Spotlight on: Turl Street

In typical Oxford fashion, Turl Street is the subject of an obscure ecclesiastical joke, based on its location. 'How is the Church of England like Turl Street? It runs from the High to the Broad and it has Jesus.' Yeah... funny.

All the way back in 1363, Turl Street was known as St Mildred's Street, named after the church that sat where Lincoln College does today. By the mid-17th century, it was known as Turl Gate Street and now is often referred to as just the Turl. It's been closed to most traffic since the mid-80s, so hypothetically you can wander down the street with ease, but beware the odd car beep or bike bell and be prepared to jump back on the pavement!

Turl Street is home to three Oxford colleges, Exeter, Jesus and Lincoln, giving it more academics per square metre than most other streets in the city. Exeter is the university's 4th oldest college, founded in 1314. It boasts William Morris, JRR Tolkien, Roger Bannister and Alan Bennett as alumni, as well as Philip Pullman whose fictional Jordan College is an exaggerated version of his alma mater. They have a tradition of great student choirs and their gorgeous chapel, consecrated in 1859, is a must-see. One Exeter oddity, an Anthony Gormley sculpture called 'Another Time', stands on top of Blackwell's Art and Poster shop and is sometimes dressed up by Exeter students in the know.

Next came Lincoln college in 1427, with alumni as diverse as John Wesley, Dr Seuss and Rachel Maddow. It's home to one of the oldest working medieval kitchens in the UK and the first official Middle Common Room (a college's postgraduate community) in Oxford. Lincoln's front quad is pretty unique as it's covered in Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). These leaves are a luscious dark green in the late spring and summer, before they turn a warm scarlet in autumn.

Jesus was founded by Elizabeth I in 1571 and is known among students as the Welsh college. Between 1571 and 1915, all but one of the college's principals was of Welsh descent, and it counts TE Lawrence as one of its most famous alumni. These connections are kept alive today by St David's Day celebrations that include a service conducted and sung entirely in Welsh. Together, these three colleges run Turl Street Arts Festival in Hilary Term (that's February for any non-gowns), an event which started in 1997. The festival includes life drawing classes, 'formal swaps', talks and more, with many events open to students of other colleges and the general public.

This many students in one place means three things are required: books, coffee and booze. Turl Street is home to the very first Oxfam bookshop - browse their stacks to find anything from modern fiction and travel to classics and rare or collectable books. If you turn off Turl Street onto Brasenose Lane, you'll get a great view of the Radcliffe Camera, surely one of the world's most photographed library. For coffee: Missing Bean was founded in 2009 and has been caffeinating students and locals alike ever since. With sustainably sourced coffee from their own roastery on Magdalen Road, loads of homemade sandwiches, and allergy/vegan-friendly cakes, it's no wonder that they're almost always packed. Expect to have to queue for your cappuccino! Now, to booze. Though students are more likely to pop to Tim's Newsagents on the High for their drinks, Turl Street is home to both a branch of The Whisky Shop, and the original premises of the Oxford Wine Company. The latter are a bit of a local institution, running Jericho's Wine Cafe as well as offering tastings in store.

If you fancy a bite to eat, Turl Street Kitchen has you covered. They focus on the local, offering a changing menu built on sustainably sourced produce. TSK are keen on being green and are a Low Carbon Oxford Pathfinder, committed to reducing carbon emissions and adhere to Oxford's Good Food Charter. They're also dedicated to doing social good, giving constant support to their sister charity, Student Hubs. As well as all of the above, TSK is a cafe with loads of space to work or to sit and relax. If you fall in love with TSK, you can stay there! The attached Tower Guest House has 8 rooms to book which include breakfast downstairs in the restaurant.


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