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Welcome to ‘Odd Oxford’, our new monthly celebration of the curious, unexpected and deliciously whimsical side of the Oxford experience. This month: ‘Doorotica’

Odd Oxford

Welcome to ‘Odd Oxford’, our new monthly celebration of the curious, unexpected and deliciously whimsical side of the Oxford experience. This month: ‘Doorotica’
Door lovers do abound in Oxford. And with good reason…

"My love affair with domestic and college entrances started five years ago"

Jeremy Smith

 

As if torn straight out of the pages of a strange Victorian novel, there are people, not many, but enough in this city to make the magical fascination with ‘Doorotica’ seem almost respectable. As a relatively new devotee myself, it had crossed my mind that such an unexpectedly kooky fixation might force me to seek counselling, but no, door lovers do abound in Oxford. And with good reason…

According to, appropriately enough, the Oxford Dictionary, a door is “a hinged, sliding, or revolving barrier at the entrance to a building, room, or vehicle, or in the framework of a cupboard”. But of course, it’s so much more than that, especially in the imagination. Writers and film makers have, almost since the invention of language and moving film, infused the simple door with a sense of both wonder and dread. Wildly extraordinary flights of fancy or dark and disturbing nightmares have long been associated with doors, and in particular, what happens when you open one. And what more apt example could there be than Oxford’s very own ‘Alice in Wonderland’?

Writers and film makers have, almost since the invention of language and moving film, infused the simple door with a sense of both wonder and dread.

 

Published in 1865 and written by English mathematician Charles Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, it famously starts with Alice falling down a rabbit hole and into a curious hall filled with many locked doors of all sizes. Others in popular culture include Boo’s bedroom door in Pixar’s ‘Monsters Inc.’, Howl’s castle door in ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, and the Overlook Hotel’s Room 217 (or 237 in Kubrick’s adaptation).

Let’s not forget either the perfectly round, green door of Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’, the wardrobe door in ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ (both of Oxford origin), and the door discovered by Mary Lennox in ‘The Secret Garden’. And while we’re on a roll, why don’t we close on these door addresses? 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes), 27A Wimpole Street (Professor Henry Higgins’ abode in ‘My Fair Lady’) and 110A Piccadilly (the home of Lord Peter Wimsey).

Doors then are important, so isn’t it heartening to know that so many of popular cultures’ most famous originated here? Although, I’m not sure that this provides any explanation for just why so many people in Oxford are ‘turned on’ by doors.

Admittedly, my love affair with domestic and college entrances started five years ago when a friend ‘gushed’ and ‘ooooohed’ and ‘ahhhhhhhhed’ over a door in St Giles. And while at first I did think her response odd, it did open my eyes to the many nuances, shades and joys that those of us living in Oxford doubtless pass by every day without so much as a mind. Indeed, since then I’ve even photographed some of my favourites, although this has always been a solitary exercise.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I was recently pointed in the direction of an Instagram page solely devoted to the beauty of Oxford doors. Fittingly monikered ‘Doors of Oxford’ – @thedoorsofoxford – it displays an ever-growing collection of some of the city’s more colourful and intriguing entrances, and best of all, almost all of them are privately owned (after all, the University alone could probably account for hundreds). The page was set up by Rosie Jacobs – one half of the team behind popular local website Independent Oxford (see Shaunna Latchman’s column) – and is a colourful collage of Oxford’s finest.

Says Rosie: “I decided to start because I love taking photos of all the random lovely doors in Oxford and it’s my way of collating and collecting them! I’m secretly a hoarder but don’t like having too much stuff as we’re renters, so this is my way of satisfying my inner hoarder!” Not surprisingly, Rosie’s brainchild seems to have struck a motherlode when it comes to unearthing memorable and enchanting entranceways. And as until now a secret ‘door devotee’, it’s proving hugely reassuring…

 

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