August - Oxford Opens its Doors

August - Oxford Opens its Doors

September weekends always seem a bit special after the summer holidays end and the term begins.  This weekend Oxford will have a festival feel as the annual Oxford Open Doors returns to the City’s streets for its’ fifteenth year.  Oxford is such a magical place with so many extraordinary places, people and achievements to share that each year Oxford Open Doors can host a fresh celebration of Oxford’s heritage old and new, town and gown, its people and their inventions which cannot fail to surprise and delight.  And this year, once again, Oxford Preservation Trust, Oxford’s very own heritage charity, have been working with their many partners in the University and across the city and its local communities to bring the programme together, and it is bags full of open doors, concerts and art collections, tours and talks, fun-filled activities for families and friends, something for everyone whatever your age or interest. 

The colleges and university buildings are often the draw and this year these will include Magdalen College, who are opening their buildings and grounds, and for the first time the Botanic Gardens open for part of the weekend as they celebrate their 400th anniversary.  Heading back across the Meadows Christ Church will be open for everyone to see the splendours of the Great Hall and the Cathedral, and to enjoy the literary links with Alice, and the film locations of Harry Potter.  New College can boast the same and will open their doors alongside University College, St. Cross, Merton, Teddy Hall and St. Hugh’s. Balliol’s historic archives are now housed in the former St. Cross Church in Parks Road so take a look, and walk down Holywell to Wadham College who are also opening their Holywell Music Room, England’s first purpose built concert hall.  And at the other side of the city Nuffield College is not to be missed with its fine modern art collection.  Two of Oxford’s most iconic buildings, the  Radcliffe Observatory at Green Templeton College and the Sheldonian Theatre are included so you can rest your legs and enjoy the sounds of the Pavlova Quintet, but don’t forget to climb to the top and take in the fine views across the City. These can also be seen from Carfax Tower, or St. George’s at the Castle where in 1142 Empress Matilda escaped from the clutches of King Stephen by dressing in white and escaping across the icy meadows to Wallingford.   

Oxford’s Heritage is not all about the old, so this is the chance to see inside some of our award-winning modern architecture in the Blavatnik School of Government and Exeter College’s Cohen Quad both in Walton Street, or see what has been happening behind those Cornmarket hoardings as the latest stunning development at Jesus College is revealed.  And try to find time to go into St. John’s College in St. Giles where there are a host of special events happening throughout the weekend and where the traditional and the new come together in a way which has seen some of its 20th century buildings listed in their own right – let us know what you think?  The Bodleian’s Weston Library in Broad Street is also taking part where you will meet with AI-DA the world’s first ultra-realistic robot artist, or join a tour of one of the many university laboratories who will share something of their ground-breaking science, not least the home of the 2019 Nobel Prize Laureate and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which changed the world for so many. 

There is lots to do and see at OPT’s Oxford Castle which will open free for part of the weekend, and where some of Oxford’s talented stone masons will share the skills they use to repair and restore many of our Oxford Buildings, with Oxford Archaeology also on hand to unlock the mystery of what lies beneath our feet.  Wander down to the Real Tennis Courts in Merton Street and begin to understand the rules of this game which has been played in Oxford for over 500 years and is still played competitively today. Or if yoga is more your style, visit the stunning new studio on Osney Island and have a go, stopping on the way to find out more about the Osney Lock Hydro which has been successfully generating electricity for  city residents for a few years now. 

There’s so much for young families this year that there is a special web page with details of children’s trails with prizes, treasure hunts and code breaking, origami skills and storytelling; there’s classic cars and vintage bus rides, and an opportunity to meet some of the brave firemen who will be manning their vehicles down at the fire station.  Follow the peals of laughter to find the Oxford Imps with their humourful guides or take an alternative look with the Uncomfortable Oxford team. 

In the lead up to the weekend OPT worked with the friends, young an old, at the West Oxford Community Centre to paint a train which now adorns the site of OPTs newly restored Rewley Road Swingbridge and where experts will be on hand to unlock its’ past.  And if all that is not enough there is a full range of virtual tours and self-guided walks to be downloaded including our latest Rose Hill Heritage and Green Spaces Walk which the local community have worked hard to get ready for this year’s event.   

Visit our website and come and see the OPT team in Cornmarket close to Carfax and if the queues are not too long we’ll take you on a sneak tour of our Painted Room where Shakespeare used to stay.’ See the full range of events at