November 6, 2013

Oxford ‘stoned’.

Spent all my time with a crammer
And then only managed a gamma,
But the girl over there,
With the flaming red hair,
Got an alpha plus easily – damn her!
– Anon, c. 1900

I love walking Oxford admiring the architecture, pretty details of the houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and the gardens.

                         Hand-carved limestone plaque, circa 1850.

Although famous for its lime-stone-built colleges and churches, Oxford in the 19th century became a city of brick. Vast brick-built houses – some Gothic, some "Queen Anne" – fill the grander streets of North Oxford. Smaller brick terraces line the streets off the roads in East Oxford. And out beyond the station is a further group of small streets near the river in the area known as Osney. Some of these are built of brick in more than one color, and here the builder has addressed the issue of what to do with the blank wall at the end of a terrace in a refreshing way.

Osney house 'embroidered' in brick.

Osney old power station

North Oxford inspires in me special affection, call it 'Betjeman Nostalgia', that generation of great Anglo-Catholics and academics which is rapidly slipping away. Some modern souls condemn North Oxford as hideous and Gothic.  

Popular belief has it that the suburb was built for the dons, who acquired in 1877 the right to marry, and live outside their colleges.

There is an atmosphere of calm in the centuries-old church of St Mary's Bloxham.  Outside are heavily weathered gravestones marking the passing of generations.

Ripon College at Oxford. The College is outside the City at Cuddesdon with wonderful views over rolling Oxfordshire countryside. The Bishop Edward King Chapel was designed by Niall McLaughlin and is next to a huge copper beech which is about three hundred years old. From the outside it looks a little like a drum or an upturned boat. Inside it is beautifully light with the sunlight creating wonderful effects on the stone and furniture made from ash.