Oxford Illuminated – old buildings in a new light

On 29 September, the Society of Light and Lighting brought the Night of Heritage Light 2017 to Oxford. If that was a slightly pretentious name for some lighting effects on old buildings, it was nevertheless a good excuse to go out and take some photographs.

The ones I liked most, as it turned out, were ones I could take most nights if I bothered to go down into the city centre, but the installations were imaginative and worth the short trip. One advantage was that the streets were thronged with people with cameras on tripods, making me feel less conspicuous than I usually do, and less of an obvious target for muggers.

For the technically-minded, the camera was a Nikon D750 triggered by a CamRanger wifi controller via an iPhone. There are more pictures on Flickr.


First stop was the Museum of the History of Science, the Old Ashmolean building, here viewed across some of the so-called Emperors Heads, the third generation of thirteen curious herms which line the front of the Sheldonian.


If the the space bounded by the Sheldonian, the Clarendon Building, Catte Street and the Bodleian has a name, I do not know it. There was no lighting display here; the white posts apart, this is what it normally looks like.


Beyond its eastern gate lies Catte Street and the Bridge of Sighs crossing the end of New College Lane. The long exposure has obliterated a passing car, leaving only a trace of its rear lights


The main entrance to the Bodleian was adorned with an encouraging, if perhaps superfluous, message.  It took me a while to realise that the red at the bottom was probably meant to signify the fire referred to in the words above. I’m not too keen on the association between libraries and fire (the 1914 sack of Louvain comes to mind along with the Säuberung of 1933) but it made for a pretty effect.


Out into Radcliffe Square, where the Radcliffe Camera was lit in a rather gaunt style. By day this is a building of soft honey; perhaps it is good to see it in a different light, as it were, occasionally.


Catte Street runs between the Radcliffe Camera and All Souls, with the High and St Mary’s Church – the University Church – beyond.


Through a window of the Radcliffe Camera. 45 years ago, this was my my favourite place to work; did we know how lucky we were, with days at our disposal to read from the infinite supply of books sent up from the stacks below?


Down at the end of Catte Street, the dark hush of Radcliffe Square meets the bustle of the High. What is now the Old Bank was a somnolent branch of Barclays 45 years ago. I was fined several decades ago for cycling across the pavement at the end, “beside a street by the name of Catte Street in the City of Oxford” as the summons put it, my big black hat making it hard to deny that I was the culprit.


Even warm, honey-coloured stone can be made to look sinister.


On to the Natural History Museum where coloured lights played across the broad expanse of red brick.


To close, a short video at the Natural History Museum.



About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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