Quiz: How well do you know Oxford?

Over the years, Cherwellians have been part of numerous tours and visits of the familiar (and not so familiar) sites of Oxford, exploring the history behind certain landmarks as well as individuals and events associated with them.

In this article, we take an opportunity to create a collage of memories and a so-called set of FAQs that have been posed to young Cherwellians on induction walks around the city and university walls… and share with you a few interesting facts. 

From “What did the IRA try to do in Oxford in the 1990s related to the ‘martyrs’?” to “Where did we see the Zimbabwe bird, that brings great fortune and good luck?”, every journey around the city is a lot more than just fresh air and sightseeing – it is truly the food for thought, memory and logic! 

We are wondering if you know: Why are there no city walls in the south, only in the north of Oxford? And how many times was Oxford besieged during the English Civil War? Why is the elephant sitting high above Broad Street? If you are still not sure, you are welcome to become a student and join the group of Cherwellians for the next Oxford tour with Alan Carter.☺

And now, we’d love to share with you a few fascinating facts about Oxford that might impress and astonish you. Just imagine that you are walking along the streets of the city with us. 


Speaking about Kings in Oxford:

The area, which is now Oxfordshire, has been the birthplace of several kings: Richard I, or Richard the Lionheart, of England, and John, King of England. But let us put the figure of Alfred, the Great, in the spotlight, who was also born in Oxfordshire, and whose statue we must see in Wantage. The statue is quite declarative of the way he ruled, and the main principles he had. As he holds the axe and the scroll, it speaks for itself – military power and learning. 

In the Ashmolean Museum, during our Oxford Quiz tour, students get to see the greatest treasure from the Anglo-Saxon period – the Alfred Jewel. What is it? Why is it so important? What does it tell us about Alfred and why is he the only English King called The Great? Well, no other surviving artefact from the Anglo-Saxon era embodies so many rich resonances as the Alfred Jewel does. The Jewel represents the pinnacle of Anglo-Saxon technological achievement, while the name of the monarch which it proclaims places it among the most precious of royal relics. 

Why was Alfred called “the Great”? Well, the answer is simple: No Alfred – No England, and very likely instead of English we would all speak Danish… He was the one to prevent England from falling to the Danes and promoted learning and literacy. Alfred did ‘love books’ and was fairly confident that education would help England develop and defend itself. He visited Rome twice, in the 9th Century. The first time he was only four years old and was received by Pope Leo IV, who designated him as a spiritual son. Alfred’s second journey to Rome was even more fruitful. At the time, Pope Leo was fortifying the area around St. Peter’s against the Saracens, and, it is quite possible, that Alfred learned some valuable military strategies then. 

During the Oxford Quiz tour, students get to see Wallingford – Alfred’s key town to defend against the Danish Viking invaders. It has been built originally as a square – with precise calculations as to how many soldiers were needed to defend every fortification. And Alfred did calculate exactly the number of soldiers – it was 1 per 2 yards / metres needed to defend it. And he did it, and that is how our ancestors survived and now we are writing this article and speaking English during classes and our tours.☺

And the secret Queen’s room in Oxford: 

Did you know, that there is the Queens Room in Oxford? Which Queen occupied it, and later which Tsar of Russia stayed there? 

During the Civil War in 1648, King Charles 1st fled to Oxford – he took up residence at Christ Church College. From 1644 to 1645 Parliament was summoned not to Westminster but Christ Church’s great dining hall, and the Bodleian Library.  Following an unpopular trip to The Hague to pawn the crown jewels, Henrietta Maria briefly joined Charles in Oxford in 1643. She occupied Merton College along with her retinue of courtiers, dwarves, and exotic animals.

Tsar Alexander I of Russia stayed in the Queen’s Room at Merton in 1814 following the first defeat of Napoleon. In 1816, as a sign of his gratitude, the Tsar sent a huge vase of Siberian jasper to the college, which wouldn’t arrive at Merton until 1822…

And more, about Science:

Britain has undoubtedly been related to all the spheres of science. For instance, DNA investigation. The four scientists – Watson, Crick, Franklin, and Wilkins – codiscovered the double-helix structure of DNA, which formed the basis for modern biotechnology. It was at King’s College London, where Rosalind Franklin obtained images of DNA using X-ray crystallography, an idea first broached by Maurice Wilkins. Franklin’s images allowed James Watson and Francis Crick to create their famous two-strand, or double-helix, model. In the year 1962, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their 1953 determination of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). 

What is more, the city of Oxford has been the birthplace of Sir Alec John Jeffreys, a British geneticist known for developing techniques for genetic fingerprinting and DNA profiling which are now used worldwide in forensic science to assist police detective work. In 1994, he was knighted for services to genetics.

 Well, deeper in science in Oxford, did you know that one of the prime ministers studied science at Oxford University? The most renowned woman chemistry graduate in the world is Margaret Thatcher, whose fame, however, did not arise from the undergraduate degree she earned at Oxford University, although she wrote her thesis under future chemistry Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin.

Interested to know even more of the secrets that Oxford hides? We are waiting for you to become one of the students of Cherwell College Oxford and enjoy the breadth of knowledge that Oxford has to offer!