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Oxford ( ) is a city, and the county town of Oxfordshire, in South East England. The city has a population of just under 165,000, with 151,000 living within the district boundary. The rivers Cherwellmarker and Thames run through Oxford and meet south of the city centre. For a distance of some along the river, in the vicinity of Oxford, the Thames is known as The Isismarker.

The University of Oxfordmarker is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Buildings in Oxford demonstrate an example of every British architectural period since the arrival of the Saxons, including the iconic, mid-18th century Radcliffe Cameramarker. Oxford is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of Oxford's university buildings.


Oxford was first occupied in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxenaforda", meaning "Ford of the Ox"; fords being very important before the days of bridges. It began with the foundation 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. In the 10th century Oxford became an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Merciamarker and Wessexmarker and was on several occasions raided by Danes. St Frideswide is the patron saint of both the city and university.

In 1191, a city charter stated in Latin,

The prestige of Oxford is seen in the fact that it received a charter from King Henry II, granting its citizens the same privileges and exemptions as those enjoyed by the capital of the kingdom; and various important religious houses were founded in or near the city. A grandson of King John established Rewley Abbey for the Cistercian Order; and friars of various orders (Dominican, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and Trinitarian), all had houses at Oxford of varying importance. Parliaments were often held in the city during the thirteenth century. The Provisions of Oxford were installed by a group of barons led by Simon de Montfort; these documents are often regarded as England's first written constitution.

The University of Oxford is first mentioned in 12th century records. As the University took shape, friction between the hundreds of students living where and how they pleased led to a decree that all undergraduates would have to reside in approved halls . Of the hundreds of Aularian houses that sprang up across the city, only St Edmund Hall (c 1225) remains. What put an end to the halls was the emergence of colleges. Oxford's earliest colleges were University Collegemarker (1249), Balliolmarker (1263) and Mertonmarker (1264). These colleges were established at a time when Europeans were starting to translate the writings of Greek philosophers. These writings challenged European ideology – inspiring scientific discoveries and advancements in the arts – as society began seeing itself in a new way. These colleges at Oxford were supported by the Church in hopes to reconcile Greek Philosophy and Christian Theology. The relationship between "town and gown" has often been uneasy — as many as 93 students and townspeople were killed in the St Scholastica Day Riot of 1355.

The Sheldonian Theatre in 2009
The sweating sickness epidemic in 1517 was particularly devastating to Oxford and Cambridgemarker where it killed half of both cities' populations, including many students and dons.

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford is unique as a college chapel and cathedral in one foundation. Originally the Priory Church of St Frideswide, the building was extended and incorporated into the structure of the Cardinal's College shortly before its refounding as Christ Church in 1546, since which time it has functioned as the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford.

The Oxford Martyrs were tried for heresy in 1555 and subsequently burnt at the stake, on what is now Broad Street, for their religious beliefs and teachings. The three martyrs were the bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, and the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Martyrs' Memorialmarker stands nearby, round the corner to the North on St. Giles.

During the English Civil War, Oxford housed the court of Charles I in 1642, after the king was expelled from London, although there was strong support in the town for the Parliamentarian cause. The town yielded to Parliamentarian forces under General Fairfax in the Siege of Oxfordmarker of 1646. It later housed the court of Charles II during the Great Plague of London in 1665–66. Although reluctant to do so, he was forced to evacuate when the plague got too close.

In 1790, the Oxford Canalmarker connected the city with Coventrymarker. The Duke's Cut was completed by the Duke of Marlborough in 1789 to link the new canal with the River Thames; and in 1796 the Oxford Canal company built their own link to the Thames, at Isis Lock. In 1844, the Great Western Railway linked Oxford with London via Didcot and Reading; in 1851, the London and North Western Railway opened their own route from Oxford to London, via Bicester, Bletchley and Watford; and in 1864 a third route to the capital, running via Thame and High Wycombe, was provided.

In the 19th century, the controversy surrounding the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church drew attention to the city as a focus of theological thought.

Map of Oxford (1904).
Oxford's Town Hallmarker was built by Henry T. Hare, the foundation stone was laid on 6 July 1893 and opened by the future King Edward VII on 12 May 1897. The site has been the seat of local government since the Guild Hall of 1292 and though Oxford is a city and a Lord Mayoralty, it is still called by its traditional name of "Town Hall".

By the early 20th century, Oxford was experiencing rapid industrial and population growth, with the printing and publishing industries becoming well established by the 1920s. Also during that decade, the economy and society of Oxford underwent a huge transformation as William Morris established the Morris Motor Company to mass produce cars in Cowleymarker, on the south-eastern edge of the city. By the early 1970s over 20,000 people worked in Cowley at the huge Morris Motors and Pressed Steel Fisher plants. By this time Oxford was a city of two halves: the university city to the west of Magdalen Bridgemarker and the car town to the east. This led to the witticism that "Oxford is the left bank of Cowley". Cowley suffered major job losses in the 1980s and 1990s during the decline of British Leyland, but is now producing the successful New MINI for BMW on a smaller site. A large area of the original car manufacturing facility at Cowley was demolished in the 1990s and is now the site of the Oxford Business Parkmarker.

The influx of migrant labour to the car plants and hospitals, recent immigration from south-east Asia, and a large student population, have given Oxford a notable cosmopolitan character, especially in the Headingtonmarker and Cowley Road areas with their many bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, ethnic shops and fast food outlets. Oxford is one of the most diverse small cities in Britain with the most recent population estimates for 2005. showing that 27% of the population were from an ethnic minority group, including 16.2% from a non-white ethnic minority ethnic group (ONS). These figures do not take into account more recent international migration into the city, with over 10,000 people from overseas registering for National Insurance Numbers in Oxford between 2005/06 and 2006/07.

On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister, as a 25 year old medical student, ran the first authenticated four-minute mile at the Iffley Roadmarker running track in Oxford. Although he had previously studied at Oxford University, Bannister was actually studying at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London at the time.

Oxford's second university, Oxford Brookes Universitymarker, formerly the Oxford School of Art, then Oxford Polytechnic, based on Headington Hill, was given its charter in 1991 and has been voted for the last five years the best new university in the UK.


Oxford's latitude and longitude are or (at Carfax Tower, which is usually considered the centre).


Oxford has a Maritime Temperate climate ("Cfb" by Köppen classification). Precipitation is uniformly distributed throughout the year and is provided mostly by weather systems that arrive from the Atlanticmarker. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Oxford was -16.6 °C (2 °F) in January 1982. The highest temperature ever recorded in Oxford is 35.6 °C (96 °F) in August 2003 during the 2003 European heat wave.

There is a field of thought that due to Climate change, temperatures are increasing in Oxford, precipitation is decreasing in summer and increasing in winter .

The average conditions below are from the Radcliffe Meteorological Station. It boasts the longest series of temperature and rainfall records for one site in Britain. These records are continuous from January, 1815. Irregular observations of rainfall, cloud and temperature exist from 1767.


The Oxford suburb of Cowley has a long history of carmaking and now produces the BMW MINI.


Morrells, the Oxford based regional brewery was founded in 1743 by Richard Tawney. He formed a partnership in 1782 with Mark and James Morrell, who eventually became the owners. The brewery building, known as the "Lion Brewery", was located in St Thomas Street, the brewery was well known for drinks such as "Sambuca". After an acrimonious family dispute this much-loved brewery was closed in 1998, the beer brand names being taken over by the Thomas Hardy Burtonwood brewery, while the 132 tied pubs were bought by "Morrells of Oxford", who sold the bulk of them on to Greene King in 2002. The Lion Brewery was converted into luxury apartments in 2002.

Commercial areas

Outside the City Centre:

Theatres and cinemas


Oxford has numerous major tourist attractions, many belonging to the university and colleges. As well as several famous institutions, the town centre is home to Carfax Tower and the University Church of St Mary the Virginmarker, both of which offer views over the spires of the city. Many tourists shop at the historic Covered Marketmarker. In the summer punting on the Thames/Isis and the Cherwell is popular.


The University of Oxford

The University of Oxfordmarker is one of the most famous universities in the world, and leading academics come to Oxford from all over the world.

The City Centre

Aerial view of Oxford city centre.
As well as being an extraordinary sight for tourists (3.5 million per annum ), Oxford City Centre is a very attractive location for the consumer to visit, as well as being a good location for socialising. The historical buildings make this location a popular target for film and TV crews.

The city centre is relatively small, and is centred on Carfax, Oxford, a cross-roads on which a clocktower stands, and which forms the junction of Cornmarket Street (pedestrianised), Queen Street (semi-pedestrianised), St Aldate's and The High. Cornmarket Street and Queen Street are home to Oxford's various chain stores, as well as a small number of independent retailers, one of the longest established of which is Boswells, which was founded in 1738. St Aldate's has few shops but is the location of a number of local-government buildings, including the Town Hall, the city police station and local council offices. The High (the word street is not part of the name of this road) has a number of independent and high-end chain stores.

There are two small shopping centres in the city centre: The Clarendon Centre and The Westgate Centre. The Westgate Centre is named for the original West Gate in the city wall, and is located at the west end of Queen Street. It is quite small and contains a number of chain stores and a supermarket. The Westgate Shopping Centre is to undergo a massive but controversial refurbishment; its plans involve tripling the size of the centre to , building a brand new 1,335 space underground car park and 90 new shops and bars, including a John Lewis department store. There will be a new and improved transport system, a complete refurbishment of the existing centre and the surrounding Bonn Square area. The development plans include a number of new homes, and completion is expected in 2011.

Blackwell Books

Blackwells Bookshop.

Blackwell Bookshop is a very popular tourist attraction in Oxford. Blackwell Books claims the largest single room devoted to book sales in the whole of Europe, the cavernous Norrington Room (10,000 sq ft).

Other attractions

Urban Redevelopment

Oxford's alternative transport
The Westgate redevelopment is just part of a wider scheme proposed by the city council. This scheme includes a total redesign of the centre of Oxford to "pedestrianise" the city.

The scheme, entitled Transform Oxford, is only a blueprint for public consultation at this stage, but county council officials are confident it will go ahead.

One of the key elements is the pedestrianisation of Queen Street, with bus stops removed next summer to make way for the eventual complete removal of buses from the street.

Pedestrianisation schemes in George Street and Magdalen Street should follow in the summer of 2010, with the removal of traffic from Broad Street the same year a possibility.

In 2011, highways engineers plan to remodel the Frideswide Square junctions near the railway station, removing traffic lights and introducing roundabouts to improve traffic flow.



The bus services are mainly provided by the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxfordshire. Both companies also operate regular services to London. The Oxford Bus Company also runs the Airlink services to Heathrowmarker and Gatwickmarker.

Other operators include Thames Travel, Arriva Shires & Essex and several smaller companies.

There is a bus station at Gloucester Greenmarker, used mainly by the London and airport services, and National Express coach services.
Oxford has 5 park and ride sites that service the city centre;
  • Pear Tree (Link to city centre with bus 300)
  • Redbridge (Link to city centre with bus 300)
  • Seacourtmarker (Link to city centre with bus 400)
  • Thornhill (Link to city centre with bus 400)
  • Water Eaton (Link to city centre with bus 500)

A service also runs to The John Radcliffe Hospital (from Thornhill/Water Eaton) as well as the Churchill and Nuffield Hospitals (from Thornhill).


Oxford railway stationmarker is half a mile west of the city centre. The station is served by numerous routes, including CrossCountry services as far afield as Manchestermarker and Edinburghmarker, First Great Western (who operate the station) services to London and other destinations and occasional Chiltern Railways services to Birminghammarker. The present station opened in 1952. Oxford is the junction for a short branch line to Bicester, which is being extended to form the East-West Rail Link to Milton Keynes, providing a passenger route avoiding London.


A roads

The city has a ring road that consists of the A34, the A40, A4142 and the A423. It is mostly dual carriageway and was completed in 1966.

The main roads that lead out of Oxford are:


The city is served by the M40 motorway, which connects London to Birmingham. The original M40 opened in 1974 went from London to Waterstockmarker where the A40 continued to Oxford. However, when the M40 was extended to Birmingham in 1991, a mile of the old motorway became a spur and the new section bent away sharply north. Now the M40 does a large arc around Oxford (staying around away from the centre) due to the woodland that the motorway had to avoid. The M40 meets the A34 a junction later, the latter now being in two parts, the A34 restarting in Birmingham.


The largest airport in Oxford is London Oxford Airportmarker (EGTK) outside Kidlingtonmarker. It mainly serves business jets and general aviation traffic. It is the home to Oxford Aviation Academy - one of the world's best airline pilot training schools and Hangar 8 - a private jet company.


There are two universities in Oxford; the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University as well as Ruskin College.

Oxford is home to wide range of schools many of which receive pupils from around the world. Three are University choral foundations, established to educate the boy choristers of the chapel choirs, and have kept the tradition of single sex education. Examination results in state-run Oxford schools are consistently below the national average and regional average. However, results in the city are improving with 44% of pupils gaining 5 grades A*-C in 2006.


As well as the BBC national radio stations, Oxford and the surrounding area has several local stations, including BBC Oxford, Heart, Oxford's FM 107.9, and JACK fm on 106.8 along with Oxide: Oxford Student Radio (which went on terrestrial radio at 87.7 MHz FM in late May 2005). A local TV station, Six TV: The Oxford Channel was also available but closed in April 2009. The city is home to a BBC TV newsroom which produces an opt-out from the main South Today programme broadcast from Southamptonmarker.

Popular local papers include The Oxford Times (compact; weekly), its sister papers The Oxford Mail (tabloid; daily) and The Oxford Star (tabloid; free and delivered), and Oxford Journal (tabloid; weekly free pick-up). Oxford is also home to several advertising agencies.

Daily Information (known locally as Daily Info) is an events and advertising news sheet which has been published since 1964 and now provides a connected website.

Recently (2003) DIY grassroots non-corporate media has begun to spread. Independent and community newspapers include the Jericho Echo and Oxford Prospect.


Literature and film

Well-known Oxford-based authors include:

Oxford appears in the following works:


Oxford, and its surrounding towns and villages, have produced many successful bands and musicians. The most notable Oxford act is Radiohead, though other well known local bands include Supergrass, Ride, Swervedriver, Talulah Gosh and more recently, The Young Knives and Foals. The city also has a vibrant underground music scene which has seen acts such as Youthmovies, The Rock of Travolta, Goldrush, Jonquil and Stornoway achieve critical acclaim on a small scale.


Oxford United, are currently in the Conference National, the highest tier of non-league football, but have enjoyed greater success in the past. They were elected to the Football League in 1962, reached the Third Division after three years and the Second Division after six, and most notably reached the First Division in 1985 - a mere 23 years after joining the Football League. They spent three seasons in the top flight, winning the Football League Cup a year after promotion. The next 18 years saw them decline gradually (though a brief respite in 1996 saw them win promotion to the new (post Premier League) Division One in 1996 and stay there for three years) until they suffered relegation to the Conference. They play at the Kassam Stadiummarker (named after former chairman Firoz Kassam), which is situated near the Blackbird Leysmarker housing estate and has been their home since relocation from the Manor Ground in 2001.

Oxford City F.C.marker is an amateur football club, separate from Oxford United. It plays in the Southern Football League Premier Division.

Oxford Cheetahs motorcycle speedway team has raced at Cowley Stadium on and off since 1939. The Cheetahs competed in the Speedway Elite League and then the Speedway Conference League until 2007, when stadium landlords Greyhound Racing Association apparently doubled the rent. Speedway is not currently running in Oxford. Details of the 1949 and 1950 seasons at Cowley can be seen on Oxford Speedway website.

Oxford City Stars is the local Ice Hockey Team which plays at Oxford Ice Rinkmarker. The senior/adults team website can be found HERE and the junior/children's team website is HERE

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Oxford is twinned with:

See also

Further reading


  1. A Handy Guide to Oxford, ch. 2
  2. whatdotheyknow.com: Oxford charter 1191
  3. The Sweating Sickness. Story of London.
  4. Oxford City Council.
  5. 24ph=60_61&CurrentPageId=61&step=2&datasetFamilyId=1809&instanceSelection=121810&Next.x=4&Next.y=4 ONS Population Estimates 2005
  6. Department for Work and Pensions
  7. History of Headington, Oxford
  8. Morrells Brewery up for sale
  9. Morrells Brewery Ltd
  10. Jericho Echo
  11. BBC NEWS | England | Brewer buys pub chain for £67m
  12. Brewery site plan nears final hurdle
  13. http://www.boswells-online.co.uk//mall/infopageviewer.cfm/Boswells/AboutUs
  14. http://www.clarendoncentre.co.uk/
  15. http://www.oxfordcity.co.uk/shops/westgate/
  16. http://www.oxford.gov.uk/planning/west-end-aap.cfm
  17. http://www.oaa.com/pages/training_courses/ab_initio/integrated_training/course_structure.php
  18. http://www.hangar8.co.uk/
  19. Source: DfES Pupil Annual School Level Census 2006 see Neighbourhood Renewal Unit floor target results http://www.fti.neighbourhood.gov.uk/document.asp?id=123.
  20. Oxford's FM1079
  21. Oxide Radio - Your Sound Education | Home
  22. Milestone Group
  23. UK Indymedia - Oxford indymedia
  24. Jericho Echo
  25. Oxford Prospect


External links

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