A Guided Tour of Oxford

On a crisp Sunday afternoon at the end of our first week, a footpath-blocking gaggle of new Ertegun scholars were treated to a walking tour of Oxford. We were led by the indomitable, cheeky, seemingly omniscient Elizabeth (ably assisted in her narration and anecdote-weaving by Ed, a veritable font of local knowledge). For two hours, we wandered along the ankle-trap cobblestones, getting a refresher on early modern English history and learning a great deal about Oxford, past and present: the Protestant bishops commemorated by the Martyrs’ Memorial as well as the Oxford Movement; the Inklings’ writing coven as well as Philip Pullman’s Jordan College (AKA Exeter). We learned the best college gardens to visit (highly recommend Exeter for its elevated, panoramic view of the Bodleian, Radcliffe Camera, University Church and a photogenic string of colleges), found C.S. Lewis’ model for the door to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (complete with Mr Tumnus carvings), and were stunned (Delighted? Anguished? A complex blend of many emotions?) to discover that the Bodleian has some 125 miles of subterranean shelving. Not enough hours in the day…

We discovered local secrets, such as the hedge-hidden plaque outside the Ashmolean, marking the birthplace of King Richard the Lionheart and King John in what was once Beaumont Palace (it’s obscured by foliage, have a rummage around). A less well-hidden secret, although one which had escaped most of us, was the striking Antony Gormley statue, Another Time, installed high atop Exeter College. A disconcerting seven feet tall, the nude male figure stares intently down at Broad Street, apparently directly focused on the Martyrs’ Cross on Broad Street, marking where Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake, followed by Archbishop Cranmer, six months later. Another time, indeed.

On a lighter note, we ended our ambulatory history lesson with afternoon tea in Ertegun House. The perfect end to an intense week of orientation and inductions, it was lovely to chat over tea and cake about this city we find ourselves in (for many, entirely new and entirely foreign), our upcoming lessons, our interests (academic and otherwise), and our hopes for the coming year. Massive thank you to Maria and Ed for organising this incredible outing, to Elizabeth for vim and vigour, and to the Ertegun Programme for enabling the whole thing.

Emma Gattey