The Final Trip to Oxford

The last two site visits we had this week were to Oxford. In Oxford we looked at various colleges and their buildings and some other separate monuments.

The first visit to Oxford started with visiting Iffley church. This church is out of order chronologically speaking, but it is another great monument to see and worth the time spent there.


Iffley church was built in the 12th C. by Geoffrey de Clinton, whom we have already met previously at Kenilworth Castle. Iffley church is special because it fits into the power of architecture category as well. Here we have a grand decorated Norman church in the middle of nowhere. But all that aside, it was an impressive building to look at.

After Iffley, we moved on to the main attraction which was Oxford university and its various collegiate buildings. The first stop on the tour is every 10 year old’s dream.



In actuality this is the Divinity School, but it was used for various scenes in the movies including the Yule Ball practicing with Professor Mcgonagall and Madame Pomfrey’s hospital in the first movie. A lot of the buildings at Oxford are practicing the Gothic Revival/Neo Gothic style. It has progressed from a style that is imitated at places such as Arbury Hall, to a style that is used for it’s practicality and qualities of fluidity. This shift is due the works of A.W.N Pugin and John Ruskin who changed the philosophy of the architecture. Gothic became viewed as superior because it was able to accommodate any form of building and had less rules associated with it, as opposed to classical.

We went next to Brasenose College to see the chapel.


Almost all of the collages have impressive buildings and chapels. What’s special about this one is it was actually open to the public and had an excellent example of a hammer beam ceiling.

What the hammer beam ceiling does is use the fan vaults to span the space, but the space is too large to use them practically, so the triangular beams supporting the vaults are added. From here we went to have lunch. The only thing was that most of the gardens where we wanted to go charge admission, so for us we sat on the steps outside one of the gardens which was good enough. After lunch we went to Wadham College. 

At Wadham College we saw another example of the new Gothic building campaign that was taking shape. But one thing about the Gothic that is seen here is that it is in it’s Infancy. it is still competing with Classical and will not be fully utilized until later in the 18th C. which is what we looked at on our next trip to Oxford.

Here is Wadham College chapel.

The reason for the small size of the seating arrangement is because of the number of people that would be attending each service. There is not a large amount of people that would be present at each service, so the seating doesn’t have to be large enough for a full congregation.

The next trip to Oxford we looked at two buildings. We started briefly looking at a monument build to three Protestant martyrs that were burnt at the stake in the 16th C. It was designed by G. G. Scott in 1841 in the Gothic style, but was made to look like it belonged in the 16th C. But shortly afterwards in 1855 the Oxford Natural History Museum was built in the Gothic style, but it can’t be mistaken for a medieval building. This is the progression of ideas put forth by Pugin and Ruskin.


The museum was designed by Benjamin Woodward, and overseen by Ruskin. But by the end of the buildings construction Ruskin no longer liked the building. The reason is because he though it went against his principles for a good Gothic Revival building. Some of his principles are use of light, truthfulness of materials, and life. The building can tick most of the boxes, but also diverges from some. Why it diverges is mostly due to the use of a new material called cast iron in it’s construction. It is not a material that is made by human hand, but is machine made, and can sometimes lead to useless ornament that might not have to be there. But none the less it is a gorgeous building.

Our next and final stop of the course *sniff* was to Keble College. Keble College is one of the great  19th C. Gothic Revival buildings. It was designed by William Butterfield and shows how versatile Gothic was meant to be.

The poly chromatic brickwork and the bricks themselves show the building as Gothic revival because the forms are there, but the execution is pure 18th C. At this time Oxford was all built out of stone, but the stone was poor quality, and at the time of Keble College, brick was high quality. Butterfield used this to his advantage by using the different colour of brick to create a lasting effect, rather than painted stone that fades. But for the form, it is still lofty, decorated windows, pointed arches, etc. All the Gothic hallmarks are there. Especially on the inside.

The inside of the chapel at Keble is also an example of what the interiors of all the other churches would be like. For example at Lincoln, traces of paint can be seen on the stone carving, but today we only wee the stone and assume it was always that way.

After Keble, we were set free in Oxford for the afternoon. After lunch on the lawn of the Natural History Museum we went to the top of the tower on St. Mary’s to get a good view of the city.


Then we just went shopping. And one store that you can find in Oxford and almost nowhere else is the Oxford University Press book store. It is a dangerous place to go. Luckily I knew I had little room left in the suitcase, but still walked out with a few books, because really, why not?

While Oxford was our last site visit, our true last day was yesterday. Friday consisted of class in the morning giving feedback and a very heartfelt thank you to our Professor Peter Coffman. He had planned this course for over a year and was even more excited than us to be able to do this. He is truly an amazing Professor and person. We then proceeded to go into Coventry for some afternoon tea and the final farewell. We had tea, sandwiches, laughter, and a good time. Afterwords we all had a group hug and parted ways back to the residence. Then we had dinner at various bars depending on budgets of time and money, then when all assembled back at residence had our final goodbyes.

After spending three week travelling around England you get to know people and make new friends. It was hard for all of us to leave, but we knew it had to happen at some point.

But as far as my journey is concerned, it isn’t over yet. On my way out of Coventry I decided to be a bit nostalgic and walked the same route from the train station to the bus station that I did upon arrival three weeks ago. This is then the experience that I talked about coming upon the cathedral.

The left is what you see first, then keep going, then you are faced with the photo on the right. I walked around and then noticed it was sunny for once. I hadn’t got a good picture of the stained glass in the new cathedral, so I went in and took this.


Then walking around the old cathedral, I came upon this shot.


It was a very nice and solemn end to my time in Coventry.

Currently I’m in a very spacious hotel room staying the night till my flight to Iceland. Yes, Iceland is my next adventure for a short two night stint. So don’t go anywhere yet because I’m saying goodbye to England, but saying hello to Iceland.



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