ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Visiting Europe»
  • United Kingdom

Visiting Oxford, England, and its Bridge of Sighs: noted, architectural feature at Hertford College

Updated on May 15, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Oxford: the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College passes over New College Lane.
Oxford: the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College passes over New College Lane. | Source
Hertford College, Oxford, shield
Hertford College, Oxford, shield | Source
Map location of Oxford, in Oxfordshire.
Map location of Oxford, in Oxfordshire. | Source

A fine structure originally opposed by New College

For the question posed to the North American traveller in Europe: Did you see the Bridge of Sighs? make sure you know which Bridge of Sighs is being referred to. In fact, there are several Bridges of Sighs in Europe, including one in Cambridge as well as in Oxford.

There is an older, 17th century Bridge of Sighs (Italian: Ponte dei Sospiri ) in Venice, Italy, thus named by the poet Lord Byron, who supposed or suggested — with little historical backing — that condemned prisoners would be led over the bridge prior to their execution. But the name stuck, and both Oxford and Cambridge eventually acquired their own Bridge of Sighs. (However, the only, remotely comparable experience to trial and execution that scholars will undergo at Oxford and Cambridge are their degree examinations.)

Some history and features of the bridge

The Bridge of Sighs is so centrally located in Oxford, near to the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre, and, among visitors, has been such a well-known example of Oxford's distingished architectural features, that it can be surprising to learn that it excited controversy when it was first planned. Neighbouring New College (a much larger college) issued an objection to the planned bridge, which, however, was set aside.

It was thus that architect Sir Thomas Jackson (1835-1924) was responsible for the bridge at Hertford College, which was erected in 1914. Cambridge University had already had its Bridge of Sighs at St John's College since 1831. But the Oxford Bridge of Sighs is distinct from the one in Cambridge, particularly by the fact that bicycles, not punts, pass underneath it. The windows of the Oxford Bridge of Sighs are also enclosed with glass, whereas the Cambridge counterpart has windows which are open to the elements. The practical purpose of the bridge was to link the Old and New Quadrangles at Hertford College. However, at one stage, the bridge was closed off to students, which, meant that, at least as far as they were concerned, its original purpose was defeated.

The architect, Sir Thomas Jackson, was also responsible for the striking spiral staircase in the Old Quadrangle of the College.

In the left background of the picture, underneath the bridge, can be seen the Sheldonian Theatre, used for degree ceremonies of the University of Oxford. This building dates from 1664-1668 and was based on a design by Sir Christopher Wren.

Some college history

Hertford College, where the Bridge of Sighs is situated, was founded in 1874. And in 1740. And in about 1282. Intriguing? The original 13th century foundation was a hall, known as Hart Hall; in 1740, as a result of a benefaction, a College was formally founded; but this ran short of money, and was eventually re-founded, with the help of banker Sir Thomas Baring in 1874. Thus, depending on which you prefer, the college has three foundation dates...as well as another. The college also absorbed Magdalen Hall, founded in 1448, which, despite its name, was separate from Magdalen College.

Counted among alumni of the College are Bible translator William Tyndale (c. 1492-1536), poet John Donne (1572-1631), political theorist Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Roland Michener (1900-1991)(1), Canada's 20th Governor-General since Confederation and US Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron White (1917-2002).

A further note on the name

This bridge was originally known by a more prosaic name: simply, Hertford Bridge. However, between Oxford and Cambridge, competition is a wonderful thing: the name Bridge of Sighs is one which gradually took over, at least, unofficially.

In any case, if you ask for directions, you will possibly find that the 'Bridge of Sighs' name is very well-known.

Note

(1) Roland Michener has himself had an institute of learning named for him: the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, which, as it happens, is one of the institutions at which I studied for a qualification.

Also worth visiting

Visitor attractions at Oxford are far too numerous to summarize properly, but a few of these not already mentioned include the Radcliffe Camera and nearby All Souls College, Christ Church (Cathedral and College), Blackwell's Bookstore, the monumental Keble College Chapel, and Oxford Castle.

Bladon churchyard (distance: 13 kilometres) contains the grave-site of Sir Winston Churchill; nearby Blenheim Palace was his birthplace.

...

How to get there : United Airlines flies from New York Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Oxford: 77 kilometres. Oxford links by rail with London Paddington station. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MJFenn profile image
      Author

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      Trish_M:

      Yes, I too have spent huge amounts of time in Oxford, in the past, though now you would be considerably nearer there than I am! Thank-you for your comment (and for your various, other contributions to my hubpage travel articles, also).

    • MJFenn profile image
      Author

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      scarytaff: Both the Oxford and Cambridge structures are known as the Bridge of Sighs, although care is advised not to confuse the two; there is a lot of rivalry between these two university cities! Thank-you for your comment.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      Very interesting!

      Oxford is a lovely town ~ beautiful architecture!

      And I don't have to fly to get there ~ I can just drive there quite easily! Lucky me! :)

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 6 years ago from South Wales

      Very interesting,MJ. I didn't know about these bridges in England. Thank you.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)