Take a tour of Edwardian Oxford as these photographs show the University at play - from cheering on the rowing at Eights Week to celebrating the coronation of Edward VII.

By Olivia Williams
(St Edmund Hall, 2006)

On being an Oxford man
He will in a few years learn to row honestly, if not brilliantly; to know what is fitting to be said and read in matter of books; to discuss the theatre, the government, the cricket season, in an inoffensive way. Add to this pale vision the colouring implied by a college hatband and a decent, ruddy face, and you have the not too vigorous or listless, manly man, with modest bearing and fearless voice, who plays his part so well in life, and now and then - on a punt or at a wedding - reveals to the discerning observer his university 
Edward Thomas, Oxford (1903)

On escaping from windows
Bill Hines (a local Labour leader) was once invited to dine at Magdalen with Mr Bernard Shaw, who was addressing a meeting organised by him the following day. The party also included Mr Joseph Wickstead and Mr Herbert Samuel MP. While the party were at dinner, some the Magdalen undergraduates of anti-democratic views expressed their disapproval by barring the door of the room. The inmates appear to have been placed in a distinctly undignified position. One of them made his escape by climbing from the window, only to find water being poured upon him from above.
Oxford Chronicle (January, 1904)mAgdalenMagdalen Bridge, with Magdalen College Tower, as seen from the river, c 1902

On the boat race
Years ago, the German Emperor used to delight in sending congratulatory telegrams to the University, generally through the medium of Prof Max Muller, and often concerning athletic prowess. On one occasion, he wired - it was after the University boat race - 'My felicitations to you and your crew on your gallant victory.' Max Muller abhorred athletics and he was highly incensed. 'As if I were a coach,' he grumbled, 'running along the bank with a trompet!'
Oxford Chronicle (May 28th, 1908) 

On forgetfulness 
When Dean Stanley was a Fellow of University College, his absent-mindedness became something of a byword. Perhaps its most remarkable manifestation was when Canon Bright of Christ Church, came to his rooms, and the two got deep in scholarly problems. Stanley offered tea, and Bright accepted, and the absorbing discussion continued. While they discussed, Stanley 'made tea', poured liquid from the tea-pot into his cup and Bright's, and plunged deeper into discussion. It was not until much later Stanley discovered he had not lighted the stove, that the water was perfectly cold, and that he had put no tea in the pot.

Stanley, when he was at Oxford, had a habit of carelessly kicking off his shoes before going to bed, or when he came in after a tiring walk. One Sunday, when he was taking service at a well-known London church, his sub-consciousness seems to have conceived the idea that he must get rid of the light shoes he was wearing. The noiseless ascent by his brown-stockinged feet on the steps leading to the reading-desk, was watched by the congregation with faces in which amazement struggled with amusement. 
Oxford Chronicle (July 10th and 17th, 1903)

King's ArmsKing's Arms in the heart of Oxford, which has been a great university favourite since the seventeenth century

On drunkenness 
I am certain from the evidence before me that in certain colleges today there is a wave of drunkenness. I have had instances brought to my knowledge where men have called on Freshmen within  a day or two of their coming to Oxford, demanding drinks from them, and if they have not been given they have not only broken up the furniture of the room, but have ill-treated the men themselves. I ask you if ti likely the mustard seed of this faith will grow if you take a light view of such a sin as this. 
The Bishop of London at St Mary's, Oxford (October, 1905)

On proper dress
'The matter discussed was an order issued by the Dean (Liddell) that in future all distinctive differences of dress, and all differences of fees, for Noblemen, Gentleman-Commoners, or Servitors should cease, and the Undergraduates should be of two classes only: Scholars wearing their comely gown and Commoners, condemned to that sorry garment which all Undergraduates despise. The great lawyer (Lord Selborne) mildly defended this move; it was with characteristic vehemence opposed by the statesman. Mr Gladstone held that the distinctions of the outer world should have their echo in Oxford; that it was a lesson in the structure of society; that it protected poor men from the temptations to high expenditure.'
Dean Kitchin - Ruskin in Oxford (1904)

Pitt RiversThe first curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Henry Balfour (centre) with his first Diploma students in 1908

On discipline
At the University, he is governed by statutes drawn up for children of 13 years of age; he is treated as an irresponsible child, and behaves as such.
The Journal of Education (May 1907)

On modernising 
'Oxford is still one of those benighted cities, which live in the dead middle ages'
Arthur Greenwood 

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All images © Oxford University Images


By Grace KENNY

On discipline
At the University, he is governed by statues drawn up for children of 13 years of age; he is treated as an irresponsible child, and behaves as such.
The Journal of Education (May 1907)

Pretty clever statues!

By timothy keates

The quotation from Edward Thomas sounds odd, since Thomas didn't much like Oxford — as far as I recall from reading something to that effect.


Absentmindedness was not unheard of in the 1950s; A chemistry undergraduate of that time told me about a tutorial in which ever more difficult questions were asked and neither he nor his fellow tutees could answer. The elderly tutor exclaimed " How do you chaps think you will pass Schools at the end of the year?" " But Sir", they replied " we are first year students" " Oh, Oh,..."

By O.Ralph Raymond

Re Timothy Keates' comment: To me the quotation from Edward Thomas sounds pretty much like what one would expect from someone who "didn't much like Oxford." What Thomas is saying is that the typical Oxonian, circa 1900, was a bit of a bland mediocrity, a twit who manages--just barely--to pass in polite society as a man if not of substance then at least inoffensive in his ordinariness. What Thomas said doesn't seem like high praise to me, even when one factors in the British penchant for understatement.