Oxford on Camera: Divinity Schools

Well, it was only a matter of time wasn’t it? I couldn’t write a column on film locations in Oxford without giving a nod to the 2nd highest grossing film franchise of all time. When confronted by a group of tourists perhaps the next most common question – after where’s the university?’ – that students have to deal with is invariably ‘where was Harry Potter filmed?’.

The wizarding world created by J.K Rowling has generated an unparalleled amount of fanfiction and theories. So I’m keenly aware that this article may represent just another drop in the pensive of Harry Potter-related trivia, but for those of you who can’t tell your O.W.L.S from your N.E.W.T.S hopefully there are a couple of less familiar places here.

One of the city’s hidden gems is the Divinity Hall opposite the Sheldonian Theatre. Designed by William Orchard and Completed in 1483, Oxford’s oldest surviving purpose-built venue for university use more recently served as the Hogwarts infirmary. Playing host to all manner of injuries ranging from cases of unwanted feline facial features to petrification to a good-old fashioned conk on the head by a bludgeon, the perpendicular Gothic hall is perhaps most famous for closing the loop created by the time turner at the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Close by is a building in which Harry spends significantly less time. The Duke Humfrey’s Library, the oldest reading room of the Bodleian, functions (unsurprisingly) as Hogwarts’ library. The snot-nosed protagonist never really ventures in here, dropping out before his finals, like the waster Snape rightly identifies him as. Perhaps its most famous appearance comes in the first film when the young miscreant under cover of invisibility cloak narrowly avoids the wrath of Filch before stumbling upon the mirror of Erised tucked away in an unused classroom. The medieval library looks far more appealing in the cosy lamplight of the films than in real life where pallid finalists can be seen huddled around desks, wishing they could borrow the time turner and go back to that lecture series at 9 in the morning after Parkend.