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Museum of Oxford Digital Exhibitions

Unbuilt Oxford

Photo credit: Dmitry Djouce, CC BY 2.0

If the cityscape we see today is the result of debate, destruction and restoration, it is also shaped by projects uncompleted or visions unfulfilled. When Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530) narrowly avoided execution by dying from natural causes, he left ‘Cardinal College’ unfinished. Tom Quad, still the largest courtyard in Oxford, did not have a North side and construction of the cloisters had not yet begun. Over a century later in 1665, the new head, or Dean, of Christ Church, John Fell (1625–1686) completed the final side of the quadrangle, but the cloisters were never built. Surviving pillars, supports and foundations indicate what one iconic part of the University was supposed to look like.