Oxford's Dreaming Spires

Britain from the Air - Oxford's Dreaming Spires

A seat of learning with a world-famous skyline.

Oxford is a town of two halves. It is best known for its university, founded in the 12th century, and which is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. But Oxford is much more than a university town.

Its buildings contain examples of every English architectural style since the Saxons arrived in AD 900. Among them are the Oxford Colleges, complete with their internal quadrangles, and the magnificent Radcliffe Camera Library building. Visible in the centre of the photo, it was built after well-known doctor John Radcliffe left £40,000 on his death in 1714 to construct and maintain it. 

Oxford is also one of the most cosmopolitan of British cities thanks to a long history of immigration and its diverse student population. It is also, traditionally, a motor manufacturing city, first as the home of Morris Motors from the 1920s and now the production site of the Mini for BMW.

Port Meadow

Mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, Port Meadow is a large area of common land beside the River Thames to the north and west of Oxford. Protected by ancient grazing rights given to the Freemen of Oxford and the Commoners of Wolvercote, the meadow has never been ploughed or subject to treatment with agricultural chemicals.

It is a haven for wildlife and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It also offers evidence of earlier residents in this fertile river valley including Bronze Age round barrows and an Iron Age settlement. As a natural flood plain, the meadow has also protected the City of Oxford from flood risk for centuries. 

Oxford Colleges

The oldest of the Oxford Colleges were established in the mid 13th century. But it was not until 1878 that women could enter the university and they were not eligible to receive degrees until 1920. The most recent new college is Kellogg College, founded in 1990 and today all colleges admit both men and women. St John’s College is the wealthiest, with assets worth close to £400 million.

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Location: Radcliffe Camera, Radcliffe Square, Oxford Road, Oxford OX1 3BG
Grid reference: SP 51589 06347

Britain from the Air - Oxford's Dreaming Spires credits

Thank you to -

Webb Aviation for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

During 1665-6 the court of King Charles II moved from London to Oxford during the Great Plague.