Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Great Britain chapter on Oxford, Cotswold & Around has to say about Oxford:
Oxford was a key Saxon town heavily fortified by Alfred the Great during the war against the Danes. By the 11th century, the Augustinian abbey in Oxford had begun training clerics, and when Henry II banned Anglo-Norman students from attending the Sorbonne in 1167, the abbey began to attract students in droves.
The first colleges, Balliol, Merton and University, were built in the 13th century, with at least three more being added in each of the following three centuries. Newer colleges, such as Keble, were added in the 19th and 20th centuries to cater for an ever-expanding student population. However, old habits die hard at Oxford, and it was 1877 before lecturers were allowed to marry, and another year before female students were admitted. Even then, it still took another 42 years before women would be granted a degree for their four years of hard work.
Today, there are 39 colleges that cater for about 20,000 students, and in 2008 the last all-female college, St Hilda’s, eventually opened its door to male students.
The genteel city of Oxford is a privileged place, one of the world’s most famous university towns – it’s soaked in history, dripping with august buildings and yet in- credibly insular. The 39 colleges that make up the University jealously guard their elegant honey-coloured buildings, and inside their grounds, a reverent hush and studious calm descends.
It’s a conservative, bookish kind of place where academic achievement and intellectual ideals are the common currency. The University buildings wrap around narrow cobbled lanes, cyclists in academic gowns blaze along the streets and the vast library collections run along shelves deep below the city streets.
Oxford is a wonderful place to ramble: the oldest colleges date back almost 750 years, and little has changed inside the hallowed walls since then.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD