Insightful and illuminating: Oxford History Tours

A new, local business offering historic, guided tours of Oxford. 

Photo by Ben Seymour on Unsplash

A fact you might not have known about Oxford University is that several of its Colleges were founded with the purpose of teaching Latin to priests. During the Medieval era, prayers were in Latin and it was a common language for knowledge and business, therefore somewhat removed from the vernaculars of the time. In the words of Oxford History Tours founder, Sophie, “Latin was like an Esperanto of the learned world for centuries”. Latin was, in fact, an entry requirement for colleges until the 1960s. 

These are just two fascinating snippets shared with me by Sophie, a historian, tour guide, and the entrepreneur behind new business, Oxford History Tours. Its Instagram describes the tours as “an authentic introduction to Oxford’s history” – certainly more than your usual walking tour. Founded this year, its guided tours around the city delve into the wealth of architecture, literature and history within Oxford. Sophie tells me that her mission is to “give more than a cursory glance at some of the great waves of history” through tours that are entertaining yet allow you to really dig into compelling topics. 

Photo provided by Sophie of Oxford History Tours in action.

About Sophie and the founding of Oxford History Tours

Sophie is a graduate of History and Art History from Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University), specialising in stained glass; Oxford colleges; and the impact of the Norman Conquest, Reformation and Civil War on technology. Sophie lived in France for 22 years, and in 2012 she began organising medieval history tours of the Languedoc region with her husband.

After client requests, in 2015 she gave her first art history tour. “I hugely enjoyed it,” she says, and from there her work grew, soon developing tours with filmmakers and authors alongside local French guides, including the likes of author and historian, Henry Lincoln (co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail). After returning to the UK in 2019, Sophie decided to continue her work and was not discouraged by the 2020 lockdown: instead, inspiration hit, and she took it a step further by launching her own business. 

I asked Sophie more about her entrepreneurial drive. “I find people at their most relaxed on a holiday outing,” she explains. “Their enthusiasm is infectious. What better job than making a day to talk about history and culture with interested adults?” Sophie strikes me as someone whose enthusiasm is equally infectious, eager to share her knowledge of our beloved city. She loves that Oxford holds so many “treasures”, as she calls them, and emphasises our fortune in being permitted to observe these in depth and at a proximity that is often not possible in other cities. 

Photo provided by Sophie.

What tours does Sophie offer?

So what exactly does Oxford History Tours offer? Sophie runs a 2-hour and 1.5-hour tour, as well as tours in French. These include insights into famous buildings such as St Mary’s University Church and the Divinity Schools, but also lesser-known facts (both pleasant and chilling…) about our mysterious and charming Oxford.

Currently, Sophie is working on two tours to be launched in 2023, at the heart of which will be the exploration of the Age of Reason and stained glass. She informs me that stained glass is very unique in Oxford, with much having survived the Reformation and Civil War – I am astounded by the intricate storylines woven into the city and the wealth of Sophie’s knowledge.

Oxford History Tours welcomes those fascinated by history, whether historians themselves or curious visitors. The tours are perfect for English or French-speaking travellers from any country, those taking a day trip to Oxford, and not forgetting locals who are keen to learn more. 

Practical information and how to book

Oxford History Tours hosts 2-8 people on each tour and private bookings are possible. Tours are available throughout the year, and more details about content and booking can be found on Airbnb. In the near future, Sophie intends to create tours suitable for people with disabilities, so do get in touch with any queries. 

Please don’t forget to leave an Airbnb review after your tour! 

Be sure to follow Oxford History Tours and all its escapades on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. The business’ own website will be launching soon – check back for details.

Contact details 

Tel: 07749 316 766

Interested in reading more about local entrepreneurs? Head to REACH Local’s blogs on Oxfordshire businesses.