There was so much to see on our March outing as a group of us enjoyed a chilly day in Oxford, exploring the beautiful city’s colleges and museums, writes Judy Perry
Our almost full coach to Oxford made good time and arrived in the city soon after 11am. And there the decisions began. What to do? What to see? The choices were myriad.
Some members elected to stay all day at the Ashmolean, the university’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683. Its world-famous collections range from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, and include collections of antiquities, coins and Western and Eastern art dating from 8000BC to the present. It also houses one of the most famous archaeological objects in England, the Alfred Jewel, made in the ninth century.
Others elected to brave the cold and wander the streets of Matthew Arnold’s ‘sweet city with her dreaming spires’, past the Bodleian and the Radcliffe Camera to famous colleges – there are over 30, plus many other more modern establishments – each with their own histories and stunning architecture. My friends and I chose Magdalen, founded by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, in 1458. He wanted the college to be one of the grandest in Oxford, and he succeeded.
We wandered the beautiful grounds then sheltered from the chilled air in the chapel, which was built in 1480. Like other early Oxford chapels it does not have a nave. Alone apart from an unseen organist, we were treated to a magical recital as we stood dreaming of the famous alumni who had passed before, including Cardinal Wolsey, Oscar Wilde and CS Lewis.
Reluctantly we left, crossed Magdalen bridge – admiring the punts awaiting warmer days – and retreated to the Grand Café at 84 The High, a stunning Grade II-listed building. In 1391 it was the Tabord Inn. Expanded in 1510 and renamed the Angel, it became Oxford’s most important coaching inn. The horses were grazed in the meadow next to Magdalen College. By 1866 Frances Thomas Cooper was running a grocery business from number 84. His wife, Sarah Jane, displayed her surfeit of marmalade in the shop, and thus Oxford Marmalade was born.
After a delicious brunch accompanied by bloody marys – well, it was cold! – we sallied forth to the shops and back to the Ashmolean.
Some of our U3A party visited other colleges, including Christ Church, as well as Oxford’s Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum and raved about them all.
With much thanks to Jean Williams and her team and, of course, Darren, our trusty driver, for a wonderful day out. Oxford boasts so much to see and marvel at. Can we go again please?