Today I’m going to do something very different and give you the first step in a tour of Oxford.
Starting the tour from Magdalen Bridge and going through the city centre.
This is something very different, as most of you would probably be used to this on a YouTube format, but here we are going to have to use our imagination.
The Magdalen Bridge is beautiful and links the city centre to a lovely area of Oxford called Cowley.
The bridge, in my opinion, is quite romantic in its looks, wide with old gas lights converted to electric, with sand coloured stone walls set on either side. There has been a bridge on this spot for over a thousand years, this current one is a few hundred years old. It also has a current tradition with Oxford University students, these bright minds throw themselves off the bridge. During May 1st, certain rules are allowed in the city, all night drinking in pubs, bars and college bars is allowed throughout Oxford, which is a rarity for the city. (Yes the colleges of the Universities have bars and some have cafes.)
The tradition goes students would stay up all night, with the aim of them listening to a choir that would sing in the early morning of May 1 from inside the college’s tower, and get into punt boats located at a key at the bottom of the bridge. You can still access and hire this today. Unfortunately, due to people being drunk, a number of boats were damaged. So the practice was stopped. The logical conclusion was for these students to throw themselves off the bridge. In the end, to stop our young bright minds from damaging themselves due to the river being shallow, police are now brought in to block the bridge and stop people throwing themselves in. You can still hear the singing from the choir, which is quite a beautiful thing to be heard after a long night of drinking. They sing from the Magdalen College Tower. The tower was built in the 1400s and is definitely a beautiful feature of the Oxford landscape.
As our tour leaves the bridge we have two very interesting buildings on either side. Magdalen College, with quite a bit of history and the botanical gardens opposite.
The college is stunning and I assume had a part to play in inspiring JK Rowling. You enter to the right of the street, there is a small entry fee and the. You are spoilt by Gothic, Grecian and medieval styled buildings and wonderful gardens.
As you enter you come into a courtyard, and to your left are the old grammar hall and student rooms to the right you will see a small entrance into the cloisters and a door on the right of this entrance takes you into the chapel. Even if you are not religious it is worth entering as you have beautiful stained glass windows and there is a tapestry of da Vinci’s last supper, which will allow you to debate over the person to the right of Jesus being male or female. As you leave head right, and you’ll open into a cloister, made famous by Harry Potter, and further on you will see an entrance to the garden and grass in the centre, but to my knowledge, you can not set foot on this grass, until you have finished your exams at the university. To the right is the dining hall, again straight out of a Harry Potter story, but also where students go to dine all day long if they care to spend their money that way. Two interesting busts sit on opposite sides of the hall. To the right Oscar Wilde, to the left the Judge that sent him to jail for being gay.
You may visit Wilde’s room or even rent it out. The college does allow people to do their own tour of the grounds and to stay within the grounds during the holidays.
Other and many famous people have attended the College, two of particular note were C.S. Lewis the writer of Narnia and Howard Florey the inventor/discoverer of Penicillin.
I will bring up C.S. Lewis on another occasion Florey has an interesting tale of his own. During his days at Oxford during WW2 he carried out trials of penicillin at the John Radcliffe Hospital, his first patient was a policeman who had pricked his finger on a rose and had gained an infection. Florey administered the penicillin and though the officer recovered there was not enough penicillin being produced.
During this period they had discovered that bedpans were a useful device for producing penicillin, due to there being a shortage of everything during the war they actually scoured the local dumps to gain any spare bedpans. Unfortunately, and fortunately, Florey couldn’t get U.K. government interest in the project and left the U.K. to the USA to produce more penicillin, by 1945 the drug was mass produced and had gone on to save millions of lives.
Back to our tour through the college, as you go down from the steps and into cloisters, to the right you will see the bar and cafe, pictures of celebrities and oars from successful races cover the walls, and cafe contains one more gem of an outside seat area for drinks and food, which gives you views of the gardens and river where you can see people punting away down the river.
Out of the cafe and on with the walk, onto the gravel path, and into the gardens, and deer park. Yes, the college contains a deer 🦌 park known as the Grove.
Over the small college bridge and into the park itself, the deer are fenced in but you can almost always see them, the area had originally consisted of orchards, games areas, and during the Civil war, it housed Royalist troops.
Many rumours abound with these deer, during WW2 the deer were supposedly classified as vegetables to save them from rationing. There are also claims that when a dean of the college dies or retires they kill and eat a deer as part of the celebrations or service.
That is the first step in this tour of Oxford, much more to come.
Special thanks to our Oxford photographer Sarah, Instagram: spiralling_oxford
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