Oxford has two rivers flowing through it - the Rivers Thames
and Cherwell which meet south of the city centre. The Thames River is known as
the Isis for a 10 mile stretch in the vicinity of Oxford.
Buildings in Oxford demonstrate an example of every English
architectural period since the arrival of the Saxons, including the iconic,
mid-18th century Radcliffe Camera. Oxford is known as the "city of
dreaming spires", a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold in reference to the
harmonious architecture of Oxford's university buildings.
The University of
Oxford is distinguished as the oldest university in the English speaking world.
The unique Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford combines a cathedral and a college
chapel in one foundation. The building has functioned as the Diocese of Oxford
since 1546 when the building was extended and incorporated into the structure
of the Cardinal's College.
In 1790, the Oxford Canal was built to connect the city with
Coventry with ‘The Duke's Cut’ being completed by the Duke of Marlborough in
1789 to link the new canal with the River Thames. In addition the Oxford Canal
Company built its own link to the Thames at Isis Lock in 1796. In 1844, the
Great Western Railway linked Oxford with London via Didcot and Reading, and
other rail routes soon followed.
Construction of Oxford Town Hall began on 6th July 1893 by
Henry T. Hare and was officially opened by the future King Edward VII on May
12th 1897. The building is still called Town Hall despite Oxford being a City
and a Lord Mayoralty. The site of the Town Hall has been a seat of government
since the Guild Hall of 1292.
A large student population has 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.
The most recent population estimates for 2005 show Oxford as one of the most
diverse small cities in Britain.
Oxford's second university, Oxford Brookes University,
formerly the Oxford School of Art, then Oxford Polytechnic is based at
Headington Hill and was given its charter in 1991. It has been voted for the
last ten years the best new university in the UK and it was named to honour the
school's founding principal, John Henry Brookes.