off from the boathouse and glide past the famous Botanic Gardens - drift quietly through the unspoilt Christ Church Meadows, where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice Through The Looking Glass, and past St. Hilda's College.
However should you not wish to experience punting then why not try one of our rowing boats or our new pedalos.
Punting open daily - 10am-dusk March to October
The ultimate relaxation, there is also a chauffeured punting service available.
Booking adviced - Tel.: 01865 202643