An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1939.
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(18) Oriel College stands on the E. side of Oriel Street. The walls are of local Oxfordshire stone with dressings of the same material; the roofs are covered with slates. The college was actually founded by Adam de Brome, Rector of St. Mary's, in 1324, but Edward II became the titular founder in 1326. In the 14th century also St. Mary's Hall, to the N. of the college, was established, to some extent as a subordinate establishment to Oriel. The mediæval buildings of the college were entirely destroyed when the whole structure was re-built between 1620 and 1642. The W. Range was built c. 1620–22 and the S. Range was built c. 1622; the N. and E. Ranges including the Hall, Kitchen, Chapel and Library were built between 1637 and 1642 and in the latter year the chapel was consecrated. Portions of the buildings of St. Mary's Hall may date from the 15th century; the W. Range was re-built c. 1446 and the N. part of the W. wall may be of this period; the W. part of the S. Range may also be of this period; it seems to occupy the site of Bedel Hall which was acquired in 1455. The E. part of the S. range including the Hall and Chapel (now the Junior Library) were re-built in 1639–40. After 1719 the S. part of the E. Range was re-built under William King, Principal (1719–63). In 1720 the Robinson Building on the E. side of the Middle Quadrangle was erected, followed, in 1729, by the Carter Building on the W. side. The Library on the N. side of this quadrangle was built in 1788 and in 1817–8 additions were made on the E. and S. of the Robinson building and to the S. of the Carter building. The W. range of St. Mary's Quadrangle was almost entirely re-built in 1825. St. Mary's Hall was finally united to Oriel College in 1902. The Rhodes Building on the N. front was erected in 1908–11 and there are minor modern additions.
Architectural Description—The Front Quadrangle (Plate 1) (112 ft. by 97 ft.) has the Gatehouse near the middle of the W. range, the Hall in the E. range and the Chapel projecting from the S.E. angle. The W. Range is of 1620–22, ashlar-faced and of three storeys, symmetrically designed; the upper part has been largely refaced. The Gatehouse is of three storeys but rises above the rest of the range and is finished with a restored embattled parapet. The outer archway has moulded and shafted jambs and a four-centred arch in a square head with traceried spandrels; it is fitted with wooden doors of two leaves with moulded vertical panels in four ranges; the upper panels are carved with rosesprays, oak and vine-foliage, thistle, Prince of Wales' feathers, and shields-of-arms of the college, James I and Anthony Blencowe, Provost (1572–1617); the lower panels have jewel-ornament and there is a wicket in the N. leaf of the doors. The first floor has an entirely restored oriel-window of six lights on moulded corbelling and the second floor a restored window of four lights. On the E. or inner face is an archway with moulded jambs, four-centred arch and modern label; on the first floor is a restored oriel-window of six lights and the window of the second floor has a clock-face of 1820. The gate-hall has a stone fan-vault (Plate 2) of two bays, with panelled Gothic cones and round central panels enclosing cartouches of the arms of James I and the college; the vault springs from moulded corbels and shafts in the middle of each side. The side doorways have moulded jambs and four-centred arches in square heads. The room on the first floor has a plastered ceiling (Plate 37) of six bays with moulded beams and pendants and panels enriched with strapwork, roses and fleurs-de-lis. The fireplace (Plate 21) has moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head; it is flanked by oak columns supporting the shelf and overmantel; the latter is of plaster and of two bays, divided and flanked by terminal figures supporting an enriched frieze; the bays have oval panels enclosing two differing shields-of-arms of Blencowe. The room on the second floor has an original door. The side portions of the W. range have wholly or partly restored windows of two four-centred lights in square heads with labels continued as string-courses. The top storey is finished, on both faces, with a series of small curvilinear gables all restored; the doorways, on the E. face, have moulded jambs and four-centred arches in square heads, with restored curvilinear pediments and cartouches-of-arms of Blencowe and Hawkins; the latter is modern (1903), the former with the others round the quadrangle are restorations, the decayed originals being re-set on the E. and W. walls of the Back Quadrangle. Inside the range, the N. staircase has exposed framing and some panelling of c. 1700. The staircase S. of the gatehouse has a central newel and an original balustrade at the first-floor level. A room, on the first floor, near the S. end of the range, is lined with original panelling, with a frieze and cornice; the overmantel has coupled columns at the sides supporting an enriched entablature and a large central panel. A room in the S.W. angle has an original doorway with carved stops, re-set.
The S. Range, of c. 1622, is generally similar to the side portions of the W. range; the cartouches over the doorways bear the arms of Dudley and Compton; the S. front, to Merton Street, has been almost completely refaced. Inside the range the two staircases have exposed framing and some rooms have panelling of c. 1700. A room on the first floor has moulded and plastered intersecting beams with pendants at the ends and in the middle and a modelled frieze of vine-scrolls.
The Chapel (Plate 167) consists of a structural Choir (52 ft. by 21 ft.) and an ante-chapel (32½ ft. by 18 ft.). It was consecrated in 1642 and is an ashlar-faced building with an embattled parapet and a gabled E. wall; the windows have been more or less restored. The E. window is modern (1884) replacing a window of 1859, which in turn replaced the original window which was probably of four lights. The side walls of the choir have both three windows, each of three cinque-foiled lights with flowing tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label. At the W. end of the choir is a moulded three-centred arch with labels and springing from heavy moulded corbels. The ante-chapel has, in the S. wall, a window similar to the side windows of the choir but of four lights; below it is a modern window. The W. wall has a short porch and a doorway with moulded jambs, restored head and a cartouche-of-arms of Frank; above it is an orielwindow of three four-centred and transomed lights on the face and two on each return; the oriel has a restored openwork parapet; further N. is a window similar to the side windows of the choir; these two windows form part of the general design of the E. side of the quadrangle. The roof of the choir is presumably of trussed-rafter type and is boarded on the soffit and divided into panels by moulded ribs forming eleven bays; the wall-plates are moulded. The antechapel has a similar roof of eight bays. On the roof is a hexagonal timber bell-cote with two transomed lights in each face and an ogee capping and finial; it contains a bell by Edward Hemins of 1729.
Fittings—All of the 17th-century, unless otherwise described. Communion Rails (Plate 18): Of five bays, including gate, divided by pilasters with carved pendants, each bay with enriched panel, including a strapped oval of bay-leaves, enclosing scrolls, moulded and enriched upper and lower rails. Communion Table: with turned legs, brackets and elliptical arches at ends, moulded rails and stretchers and ball-feet. Door: In W. doorway—of two leaves with three pilasters on face and cornice carried round the four-centred head, panelled back. Floor-slabs: In choir—(1) to R.S. (Robert Say, Provost), 1691; (2) to G.R. (George Royse, (4) to S.D. (Samuel Desmaistres), 1686; (5) to I.S. (John Stonehouse), 1699; (6) to I.C., 1675; (7) to I.F. (James Farren), 1660; (8) to I.H., 1656. Gallery: In ante-chapel—reconstructed but incorporating numerous pierced panels, possibly in part of late 17th-century date. Glass: In ante-chapel—in N.W. window—panel made up of fragments with a figure of St. Margaret with book, cross-staff and dragon, 16th-century. Lectern (Plate 25): of bronze, with threebranched scrolled feet, embossed baluster-stem and eagle, on stem, the inscription "Hanc Orielensibus dedit Aquilam Nathaniel Naper Armiger Gerardi Naper de Middle Marsh Hall in Comitatu Dorset Militis et Baronetti filius unicus et hujus Collegii Socius Comensalis 1654", with a quartered achievement-of-arms of Napier and a cartouche-of-arms of the college. OrganCase: On gallery—with central bay and two towers of pipes, cherub-heads and carved conventional foliageenrichments, 18th-century. Pavement: Of black and white marble squares, on riser of step, painted shield-of-arms of Perrot and further W. two shields, one blank and one of Say, laid down 1677–8. Panelling: On E. and S. walls, divided into bays by pilasters, those round the E. end with Ionic capitals, panels, generally treated with perspective arches, entablatures and pediments, but panels at E. angles rectangular, continuous bracketed cornice; panelling continued in modern work to the W. extension of the choir. Screen (Plate 167): Of oak, three bays divided by pilasters, supporting an entablature; doorway in middle bay with architrave, broken pediment and blank cartouche, panelled door of two leaves with open upper panel enclosing a strapped circle, partly fixed; side bays each with a similar open panel, eared architrave and pediment; on W. face, two free Ionic columns in front of pilasters of the same order, screen moved W. when choir was enlarged in 1884. Stalls: with shaped arm-rests and plain seats, backs formed of panelling described above; two stalls, against screen, with hexagonal canopies, in the form of entablatures, with pendants and supported on two slender shafts. Desks partly old and with panelled fronts and ends with ball-terminals.
The E. Range, of 1637–42, has a symmetrically designed front towards the Quadrangle and includes the Hall, Buttery and part of the Ante-chapel. The front has a central porch (Plate 166) with a pierced parapet; it follows the old design but was entirely re-built in 1897; above it are two niches with pseudo-Gothic canopies and containing statues of two kings, presumably Edward II and James I; above these is a third niche with a figure of the Virgin and Child; this is recorded to have been removed by John Jackson in 1650 and put back in 1673–4; the head of this niche forms part of a restored central feature carried above the main cornice; it has side-pilasters, entablature, pediment and blank cartouche. The rest of the front has a series of Gothic windows similar to the side-windows of the chapel; at each end is an oriel-window, one at the N. end opening into the hall and the other into the ante-chapel as already described; below the N. oriel is a porch and doorway (formerly a hatchway) to the basement, with a cartouche-of-arms of Lewis; the basement is lit by windows of two four-centred lights with the plinthmoulding carried over them; the front is finished with a cornice with pendant brackets at intervals and surmounted by a series of curvilinear gables all restored. The E. side of the range has a series of windows similar to those on the W. face and a series of restored curvilinear gables above; the central window is similar but of two lights. The Hall (56½ ft. by 25 ft.) has an open-timber roof of hammer-beam type and of five bays; the trusses have moulded main-timbers, hammer-beams with pendants and curved braces with traceried spandrels; between the side-posts and the walls are open panels with traceried heads; the collar-beams have curved braces forming four-centred arches with cusped spandrels and there are trefoil-headed open panels above the collar-beams; the wall-plates are moulded and there are curved wind-braces to the purlins. On the roof is a hexagonal lantern similar to the bell-turret of the chapel. In the third window of the W. wall is a painted glass achievement of the quartered arms of Robert Pierrepoint, 1st Earl of Kingston. In the W. wall is a doorway with a four-centred arch in a square head and shields in the spandrels. The Buttery has early 18th-century panelling and a room above has late 17th-century panelling. The Basement, formerly Kitchens, has plain groined vaulting and in the N. wall are two openings with four-centred heads, probably former fireplaces. Below the S. end of the range is the Beer-cellar; it has a timber ceiling supported on two stone cylindrical columns with moulded capitals, and wooden posts against the walls.
The N. Range of c. 1637–42, is of three storeys and the S. front to the quadrangle is generally similar to the side portions of the W. range and has been almost entirely refaced; above the doorways are cartouches-of-arms of Tolson and Smith. The N. front has three projecting wings but those on the E. and W. have been masked or partly masked by later buildings; the windows are similar to those on the S. front and several of those in the E. projecting wing are still visible in the adjoining building; the old doorways have moulded jambs and four-centred arches in square heads. The front is finished with restored curvilinear gables similar to those on the S. side. The E. end of the range has similar gables and a range of additional windows lighting a basement. Inside the range at the E. end is the former Bakehouse; it has a wide fireplace in the W. wall, with a four-centred arch and to the S. of it is a brick oven. In the same block is an original well-staircase (Plate 168) with turned balusters, moulded rails and strings and square panelled newels, one having a pendant. The room above the former Bakehouse has early 18th-century panelling. The next staircase to the W. has exposed framing and the doorway to the adjoining corridor, through the range, has a four-centred arch in a square head with shields in the spandrels. The room on the E. has a doorway with dragon-heads in the spandrels. On the second floor is the former Library, now divided into sets of rooms; it was formerly lit by seven windows on each side. The rest of the range is occupied by the Provost's Lodging; on the ground floor the Dining Room, at the W. end, has a re-set overmantel of c. 1640 and the surround incorporates some enriched panels of the same age; the overmantel is of three bays divided by Doric columns, partly rusticated, and supporting an entablature; the middle bay has a round-headed panel with a pediment and cartouche and the side bays have perspective panels. The Kitchen is lined with 17th-century panelling and has a plaster ceiling with a geometrical design of moulded panels. The staircase (Plate 46), N. of the kitchen, is original and of well-type with turned balusters, moulded strings and rails and square newels with moulded terminals and pendants; standing on the newels between the lower floors are columns supporting the upper newels and also arches across to the side walls; the top landing has a screen of three bays with columns and four-centred arches; the ceiling has radiating panels of Gothic type with a cartouche of the arms of the college in the middle. The room to the N.E. and the passage to the W. of the kitchen have mid and late 17th-century panelling. In the windows of the modern hall are some 17th-century painted glass panels with portraits of Sir Thomas Bodley, John Tolson, Provost, Queen Henrietta Maria, Anthony Blencowe, Provost, and Thomas Allen, also shields-of-arms of Allen with the date 1638 and Blencowe.
The Middle Quadrangle has the Robinson Building of 1720 on the E. side, the Carter Building of 1729 on the W. side and the Library of 1788 on the N. side. The Robinson and Carter Buildings are similar in their general lines to the ranges of the Front Quadrangle. The Library is mainly a two-storeyed building with rusticated arches to the ground-floor and a range of Ionic columns above, on the S. front. A room at the W. end on the second floor is lined with panelling, divided into bays by Corinthian pilasters and with an enriched entablature; it is said to have come from New College Chapel.
St. Mary's Hall Quadrangle is entered by a gateway in the W. range. This W. Range was almost entirely re-built in 1825 but the lower part of the W. wall is perhaps of 15th-century date and is of coursed rubble; above the entrance archway is a blocked window. The N. Range was built in 1908–11. The E. Range was built after 1719, on the site of an earlier building; the staircase has turned balusters and close strings. The doorway has a flat hood on carved consoles. The E. wall is of rubble and may possibly be part of a mediæval building.
The S. Range includes in the E. part the former Hall, now the Junior Common Room, and the Junior Library formerly the Chapel. This part was built in 1639–40 and is of two storeys with a basement; the walls are ashlar-faced. The former Hall has a five-light window (the middle light blocked) in the E. wall and three-light windows in the side walls, all with cinque-foiled lights in square heads. The doorway in the N. wall has moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with shields in the spandrels. The screen in the former hall is of five bays divided by panelled Ionic pilasters supporting a bracketed entablature; the two doorways have square heads and the other bays have panels with perspective arches; above the entablature is a panelled attic with pilasters and a central feature with a shell-headed niche, pilasters and a pediment. In the screens-passage is a scrolled shield-of-arms of St. Mary's Hall with mantling and enriched frame. The Junior Library, formerly the chapel, on the first floor has a completely restored five-light window in the E. wall; the side walls have two windows on the N. side and three on the S., all of three trefoiled ogee lights with tracery in a round head with moulded reveals; the whole of the S. side has been refaced. In the W. wall is a 17th-century panelled door with a carved head. To the W. of the Hall and library are a staircase and a series of rooms lighted by windows with cinque-foiled heads. The former Buttery, on the ground-floor, has an original doorway with carved spandrels and a hatch with a three-centred head. The W. part of the range was formerly of two storeys but now has a modern top storey. The lower walls are of rubble and may be part of the building erected c. 1455 on the site of Bedel Hall. The easternmost of the lower windows on the N. side has a cinque-foiled head and is of early 17th-century date, and the two doorways with four-centred heads are perhaps of the same date. There are no old features on the S. side.