This remarkable collection of art has a history as rich as the city that hosts it

Words by Steph Wetherell

Posted on 30/10/2019

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This hidden treasure of a gallery, nestled in one of the Oxford colleges, began life when General John Guise left his extensive art collection to his former college, Christ Church. Featuring an impressive range of more than 300 paintings, many of which are from the Old Masters, the collection focuses on Italian Renaissance paintings that are on continuous display in the gallery. Alongside these paintings, the gallery houses more than 2,000 drawings, including works by Leonardo and Michaelangelo, which are rotated for reasons of conservation, with a new selection of drawings selected every three months.

To house the collection, a custom gallery was built within the walls of the college, opening in 1968. This modern space, set in the Deans Garden, contrasts with the striking historical architecture of the surrounding college.

After your gallery visit, head down High Street and join the Oxford Canal at Hythe Bridge Street. The 78-mile waterway links Oxford with the Coventry Canal at Bedworth. Construction was completed in 1790 and for the next 15 years, the canal became the primary transport route for cargo between the Midlands and London. The completion of the Grand Junction Canal (now known as the Grand Union Canal) in 1805 spelled the end of the waterway’s heyday, although the canal remained profitable until 1950s. A ‘contour canal’, the waterway flows around hills instead of relying on man-made constructions, and the resulting long loops and gentle nature makes for a beautiful walking route.

When you reach the canal, head north on the Oxford Canal Walk down a narrow path that is tucked between the canal and Castle Mill Stream. After passing through the suburbs of Oxford, you will soon find yourself heading out into lush countryside, passing some of the traditional manual lift bridges that typify the route. After a few miles, you will reach Duke’s Cut, which links the canal with the River Thames. Pause for a while at Duke’s Lock pond, a wildlife site packed with wetland flora and fauna, before retracing your steps back to Oxford.

Plan your day out along the Oxford Canal with our online guide

Illustration by PD