Exeter College

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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'Exeter College', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford, (London, 1939) pp. 54-57. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/oxon/pp54-57 [accessed 25 April 2024]

Exeter College

Exeter College Arms

(11) Exeter College, stands on the E. side of Turl Street. The walls are of local rubble with ashlar and dressings of the same material; the roofs are slate-covered. The college was founded by Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter in 1314; he subsequently acquired St. Stephen's Hall as part of the present site. Originally called Stapledon Hall, it became Exeter Hall and eventually Exeter College. A chapel, on the first floor of a two-storey building, was consecrated in 1326; a new library was built in 1383. In 1432 a range with an entrance gate called Palmer's Tower was built on the N. side of the site; the tower and part of the range to the E. still survive; they were the work of William Palmer, Rector, from 1432 to 1435. A range of buildings towards Turl Street seems to have been first erected c. 1540 and restored and heightened after a fire in 1595; two years later a storey was added to the library. In 1605 a gatehouse was built on Turl Street and in 1606 buildings were erected to the N. of the site, the former Somnore Lane being closed and the site extended over part of the city-wall. The existing Hall was built in 1618 by Sir John Acland; the adjoining Range to the E. was built in the same year by John Peryam and a new chapel was built by George Hakewill in 1624. In 1671, in the rectorship of Arthur Bury, the existing Range, N. of the Turl Street gatehouse, was built; the adjoining range on the N. was re-built in 1682 and the Gatehouse and the S.W. angle up to the hall, were re-built by Narcissus Marsh, Archbishop of Dublin and later of Armagh, between 1701 and 1703; in 1708, Armagh Building was erected on the E. side of the court-yard, on the site of the library. A new library was built to the E. of this range in 1778. The new buildings fronting Broad Street were erected in 1833–4 and at the same time the Turl Street front was entirely refaced, together with the return on Brasenose Lane. Between 1854 and 1860, the 17th-century chapel was destroyed and a new building, from the designs of Gilbert Scott, erected on the site and on that of the former Rector's house; at the same time the Library was re-built and a new Rector's House added to the N.E. of Palmer's Tower.

Architectural Description—The Quadrangle is entered by a Gatehouse and tower in Turl Street which form the central feature of the W. Front of the college. The front generally is of three storeys and was entirely refaced in 1833–4, when the gatehouse also was redesigned and raised by one storey; the S. face of the range facing Brasenose Lane was refaced at the same time and is of similar character to the W. front. The Gatehouse of 1701–3 was treated on both W. and E. faces with a Palladian design with an Ionic main order; this was entirely removed on both faces in 1833–4. The E. and N. fronts, towards the Quadrangle, of the ranges S.W. of the Quadrangle are largely of the date of the building, 1701–3, with some repairs to the stonework and the rebuilding of the parapets. The fronts are of three storeys with cellars and attics and have three-light windows of Tudor character, with moulded labels and string-courses; the windows have elliptical-headed lights and there is an original doorway with a four-centred arch in a square head, with blank shields in the spandrels and an entablature. The E. face of the range N. of the gatehouse, dating from 1671, is generally similar to that S. of the gatehouse for which it no doubt formed the model; the windows, however, have four-centred heads to the lights; over the N. doorway is a cartouche-of-arms of Bury. The Gatehouse itself has a stone vault (Plate 4) of 1701–3, in two bays; it springs from pilasters with acanthus-capitals and has panelled cross and wall-arches; each bay has a saucer-dome on flattened pendentives; the domes have flower and foliage bands, intersecting ribs and central pendants elaborately carved with foliage, scrolls and cartouches-of-arms; the pendentives are panelled and both here and elsewhere on the vault are further cartouches-of-arms. The arms are those of benefactors to the work and include besides Archbishop Marsh, those of Stanwell, Drake, Squire, Scawen, Snell, Richards, Morice, Paynter, Vivian, Conybeare, Levett, Wauchop, Specot, Parker, and four others. The room above the gateway is lined with bolection-moulded panelling and the fireplace has a coved shelf carved with acanthus-foliage; the panelled overmantel has enriched mouldings. The ranges S. of the Gatehouse are devoted to rooms, except the ground floor of the S. range. There are three staircases of 1701–3 with turned balusters, close strings and square newels; many of the rooms are fitted with panelling and doors of the same period and the fireplaces, where original, have bolection-moulded surrounds. The buttery, in the ground floor of the S. range, is lined with re-set panelling of c. 1600 with some enriched frieze-panels. The range N. of the Gatehouse has two late 17th-century staircases, with turned balusters, close strings and square newels with moulded pendants. The rooms retain some original panelling and cornices; one room on the first floor has a refixed earlier 17th-century overmantel of two bays with moulded panels, flanked and divided by strapwork ornament and a dentilled frieze.

Exeter College

The Chapel was entirely re-built in 1855 but contains a number of fittings from the earlier building. Brasses: (1) to Mathias, infant son of John Prideaux, Rector, 1624–5, inscription only; (2) to Robert, brother of (1), 1627, inscription only; (3) to John, twin brother of (1), 1636, inscription only. Chests: In ante-chapel, (1) panelled with enriched top rail and strapwork panels to front; (2) similar but with moulded and enriched cornice; both made up with 17th-century material. Floor-slabs: In choir—(1) to [Nathaniel] Norrington, 1630–1, and others, 18th-century; (2) to George Saffin, 1707, with shield-of-arms, also to George Beard, S.T.B., 1638, Daniel Osborne, S.T.B., 1710, Dig[gory] Wheare, M.A., 1647 and John Boughton, B.A., 1734–5; (3) to Thomas Lethbridge, 1695, and others, 18th-century; (4) to John Lacy, 1719, with shield-of-arms; (5) to John Symes, 1687, with shield-of-arms. Lectern: (Plate 25) of brass with eagle standing on ball, moulded stem and base on four modern lions, on ball, shields-of-arms of (a) Stapleton impaling Petre and (b) Vivian, between them the inscription "Mr. Johannes Vivian S.T.B. et hujus Coll. nuper socius dedit 1637". Poor-box: square post with carved foliage on front and sides, lid with three hinges and staples and slot, 17th-century. Pulpit Cloth: In ante-chapel—of purple velvet with fringes and tassels, embroidered with two knots with the initials I. H., the date 1611 and the arms of the college. Seating: Behind altar—bench with shaped arms, turned posts and arcaded front rail, 17th-century.

The Hall (75½ ft. by 27½ ft.) (Plate 111) was built in 1618 by Sir John Acland and stands upon an undercroft. It was restored in 1820 when the existing porch was built, the louvre removed, the two fireplaces added, the embattled parapet re-built and some of the stonework restored. The walls have a moulded plinth and the windows and roof are of Gothic character. The E. bay on the N. has a three-sided oriel with a main window of four cinque-foiled and double transomed lights in a square head; in each return is a similar single-light window; the next four bays have each a window of three cinque-foiled and transomed lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with a label; there is a similar window, without transom, in the W. bay above the porch. The S. face of the hall has six windows similar to those just described but without transoms. Inside the building the oriel has a frieze of quatrefoils and shields above the window and a flat ceiling with hexagonal panels, of doubtful antiquity; below the square rear-arch of the opening is a wooden bracketing consisting of three four-centred arches with side and intermediate pendants, key-blocks and cusped spandrels. The roof is of six bays and of braced collar-beam type; each truss has curved and moulded braces springing from corbels and forming high-pitched four-centred arches under the collars with a carved pendant at the apex; the braces stand well away from the principals, the interval being filled with uprights forming open trefoil-headed lights; above the collars and below the secondary collars are two bays of tracery with main lines of ogee form; the roof-corbels are carved with bishops', kings' and men's heads; from them, in each bay, springs a wall-arch with a carved central pendant; the plates and purlins are moulded and the wind-braces form four-centred arches. The Screen (Plate 114), probably by John Bolton, is of oak and of five bays, divided by enriched Corinthian columns supporting a continuous entablature; the frieze is carved with conventional ornament, monsters and men; over each column is a shield of the arms of Acland; two bays of the screen are occupied by modern doorways, the others have close panelling with a range of arcaded panels at the base and grouped panels at the top; above the entablature is a modern attic, on which a series of strapwork-crestings, obelisks and allegorical female figures have been re-set; in the middle is an achievement of the arms of Acland; at the back of the screen is a modern wall supporting the modern vaulted ceiling of the screens-passage. The walls of the hall are partly lined with 17th-century panelling, re-set and heightened on the S. side. The undercroft of the hall is of six bays, the middle bay having a central pier and barrel-vaults no doubt to support the former central hearth; the other bays have octagonal piers and semi-octagonal responds along the axis, and supporting brick vaulting with stone groins. In the N. wall is a doorway with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head; the windows in the same wall are or were each of two four-centred lights in a square head. The undercroft is now cut up by partitions.

The Range on the E. side of the quadrangle consists of Peryam's Building of 1618 towards the S. and Armagh Building of 1708 towards the N. The building is of three storeys with cellars and attics; the W. face to the Quadrangle has been refaced and now corresponds to the buildings on the W. side of the Quadrangle. On the E. face the stone work has been much restored. Peryam's Building has two three-sided bay-windows carried up to three storeys; the other windows are of two lights and all are of similar detail to Archbishop Marsh's work on the W. side of the Quadrangle. Inside Peryam's Building the staircase has some late 17th-century balusters at the top. The early 18th-century staircases in Armagh Building have turned balusters, close strings and square newels. The Senior Common Room is lined with early to mid 17th-century panelling with an entablature; the overmantel is of two bays divided and flanked by pilasters supporting the main entablature; the bays have shaped panels; the panelling on the S. wall is modern; in the corners of the room are cartouches-of-arms of (a) Edmund Stafford, Bishop of Exeter, (b) Peryam, (c) Petre, and (d) Exeter College. In the adjoining hall is some 17th-century panelling and elsewhere in the range are portions of re-used panelling of the same period. There are also some early 18th-century panelling and fireplaces with bolection-moulded surrounds.

Palmer's Tower, built in 1432, is of three stages with a restored embattled parapet. The ground-storey formed a gatehouse and has archways in the N. and S. walls; the N. archway, now opening into the Rector's House, has moulded jambs and four-centred arch with a moulded label; the restored or modern shield-stops bear the arms of the See of Exeter and the keys of St. Peter; the S. archway was of similar character but has been blocked and is largely covered externally by the adjoining Armagh Building. The gateway itself has a stone vault in two bays with hollow-chamfered ridge and diagonal ribs springing from corbels carved with angels, two holding plain shields; at the intersections are bosses carved with foliage and a bishop and an angel holding a shield. The walls have a dado of re-set early 17th-century panelling, partly enriched; there are also some benches similar to that in the chapel. The second storey has an original moulded ceiling-beam; the windows of this and the top storey have been restored. Adjoining the tower on the E. is the surviving portion of a range of the same age, formerly called Chapel Row. It is of three storeys; the windows are of Tudor character and have been almost completely renewed. A room on the first floor has moulded ceiling-beams and some early 17th-century panelling.

In the modern Rector's House are re-set a number of features from the early 17th-century chapel; these include several portions of enriched panelling with arcading, two large fluted pilasters and some benches similar to those in Palmer's Tower. In the windows of the hall are re-set painted glass panels or shields— (a) two round panels both with the head of a bishop, (b) a lozenge with the arms of the College, (c) achievement with the quartered arms of Chamberlayne and the date 1577, (d) damaged achievement of the same arms with a quartered impalement and the date 1577.

Set against the N. end of the W. range of the college, in Turl Street, is a re-erected timber-framed structure incorporating parts of a house called Prideaux Building; this house stood on the line of the city wall; the lease of the site was acquired by the college in 1606 and the house was built by John Prideaux, Rector. The building is of three storeys with an attic; on the E. front is a three-storey bay-window; each storey has three transomed lights on the front and one on each return; the window in the attic is also old. On the W. side is a similar bay-window, partly restored. The W. room on the ground-floor has re-set early 17th-century panelling.