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Oxford from above
If you want to enjoy a view over Oxford's rooftops, but don't dare to climb the steep stairs of St. Mary the Virgin, then Carfax Tower should be your choice. Located at the top end of High Street, the tower is the city's most popular meeting place but also a tourist attraction of sorts. A watchman in front of it sounds a bell every some minutes and yells at people to check out the tower (and also the needless open top hop-on hop-off bus tours). You can see what I mean: Carfax Tower is very touristy and should really only be second choice if you can't or don't want to climb St. Mary's tower. Moreover, while the view is still worth the climb, you're only half as high and don't have the colleges spread out directly below you but rather the roofs of Cornmarket Street and its shopping centres. On the other hand, you can enjoy watching the masses of people from above.
Carfax Tower is all that remains of a 13th century church and doesn't resemble a church much anymore. The only thing that might remind you of a church is a set of figures that start moving on the hour. Its name allegedly is derived from the French "carrefour" meaning "junction". There is still a junction in front of it - one of Oxford's busiest!
Admission: £2,20 (£1,10 for children), open daily
Roofs of Oxford
Today's Carfax Tower is the only remaining part of the medieval church of St. Martin, built in the 13th century. An ancient church of St. Martin stood on this site since the 11th century.
The church was demolished in 1896, but the tower remained as a clock tower and belfry. The bells ring every quarter-hour (by the "quarter boys" on the east face of the tower).
This was (and actually still is) a geographical center of Oxford, a junction of roads leading north, south, east and west: This is what gave the tower its name: Carfax stems from the Latin Quadri-Furcus, or "four-forked".
Climbing the narrow 99 steps to the top offers a rooftop view of central Oxford. There is a particularly good view of High Street and the buildings lining it. In the background I could hear the music coming from street musicians on Cornmarket on a sunny Sunday afternoon, although the view towards Cornmarket is blocked.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Carfax Tower - the centre of Oxford
The surviving tower of the 13th century St Michael's Church is considered to be the centre of the city. It was the official City Church and where all official functions took place, but the church was demolished in 1900 to make way for traffic - it is (was) found at the busy junction of High St/ Cornmarket St/ Queen St and St Aldate's.
Only the tower remains – and such is its importance, even today no building in central Oxford can be constructed higher than the 23 metres of the tower.
The name Carfax derives from the French word 'carrefour' (crossroads) and/or 'quatre-face' (four-face).
Open: daily, 10.30am-5.30pm
Admission: £2.20/£1.10 (under 16s)
- Historical Travel
This 14th century tower in the centre of Oxford is all that remains of St. Martin's church. It is 23m high and there are great views from the top after climbing the 99 steps. The bells are still struck on the quarter hours by the two figures on the front the tower. Apparently the church was demolished in order to improve traffic flow!
The Carfax tower is placed by a busy crossroads and derives its name from the latin for quadrifurcus meaning 4 forked. Due to widening of the road in the 19th centuary the 14th centuary church of St Martins apart from the tower was destroyed. The clock has 2 quarter boys who hit the bells every quater of an hour.
The climb up the narrow winding staircase is worthwhile on a clear day and its only 99 steps giving you a view of the Oxford spires mounted against rollowing countryside.
Located at the conjunction of St Aldate's Street, Cornmarket Street, Queen's Street, and High Street, Carfax Tower is not easy to miss, and can serve - apart from being interesting architecturally and historically - as a good orientation landmark.
The name Carfax derives from the French "carrefour", or "crossroads". The Tower is all that is still in existence of the 13th century St. Martin's Church and it is 23 meters high.
After lunch and some shopping, window shopping that is, since both of us were bankrupt, we made our way to the Carfax Tower. We climbed the tower for which you have to pay a pound or so and enjoyed a great view from the top. The tower isn't too high, but since there are no high rise buildings in Oxford you don't need a high tower to look out over the city. The views are great!!
If you want to see some more views from the Carfax Tower take a look at my travelogue.
Carfax Tower stands at the conjunction of St. Aldate's, Cornmarket, Queen Street, and High Street in central oxford.
The Tower and grounds of the Memoirs restaurant (see my "Strange Surroundings" in the Restaurant section)is all that remains of the 13th century St. Martin's Church. A climb to the top of the 74 foot high tower affords an excellent view of our Dreaming Spires of a City.
Look for the clock on the east side of Carfax. It is a copy of the original church clock, with mechanical figures called "quarterboys" which hammer out the quarter hour on bells.
Carfax Tower is open from Easter to October 1000-1730 and from October - Easter 1000-1530
- Historical Travel
This tower is quite prominent in the centre of the City of Oxford itself.
I believe you can climb to the top, where you'd have a great view out over Oxford's famous 'dreaming spires'.
- Historical Travel
This is where the townies used to meet in the 16th Century before marching along High to fight the Gownies. Ahh, those were the days.....
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