The City of Dreaming Spires has long drawn to it the learned elite of Britain, but its wealth of meeting venues means it also appeals to those in the market for memorable events.
Just an hour from London and with a plethora of world-famous buildings, museums and educational establishments, it’s easy to see why Oxford presents a tempting proposition for meetings and events. Hi-tech businesses jostle for space with the various university colleges in a city where the pursuit of excellence is par for the course. A lively night scene, helped by its resident student population, plus a glut of museums, theatres and restaurants further boost Oxford’s obvious charm.
Name: Rhodes House
Address: South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RG
Tel: 01865 270901
With a history steeped in colonial politics, this traditional property in the heart of Oxford was completed in 1928 as a memorial to Cecil Rhodes, the British diamond magnate and imperialist who founded De Beers and after whom former Rhodesia is named. The property, which encapsulates the styles of a Cape Dutch farmhouse, English country mansion and the arts and crafts movements of the 1900s, can be hired on an exclusive basis. Milner Hall is the largest and most grand of the three venues, with stone walls, marble fireplaces, a raised stage and direct access to the courtyard garden – perfect for large dining events. The Jameson Room is ideal for small receptions or meetings, with book-lined walls and a large bay window letting in natural light. The Beit Room is more intimate still, with views of the private West Lawn.
Name: Malmaison Oxford
Address: Oxford Castle, 3 New Rd, Oxford, OX1 1AY
Tel: 01865 268 400
A former prison, this imposing building has now been turned into a stylish hotel, featuring plush modern furnishings around the stark original features – plus a brasserie and bar offering up locally sourced dishes and organic beers. For reception-style events, the Visitors Room can hold up to 100 people under its high ceilings and features lounge-style seating, a Champagne bar and plasma screen television. The Private Dining Room can host up to ten guests for an intimate cell-room supper. Cells Two and Three hold between 14 and 16 people and can be set up for dining or in boardroom. Cell Four is for up to 20 diners and Cell Five seats up to 35 in either style.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Name: Crowne Plaza Heythrop Park
Address: Heythrop Park Resort, Enstone, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 5UF
Tel: 01608 673333
Just 20 minutes from Oxford city centre, the brand new Crowne Plaza sits adjacent to the original Heythrop House amid extensive grounds and gardens. The Crown Plaza has state-of-the-art conference facilities in this country park setting of 400 acres. A circular conference theatre is the centrepiece, seating up to 350 delegates, and comes complete with stage, flexible lighting, sound system and internet access. It is complemented by 11 meeting rooms and a 450-seat ballroom that can be divided into three self-contained rooms – all with garden or courtyard access. The AV team is on standby at all events, while team-building activities on offer include everything from quad-biking to duck-herding. There’s also an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and health club on-site. Dining options include afternoon tea in the original building’s Wedgewood lounge.
Name: Conference Centre Oxford
Address: Cantay House, Park End Street,
Oxford, OX1 1JD
Tel: 01865 797979
In case the name didn’t give it away, this venue deals only with the meetings and events market and hence offers a particularly impressive technology package: videoconferencing facilities, high-spec projectors, top-notch sound systems, controllable room lighting and interactive Star Boards are all on offer. The venue’s six rooms, named after famous literary Britons, range in set-up from theatre style through to cabaret, boardroom, classroom and horseshoe configurations, with the Shakespeare room holding up to 230 theatre-style and Byron up to 140. An event support team is on hand for registration, AV services and catering.
Located between some of Oxford University’s most famous colleges and within walking distance of the city’s shops, bars and restaurants, this stately Georgian property is a boutique hotel which boasts a modern brasserie serving up seasonal British and European favourites with live jazz. Meeting facilities consist of The Gallery that can be set up in boardroom, theatre, cabaret or horseshoe style for 30 to 50 delegates, or it can cater for drinks receptions of up to 70 guests. The Red Room accommodates up to 30 guests; The Boardroom just six to eight; and The Interview Room is for an intimate meeting of four. All rooms have wireless internet and meetings can be catered for with formal dinners, light lunches and breakfasts.
ON A SHOESTRING
Name: Oxford Town Hall
Address: St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1BX
Tel: 01865 252195
This grade II-listed Victorian building has four large function rooms and ten smaller rooms available for hire, with the largest, The Main Hall, having capacity for up to 500 people. The Council Chamber, Old Library and Assembly Room can host between 105 and 200 delegates, with the remaining rooms ranging in size from the Jurys Room for 12 to the Long Room for 70. The four larger rooms have built-in sound systems and all have windows. Delegate rates are from £25 per day.
Oxford is around 50 miles northwest of London. The two cities are linked by the M40 motorway which also connects to Birmingham. Rail services to London Paddington take around an hour, while direct services are also available to Coventry, Banbury and Birmingham New Street.