Worcester College

Pages 123-125

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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Worcester College

(26) Worcester College stands on the W. side of Stockwell Street. The walls are of local Oxfordshire stone and the roofs are slate-covered. Gloucester College was established in 1298 as a college for Benedictine monks of the province of Canterbury; it incorporated an earlier establishment founded as a cell of Gloucester Abbey and from this the college took its name. The site was given by Sir John Giffard before 1299 and the college was partly controlled by the general chapter of the Benedictine Order down to its dissolution. The expenses of the house were levied on the chief houses of the order who were entitled to send students and maintain camerae in the college. In 1321 the order purchased the adjacent site of the former Carmelite house. The earliest surviving buildings of the college are the ranges of Camerae on the S. of the site built at various times in the 15th century and a short range of similar Camerae on the N. of the site. These camerae formed small separate tenements, each one assigned to one of the great Benedictine monasteries and sometimes identifiable by the shields-of-arms remaining on the fronts. At the dissolution the buildings were sold but in 1560 were repaired and occupied by a new body known as Gloucester Hall. This foundation subsisted till the foundation of Worcester College in 1714 under the will of Sir Thomas Cookes, Bart. The central portion of the buildings including the Chapel and Hall was re-built, work being begun in 1720, but the chapel was not finished till after 1786. The new N. Range with the Provost's Lodgings at the W. end was built between 1753 and 1776. In 1824–5 the old buildings looking on the Pump Quadrangle were heightened and twenty years later the old kitchen was converted into rooms and a new Kitchen built. The chapel and hall were redecorated in 1864 and 1877 respectively.

Worcester College Arms

The college is chiefly noteworthy as retaining certain of the tenements or camerae attached to the various Benedictine monasteries. The Provost's Lodgings form a dignified late 18th-century design.

Architectural Description—The Main Block of the college, facing Beaumont Street, was re-built between the years 1720 and 1786. The central part is of three storeys with a cornice and central pediment. The cornice is continued round the projecting N. and S. wings which contain the Chapel and Hall respectively; these wings are symmetrically treated and have each a three-light window of the Palladian type in the E. end. The W. front of the block is of two main storeys with an open loggia of round-headed arches on the ground floor, round-headed windows in the middle bay of the upper floor and square-headed windows in the side bays; the front is finished with a cornice and central pediment. The Hall has an enriched and coved plaster ceiling and a Corinthian colonnade at the W. end. The Chapel has, internally, pilasters and columns of the Ionic order and a coved ceiling with a central saucer-dome. There are two Pictures, (a) a Crucifixion, by a Low Countries master, of c. 1520, and (b) an Agony in the Garden, of the School of Rubens, c. 1700.

Worcester College

The N. Range of Camerae now contains the Senior Common Room and sets of rooms. It is of two storeys with attics and was built originally in the 15th century but has been much altered. The N. front has remains of some original windows with moulded reveals and square heads, but with the mullions removed. The S. front also retains some original windows, all now blocked, and a blocked doorway with a two-centred head; another doorway, probably modern, has moulded jambs and a four-centred arch. Inside the range, which perhaps formed two camerae with part of a third, the middle room has two 15th-century moulded ceiling-beams. On the ground and first floors is some 18th-century panelling. The western part of this range was destroyed when the New N. Range was built 1753–73. This range is of three storeys with a basement and modern attics; the ground floor has a range of round-headed windows under arches on the S. front and the building is finished with a cornice and a pediment over the central bay; the N. front is simpler and has a cornice and central pediment. The Provost's Lodgings, at the W. end form a separate design with a front towards the W., but the main cornice is continued round it. This front has a central feature with a pediment and a double staircase up to the doorway.

In the boundary-wall on Walton Street, immediately to the N. of the old N. range, is a 15th-century Gateway. It has moulded jambs and four-centred arch with a label and has been blocked; in the blocking is a re-set 16th-century doorway with moulded jambs and four-centred head; above the arch are three shields-of-arms —(a) probably Winchcomb Abbey, (b) St. Alban's Abbey, and (c) Ramsey Abbey.

The S. Range of Camerae forms three blocks, the two first on the E. and S. of Pump Quadrangle and the third to the W. The first of these blocks, on Worcester Street, probably represents part of the building put up by the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds in 1424–9; much of this range was destroyed in the 18th-century alterations and the surviving part heightened probably in 1824. On the E. front there is an archway blocked probably in the 17th century; there are also two blocked windows of the 17th century. On the W. side are traces of a blocked arch corresponding to that in the outer wall; further S. is an original doorway with hollow-chamfered jambs and four-centred arch with a defaced shield above; above it is a window with a cinque-foiled head. Inside the block are some exposed ceiling-beams. The second block is mainly on the S. of the quadrangle but extends to the W. of it and also along the E. side up to the block just described. It was formerly of two storeys but was heightened in 1824. The range has a number of original and later windows mostly altered; one in the S. wall is of three four-centred lights in a square head. In the S.E. angle of the quadrangle is a 15th-century doorway with moulded jambs and four-centred arch and above it is a small window of one cinque-foiled light. Inside the range, which may have contained three or more camerae, rooms on both the ground and first floor retain their original moulded ceiling-beams. The W. extension of this block was the Old Kitchen which seems to have been built with three adjoining camerae in 1420–3. It has been much altered and is now converted into rooms. At the W. end is the large chimney-stack of the former kitchen. A room on the first floor, forming part of the Junior Common Room, has a re-set 15th or 16th-century doorway with an oak frame and four-centred head and is lined with 18th-century panelling.

The long W. Block (Plate 197) of the S. range is the least altered of the mediæval buildings of the college. It consists of six buildings or camerae added one to the other and probably all built in the 15th or the early part of the 16th century. They are all of two storeys, with or without attics, and are ashlar-faced on the N. front. The S. front has a series of gabled dormer-windows, probably additions. The westernmost building has a string-course between the storeys; the doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with a label and blank shields and foliage in the spandrels; the labels have returned stops of diagonal form; above it is a niche with an ogee traceried head, flanked by shields, one bearing the rebus of William Compton, Abbot of Pershore (1504– 27) with a mitre and the other with three cups or chalices, perhaps for Pershore Abbey; the windows are original and have square heads; the lower one retains its mullion and has label-stops like the doorway. Inside the building are exposed ceiling-beams and one room is lined with 18th-century panelling. The second building has an addition at the back, perhaps of the 17th century with a blocked two-light window of that date. The doorway has a four-centred arch in a square head with a label finished with scrolled stops and with trefoiled spandrels; further E. is a window of three cinque-foiled ogee lights; the window above has been altered in the 18th century, but between them is a range of six trefoil-headed panels, all within the same recess. Inside the building are exposed ceiling-beams and some re-set panelling of c. 1600. The third building has a string-course between the storeys; the doorway has a four-centred arch in a square head with quatre-foiled spandrels and a label; it is flanked by two-storeyed bay-windows of two lights, but the mullions of the upper windows have been removed. On the S. side are four other original windows, one subsequently altered. Inside the building are some original early 16th-century moulded ceiling-beams and wall-plates. The fourth building has a string-course between the storeys and a doorway with a four-centred arch in a square head with carved spandrels and a label; above it is a re-set shield of the arms of Glastonbury Abbey (formerly in the court near the hall); three of the windows are original, but one has lost its mullion. The fifth building has a string-course between the storeys and a doorway with a four-centred arch in a square head with trefoiled spandrels and a label; above it is a shield of the arms of St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury in a cusped panel; the square-headed windows are all original and the interior has exposed ceiling-beams. The easternmost building, now the buttery, has a doorway with a four-centred arch in a square head with a label and blank shields in the spandrels; above it is a shield-of-arms of Malmesbury Abbey; the windows are original, the lower ones having transoms and the upper ones with the mullions removed; the E. end has a projecting chimney-stack; at the back is an addition of the 17th century or earlier. Inside the building, the ground-floor has original moulded ceiling-beams. The room on the first floor, now the Junior Common Room, has a ceiled original roof of waggon-form with moulded ribs and plain blocks at the intersections.