Virtual Tour of Oxford
Highlights of the Ancient City
History of Oxford
• Oxford lies in a flat fertile valley which was perfect for the
large number of monasteries that sprung up 10th and 11th
• Part of this monastic scene was a culture of teaching and
learning. Private schools were set up by wealthy foreign
teachers. The only true University at the time was in Paris
but in 1167 after a dispute with the French, Henry 2nd
banned all students from attending this university. Many of
the scholars headed to Oxford and within a few decades
the city had its first colleges.
• The University of Cambridge set up by Oxford scholars.
• Oldest college in Oxford is University College which was
founded in 1249.
1. Information Centre
• Stand with your back to the
Information Centre - Turn
right and walk along Broad
Street until you come to the
Sheldonian Theatre.
• Stand in front of Sheldonian
Theatre which is a very
impressive building.
2. Sheldonian Theatre
• This was built between 1644 and 1669 and the
first major building built by architect Sir Chris
Wren. It was named after Archbishop Sheldon
a University Chancellor and Archbishop of
Canterbury, who paid for the theatre to be built.
• All students come here for Matriculation
Ceremony when they become members of the
University and then for Graduation.
• To the right of the Sheldonian is the Museum of
the History of Science also known as the
Asmoleum Museum it was built in 1683 and
was the first public museum in UK.
• It holds collection of fascinating scientific
instruments. It also has the black board used by
Sir Albert Einstein who first lectured on the
theory of relativity.
3. Junction of Broad Street and Catte
• On right is Clarendon Building built in
1712 by Oxford University Press as its
printing works.
• The Clarendon Building now forms part
of Bodlian library. The press is now in
more modern buildings.
• Make way down Catte street to front of
Schools Quad. You will pass Bridge of
Sighs on your left. It is the most
photographed building in Oxford. Built
in 1913 to link buildings together when
curfew was in place as
• Shares the same name as Bridge of
Sighs in Venice.
4. Radcliffe Square and Schools Quad
• The Plaza you are standing in is Radcliffe Square
architecturally one of the best in Europe. Schools
Quad was built between 1613 and 1624 as a way of
bringing together lecture rooms, which were dotted
around the city. This is open to the public, step inside
and have a look.
• In the 17th Century all lectures were taught in latin.
As you can see the inscriptions above the door are in
Latin. The building now forms part of Bodlian Library.
• At one end of Schools Quad is the Divinity School
which is the oldest central university building in
Oxford. Main hall was used as part of the Harry
Potter Film.
• Inside there are 2 interesting exhibits inside that are
worth a look if it is open - Drake Chair made from ship
of Golden Hind which was sailed by Sir Francis Drake.
• Bodleys Chest a very rich man who kept money in this
chest which is made of thick iron and an elaborate
locking mechanism to pay the workers who were
building the Bodlian Library.
4. Radcliffe Camera
• Back on Radcliffe Square the Radcliffe Camera Building
• John Radcliffe was a doctor to the Royal Family. In early
1700’s when he died he left money and books. In 1737
work started on the Radcliffe Camera the first round
library in Britain. The building became part of the
Bodlian Library in 1860.
• Head towards St Mary the Virgin Church - on your left is
All Souls College look through the gate at the beautiful
• All Souls has no graduates or undergraduates just
research fellows - it has the biggest and best wine
collection in Oxford.
• See if you can see the famous Sundial designed by Sir
Christopher Wren when he was the college bursar. It is
on the top of the buildings on the left of the Courtyard
of All Souls College.
5. Church of St Mary the Virgin
• Go through the Church or walk
around to left of the Church.
• Climb the tower for a small charge
for the best view in Oxford.
• St Mary the Virgin is the parish
church of Oxford University. The
oldest part are the 13th century
Tower and 14th century Spire. John
Wesley preached his famous sermon
here in 1774.
• Make your way outside of the
church to High Street.
6. High Street
• Turn left and continue
along the left hand side of
High Street heading for
next point outside Queen’s
• Queens College
7. Queen’s College
• Queens College is not open to the public but look
through the main gate at the impressive courtyard.
This college was founded in 1340. Queen’s College is
Oxfords best example of classical architecture.
• Many influential people have studied here –
inventor of World Wide Web - Tim Berners Lee.
• University College is also named Univ College. This
was the first college in Oxford and founded in 1249.
• To the left of Univ College is Examination Schools
where oxford students have been examined.
• You can see 2 sculpted panels above the
entrance which show ancient process of
• Cross High Street to turning into Merton Street.
8. Corner of Merton Street
• Walk along Merton Street for a couple of
minutes until you reach entrance to Merton
9. Merton College
• Founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton who was
Bishop of Rochester in Kent He founded the
college after selling a lot of his land in Surrey.
• Students started studying in 1270.
• The college’s Mob Quad is the oldest
quadrangle in Oxford dates from 1378.
• Worth a visit when college is open to visit.
• 3 statues above main gate are Henry 3rd who
was king when the college was founded, Walter
de Merton himself and St John the Baptist with a
selection of animals.
• Continue along Merton bear left and then turn
left into Bear Lane. Stand outside a pub called
The Bear.
10. The Bear Pub
• This pub dates back to 1242. In 16th
Century it was one of the main coaching
inns in Oxford and has 30 rooms.
• Pub remains most famous in Oxford. A
recent claim to fame goes back little more
than 50 years, when the landlord cut off a
visitors neck tie. Now a tradition anyone
enters the pub with a crest and is willing to
have the tie cut will get a
free pint of beer.
• Walk past the Bear for
50 yards and then follow a
alleyway on your right back
to High Street.
11. High Street
• To the right is Turl Street follow this back to
Broad Street back to the Oxford Information
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