Maxwell Fyfe's Oxford


In October 1917, Maxwell Fyfe left Edinburgh to study Greats at Oxford University. He had only visited England once to stay with relatives so it was with trepidation that he arrived in Oxford after spending his first night in London. He was 17 when he went up but in his first summer term was called up as a Cadet in the Scots Guards. After the end of the war and the Spanish Flu had ended, he was allowed back to study. He says 'Eventually the Government allowed those going back to University to be demobilized slightly earlier, and I returned having held HM's commission for the first time.' Back at Oxford, Maxwell Fyfe became heavily involved at the Union, a debating chamber not unlike a small version of the House of Commons. He also was the first editor of The Oxford Review, a Conservative student newspaper. Maxwell Fyfe wrote '...Oxford was to me first, Conservatism, second, the Union, third, my work, and fourth, enough games to do to keep fit.'

Surrounding Oxford


Having visited Oxford from a young age because of our family connections, I have always thought it was one of the most beautiful places in England. The history-saturated architecture and traditions such as caps and gowns, the mysterious doorways into unknown Colleges and the Parks with the river, Isis, flowing through. Although Oxford would have been a very a different place at War, there must have been big similarities between Oxford now and then. Maxwell Fyfe describes wartime Oxford in the second chapter of his autobiography saying 'Oxford had never seen such a mixture of age and experience among her undergraduates. A number of people were still in uniform and it was not uncommon to see tabs of a staff major at lectures.'  He doesn't however describe any of the surrounding locations apart from the Union and Carlton Club which aren't the most notable landmarks of Oxford. So I have put together my pick of Oxford's best places in photo form below to give you a flavour of the University Town.  

Bailliol College


In his autobiography, Maxwell Fyfe has very warm memories of Oxford and espeacially his Alma Mater, Bailliol. He says 'We selected Bailliol because of its great reputation for scholarship and and the fame of its products in the nineteenth century.'  


For a long time, Bailliol has been relunctant to open its doors to the public however in May 2012, we visited to discover where Maxwell Fyfe studied. The architecture is rather fairytale like with its turrets and all the wallflowers were in bloom making a vivid border of fire around the buildings in oranges and yellows. I'm not surprised Maxwell Fyfe loved being here and it probably impacted on how he progressed in life. In fact in his autobiography, he says that if he hadn't come down to Oxford, he might never have come to English Bar. He says 'After I left school in the summer of 1917, I had determined to go to Edinburgh University. There had been some vague idea that I woud sit for an Oxford scholarship in December, and my whole approach to life would have been coloured by years in Scotland, and I doubt if I should have gone to the English Bar.'

'I was enormously thrilled. I had seen photographs but the collection of College buildings was something that staggered my imagination.'

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

' was with tremendous fluttering of heart and elation that I realized that I was, though small and unimportant, a member of Bailliol.'

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

Click on a small image to enlarge

'Wartime Oxford was a very odd place. The Colleges were indeed full, but full of white-banded cadets who were doing their Officer-Cadet Battalion training before receiving their commissions. The undergraduates were mainly those whose health prevented them serving in the war, and few, like myself

who were taking a term or two before going into the army.'

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

Camera Pan

The Radcliffe Camera


Sheldonian Pan

Broad Street

Bailliol Pan

Bailliol College

Bailliol Pan 2

A wall of Bailliol College