Seeking inspiration at Worcester College, Oxford


Discovering hidden gems

A treasure trove of history, intrigue and charm.

In the words of Lewis Carroll, it’s home to the ‘the loveliest garden you ever saw’. We headed to Worcester College in Oxford for our Autumn campaign shoot and discovered just why this college is such an English treasure. Worcester’s array of architectural styles is as wide-ranging as its alumni, with medieval cottages, an ornate eighteenth-century chapel and award-winning gardens all in one place.

The Worcester College we know today was founded in 1714, but its origins date back much earlier. Originally known as Gloucester College, it was in fact a place of study for Oxford’s Benedictine monks in the thirteenth century. Quite incredibly, the original medieval cottages still stand in the quad. The college was refounded in the eighteenth century by Sir Thomas Cookes, but a lack of funds meant that the rebuild was a little sporadic to say the least. The result? A unique site that contains the work of four different architects: Nicholas Hawksmoor, James Wyatt, Henry Keene and, later, William Burges. 

As synonymous with Oxford’s colleges as he is with Alice herself, Lewis Carroll sought his inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in these college grounds. Eccentric, quirky and at times downright surreal, Carroll’s tales are eternally tied to the city of Oxford. A long passageway at Worcester College is said to have been the inspiration behind the rabbit hole that Alice famously tumbled down and supposedly sparked the famous lines.

 “Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage […] she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw.”

Beyond fictional characters, Worcester boasts a wide range of alumni. Past students include Emma Watson, Rupert Murdoch and former Vogue fashion editor turned novelist Plum Sykes. Her most recent novel, Party Girls Die In Pearls, is set at the University of Oxford during the mid-80s: think Madonna-esque rah-rah skirts, strings of pearls and plenty of glitter.

Located in the heart of Oxford, Worcester College and its gardens are just a stone’s throw away from the high street and train station. Surrounded by lush green lawns and seasonal blooms, this hidden gem feels like an oasis amid the bustle of the city. Close your eyes and you might even be able to imagine a young Alice chasing after that pesky white rabbit…


Surrounded by lush green lawns and seasonal blooms, this hidden gem feels like an oasis amid the bustle of the city.