Steeped in history and academia, Oxford is a great place to visit with a fully-loaded camera. Avoid the shops, and instead, take yourself on a walking tour of the colleges.
The colleges in Oxford range in age and consequently there are differences in the architecture. The local stone, however, provides the buildings with their characteristic color. Begin a walking tour at the Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street. Don’t forget to check the exhibits – from ancient Greek vases to Pre-Raphaelite paintings; and it’s free! Where Beaumont Street joins St Giles, not only will you find St John’s College, but also the Martyrs’ Memorial. Although completed in the 19th century, it remembers the ‘heretics’ burned by Mary Tudor during her reign in the 16th Century, the most well-known being Bishops Ridley and Latimer, along with Thomas Cranmer, who compiled the Book of Common Prayer. Make your way to the pedestrianized Broad Street and you can find, embedded in the pavement of the road, a cobblestone cross, which commemorates the location of Cranmer’s execution.
Along this section of Broad Street lie two colleges: Balliol and Trinity. The combination of the stonework and passing through gateways into stately quadrangles make the colleges of Oxford extremely photogenic for a lomographer. Trinity College, with its spacious green squares, is a good example. Founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, the college was established to please Mary Tudor, the Queen of England at the time. The wide open-front quadrangle makes way for the more confined original buildings of the Durham Quadrangle. The college, like many others, delivers a feeling of the rural in the heart of the city of Oxford. Perhaps you will get to meet the Trinity College cat.
At the end of Broad Street, a left turn will take you to Wadham College. It’s worth heading down Parks Road towards Keble College, the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of Natural History. The brickwork of Keble College provides a stark contrast with the yellowish stone of the other colleges. If you are able to go in, be sure to visit the chapel: head to a small side-room and you’ll find an original painting by William Holman Hunt.
A wander down twisty Queen’s Lane brings you closer to Merton and Corpus Christi Colleges. As with all the colleges, once through the gate, a different world appears. Merton was established in 1264, making it one of the oldest foundations of Oxford University. Walter de Merton was the founder, and famous alumni include J.R.R. Tolkien, T.S. Eliot and Sir Thomas Bodley, who went on to found the University’s well-known library, the Bodleian – also well worth a stop. The college has several quadrangles, and buildings ranging in age from 700 years old. The ‘Mob Quad’ was named in the 18th Century, but dates back to the 14th Century. One of the oldest academic libraries in Europe is housed here.
Aside from being a center for study, you can also discover the Oxford Canal, rivers Thames and Cherwell, the castle, market, and plenty of places to eat. Great for day tripping and photographing.
Caveat: not all the colleges are open to visitors and all have strict opening hours. Some carry a small charge. Please check before you enter as they are functioning academic institutions.