Back to England - I


The Radcliffe Camera Reading Room at Oxford University, England (LEO Design)


When I travel to England, I typically shoot straight into Central London.  On this trip, however, I collected my rental car at Heathrow and drove-up to Oxford.  My husband, Bob Perdziola, is working at the Garsington Opera (half-way between London and Oxford).  We are staying with good friends in Oxford.

Oxford University was established in 1096—making it the second-oldest university in the world (behind the University of Bologna, established in 1088).  Oxford consists on 43 self-governing colleges, each of which admits its own students and manages its faculties and premises.

The University's most-iconic building, shown above, is the Radcliffe Camera ("camera" is from the Latin for "room" or "chamber").  It was built between 1737 and 1749 (with funds left by physician John Radcliffe) to house the Radcliffe Science Library.  In the mid-Nineteenth Century, the library was merged with Oxford's larger Bodleian Library.  Today, the Radcliffe Camera serves as a reading room for the Bodleian.


The Front Quad of Queen's College Oxford, England (LEO Design)


Oxford's roster of graduates (which includes those who have won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship) is starry, indeed.  The list (at present) includes 30 British prime ministers, 73 Nobel Laureates and the winners of 160 Olympic medals.  Just a sampling of notables includes Bill Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, Rachel Maddow, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh, T.S. Eliot, W.H Auden, Lewis Carroll, T.E. Lawrence, John Donne, Stephen Hawking, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benazir Butto, Malala Yousafzai, Elena Kagan, David Souter, Stephen Breyer, Amal Clooney, Andrew Lloyd Webber St. Thomas More and St. John Henry Newman.

Shown above, the interior courtyard of Queen's College, established in 1341.  Its handsome Neoclassical architecture is mostly from the 1700's.  Click here to see an oak stationery stand from Queen's College.


The "Bridge of Sighs" at Hertford College, Oxford, England (LEO Design)


Hertford College has had many incarnations over the centuries.  Its first educational building, Hart Hall, was erected around 1280 but it did not become a college until 1740, at which point it took the name Hertford College.  The school was dissolved in 1816 and was reconstituted in 1820 as an appendage of nearby Magdalen College (founded in 1458).  In 1874, the college received a large endowment and was able to re-establish itself as Hertford College (the name it still holds today).  Jonathan Swift received a degree from the college, based on work he had completed at Trinity College, Dublin (and independently).  And Evelyn Waugh, who attended Hertford College, set the early years of his book, Brideshead Revisited, at the school.

Shown above, the "Bridge of Sighs"—modeled after the famous prison bridge in Venice—was only built in 1913 (to link the school's old and new quads).  Although the bridge is a popular "photo op" today, its construction in 1913 was most controversial.



Today's Oxford is an energetic buzz of the old and the new.  It's a vibrant university town, packed with students, where one witnesses both the old traditions—Gothic dining halls, gowns and mortarboards (called "Oxford Caps")—and all of today's cutting-edge personal electronic technologies.  

Shown above, a view down St. Aldates Street to the Tom Tower, built by Christopher Wren in 1681-1682.  This tower is the main entrance to Christ Church College and it houses Great Tom, the loudest bell in Oxford.  This medieval bell was taken from the Twelfth Century Osney Abbey when Henry VIII "dissolved" the Catholic monasteries in England (1536-1541).  It was recast several times, most successfully in 1680, and installed in the newly-finished tower in 1682.  The bell weighs 6.25 tons.  Great Tom is rung 101 times every night at 9:05 pm (which used to be 9:00 pm Oxford time, before national time zones were standardized).  The number of rings represents the original 100 Christ Church scholars, plus one.  It takes 20 minutes for the bell to ring 101 times.  In the old days, the bell rang at Midnight (Oxford time), warning students to get back to campus.  Upon the 101st ring, the Christ Church gates were locked for the night.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248