Month: August 2019

Photo Essay: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History has a fantastic interior. It is quirky, industrial, skeletal and everything else in between. My regular blog post does not leave much space for excess images and I really felt that this was one time when I needed to create a photo essay.

This is what it looks like on the outside

Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

And this is what it looks like on the inside…

Did I mention skeletal? Meet Tea Wrecks and friends

There are other well padded creatures too, although I didn’t look too hard at those.

And lots of important guys standing around…

But its really that train shed architecture that appeals to me. The building was designed by the Irish architects Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward and directly influenced by the writings of critic John Ruskin, who involved himself by making various suggestions to Woodward during construction. Construction began in 1855, and the building was ready for occupancy in 1860. (

And it’s not everyday that you get to see an elephant skeleton from above either.

It’s time to go. Don’t forget to close the door….

or else…

DRW © 2019. Created 25/08/2019


Oxford Cathedral

The cathedral in Oxford is part of Christ Church College and is integrated into the structure of the college so there is no real way that you can view it as a standalone building. To understand the cathedral you really have to know the history behind the college and its buildings, and it is worth remembering that Christ Church Cathedral is the college chapel.

The cathedral was originally the church of St Frideswide’s Priory and the site was historically presumed to be the location of the nunnery founded by St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. 

St Frideswide

Remember Here

In 1522, the priory was surrendered to Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, who had selected it as the site for his proposed college. However, in 1529 the foundation was taken over by Henry VIII and work stopped. In June 1532 the college was refounded by the King and in 1546 he  transferred to it the recently created “See of Oxford”.  (,_Oxford)

Cathedral floor plan

With that out of the way I would like to show my images of the visit that I made on 23 August 2019. I will make no apologies for my images, these buildings are very difficult to photograph because of their size, varying light conditions, visitors and lousy photographers. I can never do full justice to any cathedral, you really need to see them for yourself.  This was my third attempt at a visit and I was finally able to see what lay at the opposite end of the Tom Quad when viewed from the Tom Gate.

To understand how the cathedral fits into that picture you need to remember that what you are seeing from the Tom Gate is the spire and the entrance to the cathedral. As a visitor you cannot waltz through the gate, cross the quad and pop into the door because it does not work like that. Entry is via the Meadow Building which would be on the right hand side of this image but out of shot.  

Once you have managed to pass through the entrance doors of the cathedral you are literally in a different world. This cathedral is amongst the smallest in the UK but that does not mean that it somehow lacks in stature and beauty. 

Looking from the nave towards the high altar (1024 x 768)

The nave, choir, main tower and transepts are late Norman and there are architectural features ranging from Norman to the Perpendicular style and a large rose window of the ten-part (i.e. botanical) type. The area immediately in front of the camera is roped off and your tour begins in the aisle to the left of this image. It is here that you will find the Shrine of St Frideswide.

Shrine of St Frideswide

This knight in full armour from the late 14th century is probably John de Nowers who died in 1386. He was over 6 foot tall and his coat of arms (three golden wheatsheaves) appears on his surcoat. His head is resting on a tilting helm and crest in the shape of an ox and his feet rest on a collared dog. 

The High Altar.

Looking towards the nave from the choir (1024 x 768)

And naturally I was looking for war memorials and plaques to individual soldiers and the Chapel of Remembrance would be on the left of the image above. 

The Chapel of Remembrance

Altar in the Chapel of Remembrance

Of course in any cathedral it is very important to not only look around you but to look up towards the ceiling.


Looking across to the North Transept

Wall Memorials.

The cathedral has a very fine collection of wall and floor memorials, although many are in Latin. These are only a small representation of the memorials.

The Cloister.

The Cloister, like the Cathedral, is part of the original Priory of St Frideswide, which stood here before the college was built. Human remains from the time of St Frideswide (the eighth century AD) were found in the central plot. The olive tree (a traditional symbol of peace) and the fountain are contemporary additions to the Cloister and mark the threshold of the Cathedral’s sacred space. 

And that is Oxford Cathedral in a nutshell. I am not going to even try explain the whole history behind it because there are many more web resources out that will do a better job. However, I did find an ebook that would be of interest at Project Gutenberg called “The Cathedral Church of Oxford, A description of its fabric and a brief history of the episcopal see” by Percy Dearmer.

The English Visitors Booklet of Christ Church College and Cathedral is also worth reading (PDF Document). I wish I had found a copy of it before I went to the cathedral. The floorplan in this post originated from this pdf as does some of the text. 

The cathedral website is at

The cathedral is beautiful inside and I am glad I persevered in seeing it. Unfortunately it was jam packed with visitors too so photography was difficult at times. The shop was also packed and I was not even able to get up the one aisle. I did however find a nice guide book about the cathedral in the shop. 

Random Images

DRW © 2019. Created 24/08/2019


Onwards to Oxford (4)

Having visited Sir Winston Churchill’s grave I now had to decided whether to carry on to Oxford or return to Evesham. The 11.11 train arrived at Hanborough as I did so I decided to keep on going!  Unfortunately the train was also packed and I ended up having to stand for the 10 minute journey but that was really a minor inconvenience.  My goal on this day was to try to get into the Cathedral, and have a look at a part of the prison that I had missed before. I had 2,5 hours to kill so let’s get on with it.

Coming out of the station I noticed a large statue of an ox. There was no immediate information as to the context so I photographed it anyway because you never really know. 

It turns out that the bronze bull was commissioned to celebrate the opening of the Saïd Business School and was sculpted by Olivia Musgrave.  Suitably photographed I headed towards Oxford Castle and Prison where I wanted to find the original cells that we had been told about on the tour last time I was in town. I spotted an old lag and he directed me to the entrance of the Malmaison Hotel and I was able to see inside the converted cellblock.

Hotel entrance

Converted cellblock

I struggled to find the cells though but eventually found them in the furthermost corner. This wing of the prison was built in the 1850’s and contained cells similar to the image below. Incidentally, the hotel staff members that I bumped into on my exploration here were very friendly and helpful. 

To convert the wing into a hotel 3 cells were used. Two being joined to form a bedroom and another for the en suite bathroom. The cells were 10ft by 6ft and were originally single cells but by the 1970’s were occupied by 3 men. There were no toilets in the cells.

Having done my time I headed towards the cathedral, hopefully it would be open so that I could put it beneath my belt on this day. The route is very familiar now and it gets very crowded as you get closer. 

At last I reached St Aldates Str and headed towards the very prominent Tom Tower and hopefully a better pic of the cathedral spire across the Tom Quad. 

The cathedral spire from the Tom Gate

Then a short walk to the Meadow Building where the entrance to the cathedral was and found that the cathedral was open for visiting (so had a large amount of other people). The cathedral is a very popular tourist destination. 

The Meadow Building

To really understand the context of the cathedral you need to orientate yourself with the image below.

Following the direction signs I came to a staircase that I assumed led to the cathedral. It had a magnificent fan vault ceiling but there were people everywhere.  This area is known as the Hall Stairs.

The hall stairs led into what is known as The Great Hall and is where meals are taken and it is a breathtaking space. 

It is estimated that 200 000 meals are served here every year, and the senior members of staff and their guests sit at the “High Table” which is the furthermost from the door. Paintings of former deans and important people look down on those stuffing their faces with their morning porridge. The place was really too crowded to be able to take a close look at anything and I turned around and headed back to the stairs and downwards, finally emerging at the Tom Quad where the entrance to the cathedral is. The Tom Gate is where I photographed the spire from, and the 6 ton Tom Bell hangs from this tower which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and it was in place in 1682. 

I am not covering the interior of the cathedral in this post but have a separate post for that. Suffice to say I will leave a teaser here instead and continue after it.

The cathedral is magnificent and it was definitely worth seeing it.  However, you really need to view the cathedral as an integral part of the college.

Exiting the cathedral at the Tom Quad again I was able to get a nice wide angle shot of the space. 

(1500 x 680)

Following the crowd we emerged at what is known as The Peckwater Quad. It is a surrounded by a three sided building and they were completed in 1713. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph the library that forms the 4th side of the quad as the quad was roped off because exams were taking place. As it is I could only photograph 2 sides of Peckwater Quad.

It appeared as if our tour was completed as we exited through the ornate Canterbury Gate, and I ended up once again in Magpie Lane which I knew came out close in the High Street, close to the Radcliffe Camera which was more or less where I wanted to be. While reading my book about Oxford I discovered that there were a few images that I wanted to reshoot in this area. The first is the twin towers of All Souls College.  

and the second was the tower above the entrance to the Bodleian Library, this one was a challenge because I needed to be in the centre of the courtyard but ended having to take the image from a corner as the crowd at that point did not dissipate. 

The frieze near the top looked impressive so I zoomed into it and was suitably impressed. It is just a pity that we miss so much above our heads because we are always looking to the ground.

Realistically I had accomplished all that I wanted to and was starting to tire. I had roughly an hour to kill before my train so I headed back towards High Street, intent on finding food or a drink as it was quite a stinker of a day. The covered market was around where I wanted to be so I decided to look it up too.

The covered market was quite quirky, and I wandered around it looking at the goodies and some of the exorbitant prices. 

The bunny? he is one of the characters from Alice in Wonderland; Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) studied and taught at Christ Church College and the dean at the time was Henry Liddell. He had a daughter called Alice, and Carroll befriended her and created a story for her that eventually was published as Alice In Wonderland. There are quite a few Alice pointers in Oxford but I was not going to chase them up. 

The market done I found a Boots and bought some goodies before wandering down the street until I came across the City Church of Oxford and popped in for a quick look. 

It was cool and peaceful inside and I needed some of that. 

It was not a very big or ornate church but it is probably a very old one. 

My agenda was completed, all I really wanted to do now was captured the inscription on the Martyrs Memorial and investigate the area around it. I had not realised what the memorial was at the time so I could rectify that now. The memorial tends to draw crowds trying to get some rest and I expected that would be true today too. I was correct in my supposition and even ended up with heads in the bottom of my image. 

Actually I did find that it was very difficult to read the inscription even from close up so here is a  transcription:

To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI

While working on the 3rd page of my Oxford blogposts I bumped into a reference to Rhodes House and decided to try to find it as it was not too far away. I ended up walking down an alleyway called  “Lamb and Flag passage” which technically ended up close to where I wanted to be.

Lamb and Flag passage

However, when I emerged I spotted a nice looking building that I decided to investigate instead and it turns out that this is the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I went inside to have a look.

Museum of Natural History

I had seen this museum mentioned in one of my books and while I am not really interested in this sort of stuff I had some time to kill. The interior of the building was breathtaking and nothing like what I expected. The almost skeletal structure just blends so well with the skeletons inside the space, and it is light and airy and as quirky as it gets. The Pitt Rivers Museum collection has an entrance from the back of the gallery but I peeked inside and it was dark and the opposite of this skeletal beauty.  I did a photo essay about the place because it was so awesome!

My watch however said it was time to leave for the station and I reluctantly turned my bows towards the exit. Rhodes House was not far from here but I will leave that for another day, and of course I will return to this museum for a 2nd look. I now had a blister to add to my woes and I was still 2 hours from home, so I wormed my way through the crowds and eventually got to the station. There I discovered that my water bottle was leaking and everything inside my backpack was wet. Bah Humbug! 

Oxford was in the bag for now. And I will not return to it readily unless I can find enough reasons to do so. It was quite an adventure though and the city is unforgettable. It was like nothing I expected and the weight of ages is enormous. So many scholars of note came from this city and it will continue educating them in the future. Unfortunately the disaffected PC mob are trying their best to turn the years of tradition upside down with scant regard to the history of the university. I know that I will never think of it in the same way again, and if people ask I am proud to say “I have been to Oxford”

Random Images

DRW © 2019. Created 25/09/2019