Stroll through Radcliffe Square, Oxford

Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library at Oxford University
Photo by Gizelle Lau

Known as one of the most picturesque places in Oxford University, Radcliffe Square is truly a step back in time.  The pedestrian square is made up and surrounded entirely by old college buildings erected in the 1400-1500’s.  It appears just as it would have over 250 years ago – cobblestone streets and all.

The centerpiece of the square is the Radcliffe Camera (also known as the “Rad Cam”), one of the most photographed buildings of the university, built from 1737-48.  The Radcliffe Camera is part of Bodleian Library to the north, connected via an underground tunnel with connected storage spaces for up to 600,000 books.  Brasenose College lies to the west while All Souls College to the east.

At the south of the square stands the towering spires of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built in the 13th century.  It later played a gruesome part as the site where Queen Mary I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and a devout Catholic, put to death the Oxford Martyrs for their Protestant beliefs in 1555.  She became known as Bloody Mary.

Due to its isolation from modern buildings and cars, the square is used often in period British films like the Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), The Red Violin (1998), and more recently, the Golden Compass (2007).

See Oxford on the Stratford, Oxford & the Cotswolds day trip from London with Golden Tours (

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