• Oxford excursion
  • Oxford excursion

Walk Description

Nineteenth-century poet Matthew Arnold described Oxford as, “that sweet city with its dreaming spires.” For centuries the university, and, by proxy, the town in which it is located, has been considered a beacon of learning, imagination, and creativity. During the course of our walk through Oxford, we will consider the far-reaching influence the institution has had on modern intellectual thought, religion, politics, art, and architecture.

Our starting point will be Christ Church, perhaps the best known of the university's colleges (the self-governing entities that make up the institution). A discussion of the structured architectural plan of the colleges (including interlocking dormitories, courtyards, dining facilities, and chapels) will segue into a reflection on the town's rich and varied architectural culture, which we will explore further at Sir Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre, at James Gibbs' Radcliffe Camera, and even at the Malmaison Hotel, a converted nineteenth-century prison. We may then climb the tower of St. Mary's Church to admire those aforementioned "dreaming spires."

Oxford exudes intellectual activity and scholarly pursuits. Our visits to the colleges will inform our understanding of student life, both past and present. This same student body was the agent of the intellectual thought that resulted in challenges to the status quo: whether that be religious, political, or artistic. We will visit memorials that bear witness to important moments in history, including the memorial to the Oxford martyrs of the Reformation; we will see Charles I's Royalist headquarters in Oxford during the English Civil Wars; and we will consider Oxford as a hub of religious change during the Victorian period, as illustrated by such figures as Cardinal John Newman, fellow of Oriel College and protagonist of the Oxford Movement.

For those interested in a full day excursion, we can plan a longer itinerary that includes a visit to the Ashmolean Museum and explores the lively Covered Market. For information regarding this option, please http://www.contexttravel.com/contact-us/.

Duration: 3 hours
Category: Excursions
Incidentals: admission fee to Christ Church College- $11
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    Caroline Barron

    After a very happy time leading walks for Context in Rome, Caroline returned to her native London to complete a Ph.D at King's College London which conisdered the acquisition of Roman antiquities - and primarily Latin inscriptions - by the Grand Tourists of the 18th century. The project was closely connected with the British Museum, which is also conveniently one of her favourite London destinations. When not leading walks for Context, Caroline can usually be found in the British Library, teaching Undergraduate courses in the Classics department at KCL, or in one of London's many lovely parks with her dog.

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    Sarah Ciacci

    Sarah Ciacci has lived and worked in London all her life, but pops over to Rome fairly often. After completing her MA in History of Art at University College London, specialising in late 19th Century French Painting and mid 20th Century Art, she has worked in different areas of the contemporary art world in both London and Rome, before deciding to focus on gallery education. This necessitated a far greater knoweldge base, so Sarah trained to be a guide and qualified as a City of London Guide and as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide in 2008. She now works as a guide, specialising in Museums and Galleries as well as tours for children and young people, she teaches courses in art history and the history of London at the University of Richmond and works as a gallery educator at the National Portrait Gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, specialising in tours for older people and people with Dementia.

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    Sue King

    Sue King was born a Londoner and has lived in several other cities including Seoul, Berlin and Washington DC. Since returning to London, she has spent the last three years studying its art, architecture, literature and history.
    Sue holds a research MPhil in History of Art from the Barber Institute, Birmingham University and has specialist knowledge of Victorian Britain through her study of its painting and literature. Her thesis, on symbolism in Victorian Art, focused on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and she has also made studies in 20th Century American art.
    Sue is fascinated by London's history and is most interested in the artists and writers who have helped to define it. She loves to recount stories of their lives and works, and their connections with each other and the city.

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    Jim Harris

    Jim came to art history relatively late. After training at RADA and working as an actor and musician in theatre and television for over a decade, he arrived at the Courtauld Institute of Art where he took a BA, MA and PhD, writing his doctoral thesis on Donatello. He held two Postdoctoral and Research Fellowships at the Courtauld, undertaking research on sculpture during the English reformation and revolution, before taking up his current post as Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean Museum in the University of Oxford. Jim is a Londoner, a dad and a cyclist, and would usually rather be at Lord's, watching the cricket.

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    Philippa Owen

    Philippa is an Oxford educated historian with specialist training in Art History. A qualified teacher with over 15 years experience as a resident guide and teacher at Dulwich Picture Gallery. For the last two years she has been on an intensive course learning about this great city. A Londoner all her adult life, she enjoys all aspects of the city, from the architecture to the food markets, from the parks and riverside walks to the galleries and city churches. Her particular interests are the quirkier, less well-known places which only a long standing Londoner gets to know.

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    Kevin Childs

    Kevin Childs has worked as a publisher, an actor and a research consultant. Having gained a first class degree in English Literature at Oxford and an MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, he has completed a PhD at the Courtauld examining the ways in which Michelangelo influenced the art of his contemporaries. Although his heart is in the Renaissance, his interests range from Greek and Roman classical literature to the art of twentieth-century Mexico. Kevin has lived in London for over 20 years and has a great passion for the city, its history and all that it currently offers. He has also spent extended periods of time in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt and Morocco. He writes regularly on art and travel.

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    Eileen Cox

    Eileen is a Londoner, with Scots/Irish roots, who is passionate about literature and history and has “a quote for all seasons” to bring London to life, (as well as a detailed knowledge of the hidden alleyways and courtyards off the beaten track). Eileen earned her Master's in Politics and Philosophy at Oxford, and holds the Blue Badge qualification for the city of London.

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    Isabella Underhill

    Isabella has lived, studied and worked in Oxford for much of her life. After school in Oxford she moved to undertake a degree in History of Art and Italian at University College London. Following careers in publishing and decorating, she settled in West Dorset where she took on the restoration of a Grade II -listed farmhouse. Over the years she has worked in a Sienese pasticceria, attended the University of Venice, written a best-seller on curtain-making, edited a catalogue with the Hermitage Museum, and raised two children. Now the Underhills are back in Oxford: Isabella and her journalist husband, William (who she met as an Oxford undergraduate), are both now members of the Oxford Guild of Guides. Her particular expertise lies in the history and culture of the city and university, but she’s also passionate about the houses, churches, and gardens of the surrounding area.

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    William Underhill

    William Underhill is a writer by profession and a historian by inclination. Since leaving Oxford University, he has worked as a print and radio journalist in Britain and overseas. For more than 20 years he was employed as a correspondent in London for Newsweek magazine, writing on subjects from Afghanistan to the arts. He has also written a guide to the Thames waterfront in London. Six years ago he returned to Oxford and – together with his wife, Isabella - is a member of the Oxford Guild of Guides. He still contributes occasionally to The New York Times and Architect magazine on architecture and design, and works part-time as an editor for The Week.

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    Ben Pope

    Ben grew up in Oxfordshire. He studied History and German at Trinity College, University of Oxford, including an Erasmus exchange year at Bonn University. He then taught English in Xi'an, China, for nine months before completing his Masters degree in medieval and renaissance studies at University College London. He is currently in the fourth year of his PhD at Durham University, studying the relations between townspeople and the rural nobility in late medieval Germany. During the course of his PhD he has made many research visits to Nuremberg, taken part in conferences in the UK, Germany and the USA, taught medieval history for first year undergraduates and organised academic conferences and a public evening course in Durham.