Brasenose College

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

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, 'Brasenose College', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954) pp. 207-219. British History Online [accessed 23 May 2024].

. "Brasenose College", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954) 207-219. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024,

. "Brasenose College", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954). 207-219. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024,

In this section



Brasenose College honours two founders, William Smyth, Bishop of Lincoln (d. 1514) and Richard Sutton, serjeant-atlaw and steward of the nunnery of Syon (d. 1524). Ralph Churton, a fellow of the college who published The Lives of William Smyth, Bishop of Lincoln and Sir Richard Sutton Knight in 1800, was not able to trace any direct connexion between them, and the little that has been added to our knowledge since Churton made his careful study explains no further their co-operation in founding the college. (fn. 1) But since they had in common strong local connexions, experience in the service of Henry VII, and devotion to the interests of religion and learning, opportunities of personal contact must have been many. The first reference to their joint intention to found a college in Oxford is in the will of Edmund Croston, late Principal of Brasenose Hall, who died in 1508, bequeathing £6 13s. 4d. towards the building of 'Brasynose in Oxford, if such work as the bishop of Lyncoln and Master Sotton intended there went on during their life or within twelve year after'. (fn. 2)

Brasenose Hall had been an academic hall since the 13th century. (fn. 3) The Registrum Cancellarii gives the names of its Principals from 1435 to 1467 and from 1483 to 1512. One of these was William Sutton, Proctor in 1467 and Vice-Chancellor in 1481–3, who cautioned for the hall in 1467 and again in 1483. (fn. 4) His arms are found in the Divinity School and he repaired the hall at his own cost when the owners, University College, refused to do so. It is known that Richard Sutton acted as administrator of the goods of a William Sutton, clericus, and it is possible that this was the same man, and a kinsman of the co-founder. (fn. 5) The last three Principals of the hall have a more certain connexion with the college. Croston, Principal in 1501 and 1503, was a benefactor; John Formby, Principal in 1502 and 1508–10, was one of Sutton's co-agents in holding the property purchased for the college and became a fellow on the new foundation. Matthew Smyth, Principal of the hall in 1510, became first Principal of the college. He was collated by Bishop Smyth to a prebend in Lincoln Cathedral in 1508 and owned lands in the founder's parish of Prescot, but his name is not found in the bishop's pedigree. (fn. 6) The transition from hall to college was accomplished with so little breach of continuity that it is difficult to give an exact date to the change. The charter, (fn. 7) dated 15 Jan. 1512, gives the new title 'Collegium Aulae Regiae et Collegii de Brasenose', but in August the Registrum Cancellarii refers to the punishment of a scholar of Brasenose Hall called Hastyngs, and to Matthew Smyth, who was surety for him, as Principal of the hall. (fn. 8)

The bishop provided for the expenses of the building and Sutton acquired the property for the site. (fn. 9) The main endowment of the bishop was the property of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of Cold Norton. The decayed conventual buildings were repaired and used as a place of residence for the college when there was plague in Oxford. The scattered estates conveyed to the college by Sutton in 1519 included the White Hart Inn in the Strand; a set of rooms was reserved for the use of the Principal and fellows and the London rents were collected there until its demolition in 1673. (fn. 10) Both founders laid certain charges upon the college. Smyth's will directed them to maintain a chantry priest at Lincoln, and Sutton required them to provide for three chaplains, who might be fellows, to be nominated by his heirs. (fn. 11) The payments to Lincoln closed with the dissolution of the chantries, but the chaplains' stipends are still paid. The endowments of the founders were not in themselves sufficient for the maintenance of the college, but they had the effect of attracting other benefactions. (fn. 12) The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 gives the total revenue as £113 9s. 2d., of which less than half is produced by the estates of the founders.

The charter authorized one or both of the founders to make statutes for the college. The first statutes were made by Bishop Smyth, who gave his executors power to revise and to add to them, perhaps in the expectation that his co-founder would not long outlive him. No copy of the original statutes survives, but a revision is extant, made by four of his executors between 1514 and 1519. (fn. 13) In that year Sutton, in the composition which he made with the college, required the fellows to take an oath to obey the Statutes made or to be made by himself. (fn. 14) In 1522 Sutton signed his will 'with a sykke hand', and in the same year completed a final revision of the statutes. There is a record in the Bursar's Rolls of the Principal's visit to the founder at Syon and of payment for a transcription of the statutes. Sutton's statutes, (fn. 15) subject to the interpretation of the Visitor, the Bishop of Lincoln, governed the college until the ordinances of 1855–57. A comparison of Sutton's statutes with those of Smyth's executors shows many changes of detail and some improvements in definition and arrangement. One addition of 1522 refers to an incident of which we have no knowledge, the expulsion of a fellow, Roland Messynger. He had once been in the confidence of both founders, and had been the first Bursar. (fn. 16) Succeeding generations of Brasenose fellows had to swear never to admit Roland Messynger within the walls for more than one day. Some changes are of greater significance. The government of the college was more explicitly and rigidly confined to the Principal and six senior fellows; the earlier statutes had provided that all fellows should be present at the discussion of important business. The earlier statutes provided for six sons of noblemen to be lodged either at their own expense or at the expense of the college, and to be under the charge of a creanser. In Sutton's statutes the 'creanser' becomes 'tutor', and there is a provision that the statutes may be dispensed in their favour. The ambiguous statute De numero scholarium, which states the local preferences to be observed in the selection of candidates for fellowships, might well have been revised; but it remained unchanged, to be the cause of much later difficulty. (fn. 17)

The Visitation of Bishop Longland in 1530 (fn. 18) reveals that the statutes were not well observed in the early years of the college. Answers to the Bishop's Commissary were made by the Principal, six actual fellows, four or five fellows in their year of probation, and eleven graduates who were not fellows. It seems that the six senior fellows had agreed upon their answers. They admit that a new regulation concerning dress in the statutes of 1522 is not observed, and fellows who took their oath before Sutton's revision claim that they are not bound by it. They say that William Sutton, (fn. 19) the lecturer in hall, who was responsible for supervising the work of the bachelors and undergraduates, has not made good progress in his own studies although he has admonished others to work. He has wasted time in frequenting taverns, but now he is beginning to buy books and means to work well. Some of the junior fellows and independent masters raise other points, but there is barely a hint of anything more serious than some laxity in the enforcement of discipline. The Bishop's Injunctions (fn. 20) reveal, however, that reports of much graver offences had reached him from other sources, and the Principal and fellows must have agreed to conceal them. When the college was in residence at Cold Norton because of the plague, William Sutton was suspected of keeping the wife of a Chipping Norton tradesman in the house next the chapel called 'le-Hethe' for which the college provided the chaplain. When challenged by some gentlemen of the neighbourhood, he threatened them violently on the Banbury road, calling them 'horesons churls and knaves', and the following night, with twenty others, armed with bows and arrows, he put the constables of Chipping Norton to flight. Sutton's offices and emoluments were at once removed. He was given the opportunity of purging himself, according to the statutes, before deprivation. Others who had taken part in the riot were less severely punished. The Principal was given a stern warning not to relax the discipline which the statutes required him to maintain.

The Visitation gives us the numbers of graduates in college at that date; we do not know if there were any undergraduates, nor, if so, how many. The Valor of 1547 states that the Principal and fellows 'of an old custome have ever 60 pore scholars who have their chambers and service at the cost of the college', (fn. 21) but this probably recalls the wording of the charter '60 scholars or more' and cannot be taken as an actual estimate of the numbers. The list of members of colleges in 1552 gives the total numbers as 70. (fn. 22) The founders had endowed no scholarships, although their statutes provide for future benefactions. The first six scholarships were founded by John Claymond, the President of Corpus, in 1538. The Claymondine scholars were elected by the President and other officers of Corpus, and had to attend the Greek lectures there. (fn. 23) There followed the benefactions of Dean Nowell in 1565, Lord Mordaunt in 1571, and Mrs. Frankland in 1586, (fn. 24) bringing the number of scholars at the end of the century up to 26. The admission of undergraduate commoners may have begun as an extension of the provision for the six sons of noblemen who might reside at their own charges. The numbers increased rapidly from 1549, when records of admissions were first entered in the VicePrincipal's Register. The years of greatest increase were 1553–6, 1564–5, and 1578–81. There is a marked preponderance of the sons of country gentlemen of the north-west counties and the Welsh border. The first extant Buttery Book of 1612 shows that there were then between 177 and 200 persons battelling each week. An average week gives 28 scholars, 7 servants, 35 graduates, and 87 undergraduates.

A decree of 1576 states that all undergraduates must have as their tutor a fellow of the college, and must not move from one to another. (fn. 25) About four fellows seem to have acted as tutors in the early 17th century. Brasenose is fortunate in the material available for a study of the early tutorial system. The letters of Richard Taylor to the father of two of his pupils, Sir Peter Leigh, and Ralph Eaton's Pupill Booke of Accounts are of special value. (fn. 26) The original function of the tutor was the control of his pupil's finances, and this remained his most important duty. In 1567 action was taken by a tutor, John Forster, for the recovery of the money due for his pupil's expenses from John Marckland, who 'requested and maid erneste suett with your orator John Forster to be tutor with Richard Marckland to buye and deliver such bookes and other necessaries as the said Richard should need.' (fn. 27) The difficulty of convincing parents of the high cost of living at Oxford was great. The tutor gradually extended his functions to include the care of the health and morals of his 'company', advice in the choice of books and of friends, help in securing an All Souls fellowship or other preferment. Private reading with pupils was beginning to supplement the supervision of the lecturer-in-hall and the disputations. (fn. 28)

The number of fellowships was raised from the founders' original twelve to the full complement of twenty-one, by the endowments of Edward Darbie (1538), William Clifton (1538), Brian Higden (1549), and Mrs. Frankland (1586). (fn. 29) The foundation of four lectureships in Philosophy (1555), Humanity (1555), Greek (1578), and Hebrew (1628), and the Palin exhibitions (1609) tenable by fellows, helped to increase the emoluments of some of them, as pupils' fees augmented the allowances of others. A fellow's weekly allowance in 1639 was made up in these proportions: from the corn-rent 5s. 11d.; founders 1s. 2d. (the limit to which commons might be raised, according to the statutes, in times of scarcity); the augmentations of Mrs. Frankland and Dean Nowell 1s. 4d.; total 8s. 5d. (fn. 30) This calculation takes no account of the fines, which were in fact beginning to be an important part of the revenue. They were distributed by the Principal and six senior fellows, as the body granting the leases, two shares being allocated to the Principal, one to each senior fellow, and one to Domus; only the last passed through the bursar's hands and appeared in the college books. This system of distributing the fines amongst the seniors only survived until the 19th century, becoming increasingly inequitable as the value of the fines increased. It is described as long established when the first protest against it was raised by the junior fellows between 1621 and 1641. (fn. 31) The seniors were able to maintain themselves sumptuously while the juniors lived like beggars. The dispute was for the time laid aside without any solution in 1643 when senior and junior fellows united in a petition to the king to avert financial ruin by ordering a visitation of the college.

If lawlessness had been the characteristic failing of the early years of the college, financial mismanagement was the recurrent weakness of the succeeding period. The first evidence of difficulty is found in the Principal's complaint to the Visitor in 1578 that there was no statutory way of enforcing payment of battels. The Visitor decreed that non-fellows who failed to pay should be expelled, and that fellows should lose their commons and offices. These decrees were confirmed in 1592, but were never rigidly enforced. (fn. 32) In 1587 caution money was ordered, but apparently it was not enforced in practice until 1662. In 1592 the queen ordered a visitation for the purpose of recovering arrears and settling tradesmen's bills. Debts to brewers and bakers, owing since 1588–9, then amounted to £178 8s. The Visitors ordered immediate settlement. Edward Hutchins, who had been junior bursar in the year of deficit, was ordered to repay the college over a period of years, and the Principal was reimbursed £100 for his expenses in a lawsuit arising out of the debts. (fn. 33) The evils which had produced this crisis seem to have continued unchecked until 1643, when the college was indebted to the extent of £1,750. Part of the debt could be explained by the loan to the king in 1642, and the special difficulties of the time, but £1,400 was owing to tradesmen and was the accumulation of years of mismanagement. John Houghton, who afterwards proved himself to be an able and conscientious administrator, was junior bursar in 1641–2. He determined that the corruptions of the system which he inherited from his predecessors should be exposed. Two main evils were apparent. The college servants, over whom the bursar had no control, since they were appointed by the Principal and responsible to him only, were to blame for the inordinate cost of commons and the 'decrements' (i.e. extras). Nonpayment of battels was allowed to continue unchecked, in spite of the Visitors' decrees. The worst case was that of a fellow, M. Aldersey, from whom Houghton was trying in 1642 to recover £131 0s. 4d., owing for his own and his pupils' battels by 1640; with the arrears of 1641, his own debt amounted to £208 10s. 4d. (fn. 34) Since the management of the servants and the enforcement of the decrees were the duties of the Principal, the debts of the college should, in the opinion of the fellows, be regarded as the Principal's personal debts.

The Principal under whom the abuses had developed was Dr. Radcliffe (1614–48) who for his 'stoutness' against the parliamentary visitors in 1648 and for his later benefactions has a high reputation in the history of the college. Wood's statement that he was a knave has been dismissed as malicious gossip. (fn. 35) But the evidence of the fellows in the Visitation of 1643 should not be ignored. Some of them were men of outstanding ability and integrity, such as Greenwood and Yate, his two successors as Principal, and Bursar Houghton. The unaminity of opinion amongst seniors and juniors, who could seldom agree, is also remarkable. Clearly Radcliffe had ruled as an autocrat. He had kept even the seniors in ignorance de magnis negociis of the college. Ignorance of what they had a right to know bred suspicion. It may be that some of their accusations could have been satisfactorily explained had the Principal troubled to take them into his confidence. The main charges are that he held two college leases, in the names of two dependants, one the college scrape-trencher. He had received, and had not accounted for, large sums given for building the chapel, and would not allow the fellows to collect further subscriptions so that the work might be put in hand. He had promoted his relations to offices for which they were unfit—in particular, two of his nephews to the office of clerk of accounts, a position of responsibility usually filled by 'a man of good qualitie and legal knowledge'. He kept the distribution and profits of the copyholds entirely to himself. (fn. 36)

The Visitors accepted the substance of these charges, and provided in their injunctions for the immediate sale of the leases (but in ambiguous terms which later involved the college in litigation), (fn. 37) payment of the debts, and an account of the money collected for the chapel. For the future, machinery was provided for auditing the junior bursar's accounts and for removing corrupt servants. The fellows believed that 'this most happy visitation' alone saved the college from immediate ruin.

The Civil War years offered little chance of financial recovery. The plate was melted for the king in 1643. Provisions had to be bought for storage in the tower and renewed from time to time during the war. Rents were hard to collect. Undergraduate numbers fell, and battels could not easily be recovered from the strangers who lived in the college. In 1644 the name of Elias Ashmole is found in the buttery book, but probably he was only a lodger. In spite of the decision of 1643 not to fill vacant fellowships until the troubles should be over, the adverse balance due to the bursar grew from £336 19s. 9¼d. in 1643 to £617 17s. 11d. in 1644, £999 8s. 0¼d. in 1645, £1,214 8s. in 1646. In 1647 the debt had fallen to £999 7s. 11d., and under Dr. Greenwood's careful administration (1648–60) there was a steady improvement. Numbers rose from 20 to 120. (fn. 38)

John Newton, one of the six senior fellows, kept a diary (fn. 39) of the Parliamentary Visitation of 1647, but there is little in it of special application to the college. He informs us that the fellows decided together to make no answer unless satisfied as to the authority shown by the commission; then to reply in writing only and to refuse the ex officio oath. He reports that 'Radcliffe was stout' when he appeared before the Commissioners at Westminster. Orders for 'outing Dr. Radcliffe' came in Jan. 1648, and in April the Chancellor's Visitors invested Dr. Greenwood with the rights and emoluments of the Principal; (fn. 40) Radcliffe died at the end of June, however, still in full possession of his office. The surviving fellows fixed a day for the election of a new Principal, but on that day three of them were imprisoned; two days later they met and elected Dr. Yate. (fn. 41) The election was an open act of defiance; but the fellows now had little to lose. Some were interrogated in May, others in July. Although their answers show various degrees of prevarication, only three escaped expulsion. (fn. 42) One of those was Bursar Houghton who also survived the Restoration, when Greenwood and three of the fellows 'chosen into Brasenose' by the Commissioners, were extruded; Dr. Yate for the first time claimed the office to which he had been elected in 1648. He was prepared to allow Greenwood to live at Black Hall, but Houghton was afraid that this would make difficulties. 'He, his mistresse, and his Presbyterian gang may at theire gossiping conventicles pass theire censures upon you.' (fn. 43) Yate continued the sound administration of Greenwood. He put in action a plan discussed in 1643, by copying into a great ledger-book abstracts of leases and charters, and made notes for a history for the college. In the long period of prosperity which followed, financial security (fn. 44) was no longer seriously threatened by mismanagement or corruption. In 1717 the Visitor forbade the bursar to keep open a bye-account after the audit of the Great Roll. (fn. 45) After this, the accounts were carefully kept. A number of note-books commenting on each item in the senior bursar's accounts help to make the system clear. The fullest of these, compiled by Bursar Cleaver in 1774, deserves comparison with Blackstone's Dissertation upon the Accounts of All Souls College.

Brasenose in the 18th century enjoyed the reputation of being one of the best endowed colleges in the University. Hearne's description of the election of Dr. Shippen (Principal 1710–45) illustrates some of the evils which accompanied prosperity. 'Shippen being a worldly man, and having no small stock of confidence (without anything of letters) and being withal but young (for he took his M.A. July 4, 1699) having wheedled himself into the affections of the great part of the College who expected to live easy under him without prosecution of Studies (according to the modern custom), he carried his point.' (fn. 46) His wife, Lady Clarke, brought him £500 a year and a bad reputation. (fn. 47) He kept a house at Appleton and another in London. He enjoyed the living of St. Stephen's, Limehouse, by the extrusion of Dr. Welton, who attacked him in a tract called The Spiritual Intruder Unmasked. In 1754 the Visitor, in his interpretation of the statute requiring a fellow to resign on acquiring a benefice or property to the value of 10 marks, said that he was convinced that 'Your Founder meant his Fellows to be treated upon ye foot of gentlemen'. (fn. 48) No effort was spared to fulfil this intention. The cock-lofts which had been built for the accommodation of undergraduates were taken over by fellows after the Restoration, for the improvement of their own quarters. The common-room was established in about 1678. Its account-books date from 1733. (fn. 49) The stipends of the college officers were augmented at various times, and tuition fees were exacted from all undergraduates from 1746. (fn. 50) The Visitors' decision that 10 marks should be interpreted in terms of what money could then buy and might be considered to be the equivalent of £40 was an important innovation.

These high standards of comfort applied to the Principal and six senior fellows only. Senior fellowships were worth about £200, and junior fellowships not above £40. (fn. 51) The grievances of the juniors, dormant since 1643, were revived in 1688 by a single junior, Thomas Beconsall, by personal petition to the Visitor. (fn. 52) At another time the appeal might have been easily dismissed, but after the recent troubles at Magdalen, Beconsall could threaten that if the college or its statutory Visitor would not redress the abuses of the fines, the Ecclesiastical Commisssion would be ready to interfere. Another junior fellow, John Bernard, who had in 1685 secured a dispensation from James II, (fn. 53) supported the appeal. The seniority feared the backing of the 'papist faction', and thought it necessary to secure the opinion of six of the most eminent lawyers of the time in favour of the retention of the fines. They argued that fines were perquisites properly distributed at the discretion of the governing body, and that the unbroken custom of distributing them amongst the seniors only since the end of the 16th century now gave them a prescriptive right to appropriate them. Even so, the seniority did not feel safe until the fall of the Ecclesiastical Commission and the flight of James took the sting out of Beconsall's attack, and in time the approach of his own seniority tempted him to retract his former opinions. (fn. 54) As a result of the continuance of the system, an increasing number of junior fellows had to remain out of residence until they achieved seniority. Churton, writing when the system was still in force, justified the non-residence of the juniors on the grounds that a recently elected fellow found difficulty in maintaining discipline, and that experience in the outside world gave breadth of outlook and prevented those evils which are considered to be characteristic of academic life. (fn. 55) There is no evidence that such good effects actually came from the system. Brasenose had its share of factious quarrels. On the occasion of the incapacity of Dr. Meare, for example, in 1708, and again during the illness of Dr. Cawley in 1776, it is clear that the small governing body was divided into two bitterly opposed factions. (fn. 56)

Undergraduates were affected by the expensive standards of the resident fellows. Peter Shakerley, writing to his young half-brother George who matriculated in 1689, at the age of 15, says that £60 had been enough for their father when he was at Oxford (1638) and £70 for himself (1677). George could not keep within the same amount; a gentleman commoner in 1700 was not expected to live 'sneakingly'. (fn. 57) Before the end of the century expenses had again increased. In 1786 was founded the Phoenix Common-Room, a dining-club whose continuous history until the present day is a matter of pride to the college. (fn. 58) But the privileges of the gentlemen commoners were already being undermined. They lost many valued rights, such as hiring the cock-lofts for their servants, dining at the high table, and being made members of the commonroom. They were made to do the same exercises as other undergraduates. (fn. 59) The tutorial system, even in bad periods, ensured a minimum standard of ability and industry. In 1670 Mr. Edward Moore was advised to remove his brother: 'His intellectuals are not for these studies … as for his morals, if a strict eye be kept over them, I hope they may be good.' (fn. 60) John Kenrick in 1750 describes his entrance examination and states that the system of college teaching makes 'our confinement here as great as at school … . With our private tutor we are lectured upon Plato's Dialogues and Logic, whenever he pleases to call upon us; for our public lectures in the hall, we have particular days in the week, which consists of Xenophon's Memorabilia and Horace, by two different lecturers, one of whom is Mr. Mather, a very ingenious man, whom I dare say you have heard of. As for our exercises, they are disputations, three times a week, besides a Declamation every term.' (fn. 61)

The claim made by the University that reform from within began at least fifty years before the Commission of 1854 attempted to enforce it from without finds considerable support in the history of Brasenose. There is evidence of activity and progress, especially in the time of Principals Cleaver (1785–1809) and Frodsham Hodson (1809–22). The curriculum described by John Kenrick was criticized by Dr. Napleton, whose pamphlet Considerations on the Public Exercises for the First and Second Degrees in the University of Oxford (1773) is an early plea for the reform of the examination system. The points upon which he laid most stress, the publicity of the examination, the publication of class lists, and the encouragement of mathematics, were all adopted when the new examination statute finally passed (1800). The college encouraged men to read for honours by offering prizes to those who obtained first and second classes. Collections were introduced in 1809, and essays substituted for disputations. (fn. 62) In 1809 the three first classes awarded in classics went to Brasenose. (fn. 63) Between 1812 and 1816 Milman won four university prizes. The governing body in 1816 resolved that the new class lists should be made the test of fitness for election to fellowships, 'not merely as evidence of studious habits but still more as a pledge that the future Fellow will take an active and useful and, if it may be, a splendid part in the administration of the college, and by his example, as well as by his labours, lead on others to distinction'. (fn. 64) But when in 1819 a fellow was elected according to the new principle, the Visitor upheld the appeal of a rejected candidate, and required the resolutions of 1816 to be expunged from the college register as being inconsistent with the statutes. (fn. 65) Although in 1843 another Bishop of Lincoln gave the widest possible interpretation to the statute De numero scholarium, putting all candidates from the ancient diocese of Coventry and Lichfield on the same footing, (fn. 66) yet the laudable intention of throwing fellowships open to merit could not be achieved under the existing statutes.

It might therefore have been expected that the first Commission of 1850 would have secured a favourable reception in Brasenose. But the obstruction offered to the Commissioners was as uncompromising as the opposition to the Parliamentary Visitation of 1647. The college refused to give any information to a commission of whose authority and purpose they claimed to be ignorant. If its authority were admitted the college might 'at all future times be exposed to fluctuations of political parties, attacks and influences very injurious to its peace and to the steady performance of its duties'. The last example of 'interference by the crown' had been the dispensation granted by James II to Bernard in 1685. From such use of the dispensing power as well as from the issue of illegal commissions they had believed themselves to be protected by the Bill of Rights. This was the substance of the case upon which their petition to the Queen was based. (fn. 67) When this was rejected, and the Commissioners were given powers to compel co-operation, the college found itself to be in agreement with the Commission in many points. The abolition of all preferences in respect of place of birth or lineage was strongly supported by the governing body; Principal Cradock in 1854 provided £100 out of the emoluments of his office for the maintenance of two open scholarships. (fn. 68) The historical connexion with the north-west counties was weakened by the suppression of the old endowments. The Somerset foundations with preferences for Manchester, Marlborough and Hereford schools were untouched, and the special connexion with Middleton, Steeple Aston and Charlbury schools, of which the college was governor, also survived, although it seemed at the time unlikely that satisfactory candidates would be forthcoming from the latter schools. On the whole the academic results of the new system were disappointing; they never again reached the high level of Hodson's period. (fn. 69) The reduction of the expenses of living in college was another object for which the governing body and the Commissioners agreed to strive. A plan was considered of building a subsidiary hall where men could live more cheaply, and the later proposal to unite with Lincoln was put forward for the same reasons. (fn. 70) The great obstacle to simplicity in college living lay in the vested interests of the servants; but a comparison of the buttery charges during the next fifty years shows that substantial reductions were made.

The main stumbling-block to complete agreement was the Commissioners' proposal to abolish the distinction between senior and junior fellows. Clearly, in the long-standing dispute between seniors and juniors reform could not have been accomplished from within. The financial position of the junior fellows had deteriorated since the end of the 18th century as a result of the fall in the corn-rent. Various expedients had been attempted for relieving their poverty, (fn. 71) but none of these touched the main question, the appropriation of the fines by the seniors. In 1846 the juniors attempted their third and last appeal to the Visitor. (fn. 72) They were not at first aware of Beconsall's case, for the seniority did not give the juniors access to the records; yet the circumstances were in some respects similar. The petitioners were able to argue that if the society did not itself reform this great abuse, it might bring upon the college, and upon the University, the dangers of a public inquiry. Both sides took legal opinion, and the arguments of 1688 were restated at length. The decision of the Visitor, given in 1851, was the same: the practice of two and a half centuries ought not to be disturbed. (fn. 73) The ordinances of 1855–7 gave to all the fellows an equal voice in the government of the college and secured the juniors from future injustice. Immediate financial readjustment could not easily be made without injury to existing fellows. (fn. 74) Eight fellowships were suppressed by the Commissioners, but their emoluments were used for open scholarships. No new fellows were appointed between 1855 and 1863. It was found necessary to suspend two more fellowships in 1869, and it was not until all the fellows elected on the old system had died that the new arrangement proved workable. (fn. 75) The governing body was petitioning for further amendment of the statutes when the second Commission began. No opposition was offered on this occasion to the production of the accounts, or to the complete reorganization of the financial system which followed.

The Commissions inevitably destroyed many of the traditions and associations of the past. In the period immediately following there was a remarkable revival of interest in the history of the college and a determination to preserve what remained. This new enthusiasm took different forms. It showed itself in the publication of the first college register in 1888, and in the cataloguing of the muniments in the tower; in the purchase of the Stamford property and the solemn installation of the Stamford Nose in the hall; in the revival of the names of benefactors whose foundations had been suppressed and their attachment to open scholarships. This patriotic antiquarianism reached its climax in 1909 when fourteen Monographs on the history of the college and a revised Register were published in commemoration of the Quatercentenary. No other college in the University has produced any work of comparable scale, and any short account of the college history must be greatly indebted to the Monographs. The wealth of material in the archives is so great that much was left untouched by the contributors, and there are some subjects which seem to have fallen outside the scope of any of them. An attempt has here been made to fill in some of the gaps, and reference must be made to the Monographs for a more detailed account of many aspects of the history of the college.


The college plate dating up to the early 19th century is described in detail by A. J. Butler in the B.N.C. Quatercentenary Monographs, i, no. v, with numerous illustrations of which some are reproductions from H. C. Moffatt's Old Oxford Plate. Little remains of the college's fine first collection, since nearly all the secular plate was surrendered to the Oxford mint of Charles I in 1642; the royal receipt for 1,454 oz. of silver and silver-gilt is preserved in the college archives. The college is, however, unique in still possessing and using the only known pair of pre-Reformation chalices, complete with patens, which are dated 1498 and were the gift of the founder Bishop Smyth. The existing collection is rich in cups, tankards, flagons, decanters, pots, bowls, trencher plates, and candlesticks. Notable early pieces are two fine gilt flagons of 1608, and a cup of 1610 given by Principal Radcliffe in 1647. Many splendid pieces of the later 17th and 18th centuries have been added to the collection by gift or bequest, and some of these have been publicly exhibited on various occasions. Modern acquisitions are almost wholly of contemporary workmanship; these include table silver and trays, and the very fine bowl given by Lord Bradbury in 1939. For details of acquisitions since 1909, reference may be made to the college magazine, The Brazen Nose.


The pictures, portraits, and sculptures acquired before 1909 are described in detail by A. J. Butler in the B.N.C. Quatercentenary Monographs, i, no. vii. The present location of some of these items is different from that stated there. Noteworthy items either omitted from the Monograph or acquired since it was compiled include (1) portrait of James Ley, 1st Earl of Marlborough (1627, artist unknown; interesting to compare with the portrait of 1625 in the National Portrait Gallery); (2) bust of Principal Shippen, and engraving thereof by J. Fittler, A.R.A.; (3) portrait of Edward Cardwell, Camden Professor of Ancient History; (4) portrait of Principal Heberden, and preliminary crayon sketch of same, by Sir William Orpen (1919); (5) portrait of Field-Marshal Earl Haig, by Sir William Orpen (1921); (6) three water-colour landscapes by Sir Charles Holmes. Reference may be made to Mrs. R. L. Poole's Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, ii, pp. 243–60; and to the college magazine, The Brazen Nose, since 1909. The college also possesses many photographs of its senior and junior members, buildings, and properties during the last hundred years.

The Library.

The college library possesses some hundred books published before 1500 (twelve of which were the gift of the Founder) and some 3,000 books published before 1641. The most important single benefaction of older books was that of Henry Mason in the 17th century. The college's most valuable books include a Latin Bible printed by Anton Koberger at Nuremberg in 1477 (a copy which appears to have belonged to Caxton), Cranmer's Exhortation unto Prayer (c. 1544), and Daye's Psalter of 1567. A remarkable collection of 17th- and 18th-century books came into the possession of the college from its Principal Francis Yarborough (ob. 1770); it consists of scientific, philosophical, and deistic works such as few heads of houses in the 18th century can have assembled. The most interesting large additions of the 20th century were from the libraries of F. L. Latham (incunabula and other rare works), H. F. Pelham (works relating to Roman history), and W. T. S. Stallybrass. The last collection forms the nucleus of the Stallybrass Law Library; while the Hulme Library (opened in 1951) is devoted to Modern History. Since 1897 all parts of the library have been open to undergraduates. The college's manuscripts (56 in number, apart from the most recent accessions) are deposited in the Bodleian; the copious archives of the college have been preserved in good condition and were extensively calendared at the beginning of the present century.


Pointed oval 73 mm. by 47 mm. In three canopied niches supported on four twisted columns the Trinity; and, on dexter is the figure of St. Chad, mitred and holding a pastoral staff and a book, and, on sinister, the figure of St. Hugh, mitred, holding a pastoral staff and feeding a swan. In base, between two scrolls of foliage, is a small shield of the arms of the co-founder William Smyth, Bishop of Lichfield and of Lincoln, a cheveron between three roses. Legend: SIGILLU. COM. COLEGII. REGALIS. DE. BRASIN. NOSE. IN. OXONIA.


1512 Matthew Smith
1548 John Hawarden
1565 Thomas Blanchard
1574 Richard Harrys
1595 Alexander Nowell
1595 Thomas Singleton
1614 Samuel Radcliffe
1648 Daniel Greenwood
(1648) 1660 Thomas Yate (fn. 76)
1681 John Meare
1710 Robert Shippen
1745 Francis Yarborough
1770 William Gwyn
1770 Ralph Cawley
1777 Thomas Barker
1785 William Cleaver
1809 Frodsham Hodson
1822 Ashurst Turner Gilbert
1842 Richard Harington
1853 Edward Hartopp Cradock
1886 Albert Watson
1889 Charles Buller Heberden
1920 Charles Henry Sampson
1936 William Teulon Swan Stallybrass
1948 Hugh Macilwain Last

Site and Buildings: The Old Quadrangle.

The site which was leased by University College to Richard Sutton and others on 20 Oct. 1508 comprised 'the tenements … callyd Brasynose and the little University Hall and all garden lands … abuttyng upon the East parte on the Schole Strete and on the South parte against an hall and garden called Salysurry and on the North parte against the strete that goeth from Schole Strete toward Lyncoln College and on the West parte against Lyncoln College as they lye in brede and length after the old metes and bands.' (fn. 77) The name Brasenose is found in 1279, and the property, earlier known as Jussell's tenement, was acquired by the University in 1262. Brasenose Hall gradually absorbed four adjacent halls, viz. Ivy Hall and University Hall in St. Mary's, Sheld Hall and St. Thomas Hall (formerly Staple Hall) in St. Mildred's; the last three belonged to University College, as also did Brasenose; Ivy Hall was the property of Studley Priory. The Bursar's Rolls of University College show when Sheld Hall and St. Thomas Hall fell into decay; in 1381 they each paid a rent of 40s.; about 1401 they fell in value to 6s. 8d. and 10s.; and whenever the name of the Principal is given (e.g. in 1427) it is the same as the Principal of Brasenose Hall. By the rules of the University he might not be Principal of more than one hall, but he found deputies each year to give their names as Principals of the decayed halls, in many cases Bachelors of Arts. (fn. 78) By 1450 University Hall was also absorbed. (fn. 79) Of Ivy Hall we read in a Studley rental of 1401: 'de Ivy hall nichil hoc anno', (fn. 80) and in 1438, ' iis pro gardino vocato Ivy hall gardyn, nuper magistri Iohannis Lie principalis aule de Brasenose.' (fn. 81) If it ever was an academic hall, it was so no longer in the 15th century, for it is not mentioned in the Registrum Cancellarii. Salessury and St. Mary's Entry, which were small academic halls in the 15th century, were leased to Richard Sutton for ever by Oriel College on 20 Feb. 1510. (fn. 82) They were not the property of Oriel; the former belonged to the chantry of St. Thomas, which in 1392 was placed under the management of Oriel; (fn. 83) the latter belonged to the church of St. Mary, of which Oriel was rector. (fn. 84) The two purchases of Richard Sutton secured for the college an excellent position, facing School St., then the centre of academic activity, bounded on the north by St. Mildred's Lane; on the west by Lincoln College and an All Souls tenement; on the south by Little Edmund Hall.

The lease of 1508 bound Sutton to spend at least £40 within a year in new buildings or in reparations in the tenement called Brasynose. If an adaptation of the existing hall was ever contemplated, the idea was quickly abandoned in favour of a completely new scheme, although some old material was worked into the new building. Only the kitchen survived from the 15th century. It juts out in a crooked line from the south-west corner of the quadrangle, and one window was cut when the hall was built. It has been said that the demolition of the old halls and the building of the college must have proceeded gradually to allow of the continuity which has been noticed in the institutional history of Brasenose Hall and College. But it is known that the Principal of Brasenose Hall in 1512 rented from Lincoln College chambers in Staple Hall, on the opposite side of School St., and this suggests another solution to the problem. (fn. 85)

The so-called 'foundation-stone', now replaced by a 19th-century copy, stood over the doorway of no. 1 staircase, the entrance to the original chapel. The following is the form of the inscription given by Wood:

Anno Christi 1509 et Regis Henrici VIII primo
Nomine divino Lyncoln Presul quoque Sutton
Hanc posuere petram regis ad imperium
Primo die Junii. (fn. 86)

In the same month and year Bishop Smyth, Sutton, and others were admitted tenants of a stone-quarry in the fields of Headington. (fn. 87) This is the only record of the materials used for the building. No accounts have survived, except one payment by the bursar of £14 14s., the first instalment of the payment for leading the tower roof. This bill, dated 1518, gives the latest date for the completion of the building. (fn. 88)

The main features of the quadrangle were the gate tower and the hall. Agas's map gives a view of the gateway before the raising of the Brasenose roof-level and the building of the Camera lessened the importance of the tower as the dominating feature of School St. The Brazen Nose closing ring on the gate, though less ancient than the Stamford Nose in the hall, was probably taken over from Brasenose Hall. It was noticed in its present position by Polydore Virgil in 1534. (fn. 89) The tower formed the Principal's Lodging and was reached perhaps by a winding staircase, the arch of which is visible at the north-west corner. Subsequently a wider and more convenient staircase was made on the south side of the gateway, furnished with an old door which has been made to fit the arch; the knocker shows that it must have been at one time an external door, and it is generally assumed to have been the front door of Brasenose Hall. Several Principals made improvements to the Lodging. Radcliffe made or altered the oriel window looking on to the street, added new stairs and studies and panelled a room. (fn. 90) The parlour was decorated with its present wainscoting by Principal Yate about 1680. (fn. 91) The lodging was extended by the addition in 1652 of what is now the Bursar's Office, and the two rooms above it in 1710, but it was still considered to be too small, and in 1771 the Principal moved to a new house in the High St. (fn. 92) The old parlour became the Tower Bursary and the two upper rooms were used for muniments. In the top room, the Treasury, is a medieval chest with three locks, which must have been there since the room was built.

The hall is on the south side of the quadrangle. Its original three bays with buttresses and the oriel window looking into the quadrangle have not been changed in design. The window contains portraits of the two founders and heraldic shields. (fn. 93) The parapet and the statues of the founders were added by Dr. Radcliffe. There is a contract for the 'comely and decent battlement' to be finished by May 1636, and Hugh Davis 'statuarist' was paid £6 in the same year for his work. (fn. 94) In 1683 an oriel window was built out on the south side to balance that on the north. (fn. 95) At about the same date an undercroft was constructed; one of the bases of the cylindrical columns supporting the floor-beams is dated 1680. The lantern was renewed in 1753 and 1782. The interior has been transformed so that little of the 16th-century work is visible. In 1684 the old woodwork was replaced by new wainscoting screen and tables at a cost of £222 4s. 6d. by Arthur Frogley, whose work elsewhere in Oxford is well known. (fn. 96) A plan of the seating accommodation made about 1705 shows six tables arranged about the central hearth, and two high tables. (fn. 97) Fires were comparatively rarely lighted in hall, as benefactions to provide them for special occasions attest; generally the only heating came from charcoal in braziers. In 1748 a chimney and fireplace was built in the south wall at the expense of a gentleman commoner, Assheton Curzon. (fn. 98) It was then possible to consider ceiling in the open timber roof, whose octagonal louvre was no longer needed to carry off the smoke. The present plaster ceiling was made in 1754. (fn. 99) The hall was paved in 1763, at a cost of £90. In recent alterations a door was uncovered behind the high table. Its purpose was to give the Principal easy access to the hall from his lodging. Above the high table is a Brazen Nose (i.e. the handle or ring of a door), of which the history is as follows. An old house at Stamford, known as Brazen Nose, was for sale in 1890. Its name was certainly three centuries old, for when Twyne (fn. 100) visited the town in 1617, he noticed four old houses which he thought might have been academic halls at the time of the migration of 1333; of these one was known as Black Hall, another as Brasenose Hall; and in a record of 1335 there is mention of Brasenose at Stamford. (fn. 101) It was suggested to the college that in 1333 some scholars of the Hall had stolen the handle from the door of Brasenose Hall in Oxford, which at that time belonged to University College, and affixed it to the lodging which they found in Stamford. (fn. 102) This hypothesis was not unreasonable; the college, therefore, was persuaded to buy the property; the Nose was brought to Oxford in 1890 with much honour, but the house at Stamford was sold in 1932.

West of the hall, in the same range, was the original chapel, on the first story. Its position was unusual and its size insignificant, unmarked by any permanent architectural features. This would have been curious in a foundation primarily religious in character, if it had not been intended only as a temporary arrangement. Dr. Radcliffe, in the course of a dispute with Christ Church early in the next century, stated that 'stones eminent out of the college wall looking that way', i.e. south, proved the intention to build southward from the foundation of the college. (fn. 103) If the quadrangle which later contained the chapel and library was planned from the beginning, it would explain the absence of adequate provision for both in the first quadrangle. When the new buildings came into use, the old chapel was converted into two chambers, known as the 'Chamber that was the inner chapel' and the 'Chamber that was the outer chapel'. In 1707 the two rooms were thrown into one to make the new common-room. (fn. 104) (In the room rents of 1678–9 there are references to the common-room on the ground floor of the west range.) The new common-room was fitted with its present panelling between 1708 and 1711 as a result of special benefactions.

The old library balanced the chapel on the first story of the opposite range. Hugh Oldham, in about 1511, made a donation towards its furnishings; (fn. 105) Wood records that his arms were in the glass. (fn. 106) The bursar in 1520–1 made payments for glass, desks, and chains. When the 17th-century quadrangle was built, the old library was made into two rooms for the bursar, and was panelled by Frogley in 1678 in Flanders oak. (fn. 107)

The statutes provide for upper and lower chambers without specifying their number. They were to be shared by fellows and scholars, three in the upper and four in the lower chambers; fellows were to have beds to themselves. The chambers to the east of the hall were reserved for the six sons of noblemen for whom the statutes provide. The ground-floor rooms, unless built over vaulted cellars, had earth floors, and were described as 'dampeshe and unholesome' in 1569, when £40 was spent in boarding them. (fn. 108) The most obvious way of increasing accommodation to meet the needs of growing numbers was by converting the roof space into an attic story. The upper chambers became the middle chambers, and staircases led from them to the cock-lofts above. The parapet on the street fronts was raised to allow of a row of small square-headed mullion windows, grouped between the chimneystacks, and dormer windows were made on the four sides facing into the quadrangle. The earliest references in the accounts to these alterations are in 1605–6, and the process was completed in 1635–6, when Principal Radcliffe 'at his owne proper cost and charge contracted with Chrysostome Parkes to make 6 dormer windows on the S. side of the quadrangle to the pattern of the others on the E. W. and N. of the same quadrangle, of which three are to be to the E. of the hall, and three to the W.' (fn. 109) In 1605–6 £15 11s. 2½d. was spent on rooms above the chapel and £111 0s. 3d. on windows. In 1606–7 an expenditure of £173 19s. 2d. included rooms above the library. In 1609–10 six windows were made on the north range at a cost of £116 7s. 7d., and in 1611–12 the alterations on the east side cost £256 17s. 10½d. (fn. 110) Radcliffe's windows in the south cost over £200, and there was further expenditure on chambers and studies in the following year.

The new cock-lofts were at first hired by tutors for their pupils. After the restoration, fellows reserved most of them for their own use, the bursar reserving the right to put undergraduates into them should an increase of numbers demand it. (fn. 111) It came to be a privilege of the ten senior fellows to hire a cock-loft; the rent was fixed at £1, which was reckoned as the equivalent of the coppice money due to them, so that the entries cancelled each other. (fn. 112) Other garrets were hired by gentlemen commoners for their servants; the Claymondine Scholars had one large room as a 'chum room'. (fn. 113)

The present timber partitions between bedroom and sitting-room belong to the 17th century, when they divided the studies from the chambers. Two rooms were panelled by Radcliffe, and the old wainscoting from the hall was used in others; but most of the panelling dates from 1691 to the middle of the 18th century, and was in some cases carried out at the cost of the inmates. (fn. 114) The alterations in Mr. Mayo's rooms in 1744 may be given as an example. £16 10s. 7d. was spent on wainscoting, including 'scurting the study and a bedboard'. A new chimney-piece and other masons' work cost £4 6s. 6½d. Finally there is an entry for painting Mr. Mayo's room three times over 93 yards at 7d. the yard. (fn. 115) Walls which were not panelled were commonly covered at this time with Dutch matting at 8d. a yard or wallpaper at 6d. When some panelling of 1691 was taken down in 1911 from one of the attics, traces of wall-painting were found behind it. (fn. 116) A painted ceiling was uncovered in 1935 on Staircase 1, with a rough swan design in red ochre. Sash windows were substituted for mullions in many of the windows in the 18th century, and mullions restored in the 19th. There were extensive repairs to the roof and dormers in 1866, (fn. 117) and alterations to the attics in 1904–11. (fn. 118) In 1719, £9 was spent on the sundial at the west end of the north wall; (fn. 119) there is an earlier reference to a dial in 1672. (fn. 120) In 1950 a fire which broke out in Old Lodge necessitated the removal of much of the plaster from the top floor sets. Two 16th-century chimneys which had been obscured when the cock lofts were added were exposed and some further traces of wall-painting were found above one of the fire-places.

In 1728 the college purchased from Dr. George Clarke for £30 a copy of John of Bologna's group Cain and Abel, and paid for its carriage to Oxford by barge. (fn. 121) In order to make a suitable place for it the 'fine pleasant garden', which is well shown in Loggan's print of 1674 laid out with shrubs, trees, and winding paths, was cut down in 1727. Hearne lamented it as 'the only one of its kind remaining in Oxford'; it 'had been such from the very foundation of the College and was agreeable to the custom of monastries. … It was a delightful and pleasant shade in summer time, and made the rooms much cooler than otherwise they would have been.' It was cut down, he said, 'purely to turn it into a grass plot and to erect some silly statue there'. (fn. 122) Cain and Abel remained in the quadrangle until 1881.

The Second Quadrangle.

The building of a second quadrangle was contemplated at least as early as 1613, when a subscription of £140 for a new chapel was given by James Lingham. (fn. 123) Principal Singleton, who died in 1614, and others gave money for the same purpose. Much more might have been collected, in the opinion of the fellows, had Dr. Radcliffe begun to put the work in hand. He refused to allow two of the fellows to collect subscriptions from old students, and many donations were lost by the death of the benefactors who had promised them. (fn. 124) By the terms of his will, dated 24 Apr. 1648, Dr. Radcliffe made amends. He bequeathed to the college, for the purpose of building a chapel, cloister, and library above it, his Piddington estate, valued at £1,600. (fn. 125) This bequest made it possible for the work to be begun, although there could not have been a worse time for embarking upon an expensive building scheme. The college began to buy building materials in 1651, (fn. 126) but the foundations could not be laid until a dispute with Christ Church in connexion with the site had been settled; and this legal difficulty appears to be a sufficient reason for the previous delay.

The natural line of expansion for the college lay to the south. Only the kitchen, offices, and woodsheds had been built upon the property bought from Oriel in 1510; the rest was a garden, and this provided about half of the site required for the new quadrangle. The next tenement to the south, in School St., was Little Edmund Hall. This had been rented for short periods from Oseney from 1519 to 1530, (fn. 127) and in 1530 was leased to the college for 96 years, with covenant of renewal, together with Haberdasher Hall, Black Hall, and Glass Hall (the last two being on the east side of School St.), for a rent of £3 10s. (fn. 128) A rent of 36s. 8d. was due from Oseney to Brasenose for part of a property called Bassett's Fee; this sum, which was reckoned as the rent of Haberdasher Hall, was therefore deducted from the rent paid for the four halls. (fn. 129) The remaining 33s. 4d. was paid first to Oseney and afterwards to Christ Church all through the 16th century. The lease expired in 1625, and Christ Church was unwilling to renew it. Haberdasher Hall was divided into two tenements and let more profitably to townsmen. (fn. 130) A dispute followed in which Brasenose put forward the lease of 1530 and its covenant of renewal, and Christ Church sued Brasenose for 96 years' arrears of rent for Haberdasher Hall. On 6 March 1656 a compromise was reached. Christ Church surrendered absolutely Little Edmund Hall, together with Black Hall and Glass Hall, in exchange for a tenement south of Little Edmund Hall, and a ham (i.e. Earl's ham) in Christ Church Meadow. Brasenose resigned any claims to be the lessee of Haberdasher Hall. (fn. 131) A month later payment was made for pulling down Little Edmund Hall, and on 18 June the foundations of the new chapel were laid. (fn. 132)

The preservation of Bursar Houghton's 'Book of Accounts of the New Buildings in Brasenose College in Oxford' makes it possible to follow the progress of the work in unusual detail. The accounts were kept with extreme care, because in the course of the long lawsuit over Dr. Radcliffe's will the book had to be inspected by the Commissioners, who wished to assure themselves that the money from Dr. Radcliffe's estate was being used for its intended purposes. (fn. 133) The overseer of the new building was John Jackson, who undertook the work on 24 Mar. 1656, and received his last payment in Apr. 1663. He was paid £1 a week. When he undertook commissions to London to buy materials his expenses were also paid. For the plan of the chapel plaster ceiling, his most ambitious work, he was paid £20. Jackson had been employed as chief mason at St. John's when the new quadrangle was built in 1634. (fn. 134) The idea of a cloister with a library above may have been suggested to Brasenose by the example of St. John's. Between 1637 and 1661 Jackson was frequently employed by the University in work upon the new Convocation House, the Selden end of Bodley, and the porch of St. Mary's. (fn. 135) He died in Dec. 1663, and Wood records his epitaph in St. Mary Magdalen: 'Here lyeth the body of John Jackson, stone-carver, an ingenious artist, a loyal subject, an honest man and a good neighbour.' (fn. 136)

The new Brasenose building shows the influence of an architect of just such taste and experience. Its details are classical, its main lines predominantly Gothic. Its conservatism is to be explained, not only by the strong survival of Gothic tradition in Oxford, but by the necessity of incorporating old material which could not easily be adapted to new forms. In 1580 Brasenose purchased with the Port benefaction the remains of the dissolved St. Mary's College for Austin Canons in New Inn Hall St. (fn. 137) The chapel was still standing, and when the property was leased by Brasenose in 1649, the college reserved the right to enter with workmen to demolish and carry away the fabric of the chapel. (fn. 138) It is known that St. Mary's Chapel was built between 1428 and 1443. (fn. 139) It had a fine hammer-beam roof and was described by Wood as a 'very faire fabrick built with free stone and very good workmanship to be seen about it'. (fn. 140) The material taken from St. Mary's was valued at £355; the roof and window-jambs determined the main lines of the new chapel. There are references also to the use of stone from Little Edmund Hall.

The account book makes separate entries for materials and labour. The timber for the scaffolding came from the college property at Headington, Mynchery Wood, at a cost of £75. More timber was bought from Sir George Stonehouse of Radley for £84. Walling stone cost 12d. a load, and Burford stone was used for the capitals and ornament. Ironwork came from Birmingham; boards from London. Of the workmen, Symon White the carver, who also laid the marble paving in the chapel, was the most highly paid, with 22d. a day and bevers. Ordinary masons earned 18d. a day and bevers, labourers 12d. a day and bevers. The joiner who wainscoted the chapel, John Wild, came from London. He was paid in all £50 for his work and £100 for the materials. The progress of the work is also recorded. The chapel foundations, 20 feet deep, were finished in Aug. 1656. The little cloister, that is the lobby leading to the chapel, was begun in March 1657, the library cloister in March 1658. The chapel had its ceiling plastered in July 1659; the in terior was completed between 1662 and 1666, when it was consecrated. (fn. 141) The library was finished by 1664, when the books were moved into it. There were considerable intervals when little work was done, as in 1658–9 and in 1661. The book of accounts comes to an end in 1662; later payments are entered in the general accounts. Mr. Allfrey has reckoned that the total cost of the building was a little under £4,000. (fn. 142) Dr. Radcliffe's estate, which actually realized £1,850, therefore covered less than half the cost. The rest came from contributions from the common chest, from the Principal and fellows, and from smaller donations recorded in the Book of Benefactions to the chapel.

The new quadrangle was connected with the old by a passage at the north-east corner, known as Dagg Lane. The library and cloister beneath formed the east side of the quadrangle. The interior was probably originally divided into two sets of bays, with a window to each bay. When Dr. Yarborough's bequest of books was received in 1772, (fn. 143) more space was required for books. The projecting book-cases were removed, and the windows on the west wall were blocked so as to give a continuous wall of shelving; three large tables were put into the body of the room, and, for the first time, the books were unchained. At the same time the present plaster ceiling was put in; the alterations were completed in 1782 at a cost of £732, and were the work of James Wyatt. (fn. 144) In 1890 when more space was required, projecting book-cases were again introduced, but the west windows were not unblocked. Further changes were made when undergraduates were admitted to the library in 1897. (fn. 145) The cloister on which the library rests was used as a covered walk and as a burial-ground. The first recorded burial was in 1669 and the last in 1787. (fn. 146) In 1807 the cloister was converted, not without protest, 'into two or three gloomy chambers for the reception of the living instead of the dead'. A screen wall with pilasters and 'port-holes' to match the cloister was built on the west to shut off the kitchens and offices, and to complete the quadrangle. It is well shown in Loggan's print. It was pulled down before 1810, when there was a wall in continuation of the kitchen, running south of it.

The chapel, on the south side of the quadrangle, was, like the library, 'a curious and unassimilated mixture' of styles. But in the wood and plaster fan-vaulted ceiling which was secured to the 15th-century timber roof, Jackson achieved a work of extreme ingenuity and skill. Of the later additions to the chapel, the brass eagle given in 1731 by Thomas Lee Dumner replaced another which was given to Abingdon School, where it is still in use; (fn. 147) the marble altar-piece and altar rails were added 1738–48; the chandeliers in 1749; the organ was given by Principal Heberden in 1892, and placed over the screen; the case was designed and the screen adapted by T. G. Jackson. The roof was repaired in 1744, 1859, and 1895. Extensive repairs to the roof and walls were carried out in 1779, 1819, and 1848–69. (fn. 148)

The Third Quadrangle.

A block of buildings, designed by T. G. Jackson to form the west range of a third quadrangle, was completed in 1886. The old kitchen and chapel formed part of the north and east sides of an irregular square. In 1887–9 part of the south range, including a gate-tower facing the High St., was built from the designs of the same architect, and his plan was completed in 1909–11 by the addition of three bays west of the gate-tower. (fn. 149) These modern buildings occupy a site whose development had been under consideration since the beginning of the 18th century. The building of the Radcliffe Camera necessitated the demolition of the halls on the east side of School St. Two of these, Glass Hall and Black Hall, belonged to Brasenose, and another, Staple Hall, had been acquired from Lincoln College in 1556, subject to an annual quit-rent of 20s. (fn. 150) The loss of these halls made necessary the provision of other accommodation. The Act of 7 Geo. I, Cap. 13, which empowered colleges to sell their property to the trustees of Dr. Radcliffe, also allowed them to purchase from each other sites adjacent to their own for purposes of expansion and improvement. (fn. 151) Brasenose was thus able in 1736 to purchase from Magdalen, All Souls, and Christ Church the whole High St. Frontage from Broadgates or Amsterdam to the corner west of St. Mary's; a plan of this site made in 1736 is reproduced in Skelton's Oxonia Antiqua, plate 141.

The first of these properties belonged to Magdalen. In the 13th century it was known as Burwoldscot, (fn. 152) from its owner Roger de Burwoldscot, who granted it at his death to St. Frideswide's. The hospital of St. John also claimed the tenement by grant of John Pelle and Henry Simeon, from whom Roger had bought it, and the hospital succeeded in gaining possession. Burwoldscot was an academic hall from 1325 until 1469. (fn. 153) The name changed to Broadgates between 1396 and 1426. (fn. 154) The principals are given in the Registrum Cancellarii from 1434 to 1469; some earlier names are found in the hospital rentals. The rent which began at £5 6s. 8d. had fallen to £3 15s. in 1426. In 1469 it was leased to a brewer who undertook to repair its ruined state. (fn. 155) It then had eleven rooms, one of which was used as a chapel. Wood says that the buildings, then called Amsterdam, were pulled down in 1661. (fn. 156) With Amsterdam was purchased from Magdalen the corner house next to St. Mary's, once the residence of Thomas le Verrer. (fn. 157) It was granted to St. John's Hospital in 1236, leased by them in perpetuity to William Spicer, and purchased back from him in 1255. Both these properties had shop fronts facing the street. St. John's Hospital owned three shops in front of Broadgates; St. Frideswide's two, and New College one. There were six shops on the le Verrer property. East of Broadgates was a tenement known in the 13th century as John Wycombe's House. (fn. 158) It was purchased by All Souls in 1440, and sold to Brasenose in 1736 for £174. Between this house and the corner house was Haberdasher Hall, (fn. 159) granted to Oseney in 1205–10 by Peter, son of John the Provost, called sometimes Peter de Stockwell. It was leased to Thomas le Spicer in 1256 and was called Domes Speciarii or Ailnots until 1417, when the name Haberdasher Hall occurs. It was an academic hall, and its Principals from 1434 to 1469 are given in the Registrum Cancellarii. From 1530 to 1625 it was leased, as we have seen, by Brasenose; in the exchange of properties agreed upon with Christ Church in 1656, Brasenose gave up its claims. At the same time Brasenose surrendered to Christ Church a small property in School St., between le Verrer's House and Little Edmund Hall. This was a piece of garden bequeathed to Godstow by Robert Buckthorpe in 1188–9, and sold by Godstow to John Caryswall or Caswell in 1481. (fn. 160) Sir John Porte purchased it from Anthony Caryswall for £8, and granted it to Brasenose in 1516. (fn. 161) The two properties were purchased together from Christ Church in 1736 for £574 16s. 2d. (fn. 162)

The proposed acquisition of this important site gave opportunity for ambitious building schemes; reconstruction of Brasenose was indeed considered necessary to any general replanning of the Radcliffe Square. Probably at the instance of Dr. George Clarke of Brasenose and All Souls, Hawksmoor made several designs for rebuilding the college. The first of these is shown in perspective in the illustration for the Oxford Almanac of 1723, (fn. 163) and Williams gives the plan of it. The old quadrangle was to be adapted to the classical style. The 17th-century buildings and the kitchen were to be destroyed to make way for a great new quadrangle fronting on the High St. Three other plans made by Hawksmoor in 1734 survive; two are in the Clarke collection at Worcester (fn. 164) and one in the possession of the college. In these plans the chapel and library are allowed to stand but a new hall and kitchen are required. There is to be a new block facing the High St., connected with the older buildings by covered corridors. Another plan attributed to Hawksmoor shows the college rebuilt with two symmetrical quadrangles, the second set well back from the High St. (fn. 165) After a long interval there was a revival of the proposal to build a new quadrangle in 1807–10. The numbers in college at this time were high, and pressure was being exerted by the University to provide more accommodation for undergraduates in college. A building fund was established which was to have the first claim upon surplus revenues. New plans were produced by Sir John Soane in 1807; as in the later Hawksmoor schemes, the kitchen was to be demolished, and a great new quadrangle built in the classical style. In 1810 Philip Hardwick prepared a plan similar in arrangement but superficially Gothic in its treatment. (fn. 166)

We do not know whether any of these plans were acceptable from the aesthetic point of view; their rejection on financial grounds was almost inevitable, since, in addition to actual building costs, any expansion to the High St. frontage must involve the loss of valuable shop rents. The first of T. G. Jackson's plans allowed for a row of shops, but it was impossible to combine them with the impressive frontage which was desired. Other possibilities of building within the college had by this time been exhausted. The new Principal's house in 1771 and the cloister rooms in 1807 had been followed by two sets of rooms built in the fellows' garden in 1810. (fn. 167) Two larger schemes had been rejected; one, proposed in 1782, would have added two stories above the kitchen, the other, in 1804, would have rebuilt the garrets in the old quadrangle. (fn. 168) The postponement of any major building scheme until the 1880's saved some of the most interesting features of the college from destruction. With a characteristic respect for the past, the college in 1886 insisted upon the preservation of the kitchen, an insuperable obstacle to any systematic planning of the quadrangle, but the earliest building standing on the site.


  • 1. See Dict. Nat. Biog; Ormerod's Cheshire, revised Helsby, iii, 759–62; Nichols, Royal Wills, p. 35; Col. of Letters and Papers Henry VIII, 1537, ii, no. 291; B. N. C. Deeds, New Series, 644, General Pardon to Sutton, 1509.
  • 2. Churton, Lives, p. 242.
  • 3. A. B. Emdem, An Oxford Hall, 46.
  • 4. Registrum Cancellarii, ii, 279, 285, 322.
  • 5. B.N.C. Deeds, New Series, 644.
  • 6. Churton, Lives, pp. 391–2.
  • 7. Printed in Statutes of Colleges, 1853, Brasenose, pp. iii–vi.
  • 8. Registrum Cancellarii, F reversed, fol. 165.
  • 9. See B.N.C. Mon, iv, vi, ix, for the founders' estates.
  • 10. Brazen Nose, iii, 53–4.
  • 11. Composition between Sutton and the College, 1519.
  • 12. See B.N.C. Mon. iv, vi, ix for the benefactions of Mrs. Morley, John Cocks, Sir John Port, William Smyth, John Elton, William Porter.
  • 13. In the possession of the college.
  • 14. It may be that Smyth's executors had already renounced: an undated petition states that they had done so. B.N.C. Mon. ix, 44.
  • 15. Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, ii, also B.N.C. Mon. ix, 13–51.
  • 16. B.N.C. Mon, ix, pp. 45 seq.
  • 17. The twelve fellows were to be chosen in the first instance from the parishes of Prescot and Presbury; or from the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire; or from the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield; or, failing any of these from the diocese of Lincoln; or, in the last resort from other members of the University. All must be fit and able. Until 1643 none but natives of the counties were elected—and the parishes were given no preference over the counties. In that year the Visitor, on appeal, said that the parishes should have preference and this interpretation was upheld in 1758. In 1843 the parishes, the counties and the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield were held to be in the same position, and preferences were only admitted in cases of equal merit.
  • 18. Lincoln Record Society. Visitations in the Diocese of Lincoln, 1517–1531, iii, 51–6.
  • 19. Registrum Cancellarii, B rev. or E.E.E., fol. 25b. Mr. William Sutton appeared on behalf of the college for the recovery of a debt.
  • 20. Longland's Register, at the Lincoln Diocesan Registry, fol. 221–3.
  • 21. Appendix to B.N.C. Mon. ix, 206.
  • 22. Register of the University, i, p. xxiii.
  • 23. In the reign of James I action was taken by Corpus against Brasenose, as a result of which the Claymondine Scholars received an augmentation from the corn rent.
  • 24. B.N.C. Mon. iv, 12–21.
  • 25. V.P.'s Register, A. 40.
  • 26. The college possesses transcripts of the Taylor letters. Eaton's Pupill Booke is in private ownership: it was used by Mr. Wakeley in B.N.C. Mon. xi.
  • 27. Brazen Nose, vi, 156–7.
  • 28. B.N.C. Mon. xi, 14 seq.
  • 29. B.N.C. Mon. iv.
  • 30. Buttery Book, 1639.
  • 31. Petition to the Visitor: Visitor's Box.
  • 32. V.P.'s Reg. A, fol. 84b.
  • 33. Bursar's Rolls, 34 Eliz.
  • 34. Buttery Books for 1641–2.
  • 35. B.N.C. Mon. xi, 61–4; Wood, Life and Times, i, 145.
  • 36. Papers in Visitor's Box.
  • 37. Radcliffc in his will stated that the college undertook to repay him for the leases sold in 1643; this was denied by a majority of the fellows, but upheld by the court in a suit brought against the college. B.N.C. Mon. xi, 61–2.
  • 38. The figures are given in a note in Houghton's Senior Bursar's Book, 1652; see also B.N.C. Mon. xi, 33–6.
  • 39. Bodl. Lib., MS. Wood, F 35.
  • 40. Entered in the Buttery Book, 1648.
  • 41. The election was not made by the seven seniors, but was held to be valid by the Visitor.
  • 42. Burrows, Register of the Visitors, pp. 66–8, 148–55.
  • 43. Letter printed as Appendix to B.N.C. Mon. xii.
  • 44. The college continued to attract great benefactions. See especially the Somerset and Hulme endowments: B.N.C. Mon. iv, 27, 30.
  • 45. V.P.'s Register, C, fol. 32.
  • 46. Hearne's Collections, iii, 8.
  • 47. Hearne's Collections, v, 53.
  • 48. V.P's Register, 1754, fol. 173.
  • 49. Brazen Nose, iii, 55–9.
  • 50. V.P.'s Register, 1746, fol. 140.
  • 51. The Farington Diary, i, 81.
  • 52. Appeal of J. Beconsall: Visitor's Box.
  • 53. V.P's. Reg. B, fol. 132.
  • 54. V.P.'s Reg. D, fol. 74.
  • 55. Churton, Lives, pp. 334–5.
  • 56. V.P.'s Reg. C, fol. 167–8; V.P.'s Reg. D, 1776.
  • 57. Selections from the Shakerley correspondence are published in Postman's Horn, ed. Arthur Bryant, pp. 44–53.
  • 58. B.N.C. Mon. xiv.
  • 59. V.P.'s Reg. D, 1768; Eng. Reg. 1781–90, fol. 30 and 47.
  • 60. Hamer Letters, Appendix to B.N.C. Mon. xii, 63.
  • 61. B.N.C. Mon. xiii, 50–1.
  • 62. V.P.'s English Reg., fol. 24, 35.
  • 63. B.N.C. Mon. xiv (2).
  • 64. V.P.'s Reg. 1816, fol. 53–4.
  • 65. V.P.'s Reg. 1819, fol. 136.
  • 66. V.P.'s Reg. 1843, fol. 27.
  • 67. Case and Opinion on the part of the Principal and Scholars of Brasenose College, 1851.
  • 68. V.P.'s Reg. 1854, fol. 169.
  • 69. B.N.C. Mon. xiv. (2).
  • 70. V.P.'s Reg. 1877, fol. 42.
  • 71. V.P.'s Reg. 1816, fol. 23.
  • 72. Petition of Junior Fellows, 1846: Visitor's Box.
  • 73. V.P.'s Reg. 1851, fol. 1.
  • 74. A composition of £300 with allowances amounting to £366 4s. was accepted by senior fellows elected under the old system. Fellows to be elected after the Act were to receive £150, to be augmented when revenues allowed to £200.
  • 75. Two were left in 1872.
  • 76. a Elected by the Fellows in 1648 but not recognized as Principal until 1660.
  • 77. B.N.C. Deeds. Oxford, h. 5.
  • 78. Registrum Cancellarii, i, 214 & passim.
  • 79. Ibid. i, 214.
  • 80. Bodl. Lib., Twyne MS. xxiii, p. 409.
  • 81. Ibid., Twyne MS. xxiii, p. 182.
  • 82. B.N.C. Deeds, Oxford, A1; Oriel Records, p. 108.
  • 83. Oriel Records, p. 19.
  • 84. Ibid., p. 78.
  • 85. Brazen Nose, iii, p. 107.
  • 86. Wood, Colleges and Halls, ed. Gutch, p. 367.
  • 87. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 5–6.
  • 88. Ibid., p. 6.
  • 89. Ibid., ii, 14.
  • 90. Ibid. iii, 13.
  • 91. Country Life, Feb. 1935, p. 197.
  • 92. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 40.
  • 93. For the date of the portraits in glass, see Mrs. R. L. Poole's Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, ii, 244, note 2. For the Pigott and Fermor escutcheons, see Brazen Nose, ix, 63 and 103. The glass was removed in 1939 and restored in 1948.
  • 94. Brasenose Deeds (Fabric), nos. 6, 7.
  • 95. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 39.
  • 96. Ibid., pp. 42, 66.
  • 97. Brazen Nose, iv, 183–6.
  • 98. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 43.
  • 99. Ibid.
  • 100. Bodl. Lib., Twyne MS. ii, p. 131.
  • 101. Snappe's Formulary, pp. 294–5.
  • 102. B.N.C. Mon. ii.
  • 103. Brasenose Deeds, Oxford, v. 7.
  • 104. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 36–7: An inventory of Bishop Smyth's chapel furnishings bequeathed to the college survives; but it is doubtful if they were ever received. B.N.C. Mon. v, 8–9; ix, 164.
  • 105. B.N.C. Mon. iv, 8.
  • 106. Wood, Colleges and Halls, ed. Gutch, p. 371.
  • 107. B.N.C. Mon. ii, 37–8.
  • 108. B.N.C. Mon. x, 31.
  • 109. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 12.
  • 110. B.N.C. Deeds, Fabric, 2.
  • 111. Senior Bursar's Account Book, 1664, fol. 4.
  • 112. Note Book explaining Bursar's accounts, 1774, Chamber rents.
  • 113. Ibid.
  • 114. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 38–9.
  • 115. B.N.C. Deeds, Bursarial, Tradesmen's Bills, 1744.
  • 116. Brazen Nose, i, 323.
  • 117. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 42–5.
  • 118. Brazen Nose, iii, 41.
  • 119. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 41.
  • 120. Brazen Nose, vi, 19.
  • 121. B.N.C. Deeds, Bursarial, Tradesmen's Bills, 1728.
  • 122. Hearne's Collections, ix, 361 and 405.
  • 123. B.N.C. Deeds, Chapel, 3.
  • 124. Answers to articles, Visitation of 1643.
  • 125. B.N.C. Mon. iv, 23.
  • 126. Ibid. iii, 16.
  • 127. B.N.C. Deeds, Oxford, v. 1.
  • 128. Oseney Cartulary, i, 165.
  • 129. B.N.C. Deeds, Oxford, v. 8, 11.
  • 130. Oseney Cartulary (O.H.S.), i, 169.
  • 131. B.N.C. Deeds, Oxford, v. 1; B.N.C. Mon. vi, 12.
  • 132. Houghton's Book of Accounts, p. 1.
  • 133. Ibid., p. 78; B.N.C. Deeds, Principal, 11.
  • 134. The Canterbury Quadrangle, 1636–1936, p. 7.
  • 135. Wood's Life and Times, i, 279, 320; iv, 54, 56–7, 62, 66.
  • 136. Wood, City of Oxford, iii, 142–3.
  • 137. B.N.C. Mon. vi, 33.
  • 138. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 15.
  • 139. Evans, St. Mary's College (Oxf. Arch. Soc. 1931), p. 374. The founder, Thomas Holden, d. 1428;? mass for his soul was celebrated in the chapel in 1443.
  • 140. Wood, City of Oxford, ii, 233.
  • 141. B.N.C. Mon. xii. The form of Consecration is printed, pp. 43–59.
  • 142. B.N.C. Mon. iii. 24.
  • 143. B.N.C. Deeds, Library, 172.
  • 144. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 34–5.
  • 145. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 35.
  • 146. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 65. List of Burials.
  • 147. Ibid. p. 35.
  • 148. Ibid. pp. 30–2.
  • 149. a Additions and alterations to the college buildings since 1911 have been as follows: St. Mary's Entry 1919 (incorporated in Principal's Lodgings, 1937); Staircase XIV, 1929; Staircase XV, 1931; New Staircase (formerly kitchen wing of Principal's Lodgings), 1937. From Galli Colli's Aeneinasensiaria, 1941.
  • 150. B.N.C. Mon. vi, 12.
  • 151. Shadwell, Enactments in Parliament, ii, 17.
  • 152. Cart. of St. John the Baptist, ii, 1, A.
  • 153. Cart. of St. John the Baptist, iii, Rentals, p. 61, &c.
  • 154. Ibid., pp. 253, 260.
  • 155. Ibid. ii, 6.
  • 156. Wood, City of Oxford, i, 82. For Wood's theory that it had the right of sanctuary see Cart. of St. John the Baptist, ii, 2 and iii, p. xliv.
  • 157. Cart. of St. John the Baptist, i, 418–24.
  • 158. B.N.C. Mon. i, 5–6.
  • 159. Oseney Cartulary, i, 164–9.
  • 160. B.N.C. Mon.
  • 161. B.N.C. Deeds.
  • 162. Oseney Cartulary, i, 175.
  • 163. B.N.C. Mon. iii, plate xvii.
  • 164. Reproduced in Country Life, 1935, March 2, p. 220.
  • 165. B.N.C. Mon. iii, plate xvi.
  • 166. Ibid., plates xxiii–xxv.
  • 167. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 54.
  • 168. B.N.C. Mon. iii, 51–2, plates xx, xxi.