Old Tom - A Landmark Pub and a Landmark Bell
After lunch or a morning shopping in Oxford, this gentle stroll will put you in the mood to bend your elbow in a picturesque pub.
Great Tom, in the Tom Tower, usually called Old Tom, is Oxford's loudest bell. At 9:05 every night, it rings 101 times. The tradition arises from the original number of students in the college -- plus one added in 1663. Five minutes after nine was once the time that the Oxford Colleges closed their gates and locked their doors. Great Tom was rung to indicate that each of the original 101 students was safely inside the gates.
The Old Tom Pub across the street from the Tom Tower since 1769 is, coincidentally, at Number 101 Aldgate.
The Tom Tower
The Tom Tower was designed by Christopher Wren, in 1682, for Christchurch College's famous bell, Great Tom. Under the tower is the gate to the colleges Old Schools Quad -- some structures of which date to a priory that existed on the site in the 12th century, long before Christchurch was founded in the 16th century.
Christchurch College Gate Porter
The bowler-hatted gate porter is polite but firm. The entrance to Christchurch College's Old School Quad, through gates below the Tom Tower, is for students and fellows only. Visitors must find their way to the paying entrance, round the corner.
The UK's Smallest Cathedral
Henry VIII linked Christchurch College's chapel to the diocese of Oxford making it both a college chapel and the city's cathedral - The UK's smallest, in fact. Included in the cathedral is a reconstructed canopy from the tomb of Oxford's patron saint, St. Frideswide. She founded a priory here even earlier than the Augustinian priory of the 12th century that is incorporated in the current Cathedral. Christchurch Cathedral is one of Oxford's most popular sites.
The Queue at Christchurch
Christchurch is one of Oxford's biggest colleges and also one of its most famous. Visitors from around the world come to see the Cathedral, the Library and the Picture Gallery. The Picture Gallery houses Hans Holbein's famous portrait of Henry VIII along with paintings by Hals, Tintoretto, Veronese and Van Dyck.
The curious also come because of the college's famous alumni - John Locke, whose philosphy informed the framers of the U.S. Constitution; William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and Charles Dodgson, who under the nom de plume of Lewis Carroll, wrote "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".
Unfortunately, because of its renown, the lines to pay the £4.50 entrance fee (visible in this picture) are always long and slow.
Founded in 1264, Merton is one of Oxford's oldest colleges. Many of the original buildings survive, including the chapel. A plaque inside the chapel lists all of the Wardens of the College, from Peter of Abingdon in 1264 to Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, appointed in 1994. It is an impressive and unbroken succession of 48 generations of wardens.
Exterior Details of Merton College Library
Merton College Library in The Mob Quadrangle dates from 1373. It is the oldest continuously functioning library for academics and students in the world.
Comet Finder Edmund Halley's House
A white house, near the Bridge of Sighs on New College Lane, was the home and observatory of Edmund Halley, discoverer of the Comet named after him. A simple plaque (inset), just visible through the bushes, marks the spot.
The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford University
One of Oxford University's most famous sights, the Bridge of Sighs across New College Lane, connects the buildings of Hertford (pronounced "Hartford") College. It's so narrow, you just might miss St. Helen's Passage, indicated by the arrow. Turn right into the passage - hardly wide enough for you to spread your arms - and follow it to the famous Turf Tavern.
St. Helen's Passage, leading to the Turf Tavern
St. Helen's Passage, twists, narrows and widens. Just as you think you are lost and are about to give up, a tiny sign for the historic Turf Tavern, Inspector Morse's favorite pub, comes into view.