Christ Church & Its Meadow
Christ Church, on your right, was founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey and is one of the University's best known colleges. Its chapel is the city's cathedral and contains the shrine of Oxford's patron saint, St Frideswide. The cathedral was built on the site of a priory thought to have been founded as long ago as c.700. It is here close to the River Thames crossing that gave Oxford its name (meaning 'ford of the oxen"), that the story of Oxford begins.
The meadow in the city
Behind you is the Memorial Garden, which was laid out in 1925 to commemorate College members killed in the First World War. This leads to Christ Church Meadow which extends over the low ground between the southern city wall - part of which survives as the boundary of Merton College - and the Thames. Never built on, the meadow has belonged to Christ Church since its foundation; plans to build a road through it were abandoned after widespread protest in 1966.
Broad Walk, leading east to the River Cherwell, was laid out in 1668. New Walk, which links the Memorial Garden to the Thames, was created by Dean Liddell, father of Alice in Wonderland, in 1872. Oxford is perhaps unique in having cattle grazing here so close to the city centre.
Christ Church, originally
Cardinal College, was founded by King Henry VIII's chief minister, Thomas Wolsey. After Wolsey fell from power in 1529 the foundation was taken over by the King and given its present name. Wolsey destroyed part of the original priory to create the College's main quadrangle, Tom Quad, which you can see through the formal entrance. This gateway is topped by the octagonal Tom Tower, designed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren. Tom Tower houses the 6.25 ton 'Great Tom' bell - the loudest in Oxford - which was taken from the 12th century Osney Abbey. The bell tolls 101 times each night at 9:05pm - a curfew at 9pm Oxford time for the number of members of the original foundation.
Founded by a politician, Christ Church is famous for producing them; its alumni include no fewer than 13 Prime Ministers! Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, was a maths lecturer here in the 19th century. Today the College dining hall is famous the world over as the location for Hogwarts Hall in the Harry Potter films.
Of palaces and sheep shops
A suburb called Grandpont grew up here in the Middle Ages, just outside the south gate - where Brewer Street is now. You can still see some medieval houses opposite, notably Littlemore Hall (now a restaurant) and its large timber-framed neighbour, formerly known as the Old Palace (1628).
Alice's Shop - the Sheep's Shop in Lewis
Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass - is at No. 83. Further north, at the top of St Aldate's, is the city's lavish neo-Jacobean Town Hall (1893-97).
It's 9 o'clock Oxford Time
Before there was Greenwich Mean Time, each town and city kept its own
time by the sun. Oxford still does.
At 9.05 every evening - 9 o'clock by Oxford time - the Great Tom bell in Tom Tower rings 101 times. That's once for each of the first students at the college.
Services at Christ Church Cathedral still run to Oxford time, five minutes behind the normal clock.
( photo captions )
- An engraving showing Christ Church from St Aldgate's, with people flying kitesboutside the college walls.
- Christ Church, Oxford. Illustrated by David Loggan as part of his famous folio, Oxonia Illustrata.
- A group of unergraduates playing ice hockey on a flooded and frozen Christ Church Meadow. Photographed by H. Taunt, 1885.
- An Ilustration showing St Aldgate's from Carfax, with Tom Tower in the distance.
- John Tenniel's illustration of the Sheep's Shop in 'Through the Looking-Glass', which Alice calls 'the very queerest shop I ever saw!'