Monday 12 February 2018

Exploring Oxford: Carfax Tower & Oriel College

Our virtual journey around Oxford continues!

This week I'm sharing some snaps of Carfax Tower and Oriel College.

Carfax Tower, aka St Martin's Tower, is the only remaining part of St Martin's Church which was demolished in the 1800s. Although I have to admit that this isn't quite as cool as someone just randomly deciding to build a tower in the centre of Oxford, it's still a very charming old building and an excellent way to get some great views of the city.

The tower is known as Carfax Tower because it's located at Carfax, a crossroads that's apparently considered to be the very centre of Oxford. The four roads that meet at Carfax are the roads which ran from from the four city gates.

You're sure to pass Carfax if you visit Oxford, but make sure you time your walk so you can hear the chiming of the tower's delightful clock!

I visited Carfax Tower during the Oxford Open Doors festival which meant I got free entry (yay) but had to queue for a fair while as lots of other people wanted free entry too and there is, of course, a very limited number of people who can climb up a 13th Century Tower at one time!

I didn't mind though as not only was I saving a few quid but also it gave me plenty of time to chat to the other, very friendly, people in the queue who (like me) had visited Oxford specially for the festival. Here's the view of the queue and the crossroads from the top of the tower:

You have to climb quite a narrow spiral staircase to get to the top but I didn't find it too claustrophobic (unlike some towers I've climbed over the years!) and the views of the city are definitely worth it. I love seeing places from up high, and Oxford has lots of spires, domes, and other interesting buildings to spot.


Just down the road from Carfax Tower is Oriel College - Oxford's fifth oldest college.


Rather like how Carfax Tower was originally St Martin's Tower, Oriel College was not originally known as Oriel College.

Apparently the reason it's called Oriel is that "soon after the foundation in 1326 the ‘College of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ was given a property called ‘La Oriole’, on the site of the present Front Quadrangle, and gradually the college came to be called by that name." I love learning this kind of stuff, don't you?

Most of the buildings in the College date from the 1600s onward and they're rather gorgeous.


That lovely warm stone, and those windows, and that lamp, oh my!

I'm very drawn to the little passageways you get between the different quads, lawns and courtyards in the colleges - the contrast between the gloomy passage and the bright glimpse of the space beyond. I doubt I even noticed it at the time, but I love the worn paving in this picture (do you think that slight curve was worn by centuries of footsteps?).

There's always so much to see when you visit an Oxford college. Grand exteriors...

...and ornate but still somehow cosy interiors.

Signs of college life (in this case, some literal signs)...

... and decorative details in quiet corners. Such a treat!

Oriel is usually open to visitors for a few hours each afternoon, except in the summer term. If you're unable to visit in person, do check out the virtual tours on their website.

Missed the first post in this series? Click here to read about my visit to Magdalen College.