Oxfordshire, and especially Oxford itself, is home to some of the most striking monuments and buildings in England. So let us take you on a quick tour of some of our favourite examples of architecture and art – ranging from the surreal to the sublime.
Christ Church College
It would be impossible to talk about spectacular structures in Oxfordshire without talking about Oxford University. While almost every scholarly building in the city is a work of art, Christ Church is especially worthy of note. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Christ Church is every bit as magical as the works it has inspired over the centuries. Indeed, film adaptations of both J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series have used Christ Church as a filming location.
Oxford Castle & Prison
Oxford Castle was originally built by Robert D’Oyly after the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 and was specifically designed to dominate the city’s skyline as a monument to French control. Though, due to the long and varied history of modifications, additions and demolitions the castle and prison have been subjected to, the castle probably looked quite different back then. Though despite this, it still cuts a brutal and striking figure, something that is especially true in comparison to the more refined and artistic architecture of the nearby Christ Church Cathedral.
White Horse Hill
While not technically a structure, White Horse Hill is still an awe-inspiring example of man’s influence on the environment. The titular white horse dates back to the Bronze age and consists of a series of metre deep trenches filled with crushed chalk located on an Oxfordshire hill. A visit to White Horse Hill will transport you back thousands of years and is said to be one of the most atmospheric spots in Oxfordshire.
The Grand Café
The Grand Café offers a taste of Paris in the heart of Oxford. Claimed to be the site of the first coffee house in England in the 1652 journals of famous diarist Samuel Pepys, the Grand Café remains an institution to the tea and coffee drinkers of the city. With an elegant gilded exterior and mirror-clad interior, the Grand Café offers a real sense of history and luxury – a unique setting for a cup of coffee or high tea spread.
Ancestral home to wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal palace in England and is one of the county’s largest stately homes. Designed by the duo of well-known dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh and architect Nicholas Hawksmoor for the first Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim is a masterful example of the English Baroque style and offers a striking and powerful visage. The palace and its grounds are currently open to the public and make for a great day out among spectacular architecture, gorgeous interiors and picture-perfect parkland and gardens.
The Headington Shark
This monument to the surreal can be found on New High Street in Headington, a suburb of Oxford, and features a large shark crashing through the roof of an otherwise normal British home. Commissioned by local radio broadcaster Bill Heine and created by sculptor John Buckley, the shark was installed on the 41st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan during WW2 and is said to represent a sense of “impotence and anger and desperation…”. A must see site for fans of the strange.
Fancy visiting some of these for yourself? Then look no further than Hardwick Parks! Located in Witney, all of these great sights are easy to get to, so make sure you book your next Hardwick Parks break today.