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Oxford, Oxfordshire England. City guide and virtual tour of the city.
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Oxford is a city, and the county town of the county of Oxfordshire, in South East England.

panoramic view of the Oxford skyline
A panoramic view of the Oxford skyline by Diliff

The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 151,000 living within the district boundary. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through Oxford and meet south of the city centre. For a distance of some 10 miles (16 km) along the river, in the vicinity of Oxford, the Thames is known as The Isis.

Oxford is a very old city and is blessed with a rich and colourful history. Tourists come to the city not only to visit the famed Oxford University but for a number of popular tourist attractions most of which are historical buildings of the University and its outlying colleges as well as several famous institutions. The city council has proposed a new development plan to urbanise the city so expect the number of properties for sale in the area to rise in the coming years.

Buildings in Oxford demonstrate an example of every British architectural period since the arrival of the Saxons, including the iconic, mid-18th century Radcliffe Camera. Oxford is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of Oxford's university buildings. The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.


Map of Oxford, Oxfordshire, England:

Oxford was first occupied in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxenaforda", meaning "Ford of the Ox"; fords being more commonly used than bridges at that time. It began with the foundation of St Frideswide's nunnery in the 8th century, and was first mentioned in written records in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 912. In the 10th century Oxford became an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by Danes. St Frideswide is the patron saint of both the city and university.

In 1191, a city charter stated in Latin, “Be it known to all those present and future that we, the citizens of Oxford of theAll Souls Colleg, Oxford Commune of the City and of the Merchant Guild have given, and by this, our present charter, confirm the donation of the island of Midney with all those things pertaining to it, to the [------] of St. Mary at Oseney and to the canons serving God in that place.
“Since, every year, at Michaelmas the said canons render half a mark of silver for their tenure at the time when we have ordered it as witnesses the legal deed of our ancestors which they made concerning the gift of this same island; and besides, because we have undertaken on our own part and on behalf of our heirs to guarantee the aforesaid island to the same canons wheresoever and against all men; they themselves, by this guarantee, will pay to us and our heirs each year at Easter another half mark which we have demanded; and we and our heirs faithfully will guarantee the aforesaid tenement to them for the service of the aforesaid mark annually for all matters and all services.

“We have made this concession and confirmation in the Common council of the City and we have confirmed it with our common seal. These are those who have made this concession and confirmation.”
(There follows a list of witnesses, ending with the phrase, “... and all the Commune of the City of Oxford.”)

The prestige of Oxford is seen in the fact that it received a charter from King Henry II, granting its citizens the same privileges and exemptions as those enjoyed by the capital of the kingdom; and various important religious houses were founded in or near the city. A grandson of King John established Rewley Abbey for the Cistercian Order; and friars of various orders (Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and Trinitarians), all had houses at Oxford of varying importance. Parliaments were often held in the city during the thirteenth century. The Provisions of Oxford were installed by a group of barons led by Simon de Montfort; these documents are often regarded as England's first written constitution.

Oxford's Botanic Garden

A photograph of Autumn foliage in Oxford's Botanic Garden.
Taken by Toby Ord

The University of Oxford is first mentioned in 12th century records. As the University took shape, friction between the hundreds of students living where and how they pleased led to a decree that all undergraduates would have to reside in approved halls. Of the hundreds of Aularian houses that sprang up across the city, only St Edmund Hall (c 1225) remains. What put an end to the halls was the emergence of colleges. Oxford's earliest colleges were University College (1249), Balliol (1263) and Merton (1264). These colleges were established at a time when Europeans were starting to translate the writings of Greek philosophers. These writings challenged European ideology – inspiring scientific discoveries and advancements in the arts – as society began seeing itself in a new way. The relationship between "town and gown" has often been uneasy — as many as 93 students and townspeople were killed in the St Scholastica Day Riot of 1355.

The sweating sickness epidemic in 1517 was particularly devastating to Oxford and Cambridge where it killed half of both cities' populations, including many students and dons.

The Oxford Martyrs were tried for heresy in 1555 and subsequently burnt at the stake, on what is now Broad Street, for their religious beliefs and teachings. The three martyrs were the bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, and the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Martyrs' Memorial stands nearby, round the corner to the North on St. Giles.

During the English Civil War, Oxford housed the court of Charles I in 1642, after the king was expelled from London, although there was strong support in the town for the Parliamentarian cause. The town yielded to Parliamentarian forces under General Fairfax in the Siege of Oxford of 1646. It later housed the court of Charles II during the Great Plague of London in 1665–66. Although reluctant to do so, he was forced to evacuate when the plague got too close.

In 1790, the Oxford Canal connected the city with Coventry. The Duke's Cut was completed by the Duke of Marlborough in 1789 to link the new canal with the River Thames; and in 1796 the Oxford Canal company built their own link to the Thames, at Isis Lock. In 1844, the Great Western Railway linked Oxford with London via Didcot and Reading, and other rail routes soon followed.
In the 19th century, the controversy surrounding the Oxford Movement in the Anglican [------] drew attention to the city as a focus of theological thought.Magpie Lane, Oxford, England

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Oxford's Town Hall was built by Henry T. Hare, the foundation stone was laid on 6 July 1893 and opened by the future King Edward VII on 12 May 1897. The site has been the seat of local government since the Guild Hall of 1292 and though Oxford is a city and a Lord Mayoralty, it is still called by its traditional name of "Town Hall".
By the early 20th century, Oxford was experiencing rapid industrial and population growth, with the printing and publishing industries becoming well established by the 1920s. Also during that decade, the economy and society of Oxford underwent a huge transformation as William Morris established the Morris Motor Company to mass produce cars in Cowley, on the south-eastern edge of the city. By the early 1970s over 20,000 people worked in Cowley at the huge Morris Motors and Pressed Steel Fisher plants. By this time Oxford was a city of two halves: the university city to the west of Magdalen Bridge and the car town to the east. This led to the witticism that "Oxford is the left bank of Cowley". Cowley suffered major job losses in the 1980s and 1990s during the decline of British Leyland, but is now producing the successful New MINI for BMW on a smaller site. A large area of the original car manufacturing facility at Cowley was demolished in the 1990s and is now the site of the Oxford Business Park.

Photograph of Magpie Lane, Oxford. Taken by Newton2

The influx of migrant labour to the car plants and hospitals, recent immigration from south Asia, and a large student population, have given Oxford a notable cosmopolitan character, especially in the Headington and Cowley Road areas with their many bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, ethnic shops and fast food outlets. Oxford is one of the most diverse small cities in Britain with the most recent population estimates for 2005. showing that 27% of the population were from an ethnic minority group, including 16.2% from a non-white ethnic minority ethnic group (ONS). These figures do not take into account more recent international migration into the city, with over 10,000 people from overseas registering for National Insurance Numbers in Oxford between 2005/06 and 2006/07.

On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister, as a 25 year old medical student, ran the first authenticated four-minute mile at the Iffley Road running track in Oxford. Although he had previously studied at Oxford University, Bannister was actually studying at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London at the time.

Oxford's second university, Oxford Brookes University, formerly the Oxford School of Art, then Oxford Polytechnic, based on Headington Hill, was given its charter in 1991 and has been voted for the last ten years the best new university in the UK. It was named to honour the school's founding principal, John Henry Brookes.

Oxford Climate
Oxford has a Maritime Temperate climate. Precipitation is uniformly distributed throughout the year and is provided mostly by weather systems that arrive from the Atlantic. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Oxford was -16.6 °C (2.1 °F) in January 1982. The highest temperature ever recorded in Oxford is 35.6 °C (96 °F) in August 2003 during the 2003 European heat wave.

Oxford weather: 5 day, 10 day, 15 day long range forecast and current conditions.

There is a field of thought that due to Climate change, temperatures are increasing in Oxford, precipitation is decreasing in summer and increasing in winter.
The average conditions below are from the Radcliffe Meteorological Station. It boasts the longest series of temperature and rainfall records for one site in Britain. These records are continuous from January, 1815. Irregular observations of rainfall, cloud and temperature exist from 1767.

Oxford Economy

The Oxford suburb of Cowley has a long history of carmaking and now produces the BMW MINI.

Morrells, the Oxford based regional brewery was founded in 1743 by Richard Tawney. He formed a partnership in 1782 with Mark and James Morrell, who eventually became the owners. The brewery building, known as the "Lion Brewery", was located in St Thomas Street, the brewery was well known for drinks such as "Sambuca". After an acrimonious family dispute this much-loved brewery was closed in 1998, the beer brand names being taken over by the Thomas Hardy Burtonwood brewery, while the 132 tied pubs were bought by "Morrells of Oxford", who sold the bulk of them on to Greene King in 2002. The Lion Brewery was converted into luxury apartments in 2002.Museum Road, Oxford UK

View of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History from Museum Road in Oxford, England. Photograph by Jonathan Bowen.

Commercial areas in Oxford

Broad Street
Clarendon Shopping Centre
Cornmarket Street
George Street
Golden Cross
The High Street
Little Clarendon Street
Queen Street, Oxford
The Covered Market
Turl Street
Westgate Shopping Centre
Oxford Castle
Gloucester Green
Outside the City Centre:
Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford
Botley Road, Oxford
Cowley Retail Park, Cowley, Oxford
Cowley Road, Oxford
Iffley Road, Oxford
London Road, Headington, Oxford
North Parade, Oxford
St. Clements, Oxford
Templars Square Shopping Centre, Cowley, Oxford
Walton Street, Jericho, Oxford
New Botley

Theatres and cinemas
Burton Taylor Theatre, Worcester Street
New Theatre, George Street
Odeon Cinema, George Street
Odeon Cinema, Magdalen Street
Old Fire Station Theatre, George Street
Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street
Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Road
O'Reilly Theatre, Blackhall Road
Phoenix Picturehouse, Walton Street
Ultimate Picture Palace, Cowley Road
Vue Cinema, Grenoble Road

Oxford Landmarks
Oxford has numerous major tourist attractions, many belonging to the university and colleges. As well as several famous institutions, the town centre is home to Carfax Tower and the University [------] of St Mary the Virgin, both of which offer views over the spires of the city. Many tourists shop at the historic Covered Market. In the summer punting on the Thames/Isis and the Cherwell is popular.

The University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is one of the most famous universities in the world, and leading academics come to Oxford from all over the world.

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Oxford City Centre
As well as being a major draw for tourists (9.1 million in 2008, similar in 2009), Oxford city centre contains many shops, several theatres, and an ice rink. The historical buildings make this location a popular target for film and TV crews.
The city centre is relatively small, and is centred on Carfax, Oxford, a cross-roads on which a clocktower stands, and which forms the junction of Cornmarket Street (pedestrianised), Queen Street (semi-pedestrianised), St Aldate's and The High. Cornmarket Street and Queen Street are home to Oxford's various chain stores, as well as a small number of independent retailers, one of the longest established of which is Boswells, which was founded in 1738. St Aldate's has few shops but is the location of a number of local-government buildings, including the Town Hall, the city police station and local council offices. The High (the word street is not part of the name of this road) has a number of independent and high-end chain stores.
There are two small shopping centres in the city centre: The Clarendon Centre and The Westgate Centre. The Westgate Centre is named for the original West Gate in the city wall, and is located at the west end of Queen Street. It is quite small and contains a number of chain stores and a supermarket. The Westgate Shopping Centre is to undergo a large and controversial refurbishment; its plans involve tripling the size of the centre to 750,000 sq ft (70,000 m2), building a brand new 1,335 space underground car park and 90 new shops and bars, including a 230,000 sq ft (21,000 m2) John Lewis department store. There will be a new and improved transport system, a complete refurbishment of the existing centre and the surrounding Bonn Square area. The development plans include a number of new homes, and completion is expected in 2011, although this may be delayed due to the current financial climate.

Blackwell Books

Blackwell Bookshop is a very popular tourist attraction in Oxford. Blackwell Books claims the largest single room devoted to book sales in the whole of Europe, the cavernous Norrington Room (10,000 sq ft).

Oxford Attractions
Ashmolean Museum
Bodleian Library
The Headington Shark
Modern Art Oxford
Museum of the History of Science
Oxford Botanic Garden
Pitt Rivers Museum
Sheldonian Theatre

Urban redevelopment

The Westgate redevelopment is just part of a wider scheme proposed by the city council. This scheme includes a total redesign of the centre of Oxford to "pedestrianise" the city.
The scheme, entitled Transform Oxford, is only a blueprint for public consultation at this stage, but county council officials are confident it will go ahead.
The university has been rebuilt on several occasions due to fire breakout in 1789.
One of the key elements is the pedestrianisation of Queen Street, with bus stops removed next summer to make way for the eventual complete removal of buses from the street.
Pedestrianisation schemes in George Street and Magdalen Street should follow in the summer of 2010, with the removal of traffic from Broad Street the same year a possibility.
In 2011, highways engineers plan to remodel the Frideswide Square junctions near the railway station, removing traffic lights and introducing roundabouts to improve the traffic flow.


Oxford is served by nearby London Oxford Airport, in Kidlington. The airport has seasonal flights to Geneva and Rome by Flybaboo, and Jersey by CityJet.
The airport is also home to Oxford Aviation Academy, a major airline pilot flight training centre, and several high profile private jet companies.

The bus services are mainly provided by the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxfordshire. Both companies also operate regular services to London. The Oxford Bus Company also runs the Airline services to Heathrow and Gatwick.
Other operators include Thames Travel, Arriva Shires & Essex and several smaller companies.
There is a bus station at Gloucester Green, used mainly by the London and airport services, and National Express coach services.

Oxford has 5 park and ride sites that service the city centre;
Pear Tree (Link to city centre with bus 300)
Redbridge (Link to city centre with bus 300)
Seacourt (Link to city centre with bus 400)
Thornhill (Link to city centre with bus 400)
Water Eaton (Link to city centre with bus 500)
A service also runs to The John Radcliffe Hospital (from Thornhill/Water Eaton) as well as the Churchill and Nuffield Hospitals (from Thornhill).

Ashmolean Museum Oxford (c) Hertford Bridge Oxford (c) Radcliffe Camera, Oxford (c)
Images of Oxford, UK. Ashmolean Museum, Hertford Bridge, Radcliffe Camera courtesy of ©FreeFoto (

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Oxford railway station
In 1844, the Great Western Railway linked Oxford with London (Paddington) via Didcot and Reading; in 1851, the London and North Western Railway opened their own route from Oxford to London (Euston), via Bicester, Bletchley and Watford; and in 1864 a third route, also to Paddington, running via Thame, High Wycombe and Maidenhead, was provided; this was shortened in 1906 by the opening of a direct route between High Wycombe and London (Paddington) via Denham. The distance from Oxford to London was 78 miles (125.5 km) via Bletchley; 63.5 miles (102.2 km) via Didcot and Reading; 63.25 miles (101.8 km) via Thame and Maidenhead; and 55.75 miles (89.7 km) via Denham. Of these, only the original route via Didcot is still in use for its full length, although portions of each of the others remain.

There were also routes to the north and west. The line to Banbury was opened in 1850, and was extended to Birmingham in 1852; a route to Worcester opened in 1853. A branch to Witney was opened in 1862, which was extended to Fairford in 1873. The line to Witney and Fairford closed in 1962, but the others remain open.

Oxford has had three main railway stations. The first was opened at Grandpont in 1844, but this was a terminus, inconvenient for routes to the north; it was replaced by the present station on Park End Street in 1852 with the opening of the Birmingham route. Another terminus, at Rewley Road, was opened in 1851 to serve the Bletchley route; this station closed in 1951. There have also been a number of local railway stations, all of which are now closed.

Oxford railway station is half a mile west of the city centre. The station is served by numerous routes, including CrossCountry services as far afield as Manchester and Edinburgh, First Great Western (who operate the station) services to London and other destinations and occasional Chiltern Railways services to Birmingham. The present station opened in 1852. Oxford is the junction for a short branch line to Bicester, which is being extended to form the East-West Rail Link to Milton Keynes, providing a passenger route avoiding London.

River and canal
Oxford was historically an important port on the River Thames with the Oxford-Burcot Commission in the seventeenth century being one of the early endeavours to improve navigation to Oxford. Iffley Lock and Osney Lock lie within the bounds of the city. In the eighteenth century the Oxford Canal was built to connect Oxford with the Midlands.
Commercial traffic has given way to recreational use of the river and canal. Oxford was the original base of Salters Steamers and there is a regular service from Folly Bridge downstream to Abingdon and beyond.
Christ Church Meadow, Oxford
Oxford, England, Author: Jonathan Bowen

A roads
The city has a ring road that consists of the A34, the A40, A4142 and the A423. It is mostly dual carriageway and was completed in 1966.
The main roads that lead out of Oxford are:
A34 – which leads to Bicester, the M40 north, Birmingham and Manchester to the north, and Didcot, Newbury and Winchester to the south. The A34 is entirely grade separated dual carriageway all the way from Bicester to Winchester.
A40 – which leads to London and High Wycombe (as well as the M40 motorway south) to the east, and Cheltenham, Gloucester and south Wales to the west.
A44 – which begins in Oxford and leads to Worcester, Hereford and Aberystwyth.
A420 – which also begins in Oxford and leads to Bristol passing Swindon and Chippenham.

The M40 Extension
The city is served by the M40 motorway, which connects London to Birmingham. The original M40 opened in 1974 went from London to Waterstock where the A40 continued to Oxford. However, when the M40 was extended to Birmingham in 1991, a mile of the old motorway became a spur and the new section bent away sharply north. Now the M40 does a large arc around Oxford (staying around 10 miles (16 km) away from the centre) due to the woodland that the motorway had to avoid. The M40 meets the A34 a junction later, the latter now being in two parts, the A34 restarting in Birmingham.


There are two universities in Oxford; the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University as well as Ruskin College.
Oxford is home to wide range of schools many of which receive pupils from around the world. Three are University choral foundations, established to educate the boy choristers of the chapel choirs.

Oxford Media
As well as the BBC national radio stations, Oxford and the surrounding area has several local stations, including BBC Oxford, Heart, Oxford's FM 107.9, and JACK fm on 106.8 along with Oxide: Oxford Student Radio (which went on terrestrial radio at 87.7 MHz FM in late May 2005). A local TV station, Six TV: The Oxford Channel was also available but closed in April 2009. The city is home to a BBC TV newsroom which produces an opt-out from the main South Today programme broadcast from Southampton.
Popular local papers include The Oxford Times (compact; weekly), its sister papers The Oxford Mail (tabloid; daily) and The Oxford Star (tabloid; free and delivered), and Oxford Journal (tabloid; weekly free pick-up). Oxford is also home to several advertising agencies.
Daily Information (known locally as Daily Info) is an events and advertising news sheet which has been published since 1964 and now provides a connected website.
Recently (2003) DIY grassroots non-corporate media has begun to spread. Independent and community newspapers include the Jericho Echo and Oxford Prospect.

Oxford Culture

Oxford, and its surrounding towns and villages, have produced many successful bands and musicians. The most notable Oxford act is Radiohead, though other well known local bands include Supergrass, Ride, Swervedriver, Talulah Gosh and more recently, Young Knives, Foals and Stornoway.

Oxford United Football Club are currently in League Two (2009-2010 season), the lowest tier of league football, but have enjoyed greater success in the past. They were elected to the Football League in 1962, reached the Third Division after three years and the Second Division after six, and most notably reached the First Division in 1985 - a mere 23 years after joining the Football League. They spent three seasons in the top flight, winning the Football League Cup a year after promotion. The next 18 years saw them decline gradually (though a brief respite in 1996 saw them win promotion to the new (post Premier League) Division One in 1996 and stay there for three years. They suffered relegation to the Football Conference in 2006, staying there for four seasons before returning to the Football League in 2010. They play at the Kassam Stadium (named after former chairman Firoz Kassam), which is situated near the Blackbird Leys housing estate and has been their home since relocation from the Manor Ground in 2001.
Oxford City F.C. is an amateur football club, separate from Oxford United. It plays in the Southern Football League Premier Division.
Oxford Cheetahs motorcycle speedway team has raced at Cowley Stadium on and off since 1939. The Cheetahs competed in the Speedway Elite League and then the Speedway Conference League until 2007, when stadium landlords Greyhound Racing Association apparently doubled the rent. Speedway is not currently running in Oxford. Details of the 1949 and 1950 seasons at Cowley can be seen on Oxford Speedway website.
There are several field hockey clubs based in Oxford. City of Oxford HC and Rover Oxford HC, two separate clubs, both play their home games on the pitch at Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus. Oxford Hawks play at Banbury Road North, by Cutteslow Park to the north of the city.
Oxford City Stars is the local Ice Hockey Team which plays at Oxford Ice Rink. There is a senior/adults’ team and a junior/children’s team.
Oxford is also home to the Oxford City Rowing Club which is situated near Donnington Bridge.

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