Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gargoyle Hunting in Oxford

Mr EB and I just spent a wonderful weekend in Oxford pottering around the city and colleges and hunting for gargoyles. We stayed at a totally fabulous small hotel called The Old Parsonage dating from 1660 and I can't recommend it enough! Not only was the whole hotel beautifully furnished but their attention to detail was just lovely.  From the gorgeous toiletries and lovely rooms to the amazing breakfasts I could not fault it.  Clearly, as an English person the tea and coffee making facilities are naturally the most important criteria for judging hotels and even here the Old Parsonage triumphs!  The selection of hot beverages was excellent and you just had to call the reception and fresh milk arrived in the twinkling of an eye-so no horrible UHT milk to ruin your tea! The walled garden where you can take afternoon tea is also lovely and the building itself retains all its period charm, I'm starting to sound like a glossy mag now so I will stop wittering on and let this picture show the lovely flowers and elegant mini hedges-
Anyway back to the gargoyles! I've always had rather a soft spot for gargoyles and grotesques and any sort of architectural witticisms, and Oxford is a goldmine of them. Technically gargoyles incorporated a waterspout to drain water off the building to prevent damage to the stone, and a grotesque is purely decorative and clearly there was a vogue for both during the period they built many of the colleges, as the place is covered with them! They come in all shapes, sizes and forms from fish to human and bizarre amalgams of creatures, often pulling faces...

One of my absolute favorite finds was this restored grotesque of Tweedledum and Tweedledee that is on the Bodleian library next to this very fetching wild boar. 
This rather more modern and daft grotesque was found above the entrance to Brasenose Chapel and I sincerely hope that it is someones idea of a joke and not a serious addition to the grotesques and gargoyles of the college!
I rather like this pigeon who clearly thinks that he is a gargoyle on Brasenose College!
And finally a rather more modern interpretation of gargoyleness by Anthony Gormley on top of Blackwell's Art and Print shop-

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