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This article is about the city of Oxford in England. See also other meanings, including other cities.
City of Oxford
Shown within Oxfordshire
Status: City (1542)
Region: South East England
Admin. County: Oxfordshire
- Total
Ranked 306th
45.59 km²
Admin. HQ: Oxford
ONS code: 38UC
- Total (2002 est.)
- Density
Ranked 127th
2,953 / km²
Ethnicity: 87.1% White
4.8% S.Asian
2.5% Afro-Carib.
1.8% Chinese
Oxford City Council
Leadership: Leader & Cabinet
Executive: Labour
MPs: Andrew Smith, Evan Harris

Oxford is a city and local government district in Oxfordshire, England, with a population of 134,248 (2001 census). It is home to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

It is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of the university buildings. Unlike its great rival, Cambridge, Oxford is an industrial city, particularly associated with car manufacturers in the suburb of Cowley.

Oxford is twinned with Bonn, Grenoble, Leiden, and León. The twinning relationship with Perm seems to have lapsed. All of these are university towns.



Oxford was first occupied in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxanforda". It began with the foundations of St Frideswide's nunnery in the 8th century, and was first mentioned in written records in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 912. In the 10th century Oxford became an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by Danes.

The University of Oxford is first mentioned in 12th century records. Oxford's earliest colleges were University College (1249), Balliol (1263) and Merton (1264).

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford is unique as a college chapel and cathedral in one foundation. Originally the Priory Church of St Frideswide, the building was extended and incorporated into the structure of the Cardinal's College shortly before its refounding as Christ Church in 1546, since which time it has functioned as the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford.

The relationship between "town and gown" has often been uneasy—several university students were killed in the St Scholastica Day Riot of 1355.

During the English Civil War, Oxford housed the court of Charles I in 1642, after the king was expelled from London, although there was strong support in the town for the Parliamentarian cause. The town yielded to Parliamentarian forces under General Fairfax in 1646.

In 1790 the Oxford Canal connected the city with Coventry, linking with the River Thames, and in the 1840s the Great Western Railway and London and North Western Railway linked Oxford with London.

In the 19th century the controversy surrounding the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church drew attention to the city as a focus of theological thought.

Oxford's Town Hall was built during the reign of Queen Victoria. Though Oxford has city status and is a Lord Mayoralty, the seat of the city council is still called by its traditional name of "Town Hall".

By the early 20th century Oxford was experiencing rapid industrial and population growth, with the printing and publishing industries becoming well established by the 1920s. Also during that decade the economy and society of Oxford underwent a huge transformation as William Morris established the Morris Motor Company to mass produce cars in Cowley, on the south-eastern edge of the city. By the early 1970s over 20,000 people worked in Cowley at the huge Morris Motors and Pressed Steel Fisher plants. This shift in the culture of Oxford from an academic to an industrial city led to the witticism that "Oxford is the left bank of Cowley".

The influx of migrant labour to the car plants, recent immigration from south-east Asia, and a large student population, have given Oxford a notable cosmopolitan character, especially in the Headington and Cowley Road areas with their many bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, ethnic shops and fast food outlets.

On 6 May 1954 Roger Bannister ran the first authenticated sub-four minute mile at the Iffley Road track in Oxford.

Oxford's "other" university Oxford Brookes University, formerly Oxford Polytechnic, based at Headington , was given its charter in 1991.


Oxford is located some 50 miles (80 km) north west of London; the cities are linked by the M40 motorway, which also links northwards to Birmingham.

Rail connections include services to London (Paddington), Bournemouth, Worcester (via the Cotswold Line), and Bicester. The city also has regular train services northwards to Birmingham, Coventry and the north.

The Oxford Canal connects to the River Thames at Oxford.

Tourist attractions

Oxford has many major tourist attractions, some associated with the university. As well as several famous institutions, the town centre is home to Carfax Tower and a historical themed ride, The Oxford Story . In the summer, punting on the Thames (sometimes called the Isis as it flows through Oxford) and the Cherwell is popular.

Other notable attractions include:

Religious sites

Museums and galleries

University buildings

(Other than the colleges)

Open spaces

Commercial areas

Theatres and cinemas

  • Oxford Playhouse
  • New Theatre, George Street
  • Ultimate Picture Palace, Cowley Road
  • Phoenix Picturehouse, Walton Street

Traditional and historic pubs

Media and press

As well as the BBC national radio stations, Oxford and the surrounding area has several local stations, including BBC Radio Oxford, Fox FM and Passion 107.9 [1]. A local TV station, Six TV - The Oxford Channel is also available.

Popular local papers include the Oxford Mail, the Oxford Times, and the Oxford Star. The New Internationalist magazine is also based here.

Recently (2003) DIY grassroots non-corporate media has began to spread. [2]

Literature in Oxford

Well-known Oxford-based authors include:

Many English novels have been set partly or wholly in Oxford. They include:

See also the Literature section in the University of Oxford article.


Oxford's latitude and longitude are 51°45'07" N and 1°15'28" W (at Carfax Tower, which is usually considered the centre).

Wards, neighbourhoods, and suburbs

  • Blackbird Leys
  • Botley, Oxfordshire
  • Cowley
  • Temple Cowley
  • East Oxford
  • Headington - home to the Oxford shark.
  • Jericho
  • Marston
  • North Oxford
  • Osney
  • Summertown

Politics in Oxford

Despite stereotypes of Oxford being a conservative city, there are no Conservatives on the city council. Since the local election in mid-2004, the council has been in minority administration by councillors from the Labour Party, with the Liberal Democrats being the official opposition. At 7 councillors, Oxford is one of the UK cities with highest Green Party representation on the council. The Independent Working Class Association also has councillors, mainly from wards with many housing estates in the southeast, such as Blackbird Leys.

The two MPs are Andrew Smith from the constituency Oxford East, erstwhile employment minister in the Labour government; and Evan Harris from the constituency Oxford West and Abingdon, sometime Liberal Democrat spokesperson on health. In the upcoming UK general election, 2005, the candidates for Oxford West and Abingdon are likely to be: Antonia Bance (Labour), Evan Harris (Liberal Democrats incumbent), Tom Lines (Green), and Amanda McLean (Conservative); for Oxford East: Steve Goddard (Liberal Democrats), Virginia Morris (Conservative), Jacob Sanders (Green), and Andrew Smith (Labour incumbent), Maurice Lean (Independent Working Class Association), Honest T Blair (New Loony), Dr Peter Gardner (United Kingdom Independence Party).

There is also a large and vibrant alternative political culture mostly situated in East Oxford. Some examples are:

Images of Oxford

See also

External links

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