Category: Photowalks

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”.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Church_Cathedral,_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 https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral

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. 

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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”

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Onwards to Oxford (3)

After returning from Oxford in May I was well aware of how much I had missed seeing in those brief hours that I had spent in the city.  That’s the problem with a day trip, you usually end up with a list that requires a whole week to complete. The weather has not been too conducive to day trips either until today….

Bright eyed and bushy tailed I headed off to Evesham to catch the train. Well aware that the temperatures were expected to reach the 30 degree mark in some places. Beggars however cannot be choosers, and I have to make use of an opportunity wherever I can.

There is the train now, better grab it before it leaves without us.  

My plans were as follows: 

I wanted to take in the Cathedral, Castle/Prison, Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs, Holywell Cemetery and everything in between. It was not too strenuous assuming that all went well and I did not end up diverting from the route. I also took more or less the same route as last time because I knew my way around the town by now. The major diversion was Holywell Cemetery, and checking it out really was dependent on timing. I had planned for a later train which did leave me with an extra 2 hours to get lost in. 

Oxford Castle mound was first on my list. I was really keen on climbing the mound but it had been incorporated into the Castle and Prison tour, so I decided to waste some time there. I covered the tour in a separate post as there are quite a lot of images. However, the area looks like this:

It is quite an impressive building, and historically it goes back very far and has been in use for a long time. It is also a very popular tourist destination and there were queues to get onto the tour. I was fortunate enough to get an early tour but by the time I left it was reaching jam packed proportions. An hour later I was on my way to my next destination which was Christ Church Cathedral. Last time around I had not even gone close to where the entrance was, and I was hoping to get it done and dusted this time around. 

You need to turn right at the bus that is stuck in the intersection to get into St Aldates Str which is where a million buses seem to stop and which is more or less the main thoroughfare used to get to the Cathedral, although the entrance to the building is in a different place. You start getting a sense of the building though as you walk towards the path leading to it.

It gets more impressive when you reach the building that houses the entrance

And yet again my luck was out as the Cathedral was closed to the public due to an event being held there. The closest I saw was:

This meant my timing changed because I was looking at an hour at the Cathedral, but now had an hour to kill, which made the cemetery much more feasible. I did not return via St Aldate Str, but had decided to continue along a path that intercepted Merton Str and and then onwards to Magpie Lane. On one side of the path was a cricket pitch with a typical English Summer scene, although typically nothing was actually happening. I bet somewhere there was a punt on the river….

(1500 x 529)

The strange thing about Magpie Lane is that it is access controlled by means of a single person at a time gate affair. It took ages to get through because there were queues on either side of it to pass through.

Magpie Lane

The lane led out into High Street and that was where I wanted to be to see the Radcliffe Camera.  and it is a very beautiful building and it originally housed the Radcliffe Library. The 16-sided room on the ground floor is now a reading room for the Bodleian Library. There were a lot of people milling around all over and a TV crew filming some gesticulating  disaffected person. I did not stick around to see what that was about. 

Close by is the famous Bodleian Library, and i spent some time in the courtyard trying to make sense of a place that I had heard mentioned many times. A copy of every book published in Britain is deposited here, including some two million volumes and 40,000 manuscripts. Its not easy to even consider how to describe it, suffice to say that in terms of accumulated history and knowledge this place wins hands down.

There is however a real sense of the ages looking down on you. I am not too sure who this chap is, but he does seem quite popular. Some reading revealed that this is a statue of the Earl of Pembroke. It was erected in 1723. Actually I thought it was a statue of Shakespeare 🙂 

Next on my list was the very beautiful “Bridge of Sighs”  that joins two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

At this point I need to make a decision. Time was on my side for the cemetery trip so I decided to at least go have a look and if necessary return on another day. To reach the cemetery I needed to follow Holywell Street until it reached Longwall Street and then look for the entrance. By now I was getting hot under the collar too, as it was a real scorcher. Everywhere people seemed to be moving house too as there were trucks of furniture and people with wheelie bags all over the place. 

Holywell Str

On the intersection of Holywell and Longwall Streets there is a reminder that often things became violent back in the old days, especially when it came to religion. 

Surprisingly enough I found the cemetery entrance, and if I had not been aware that it existed I would probably have walked past it. 

The cemetery is a jungle, but very pretty, and I would hate to have to go grave hunting in it because finding anything in there would be a major mission. The only “famous grave” that I could find in the list was that of James Blish, but I did not hunt the grave down. 

It was an amazing cemetery to walk through and I did a separate blogpost about it.

It was time to consider going to the station. I had 45 minutes to get there and turned my bows towards Broad Street, although I had one more puzzle to hunt down. I paused at the Museum of The History of Science for a quick look around but it just did not work for me and I headed out there after a quick walk around. 

In my navigation of Oxford  I had battled to find the main war memorial in the city, and by the looks of it the closest I would get was a memorial that was sighted on the intersection of Banbury and Woodstock Roads. That was fed by Magdalen Str, and was “on my way” so I decided to try find it while I still had time.  The area around the Sheldonian Theatre was fascinating though, and there were some really lovely buildings in that part of Broad Street.

Back of the Sheldonian Theatre

Balliol College

Magadalen Street was where I found that nice overgrown churchyard last time and it has a much better kept continuation to it, although I did not photograph it. In the distance I could see the memorial I was after, it was just a case of running it down. 

It is really a  generic memorial as opposed to a specific one. 

Inscription

Then I finally turned my bows towards George Street en route for the station. I shot pics as I walked, although did not investigate this structure below. However, I have since found out that it is known as the Martyr’s Memorial and it commemorates the Bishop of Worcester Hugh Latimer and Bishop of London Nicholas Ridley, who were burned nearby on October 16, 1555 after having been convicted for heresy because of their Protestant beliefs after a quick trial. It also commemorates the former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, who was similarly executed

The station is not too far away and I waited 10 minutes for my train. There was still a queue at the tourist information desk so I was still unable to buy the book I wanted there. It was hard going against the crowds though, everybody was out and about and I think I will always remember Oxford for the hordes of people in it. Its a very frenetic place. 

Oxford was sort of in the bag, I still needed to see the cathedral and I wanted to check out the structure above as well as have a closer look at some of the other buildings in it, but rationally it is only the cathedral that I am after now, and I can do it and Churchill’s grave on one trip. When that will be is anybody’s guess though. It always depends on weather and energy levels.  So, watch this space for part 4 forwardbut

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 DRW © 2019. Created 29/06/2019