Facts about Oxford

25 Fascinating Facts About Oxford You Need To Know

Home to one of the most prestigious Universities in the world, in one of the most beautiful and architecturally stunning cities in England, a visit to Oxford is a must! Yet do you know these 25 fascinating facts about Oxford?


Facts about Oxford

Wander through the twists and turns of its quaint streets. Brush past forward-thinking professors. Delve into museums full to the brim with treasures and devour the endless knowledge in Oxford’s bookshops. Experience the magic of Harry Potter. Find the door to Narnia, and with a bit of luck, you might just get lost in Wonderland with Alice for hours whilst punting down the river.

25 fascinating facts about Oxford that you need to know

There is so much to Oxford that we cannot wait to reveal to you below. Here are 25 fascinating facts about Oxford.

Facts about Oxford

Oxford University is old, very old!

The University of Oxford is roughly 922 years old, making it the second oldest University in the world. It is beaten in age by the University of Bologna which is around 930 years old. In terms of University rankings however, it has been ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2017 and 2018.

This is a great reason to come and join us at Summer Boarding Courses for your Summer School experience.

Balliol College in Oxford was built as a punishment

Tortoise Wars

Founded in 1555, Trinity College is one of Balliol College’s biggest rivals as they live in such close proximity to each other. Every College has a tortoise that they own, and every Summer in May, the colleges come together to have a tortoise race.

A circle of lettuce is placed on the ground, 8 metres wide, and spectators wait for the tortoises to come out of the middle of the circle to reach the lettuce line to win.

Balliol College currently holds the record for the fastest tortoise winning in 4 hours back in 2004. Yet on this day, when Balliol College took their tortoise out in the city to celebrate, they lost him! They firmly believed that Trinity College were the thieves, and poured washing up liquid into Trinity College’s fountain in retaliation.

Fascinating facts about Oxford

Study everything under one roof

A common misconception with the University of Oxford is that you go to a different college for a different subject. Yet, the University of Oxford is a collegiate system. This means that you can study all subjects at each college. It’s a tradition that has grown throughout the city and University system where you will have all of your accommodation, food, lessons and sports teams under the college you decide to apply to.

The Museum of History of Science in Oxford

Women were forbidden

It wasn’t until 1878 that women were allowed to come and study at the University of Oxford! They were finally allowed to be awarded degrees in 1920 and it was only in 1974 that all colleges let women enter and stay. Oxford University now has roughly even numbers of male and female undergraduates. We’re happy to hear it!

Facts about Oxford at the Divinity School

Oxford was not bombed during World War II

Oxford was very busy during the war building bombers, but historians believe Oxford wasn’t touched because Hitler wanted Oxford to be the new capital of England after defeating it.

Interestingly, Oxford was the capital of England during the English Civil War.

Facts about Oxford

How fast can you run a mile?

Roger Bannister, a medical student at Oxford University, was the first male to run a mile in less than four minutes! He ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track.

Oxford Day Out

Burnt books at the Bodleian Library

Do you remember our infamous King, Henry VIII? He wanted to get a divorce from his wife who was Catholic, which was very difficult under the Catholic religion at the time! He sent his trusted right-hand man Cardinal Wolsey over to the Vatican to ask for a divorce, but the Pope refused.

In rebellion and to make sure the divorce happened, Henry VIII made his own church, the Church of England. Suddenly all of the University of Oxford’s books were out of date – as the Pope was at the top of the books and Henry VIII wasn’t. Tragically, as a result, all of the books were taken out of Bodleian library and burnt.

Thankfully, Thomas Bodleian donated all of his collection to the library to try and restore it – but only 3 of his books survive today in this collection. The University of Oxford has since then replenished the library and it is very much thriving.

A fortunate death?

Wolsey had to come back and break the news to Henry VIII that the Pope had refused his request to divorce. Henry VIII called Cardinal Wolsey to come and see him from Oxford in London to discuss this. Luckily for Cardinal Wolsey, he died on his way to see Henry VIII from a stomach virus. This is a far better death than what was most likely waiting for him. Henry VIII was well-known for torturing people!

Radcliffe Camera

Alice in Wonderland nearly never existed

Alice was a real child called Alice Liddell, whose Father was the leader of Christ Church college. The writer, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), was a professor of Mathematics and Logic, who spent time entertaining Alice whilst he taught at the University of Oxford. He made up his story about her but refused to write it down as he was a respected Mathematician and didn’t want to be associated with childrens’ books.

However, 20 years later as a wedding present for Alice, he wrote the whole story down and gave it to her in a book. Thankfully, she managed to convince him to publish it by encouraging him to choose a pen name. He chose Lewis Carroll and the book is now a cherished story. Make sure to venture into Alice’s Shop on 83 St Aldate’s.

True love

Alice in real life actually fell in love with Queen Victoria’s son Leopold, who was studying at the University of Oxford at the time. He asked Alice to marry him, but Queen Victoria refused because Alice wasn’t a princess. The lovers were separated and did not see each other again, but Alice had a son and called him Leopold and Leopold had a daughter and called her Alice.

Facts about Oxford

The Bridge of Sighs

Replicating the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, northern Italy, one of Cambridge University’s famous bridges is the Bridge of Sighs. Being rivals, Oxford University wanted their own Bridge of Sighs and therefore built their own in 1913.

Keep out of the city walls

In the twelfth century, all Jews were banned from the city centre and from burying their dead within the walls. England was not doing well economically at the time and the Jews were accused of taking all the wealth by running such successful businesses. As a result, they had to carry their dead to London where there was a graveyard for them – and do it within 3 days according to the Jewish faith.

Oxford’s Botanic Garden is the oldest in the world

Founded in 1621, Oxford’s Botanical Garden is not only the oldest botanical garden in the world but it also where the old Jewish cemetery is too.

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