Thursday, 20 March 2014

Oxford, an unplanned trip

A friend told me in the second half of 2013 that he was going on an organised walking trip at New Year to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with another friend. I had no plans, considered all the options which were all closer to home and decided that the opportunity might not come up again. I left it late to book and as fate would have it, the second person opted out for something more local to him and as a result I got his room. My friend said he would take his larger car for comfort and luggage so we agreed on shared fuel costs.

As it was a walking trip, relatively nearby Oxford wasn't on the menu although it was always on my wish list. I had visited Oxford twice before many years ago on a long day out charter rail trip and then about 7 - 8 years ago on a car journey / park and ride from Bristol.

The rain in the south of England was so persistent over New Year that it looked impossible to walk at all. The event leader who knew my friend quite well had a small manual problem with her car boot and needed a garage. Oxford looked like a 3/4 day possibility so I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

(As usual though being with people presented the usual difficulties of real time looking for those extra special photographic moments so I did the best I could with the compromise available. The first half of the visit entailed looking for the botanical gardens to eat a packed lunch, however as it was closed and the river wasn't accessible at that point, we ended up on a seat outside a church on the High Street, Having said all that though, I don't think there was a lot more potential here given the weather and what was available.
It hasn't been easy in getting this post to publication due to significant distractions of other duties and the quality of the material that left a little to be desired. I struggled with inspiration as this was originally meant to be a combined post with the next walking set but to me it didn't gel well together. Consequently I had to find a few more shots to supplement the post but maybe these have weakened the post rather than strengthened it. In life I never know where I'll be from one year to the next and I can't see me back here for a very long time so ... what you see is what you've got. In brief, as I see it ... the set is what it is ! ... thought I'd give a history lesson again for those interested in that kind of thing ! )

Oxford was born in Saxon times and became a key settlement as it was surrounded by rivers on most sides at the junction of the River Thames and River Cherwell.

After the Normans arrived, its importance increased and in the following century the first English Parliament and University was set up. It seems that students have always liked controversy and rebellion as a disagreement between the students and the local people led to some academics going elsewhere to set up a University at Cambridge in 1209. Further complaints about the quality of the drinks in a tavern started a serious fatal riot in 1355.

Radcliffe library ... my unofficial Oxford centrepiece !
As similar towns expanded with houses to accommodate people, Oxfords expansion was with University buildings and ecclesiastical development.
During the Reformation period, when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic church, the events of the Oxford Martyrs took place in 1555/6 where Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and later Thomas Cranmer were burnt at the stake. It was at a time when the ruling monarch Queen Mary tried to repeal the theological idea but events like this live long in the memory and after her death, her half sister Queen Elizabeth I formalised the Reformation Bill. This was a time when Oxford became a city and the new centre of Church of England Christian thinking.
As both an Ecclesiastical and Parliament city it played an important role in the mid 17th century English Civil war with Charles 1. One of the many outcomes of the Civil War was it broke the monopoly of the Church of England's rule and gave way to other Protestant threads of faith with dynamic leaders such as John Calvin and John Knox.

Grey periods with glimmers ....
The Later Industrial Revolution and subsequent business of the nineteenth century also played its part but was possibly a little behind the times as it didn't seem to be that kind of city. The successes were in the printing and car industries long after Victorian England had disappeared. Like so many more towns and cities in the UK, these businesses declined in the late 20th century.

The incorrectly named Bridge of Sighs that connects two colleges in the centre of Oxford is more representative of another Venice structure, The Rialto Bridge. Its completion in 1914 was initially opposed by one of the attached colleges and can still be used by students today.

Oxford Christmas decorations !
Oxford is synonymous with bikes and boats, unfortunately I wasn't near the railway station this time to get a shot of the bike park. The late Christmas decorations will have to do !!

A Blue is a sports award that is earned by University students and is also the colour of attire. Although rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge stretches back to the 1209 split, sports competition began with a cricket match in 1827 that ended in a draw. Maybe that was the incentive to take to the water two years later for the boat race that never seems to be without incident many years on.

Letting my friends wander in the church behind whilst I loiter & wait in the doorway for 15mins

John Radcliffe was educated in Oxford, became a notable Royal Doctor, was unfortunately childless and left his estate at the time of his death in 1714 to build a library. There were many delays in the construction as some of the most revered architects died in the subsequent years. Building commenced in 1737 and took 11 years to complete not without further issues of accidents, smallpox, material misunderstandings and red tape !
The Library hit the news a few years ago with a sit in protest from students over changes to University funding.

The 1774 covered market ... something to write home about !!
One of the things about a market is the expectation of cheaper prices than in the High Street. Controversially, the local council touted and played with the rental fees in 2012 /2013 and consequently contravened the Market's ideals of opportunities to the independent trader.

Maybe that's because they are trying to keep the standard up with prices in the adjacent streets !!

Not quite a protest these days but a statement of intent ...

.... and not quite the Radcliffe library but a potential reading room nonetheless ....... !!! :-)



  1. I absolutely love that bathroom door. You should not apologize for the quality of the photos--I found them inspiring. As always, you do good work shooting an arch in the rain.

  2. I adore these photos and the shot with the blue boats under the bridge is my favorite. I would love to visit the market !

  3. With or without time constraint you have done Oxford proud. I can't work out the car reflection it is intriguing.

    1. Thanks Adrian, The joker in me just published it upside down !

  4. Lovely covered market in Oxford! Thanks for reminding me, J_on_tour! I've been 3 times in Oxford, once I stayed a whole week there. It is really a lovely town and, even being there with work, I enjoyed it a lot!

  5. I. Love the structure? Of your photos, J . and of course the humor of the post box one and the upside down car and the reading room. Lol I'd sure like to know what the fuss was about that caused the split and ensuing founding of the university at Cambridge. Probably something trivial. If we go to the south of England, we will include Oxford. I'm thinking a hundred mile radius would be doable. Thanks for the post.

  6. Ah, only in England....excellent photographs!


  7. I love visits to Oxford J...Thanks for sharing yours.... Wonderful images!

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  9. J, the set is what it is and I like it. The boats under the bridge, the green door, the bathroom :) ... and many more, you surely don't need to worry. And it's always interesting to read the history facts accompanying your photos.

    Converted to Czech crowns the cake seems very expensive but it looks delicious. I need to remember its look and when we have all the berries ripe in our garden, I should do my best to create something like this! :)


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