The tour begins with a morning departure to Oxford from Victoria Coach station in London. We travel directly to Oxford and upon arrival have lunch in the city centre. After time to check into our rooms at Christ Church College, we meet our specialist guide for a private tour of the College. Christ Church was the brainchild of Cardinal Wolsey who in 1525 dissolved Wallingford Priory - and other similar foundations in Oxford - to fund the erection of a new and magnificent university building called Cardinal College. Four years later, upon his fall from grace, only 75% of Wolsey’s building work had been completed, but Henry VIII refounded the college, naming it Christ Church in the process. Following our tour, we return to the College chapel (which also doubles as Oxford’s Cathedral) to enjoy a private organ recital. A welcome dinner in a nearby restaurant concludes the day.
We begin the morning with a joint lecture given by Peter and Dr William McVicker, head of organ studies at the Royal Academy of Music, after which we divide into two groups to explore i) the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments and ii) the Oxford repertoire of organ music (the groups then change over). The Bate Collection was established through a bequest left to the Oxford Faculty of Music by woodwind instrument collector Philip Bate, in 1963. Over the years the collection has been enlarged and now possesses a fine range of historic keyboard instruments, including the Kirkman harpsichord upon which Joseph Haydn played in 1791. After an included lunch, we have a guided tour of Magdalen College, founded in 1458, and famous for its large, square tower from which May Day carols have been sung every year since the time of Henry VII at 6 o’clock in the morning. In the early evening there is an optional attendance of sung evensong at Christ Church. The evening is at leisure.
This morning’s lecture discusses the connection between Oxford and the Austrian composer, Joseph Haydn, who received his honorary doctorate from the University on 8th July 1791. However, the lion’s share of the morning will be spent on a guided tour exploring the Bodleian Library. This is the main research library of the University and founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1602, although its roots go back to an earlier purpose built library established in the 14th century. Today, the Bodleian comprises five separate buildings near Broad Street, and with over 13 million printed items, is the second-largest library in Britain, after the British Library. Lunch will be taken in a local restaurant, after which we visit the Sheldonian Theatre and the nearby Holywell Music Room, said to be oldest purpose-built music room in Europe, and therefore England’s first concert hall. The evening is at leisure.
Our morning lecture presents an overview of music making in Oxford ranging from reports of part singing at Queen’s College in 1340, to modern composers who have studied there, including Joseph Horovitz, Nicola LeFanu and Stephen Oliver. We then make our way to the oldest British public museum, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, first erected in the 1670s and 80s to house Elias Ashmole’s cabinet of curiosities, presented to the university in 1677. However, the present building dates from the mid-19th century and in 2009 underwent a complete refurbishment programme, resulting in a museum of international status. Our guided tour explores the highlights in the collection ranging from Raphael to Rubens, and Pissarro to Picasso, as well as one of the finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the country. The museum also has an excellent collection of period musical instruments, including a Stradivari violin. Following lunch, we spend the afternoon sailing on a private boat along Oxford’s rivers, all the while enjoying a cream tea as we do so!
The morning lecture discusses the writer and mathematician, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll, writer of the famous Alice books, and former student and employee of Christ Church. After the lecture, there is a tour of Christ Church library where Samuel Teague, the librarian who carries out significant work with the music collections in the library, guides us through a selection of its priceless music manuscripts and printed editions. After a coffee break, we continue to Christ Church Picture Gallery, unique among the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. The gallery possesses an important collection of Old Masters amassed by General John Guise and presented to the college in 1765. The art works are housed in a purpose-built gallery designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, which opened in 1968 (once again the group will be split in two for this visit). We have a late lunch, with the afternoon at leisure. An evening drinks reception has been organised at the Eagle and Child pub, where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien - members of the Inklings literary group - would enjoy a pint. We then go to a local restaurant for our farewell dinner.
After checking out of Christ Church, we board our coach and journey the 10 or so miles to Woodstock for a guided tour of Blenheim Palace, seat of the Dukes of Marlborough. The building, named after the Battle of Blenheim, is the only nonroyal country house in England to hold the title of palace, and was built between 1705 and 1722 in the English Baroque style. Following lunch, and time permitting, we make a short stop at Horspath Church on the fringes of Oxford, to view the stained glass window erected to the memory of John Copcot, an academic at Queen’s College Oxford and the subject of the famous 15th century Boar’s Head Carol. We then make our way back to Victoria Coach Station in good time for people to make their onward journeys.
Tour limited to 24 passengers
Lectures on the mornings of Days 2 to 5
All excursions, guided tours & entrance fees included
Welcome & farewell dinners
All breakfasts & lunches included
Private executive coach
Christ Church College - private tour
Christ Church Cathedral - private organ recital
The Bate Collection of Musical Instruments - guided tour
Magdalen College - guided tour
The Bodleian Library - guided tour
Holywell Music Room - piano recital by Dr William McVicker
The Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology - guided tour
Private boat cruise along Oxford’s rivers
Christ Church Library - guided tour with Samuel Teague
Christ Church Picture Gallery
Evening drinks reception at the Eagle & Child pub
Blenheim Palace - guided tour
We stay five nights on bed and breakfast basis at Christ Church College halls of residence which are located in the centre of Oxford. All rooms are en suite. Dinners in good local restaurants are included on the first and last nights and lunch is included every day.
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Tailor make your group tour
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020 7064 4970
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