The first thing you need to know is that it’s not Christ Church College—it’s simply Christ Church, thank you very much. Appending the ghastly c-word is poor form in the highest, as any alumnus worth his snuff will tell you. Implies a false equivalence with the other 38 institutions that make up Oxford University, you see—and Christ Church has long been in a class of its own.

The facts are worn lightly but proudly, like a silk-and-ermine gown. More British prime ministers have attended Christ Church than any other college at Oxford or Cambridge. Tom Quad—the vast, manicured courtyard at the center of the college—is the biggest quadrangle in the city. The real-life Alice in Wonderland spent her childhood among these dreaming spires. The college has its very own cathedral, a first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in the library, and a pond filled with koi carp rumored to be a gift from the prime minister of Japan. There’s croquet in the Masters Garden and a beagle pack at the ready. Before supper on special occasions, the student body toasts to “our visitor, the Queen,” just in case she happens to pop by. The dining hall itself, meanwhile, was used as a stand-in for the Great Hall of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. It is hard to know which is the more fantastical. This is not a place that does things by halves.