Living and Working in Oxford

Oxford SpiresOxford is the oldest university city in England, situated some 50 miles (80 km) to the west of London, and located on the rivers Thames and Cherwell. Oxford's famous "Dreaming Spires" refer to the medieval churches and colleges that dominate this bustling modern town of 150,000 residents, in all their Gothic splendour. Picturesque architecture and a vibrant modern life (driven by students, light industry and technology) set in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire make this a wonderful city to live in.

Oxford was first occupied in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxanforda". The settlement began with the foundations 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. By the 10th century Oxford had become an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by the Danes.

The University of Oxford was founded in the 12th century and therefore constitutes the oldest English-speaking university. Oxford, like Cambridge, differs from many other universities in that there is no 'campus' as such, and no central university building. Instead, the University consists of approximately 30 colleges and associated buildings, such as the Exam Schools (on the High Street, closed to the public), the world-famous Bodleian Library (main buildings in Radcliffe Square, off the high street - limited access to the public), and several world-class museums. Each college has its own individual character, some date from the 13th century, others are merely a few decades old. Many of the colleges are closed to the public, particularly during term times; some, however, are open at different times. For example: Christ Church (the college of "Brideshead" fame) is mostly open, and has the added bonus of having a (small) cathedral attached, where excellent music is performed at Evensong everyday, it also has an excellent art gallery. Some of Christ Church's buildings are used in films such as "Harry Potter". Other colleges of note are Magdalen (pronounced 'maudlin'), which has a deer park, and those along the High Street, all of which have an impressive list of alumni. Shelley fans should visit University College. Former women-only colleges such as the pretty Somerville (Woodstock Rd) further to the North of the centre are interesting to get a feel for the range of colleges in Oxford.

Oxford Spires 2Central Oxford is built around two intersecting thoroughfares which cross at Carfax:

• the High Street, or "the High" - running east-west, this is the main road coming in from Headington and the London road

• running north-south is another road, essentially continuous, but with separate ancient names for its various stretches - St Aldates and St Giles, separated by the Cornmarket (now a pedestrianised shopping boulevard)

It is difficult to drive through the city centre, owing largely to insufficient bridges over the river coupled with few road options leading from the main Magdalen bridge. This has been exacerbated by a City Council determined to make life pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists with car parking and access restrictions. The Oxford park-and-ride system and other local buses generally work fairly well, although they are expensive. If you do take your car into the city centre, expect to pay a huge amount for parking, more so than any city apart from London.

Once you have arrived in the centre, everything in Oxford is within easy walking distance; for destinations further afield there are many buses that run regularly. Locals either walk, or use bicycles. Tours of the city are available on foot or by bus, with live commentary talking about the history and tradition of the university and city.

Places to Visit

Note that some of these are free or reduced entry price for University card holders

The Bodleian Library

The Sheldonian Theatre

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin

The Ashmolean Museum

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History

University of Oxford Botanical Gardens

Punting 1

Punting 2

The Oxford Playhouse

Blenheim Palace

Harcourt Arboretum

Useful Links

Oxford Daily Info

Oxford City Guide

Virtual Tour of Oxford

Headington News