A common sight in Oxford in summer is of students in their gowns walking through the city either to the Examination Halls in The High, or to the Sheldonian Theatre in The Broad, which is where the degree ceremonies are held.
The Sheldonian Theatre was completed in 1668, and was so highly thought of, that a row of houses that used to sit in the centre of Broad Street, was demolished so people could see it better – even though the façade it presents to Broad Street is the back and not the front of the building. The Sheldonian was the first-ever design of Christopher Wren, and took its name from Gilbert Sheldon who commissioned it. The building is only 80 feet by 70 feet yet due to its ‘consummate contrivance and geometric arrangement’ can hold upwards of 3,000 people, as evidenced in 1733, when a concert given by Handel was attended by 3,700 people. Although called a theatre it has never been used for drama and was built instead to provide the University with a place for public meetings and ceremonies. Today it is used most frequently for concerts, degree ceremonies and the annual Encaenia ceremony at which honorary degrees are conferred.
Unusual features of the Sheldonian include the interior which is made of wood to give good acoustics but painted to look like marble. The ceiling painting consists of 12 separate canvases that were painted in London and brought to Oxford on a Thames barge.
178 Radcliffe Square students