With grub, just add vga=791 to your kernel line in /etc/grub.conf.
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.20-8 ro root=LABEL=/ hdc=ide-scsi vga=791
all on one line. This sets a different screen mode for the console which means that it will come back after you leave X (though sometimes it is shifted to the side --- can sometimes fix with Fn-F4 I think).
I'm not originally from Oxford but work here in the university. By the way I often visit Madrid (my wife's family is there)... they have just got a place in El Escorial, not far from Navacerrada I believe...