Oxford University Buildings

Click on photos to enlarge.
Notes in italics from Oxfordshire by Jennifer Sherwood and Nikolaus Pevsner (1974)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Scroll down the page to see the buildings in chronological order, or click on the individual building:
Divinity School          Bodleian (entrance)          Schools Quad          Sheldonian Theatre          Old Ashmolean
Clarendon Building
    Radcliffe Camera    Ashmolean Museum    Museum    Examination Schools    Indian Institute

Built 1420-90

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The Divinity School must have been begun about 1420 ... the chief benefactor was Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, and it was due to him that the building was increased from one to two storeys for housing his library. ... The vault was ready in 1483 and the whole building a few years later. ... We can regard it as certain that the master of the masterly vault was William Orchard ...

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Bodleian Library  1610-34
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Proscholium,  entrance to the Bodleian Library and the Divinity School, and west side of Schools Quadrangle (below). Late Perpendicular, built 1610-12 by Sir Thomas Bodley
... There are four tiers of high panels of narrow blank cusped arches and just one doorway, with leaf spandrels and the most curious of gables , fancy in shape and fancy in decoration, ... 

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Schools Quadrangle 

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The Schools Quadrangle, considering its date, 1613-24, is a formidable building, and without parallel in the secular architecture of those years. ...

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Sheldonian Theatre  1663-9
Dscn1936-transf-soft-u2-720-u0.5-q40.jpg (86426 bytes) Wren's first work, 1663-9, and the first classical building in Oxford.

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Old Ashmolean Museum
, erected 1678-83   (Now the Museum of the History of Science)

Elias Ashmole  presented his collection of natural curiosities to the University in 1677 ... The building, which was also to be a place for the teaching of experimental science, was begun in 1678 and completed in 1683. ... 

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P8162260-transf-crop-cln-levrgb-varyr-u2-720-u0.5-q40.jpg (80974 bytes) It is not a large building. The N front is of five bays only with close-set cross-windows, all, on both floors, with alternating triangular and segmental pediments. The doorway has its  segmental pediment on corbels. But the ceremonial entrance is from the Sheldonian. In this short side there are no side windows, only a large portal with pairs of Corinthian columns and a broken pediment the middle part of which jumps back. 
P8232396-varb-u2-720-u0.5-q30.jpg (75099 bytes) Dscn2133-varyellred-u2-540-u0.5-q50.jpg (69767 bytes) The doorway itself has an open scrolly pediment, a cross-window over, and fat garlands. All the carving is outstandingly fine, and it was originally indeed by William Bird. ...
Behind the building a wall runs to the Bodleian's Selden end. In it a pedimented feature with shell-niches, and on it urns.

Clarendon Building

Dscn1938-clone-persp-u2-540-u0.5-q50.jpg (69497 bytes) By Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1711-15.

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Radcliffe Camera
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By James Gibbs, 1737-49. The Radcliffe Camera is a library, built with money left by Dr Radcliffe. 

John Summerson wrote " ... No emphasis falls just where you would expect it; everything is syncopated. Very rarely in English architecture has the spirit of Mannerism been so pronounced."

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Ashmolean Museum  1841-5 by C.R. Cockerell

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Cockerell's building is one of the most typical ones of the transition from the strict Grecian to something freer and, one can say, more Baroque. The building itself consists of a centre and two projecting wings. 

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The centre of the centre is a tetrastyle portico of Ionic columns ... On top (of the pediment) a seated figure of Apollo. To the l. and r. of this frontispiece a totally windowless wall, articulated by giant pilasters. Between them like a membrane is rusticated wall below, and above a tier of very short and very odd pilasters pushed close to the giant pilasters, and panels with wreaths. The impression is French, and Cockerell was au courant concerning Parisian architecture. ...

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The E wing facing St. Giles' Street. There are here two storeys with a very high and heavy attic, and there are four giant detached Ionic columns with the frieze and the whole entablature projecting boldly above each of them. They carry statues of France, Italy, Germany, and Spain by Nicholl.

The Ashmolean Website

Museum of Natural History  Erected 1855-60

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Designed by Benjamin Woodward, a follower of Ruskin ... who took an intense interest in the building while it went up (and) stood for two things: Gothic - but that many others also believed in - specifically Italian Gothic; and the supreme importance of  the workman's hand and of the nature as the source of all worth-while decoration.
Gothic the building is, but not really all that Italian, except for the use of red and buff stone together. It is a large symmetrical building, originally standing entirely alone. It has a tower in the middle crowned by the steepest of hipped roofs, a motif neither Italian nor English Gothic, and l. and r. are six bays in two storeys. The roof is large and steep too, and the wooden dormers are absurdly steep triangles.
The upper windows are large and have geometrical tracery; so have the tower windows; the lower windows are simpler. All round the upper windows there is a profusion of foliage and flower carving. On the ground floor only a few have received their due; the others are still uncut. ...

Museum Website 

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Of the original design is also the former Chemistry Laboratory, a copy of the Abbot's Kitchen at Glastonbury. It is S of the museum.

  by Sir Thomas G. Jackson, completed 1882

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The quad open to Merton Street but closed by gates and gatepiers. The climax here is a frontispiece in the Oxford tradition but detailed as none had been detailed before. Especially the top stage is the least disciplined design of Jackson's. The windows .. are transomed, and the larger, upper ones have arched lights. But the frieze above them is heavy with garlands a la Wren's time. The ends of the two wings .. have a six-light window each with with a pediment and in the big gable a tiny Venetian window. Wherever has one seen such impudence or such courage? 

Indian Institute  by Champneys, 1883-96  (now the Modern History Faculty)

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Indian Institute, Broad Street and Holywell Street. 1883-96 by Basil Champneys. The rounded corner cupola makes an excellent point de vue at the E end of Broad Street. Detached columns and projecting pieces of entablature below the cap. Below some decoration of a kind of Cornelis Floris style. Along the W side S of the tower five bays with oriels rounded in plan and bulgy in outline. Decoration with late-C17-inspired cartouches. The carving is by Aumonier. ... More

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