The Fens suffered heavy flooding damage in January-February 1953. Industry and farmlands were destroyed, and over 300 people died, with thousands more evacuated.
"Bodley's" is the Bodleian Library, the main research library at the University of Oxford. It was founded by Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613).
The Bodleian Library is one of the oldest in Europe, second only in size to the British Library. Like the British Library, it is entitled to a copy of every book published in Britain. Consequently it owns many rare, first editions and one of a kind "treasures".
Gabriel College is one of the many fictional colleges in the Oxford University in Lyra's world. It is based on the real Wadham College, founded in 1610 by Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham.
Lyra mentions the Oratory, or church; Wadham College does indeed have a chapel (pictured).
Alumni include actress Rosamund Pike, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and poet Michael Rosen.