Christ Church

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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'Christ Church', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954), pp. 228-238. British History Online [accessed 22 June 2024].

. "Christ Church", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954) 228-238. British History Online, accessed June 22, 2024,

. "Christ Church", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954). 228-238. British History Online. Web. 22 June 2024,

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The foundation stone of Cardinal College was laid on 15 July 1525 by John Longland, Bishop of Lincoln, and on the same day Wolsey issued his foundation charter. But preparations for the erection of the college were already far advanced and made clear the intention of the founder that his new creation should be on a magnificent and unprecedented scale.

Wolsey's agents had long been busy on his behalf at the Papal Court, while the Cardinal himself secured the necessary permits from the Crown. Earlier in his career he had been Bursar of Magdalen, and he was thus probably familiar with the diversions of monastic revenue secured for his foundation by Bishop Waynflete. On 3 April 1524 the Pope had empowered Wolsey by Bull to dissolve St. Frideswide's: this Bull had received the king's Inspeximus on 10 May. (fn. 1) In September this was followed by a Bull allowing Wolsey to suppress monasteries to an annual value of 3,000 ducats. (fn. 2) The Cardinal was not slow to take advantage of these privileges; a score of monasteries were suppressed, and the revenues of numerous rectories diverted, to the service of his new foundation. From Michaelmas, 16 Henry VIII (1524) Thomas Cromwell acted as Receiver-General and drew in from his agents the revenues of the appropriated houses, of which perhaps the most important were those at Canwell, Daventry, Wykes, Lesnes, Tonbridge, and Begham. (fn. 3) Cardinal College was not, however, to enjoy a monopoly of this income, for Wolsey's later plans for a college at Ipswich entailed the transfer thither of some of the original sources of revenue for his Oxford foundation. (fn. 4) Attentive to every detail, he also secured for his college the grant of a new coat of arms (4 Aug. 1525), which has happily been allowed to lapse into deserved obscurity, a Bull taking the college under Papal protection and exempting it from episcopal visitation, and a Bull of indulgence for those who visited the college and there prayed for the souls of Wolsey himself and of his parents Robert and Joan. (fn. 5)

Work had however begun on the college buildings before Henry VIII issued his letters patent 'de licentia erigendi' on 13 July 1525 or before the foundation stone was solemnly laid two days later. An important book of accounts of John Higdon, the first dean, has recently been discovered in the library of Corpus Christi College, (fn. 6) which refers to the first half of the year 1525. Among the payments is one to 'William Jonson … with Redman and Lubyns to se the platte with the grownde and devysyng the beyldyng'. Jonson was the master mason and was at this time probably in charge of operations on the ground; John Lubbins (or Lebons or Lovyns) and Henry Redman were two of the most distinguished masons in the Royal service and had been associated with work at Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court and elsewhere. (fn. 7) This 'platte' was the measured plan for the buildings and may reasonably be attributed to the hands of Redman and Lubbins. At the end of the accounts it is clear that they were in Oxford again, and were paid 12d. for each day at Oxford and for every day riding 16d. apiece. A memorandum records that on 28 June John Higdon rode with them into Gloucestershire and bargained with John Warde at Little Barrington for 100 tons of stone to be delivered ready stapled before Michaelmas, at 20d. the ton. On the same day they contracted with Richard Merytt and Robert Taylor at Sherborne for another 100 tons at 17d. to be delivered as far as possible before Michaelmas. Higdon also notes (17 June) the acquisition of 400 rudestone from Lewys Haukyns of Bourton-in-the-Water and the carriage (1 July) of ten loads of slate from Rissington. He further bought of one Fyshe of Marston half an acre of quarry for £3 6s. 8d.

Wolsey was indefatigable in giving guidance to his new foundation. A long draft of instructions has survived, with corrections in the hand of Wriothesley, which testify to the range of his prevision. (fn. 8) They are directed to two of his household chaplains, Robert Carter and Lawrence Stubbes, and to Nicholas Towneley who was Master of the Works. These men are directed to visit Oxford and consult with the Dean and others. Since the carriage of materials will impose a strain on the existing roads, they are to supervise their repair, exacting contributions from such colleges or private persons as own the adjacentland. 'Bayly College' (Balliol), Godstow Monastery, and other persons unnamed are to be compensated for houses adjoining St. Frideswide which will have to be destroyed, but the agents must not give too high a price. By his legatine power Wolsey has transferred the parish of St. Michael, whose church must be pulled down, to that of St. Aldate: arrangements must also be made for a new burial ground for St. Frideswide's since the old will be built upon. Too many of the canons, with the Dean's leave, are absent at Poughley from fear of plague: in their absence, payments are to be made to Dr. Claimond, President of Corpus. Every haste is urged upon the masons in preparing the ground so that the foundations appointed in the plan may be begun: accordingly Wolsey appoints Nicholas Towneley to be principal surveyor of his said buildings, adjoining unto him Master Rowland Messenger. Finally Wolsey adds that he is prepared to accept Higdon's resignation if the Dean is willing to give £100. (The reasons for this request on Higdon's part are not apparent.) Wriothesley adds a postscript that the king has granted wood for burning lime and other purposes from his great park at Beckley and Shotover.

Nor did Wolsey neglect the ritual obligations of his foundation. An inventory dated 18 October 1525 records a brilliant list of vestments and service books which Stubbes had taken from Hampton Court for the use of my Lord's new college. (fn. 9) It includes many complete sets of vestments and also single ones such as that of 'crimson velvet powdered with splayed egles' or another 'of crimson velvet orfreysed with black velvet powdered with JHS'. Altar cloths and palls are also provided. The great majority of the books are in manuscript (of eight missals only one is printed) and the list ends with a splendid item, 'a martulage lymned with my Lorde's armes and badge covered with blewe clothe of bawdekyn': this is no longer in existence. Another document (fn. 10) gives the names of Stephen Humble and Thomas Young as 'broderers' working for the college.

Between 16 Jan. 1525 and 19 Dec. 1527, a period of almost three years, Higdon as paymaster received £9,828 11s. 4½d. (fn. 11) in part direct from appropriated houses but mostly by the hands of various agents of the Cardinal. Most of this was expended directly on the building operations, which the same roll lists under main headings. The following sums are given to the nearest pound: stone and slate from sundry quarries, Shirborne, Baryngton, Bokyngton (? Brockhampton), Gytton (? Guiting), £347; raising of freestone and rag, £313; conveyance of freestone, slate, and rag from Headington, Shurberne, Milton, Tayneton, Bokington, Stowe (on-the-Wold), and other quarries, £1,151; boards, £15; payments for felling timber, &c., £272; carriage of timber, £243; bought lime, £17; making of lime, including carriage of fuel to the kilns, £393; raising of lime there burnt, £182; payments to blacksmiths, £317; nails, £103; sundry purchases, including plumbing materials, tin, glass, paving tiles, hay for the horses, &c., £244; expenses of the purveyors, riding about, £41. Use was also made of materials from existing buildings. In May 1527 (fn. 12) a house called Bishop Joy's (or Johny) lodging was bought for £70 14s. 2d. from the Provincial and convent of Blackfriars at Oxford for the purpose of taking it down. Gravel and sand were fetched from divers places; timber and stone were brought from 'Bysshop Johny his house abovesaid'; bells, lead, and other stuff were brought from Daventry, Tickford (Bucks.), Bradwell (Bucks.), and Ravenston (Bucks.). These last were all monasteries dissolved at Wolsey's orders; but the identity and location of the bishop's lodging, which must seemingly have been in Oxford itself and near Blackfriars is a mystery, though another entry (fn. 13) shows that lead from this house was also used. The sum total of all these expenditures comes to £3,850 11s. 11½d. (fn. 14)

We are also given the total of the wages paid in this first three years to the various craftsmen. 'John Lubbyns and Henry Redemayne' are again named as the master masons, and each received 12d. a day. Warden masons and cutters received 3s. 8d., and freemasons and hardhewers 3s. 4d. a week. Among the roughlayers wardens earned 7d. and others 6d. a day. Master carpenters were paid 1s. a day and others 6d. Sawyers, apparently, were on piece-rates, sawing board at 1s. per 100. The wages of plasterers, plumbers, and glaziers are not specified; but slatters and paviours both received 6d. a day and painters 8d. Purveyors at 8d. a day, clerks at 6d., and labourers at 4d. conclude the list. Nicholas Foly, the college carter was on a more regular stipend, drawing a yearly wage of 26s. 8d., with board at 12d. per week. The sum total of all these wages, with a few minor additions—steeling money, and a mere £2 2s. 7d. for rewards for overtime—reached £5,015 0s. 3½d. £13 9s. 2d. had been spent on repairs to the late priory at Poughley, an Augustinian house in Berkshire used by the canons as a retreat or refuge from the plague, and the 'Syvile scole within the Universitie of Oxford' (on the site of the present Town Hall) and £3 1s. 11d. on mending cart-ways beside Oxford. The grand total of John Higdon's expenditure within the period came to £8,882 3s. 4d. and left with him nearly £950.

We know in fact from a letter of John London that the chief carpenter was Mr. Coke. (fn. 15) This was Humphrey Coke who had also worked with Redman at Eton and Greenwich. (fn. 16) Less clear in the ranks of the artificers is the position of Eustas Mascoll, Gent. His monumental brass at Farnham Royal, Bucks., proclaims that he was 'sometime clarke of the works of frisewide in Oxford for Cardinal Woolsey and after chief clarke acomps for xvij yeares for all buildinges of kinge henry ye VIII' and that he died in 1567; (fn. 17) but his name does not occur in the rolls of accounts which have survived.

A mutilated roll, which probably belongs to about 1527, gives details of the source of the lead used, other than that taken from existing buildings. (fn. 18) It was bought by the 'foder' from various persons in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The usual price was £5 6s. 8d. per foder with carriage, and small quantities at this rate were supplied by Anthony Babington, Godfrey Fulgran, Kt., Thomas Rolston, and John Northleage. Sir Richard Acheverell, however, supplied the larger quantity of 85 'fothers' at exactly £5, (fn. 19) presumably a reduction in favour of bulk. Lead was also brought by carriage at this time from Wallingford, a dissolved Benedictine house.

Higdon's disbursements began, though at a modest rate, before the formal foundation of the college. The first fortnight, or 'quindene' recorded, ended on 28 Jan. 1525, (fn. 20) and totalled £2 0s, 2½d. for provision and staff payment. But the figures rose as the work got under way: by May the fortnightly bill was over £40, and in September it passed £100. The totals fluctuate considerably, but are, as might be expected, in general higher in the summer months. By July 1526 three consecutive fortnightly totals were over £230. Not surprisingly these building operations caused a considerable influx of labour into Oxford, and in April 1526 Wriothesley was informed by London of difficulties arising between local workmen and those imported and incorporated by William Fryar or Frere, one of Wolsey's chief purveyors and local agents. (fn. 21) Later in the year, on 29 Dec., London reported on the general progress of the college. (fn. 22)

The lodgings on the west side are finished as far as the battlements; the tower has reached the same height: the lodgings are roofed in lead. Within the carpenters have been busy and the buildings are almost ready for habitation. At the south end there is a great tower (presumably the lower stages of the present Tom Tower) within 4 ft. as high as the lodgings. On the south side the rooms running towards the hall have reached the second story: the foundation of the hall itself is in most places 5 or 6 ft. high. On the north side the foundations of the intended chapel are level with the ground. On the east the foundations are prepared as far as the old door of St. Frideswide's. The foundations of the cloister, that is, the present Tom Quad, are as high as the ground. The kitchen is complete save for the louvre, and gave the Dean and canons their Christmas victuals: beyond it a series of domestic offices and lodgings for servants are substantially complete. The old lodgings of Peckwater Inn are converted into houses for masons to work in: there are not, however, enough masons to use all the stone which has come in from the Cotswold quarries and Headington.

'The work has all been well done', concludes the Warden of New College, 'as my Lord's gracious purpose is to have his meritorious act perpetually to endure.'

It is possible to discover the numbers of workmen employed in the following spring: an average wage bill, that for the fortnight ending 20 April 1527, totals £142 9s. 6d. and covers the wages of 121 masons, 25 hard hewers, 46 roughlayers, 4 slatters, 32 carpenters, 14 sawyers, 6 plumbers, 214 labourers, 2 clerks, and 3 purveyors, in all a labour force of nearly 500. (fn. 23) This number takes no account of men employed in the quarries or lime-kilns or on the carriage of materials.

No further progress-report exists, but it is possible to gauge some of the progress made from the building accounts which have survived. A mutilated roll which probably dates from 1527/8 records a payment of £102 3s. 4d. for 'working and kerving the hall rouff … in catars, spandrelles, orbes, lyntelles and other ornaments', and also a payment of just over £300 for the wages of artificers on the vault of the church roof of the college (fn. 24) to which allusion will be made later. More detailed information can be gathered from two sources which give accounts for the period November 1528 to October 1529, that is up to the moment of Thomas Wolsey's fall from power. (fn. 25)

The average fortnightly bill for workmen's wages and provision of material in the winter 1528–9 was £160–200, but with the spring it rose steadily, almost as if the Cardinal was sparing no effort, foreseeing his doom. The first fortnight of May grossed £355, and in June and July the total was generally over £400, reaching its zenith for the quindene 5–18 July with an expenditure of £483 18s. 0½d. In the last quindene (11–24 October 1529) an unprecedented expenditure on 'Empciouns and Provisions' of £1,259 17s. 5¾d. gave a total for that fortnight of £1,406 odd. (fn. 26)

Stone was being brought from the same quarries in the Cotswolds and at Headington, though in addition Friday's Quarry, Leper's Quarry at Taynton, and Lambert's Quarry are mentioned. New lodges were built for the masons at Barrington and Sherborne. Steps were also taken to improve the local communications. William Frere received nearly £50 for his new making and repairing of the highway between Boll Shipton (a manor in St. Clement's) and the Cross upon Headington Hill, and Thomas Watlington, Warden of the Carpenters, was paid for a new bridge in Cowley Mead between St. Edmund's well (near the present site of St. Hilda's College) and the east side of the college. These improvements would also help in the carriage of some of the lime which was being produced at kilns at Kirtlington, Stanton St. John, Beckley, and Headington. Robert Carrowe (or Caro), who was a prominent local carpenter and citizen, received £5 12s. 6d. for boards at the alms-houses and at Gloucester College. Rowland Messenger is named as controller of the works: John Smith (fn. 27) is auditor with Thomas Cowper and Philip Lental as his clerks. David Griffiths, a priest, is rewarded both for saying divine service in St. Frideswide's between the suppression of the monastery and the installation of the Dean and canons, and also for overseeing the workmen daily for thirteen months; this was presumably in the earlier stages.

By now the kitchen was complete, for the 'griffin's foot standing upon the femerell' (i.e the louvre) was pondered for £17. The four new lodgings were ready for such minor fitments as eight locks and sixteen keys. The hall was also ready for interior decoration. James Nicholson of London, glazier, received £15 13s. 8d. (sic) for 47 sets of Wolsey's arms in glass at 6s. 8d. each and £12 0s. 6d. [read £12 6s.] for 246 bends or posies called 'Dominus Mihi Adjutor' at 1s. each. John Norton was paid £6 1s. 4d. [sic] for 2,600 paving tiles of yellow and green at 3s. 8d. the hundred. East of the hall a tower was being built (this tower can be seen in the Bereblock engraving), eight named masons were rewarded for their diligence on this work after hours on Saturdays. (fn. 28) By the end of October 1529, the final touches were being put to the hall. £113 was paid for 'celying and kerving the hall', probably a mass payment for work on the roof, £471 for purchase of lead, £26 18s. 10d. for buying badges and arms, and lastly, £31 16s. was expended on 'paynting and gyldyng the hall and greffith for the femerall'. Seemingly here too the summit of the louvre was decorated with the griffin which Wolsey used as a supporter. (fn. 29)

Apparently Wolsey intended to replace the existing steeple on St. Frideswide's church. James Fleming was paid for making scaffolding to take it down, and Thomas Hewister for carriage of earth and rubble from the 'fayre gate (i.e. Tom Gate) and the new stepull to fill the ditches at the backside of the College'. But clearly this project was never carried far, though it may account for the foundations exposed to-day in the cloister, and the rubble probably arose from general work near the cloisters. Large quantities of gravel came from St. Giles's and from St. Edmund's well, 269 loads in all; and Twyne deduced that the walks in Christ Church meadow were made of earth displaced by the foundations. (fn. 30)

Between January and Oct. 1529, the total expenditure was just over £7,450.

Not all the work was done on the spot. Between June and August 1529, work was being done at Kirtlington on a frame for the alms houses, which stood opposite the west front of Wolsey's college, at a total cost of over £14. A more important project was on foot at Sonning in Berkshire. Here Cardinal Campeggio had granted Wolsey licence to take timber from his episcopal manor for the work on Cardinal College. (fn. 31) Here work was being done on the roof intended for the new chapel on the north side of Wolsey's cloister, the present Tom Quad. Throughout the winter of 1528–9 about £20 a fortnight was expended at Sonning, but in the summer activity was increased and the payments range from £30 to £80, though the average fortnight was nearer £40. Between November 1528 and the end of October 1529 disbursements at Sonning were all but £700. (fn. 32) From the scale of these payments it is clear that the fabrication of the chapel roof at Sonning must have been far advanced; Sir Alfred Clapham has advanced the theory that it may have been used by King Henry for the chapel at Hampton Court, whose span—40 feet—is the same as that of Christ Church hall. (fn. 33) If this is so, the references to the 'church roof' which made some previous antiquaries assign to Wolsey the existing cathedral roof, must in fact refer to this projected chapel roof.

It is uncertain whether Wolsey's plan intended a north bastion to match that on the south, but it seems clear that at about the time of his fall a permanent north wall was built across the unfinished west range, and tolerably clear that the same occurred in the unfinished east range of Tom Quad. (fn. 34) Nor, despite the great building activity of Wolsey's last year, does it appear that the walls of the chapel ever rose appreciably above ground level. The fall of the Cardinal brought building to a standstill: indeed, at one moment Henry probably intended to demolish Wolsey's fabric. (fn. 35) But after a period of indecision, the college was refounded on 18 July 1532 as King Henry VIII's College. Thirteen years later this foundation was surrendered to the king and on 4 Nov. 1546 the cathedral, formerly at Oseney, and the college were united as 'Ecclesia Christi Cathedralis Oxon'.

The destruction of Oseney had already begun. Accounts survive for workmen's wages at 'Oseney and Frideswide' from the latter half of 1545 though they do not always discriminate at which the work was done. Popyng Jaye the joiner was taking down the stalls and sides of the choir, probably at Oseney, but later with two men was working on the 'quire at Fryswides'. The chief carpenter was now John Wesburne who supervised the taking down of the bells at Oseney, and though the actual carriage of Tom to his new home was done by Willybye of Eynsham for 20s. on 26 Sept. 1545, Wesburne was many days about the steeple installing it. For 'his ironwork about the myll [at Oseney] and Fryswides and the great bell clapper' £10 was paid to Wynkyll the smith. The bulk of these payments, which are rich in the names of local artisans, fall into regular blocks which suggest that at this time there were about 30 masons, a slatter (George Broke) and his boy, 2 sawyers, a plumber, Richard Widerall, chief labourer and 36 others, 3 joiners, and perhaps 11 carpenters under Wesburne. Widerall was paid 3s. for six days: Wesburne and three servants had 14s. for six days' work on the clock-house. At this time an unspecified wall was being built: also Bibby the slatter was at work on the almshouses (March 1546) for five days. (fn. 36) At Michaelmas 1546 the wage bill included only 4–5 joiners, 5–7 carpenters (still headed by Wesburne), 2–3 slatters, 5–6 sawyers, and not more than 8 labourers. (fn. 37) James Nicholson was still the glazier.

The first year of Edward VI shows that repairs were going on in the hall, which had scaffolding, in the almshouses whose kitchen needed gutters, and in the sanitation of the deanery. (fn. 38) But later, William Tresham a canon of the original foundation and now sub-dean, undertook building works in the alley where Blue Boar Lane now runs: the wall on the south side was long called Dr. Tresham's wall, (fn. 39) and the lane also bore his name; Mr. Fryer (owner of St. Edward's Hall) gave 40 loads of stone digged at the Black Friars, free, and was paid at 2d. the load for a further 400 loads in 1551. (fn. 40) Tresham was also concerned in carting away rubble from the gate of Canterbury College to St. Mary's, and in the excavation for a conduit in Christ Church. (fn. 41) In Elizabeth's reign there is a contract by Francis Robinson, plumber, to lay the gutters on the west side of the quadrangle from the gate to Mr. Dean's lodging, and on the west side next the street from Dr. Weston's lodging to the gate. (fn. 42) This suggests that at that date the Dean was residing in the south range—the priory house having been ceded to Peter Martyr; (fn. 43) this would militate against the suggestion, derived from Baskerville, that Richard Cox, the first Henrican Dean, completed the eastern range. (fn. 44)

No other important building works were undertaken in the 16th century. It may have been about 1563 that the former Refectory of St. Frideswide's was equipped as a college library: the donors of books first appear in the college records in 1581. (fn. 45) Rooms for gentlemen commoners were added in the north range of Peckwater Inn and in the former Canterbury College in 1600, but have been replaced since by the later buildings there. (fn. 46) In 1613 Otho Nicholson, donor to the city of the Carfax conduit, gave £800 for the restoration of the old library, but no bills for this passed through the hands of the college. (fn. 47) Under Dean Duppa the buildings in Peckwater and Canterbury were extended, (fn. 48) but it was Dean Samuel Fell (1638–48) and his son Dean John Fell (1660–86) who were responsible for the next great period of building. The elder Fell was responsible for the superb vaulted stairway to the hall, on the site of Wolsey's east tower: this was the work of one 'Smith, an artificer of London', (fn. 49) though it is tempting to believe that he may perhaps have seen some plan of Wolsey's for this otherwise anachronistic achievement. The staircase itself is by James Wyatt and was built in 1805. (fn. 50) Fell also began the completion of the north range of Tom Quad, and expended about £500 on buildings there: Thomas Robinson, William Sarny, and Roger Hatchman were his masons; and he built lodgings (which were burned down in 1669) on the site of the chaplain's quadrangle.

These works were, however, interrupted by the Civil War, and were only resumed after the Restoration by the younger Fell. £9,400 was subscribed by members and friends of the college. (fn. 51) The timber of the unfinished range had been converted into firewood during the disorders and many repairs were necessary all over the college. But despite the necessity of attending to the lead and timbers of the south side of the hall, and of widespread re-slating in the chaplain's quadrangle, Peckwater Inn, Canterbury College, and the Almshouse, by 1670 the north range had been completed and the chaplain's quadrangle rebuilt after the fire of 1669. (fn. 52) The building accounts mention John Wild as the master joiner, and also a payment of £3 to William Bird for carving the royal arms on the north bastion in 1665. Thomas Robinson may have been the chief mason. (fn. 53) It was at this time that Wolsey's battlements were replaced by a classical balustrade: otherwise Fell followed faithfully Wolsey's claustral design. Bird was also responsible for the first statue in 'Mercury', which, with the fountain, was erected at the expense of Canon Richard Gardiner (fn. 54) in 1670. The whole centre of the quadrangle had been excavated to lend stateliness to the buildings. (fn. 55) Loggan's print shows Christ Church at this date.

Fell had originally asked the Oxford mason John Jackson to prepare a design to finish Wolsey's 'fair gate': Jackson's widow was paid £5 for his model in 1663. (fn. 56) In 1681 Sir Christopher Wren produced his design and sent it to the Dean. Work was begun in April and was finished by November 1682; Oxford had acquired a new land-mark. The masons were Christopher Kempster of Burford (from whom Kit's Quarry is named) (fn. 57) who provided the stone, and John, Francis, and Thomas Robinson of Oxford. Richard Frogley was the master carpenter, and the wood came from Dorton Park. The total wage bill was £850. (fn. 58) The great bell, Tom, was moved from the steeple of St. Frideswide's and rang for the first time on Restoration Day (29 May) 1684. Repairs were made in 1740 to the underpinning of Tom Tower, when £274 was spent through John Townesend, the college mason, for this and other minor alterations.

Fell was also responsible for the Canon's house between Tom and Peckwater Quadrangles (this was converted into undergraduates' rooms in 1935), but nothing is known of its architect: he further constructed the passage known as Kill-Canon between the two quadrangles, and began the small tower over it.

Henry Aldrich (1689–1711) was the next of the great building Deans, and in addition was his own architect. In 1705 he designed Peckwater Quadrangle which was begun largely from a bequest of almost £3,000 from Anthony Radcliffe, one of the canons, though other benefactors contributed various sums. The principal mason was William Townesend, a distinguished Oxford craftsman. (fn. 59) The work was threatened by difficulties over money which Stratford, the treasurer, was continually seeking to raise. In August 1710 he set the workmen to demolish the west side, but in 1712 and again in 1713 he speaks of building the third side on credit only. (fn. 60) When Peckwater was completed the chapter turned their attention to the south side of the quadrangle. 'We have got the £500 which Dr. South left us to our building and shall pull down the last side of Peckwater next spring … we design to turn the inside into a library and to make it the finest library that belongs to any society in Europe'. (fn. 61) Aldrich's designs were discarded and replaced by those of Dr. George Clarke, and the principal mason was again the accomplished William Townesend. The clearing away of old buildings began in 1717 but the work was not finally completed until 1772 at a total cost of £15,000. In 1764 the piazza which Clarke had drawn for the ground story was walled in in order to house the Guise bequest of pictures. The internal building is by Henry Keene, the plasterwork by Thomas Roberts, the joinery by George Shakespeare and John Phillips. (fn. 62) Unfortunately the stone chosen from Headington for the bulk of the building and from Burford for architectural details has weathered exceedingly badly. (fn. 63)

The third quadrangle of the college, Canterbury, was built on the site of the former college of that name largely from benefactions of Richard Robinson, Archbishop of Armagh. The design was by Wyatt, and the stone used was again Headington freestone: the buildings were carried out between 1773 and 1778 and the south-west staircase was added in 1783. In all Robinson gave more than £4,000. (fn. 64) Slightly earlier is the small Anatomy School designed by Henry Keene and built in 1766–7 to the south of the hall: it later became a chemical laboratory, but in 1948–50 was reconstructed as an additional picture gallery.

Three fires caused serious damage to the college. The first in 1669 destroyed part of the chaplain's quadrangle and occasioned both Dr. Gardiner's benefaction in the construction of 'Mercury' and the new canon's lodging in Kill-Canon. A second in 1720 destroyed the roof of the hall and Wolsey's louvre: in the restoration the central fireplace was replaced by two chimneypieces of the modern type. In 1809 a fire did grave damage to the lodgings in the SW. corner of Tom Quad: the rebuilding was carried out by James Wyatt. (fn. 65)

With one exception the remainder of the history of the buildings of Christ Church is one of minor alteration and repair. With the building of the new library the old library became superfluous and was converted into rooms in 1775 at a cost of £1,550. (fn. 66) In 1829 the balustrade and parapet of Peckwater were renewed in Bath stone: (fn. 67) none the less the quadrangle had to be completely re-faced in 1924–30 in Clipsham stone at a cost of £25,000. (fn. 68) In 1841 the steps and wall of Tom Quad were redesigned by Sir Francis Chantrey: in 1872–3 the present west entrance to the cathedral was constructed: in 1876–9 G. F. Bodley constructed the bell tower in the SE. corner, where Wolsey's east tower had originally stood, in order to relieve the cathedral spire of its ring of bells, and also completed Fell's NE. tower. At the same time Tom Quad was extensively refaced with Doulting stone on the interior face: but in 1909 Clipsham stone was preferred for the extensive repairs to the West front and to Tom Tower. (fn. 69)

In 1863 the chaplains' quadrangle and Fell's buildings of 1672–9 were demolished, and were replaced by Meadow Building, a pseudo-Venetian Gothic range, which cost £30,000 and was the work of Thomas Newenham Deane. (fn. 70) The block is executed in Box Ground Stone from Bath, with ornamental courses in Hornton stone from near Banbury. (fn. 71)

In 1894 a new building was opened for the choir school in Brewer Street; previously instruction had been given in two vaults under the Hall, which had incurred the censure of the Commissioners. (fn. 72) A new choir school adjoining this building was built in 1927 to the designs of J. and P. Coleridge; this faced on to Rose Place. A playing-field was also provided in the Meadow.

As a memorial to the lives lost in the First World War, various outhouses on the south side of the college were removed and a garden and gateway was laid out by John Coleridge: the ironwork was by R. M. Y. Gleadowe. (fn. 73) The traveller approaching from the south now again saw the college much as it was when Wolsey fell, saving the addition of Wren's great tower.


In his last years, the furtherance and welfare of his colleges at Oxford and at Ipswich lay very close to Wolsey's heart. Not only do his papers reveal the many-sided nature of his interest, but it was recognized that he was accessible through this zeal. Thus the friends of the cellarer of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield, were prepared to give £300 to Cardinal College to procure a particular place for him, (fn. 74) and other approaches of this sort were made to the founder. (fn. 75) It appears also that the scale contemplated for the foundation increased as plans and buildings grew more advanced. In an early draft for the stipends of the foundation, provision is made for 15 Masters of Arts, 1 Bachelor in the Law, and 20 'Petit Chanons' as well as other functionaries: here the Dean has a yearly stipend of £26 13s. 4d. and for servants he has a steward, a chamberlain, and a chief cook (each at 40s. per annum), an under-cook (at 20s.) and 3 other servants at 26s. 8d. Each M.A. was to receive £4, 10 yds. of material at 4s. 8d. a year, and commons at 20d. a week. A 'petit chanon' received only 33s. and 4 yds. of 3s. 4d. stuff with commons of 1s. An elaborate staff of 10 upper servants for the college ranged from a barber with a salary of £6 12s. and a Manciple, paid £5 18s. 8d. per annum to an under-cook at £4 2s. (fn. 76) But a later draft of the 'yearly charge of my Lord Cardinall his College in Oxford when the members therein shall be fully accomplished, shows a considerable expansion in size, though the emoluments in general remain constant. Thus the household of the Dean is increased by a chief horseman: his stipend from the college is reduced to £10, but he is allotted the prebend of Wetwang at York. But the number of M.A.'s is increased from 15 to 20; that of Bachelors in Law from 1 to 4, that of 'petit chanons' from 20 to 40. The number of servants of the college rises to 17, of whom the highest paid was the 'Launder' at £10 a year, and the lowest two are the keeper of the library (£3 6s. 8d.) and the slaughterman (£1 10s.). (fn. 77) The establishment has in this estimate virtually reached that of Wolsey's statutes, which were drawn up in great length and detail, and provide in all for 177 academic appointments, 23 servants, and 5 administrative posts (2 lawyers, 1 solicitor, 1 auditor, 1 clerk of the lands). The principal academic figures were a dean, 60 canons 'primi ordinis', and 40 canons 'secundi ordinis'—the 'petit canons' of the drafts—who were the equivalent of scholars elsewhere; a sub-dean, 4 censors, and 4 domestic professors were to be chosen from among the senior canons. Of the 4 censors 'morum et eruditionis' 2 were to be Masters of Arts and skilled in theology and to oversee studies in Philosophy, Dialectic, and Literae Humaniores, 2 were to be Doctors or Bachelors in Theology, and to supervise one, Theology, the other, Law and Medicine. They were elected annually by the Dean and the 13 most senior canons of the first order. The election of a dean on the other hand was vested in the 30 most senior canons under elaborate' rules reminiscent of those for choosing a pope; not more than 4 scrutinies were to be held each day, and in disputed cases election passed ultimately to a committee of 12. The revised statutes, which the Cardinal issued on 1 July 1527, conclude with a detailed clause 'De disputacionibus et exercitiis domesticis'. (fn. 78) But his foundation was not long destined to be ruled by his meticulous care.

Eighteen canons were named in Wolsey's foundation charter of 1525, (fn. 79) but, though he added others, the number would appear not to have risen far above 30 before his fall. Some of the additional canons came from Cambridge and were imbued with the new learning, though the traditions that Thomas Cranmer or William Tindall were of their number must in all probability be discounted. Cranmer may have been confused with Thomas Cannar, the senior Canon and first sub-dean, and later a Canon of the first Henrican foundation; Tindall was abroad at the time. Wolsey employed, among others, Robert Shorton (Master of Pembroke) to seek out scholars at Cambridge. Early in the history of the college, during the winter of 1527–8, the presence of the reformer Thomas Garrett, with books and tracts, led to searches and penalties, including the imprisonment of John Clark one of the learned canons imported from Cambridge. Garrett was later burned.

In his fall Wolsey did not forget his colleges. They were a constant preoccupation to him, and he was eager in soliciting help from every quarter, and in particular through Thomas Cromwell. In July Cromwell had to inform him 'as touching your Colleges the King is determined to dissolve them'. (fn. 80) At the end of the year Cromwell notes that 'The Cardinal takes the suppressing and dismembering of his colleges very heavily' and that 'He writes to the King humbly and on my knees with weeping eyes to recommend unto your excellent charity and goodness the poor college of Oxford.' (fn. 81) In May 1530 William Tresham, a canon (though not one of the original eighteen) and later one of Henry's canons, had an interview with the king and begged his favour. Cannar and Leighton at the same time begged the king for white copes for use on the high days of Our Lady. 'Alack', returned Henry, 'they are all disposed and not one of them is left.' The king also told Leighton that his Council showed him that none of our lands were assured to the college except by his (Henry's) suffrance. (fn. 82) A draft in Wolsey's hand survives in which he beg's Henry's mercy for Cardinal College, 'prostrat at your Majesty's fete, with wepyng terys', and he wrote also begging favour for his poor college at Oxford—for Ipswich he seems to have lost hope: in any case the project was less advanced—to the Lord Chief Justice, the Chief Baron, the AttorneyGeneral and others and to Norfolk and other lords. (fn. 83)

On 22 August 1530 Higdon reported at length to Wolsey. It appeared that they had no protection in common law. At Windsor the Duke of Norfolk had at first told him that they would only get the actual lands of St. Frideswide. But he had had an interview with the king who had declared: 'Surely we purpose to have an honorable college there, but not so great and of such magnificence as my Lord Cardinal intended to have. … We will that ye continue as ye have done till Michaelmas next coming and then wholly to receive your rents.' Lord Wiltshire and Norfolk are now favourable, Higdon believes, to the college. (fn. 84)

Not long after Michaelmas Wolsey died (29 Nov.) and the college entered upon the darkest period of its history. In the year 1530 the total receipts (including a loan of £345) came to nearly £1,600, mostly from monastic lands, but the outgoings considerably exceeded this figure. (fn. 85) There is little evidence for the next two years, but apart from financial troubles, the overwhelming uncertainty of their position must have made life difficult for the whole society. Henry had in effect decided to found a college of his own, and made fitful payments to the chapter, but he did not implement his decision fully until July 1532.

Thus when on 15 Jan. 1531 Higdon granted various manors and properties belonging to the king. (fn. 86) the college is referred to as 'Wolsey's College'; but by April Henry is addressing the chapter as 'the Dean and Canons of the King's College, Oxford, late Cardinal's College,' (fn. 87) and appoints them receivers of various monastic lands which had belonged to Wolsey's foundation. Encouraged perhaps by this, the Dean and canons wrote to the King on April 11th informing him that there was an abundant supply of building material, without doubt left over from the final period of Wolsey's activity, and hoping that the work would not be allowed to remain imperfect. (fn. 88) In December Henry received from Thomas Cromwell 1,000 marks from lands of Cardinal College; 600 of these were transmitted to Robert Carter and Henry Williams, canons and fellows 'of our new college in Oxford'. (fn. 89) Early in 1532 the serviceable Cromwell became formally Receiver-General of the lands of the dead Cardinal's two colleges, and in March the revenues of some properties, mostly belonging of old to St. Frideswide and Littlemore, were confirmed to the college from Michaelmas 1531.

On 18 July 1532 Henry issued letters patent for the foundation of 'King Henry VIII College'. (fn. 90) This was to consist of a dean, 12 secular canons, 8 priests, clerk, choristers, and of 12 honest paupers: the foundation was essentially an ecclesiastical one on the lines of a cathedral chapter but with no expressed educational purpose, and indeed no provision therefor. John Higdon was appointed Dean and the twelve canons were also named. (fn. 91) Dr. Nicholas de Burgo was Reader in Divinity. (fn. 92) Other residents are to be removed.

John Higdon did not long survive his new appointment. By 15 December he was seriously ill, (fn. 93) and by the 20th dead. He had apparently been in disfavour at court, for John London, Warden of New College, and a more robust character, twice put in a plea for him in 1532, and is found seeking to execute his will and secure the repose of his soul in March 1533. As has been noticed, Higdon apparently sought to leave Cardinal College soon after its foundation, (fn. 94) and in his will he left all his goods to Magdalen, Corpus Christi, and New College; he seems to have been a colourless figure.

His death (fn. 95) did little to help the college. On 20 December Croke, one of the canons, wrote to Cromwell asking that the new Dean should be chosen from among themselves, but complaining of bitter poverty. Without his help many of them, he says, will be hungry this Christmas, and he addresses the letter fulsomely 'Clarissimo et unico Maecenati nostro'. It was perhaps the nadir of the college. The king, however, appointed as Dean John Oliver, who was one of his agents in the divorce proceedings.

Oliver remained Dean of 'King Henry VIII College' until he formally surrendered all its possessions to the Crown on 20 May 1545. (fn. 96) The college contributed little to the life of the University for it was ill suited so to do. None the less, some figures of eminence were numbered among the canons, notably John Leland, the antiquary, and Sir John Cheke, tutor to Edward VI. Since no further progress was made with Wolsey's chapel, the community continued to use the shortened church of St. Frideswide for their devotions. For these Henry had prescribed the Use of Sarum in his statutes, which are shorter and less all-embracing than those of the Cardinal. (fn. 97) On St. Frideswide's church fell also the impact of the Reformation and the iconoclasm of monastic destruction: in 1538 the shrine of the saint was destroyed.

In 1545 the college assumed its final shape. Henry VIII had in 1542 devoted some of the spoils of the abbeys to the creation of new bishoprics: among these was the diocese of Oxford which was sited at the former abbey of Oseney. (fn. 98) Bishop King surrendered his see to the king on the same day as Oliver surrendered his college. In November Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury, also gave up any rights of his chapter in Canterbury College. (fn. 99) On the basis of these surrenders the king proceeded to reconstitute both diocese and college and to weld the unique constitution of Christ Church. On 4 November 1546 he established by letters patent to a corporation whose latin style was 'Ecclesia Christi Cathedralis Oxon: ex fundatione Regis Henrici Octavi'. In December these letters patent were followed by others setting forth the lands of the value of over £2,000 Per annum with which the king endowed his new foundation; these (fn. 100) estates came more from Oseney properties than the now scattered lands of Cardinal College. On 28 Jan. 1547 Henry died: his death at this juncture probably explains why Christ Church had no statutes and was for so long governed by custom.

In Henry's letters patent Richard Cox was named as Dean, both from the collegiate and diocesan standpoint: 8 canons were also nominated, of whom four had been canons of Oseney and one, Tresham, of King Henry VIII College. In addition, Wolsey's educational aims were resurrected, and there were to be 100 students with provision both of censors and readers for their instruction and discipline and of choristers and singing men to accompany their devotions. By the beginning of 1548 there were already ninety students in residence of varying age and status: in addition provision was being made for the teaching of Commoners, many of whom resided at Broadgates Hall rather than in Christ Church. (fn. 101) From this time the history of Christ Church has in the main followed Shakespeare's prediction,

… though unfinish'd, yet so famous
So excellent in art and still so rising

and may be treated of in less detail than the troubled early years have been. Royal interest in the college continued, and it was visited twice by Elizabeth, in 1566 (fn. 102) and in 1592: she began in 1561 the close association between Christ Church and Westminster by annexing to Westminster certain studentships, which in 1576 were defined at three in each year.

Under the Stuarts Christ Church was not only the scene of royal visits, but, with Oxford, played its part in national history: to the shelter of her walls the emergencies of war or plague drove both Charles I and II. In 1642 172 lb. 3 oz. 4d. of plate were sacrificed to the needs of the king's treasury. (fn. 103) But there were gains also: in 1636 the Professorship of Hebrew was annexed to one of the Canonries by the Laudian statutes: in 1664 William Thurston, in somewhat uncertain terms, left a legacy (fn. 104) which raised the number of studentships to 101 and dictated the number of strokes which Great Tom has since tolled nightly.

In 1612 there were, in the Long Vacation, 240 persons on the books of the college; this figure includes 35 commoners and 41 poor scholars in addition to the Dean, canons, students, &c. (fn. 105) It does not appear that numbers declined perceptibly during the Civil War and the rule of the Commonwealth, though there was a fall in admissions after the appointment, in 1686, of the pro-Catholic Massey as Dean. At Christmas, 1701, there were some 96 commoners and others batteling besides the Dean, canons, and students. At Michaelmas, 1750, the figure was 83, and at Michaelmas, 1800, it had risen to 138. In 1858 there were 190 on battels in the college, though many students were doubtless absent. (fn. 106) Thompson recalls the numbers in his day (about the same time) as being 180. (fn. 107) After the First World War there were, in general, 270–80 undergraduates in residence of whom 180 lived in college: in 1948 the number was 340 with 220 living in college. (fn. 108)

In the post-Restoration period two deans were outstanding, John Fell (1660–86), and Henry Aldrich (1689–1711). (fn. 109) If some of their successors were less distinguished, Christ Church was spared the graver dangers of academic torpor since deans and canons were alike appointed by the Crown, and the society was thus never a closed one. Nominations were sometimes political, as in the case of Francis Atterbury, and promotions to the episcopal bench were frequent. Throughout the 18th century it was common for deans of Christ Church to hold also the poorly endowed diocese of Bristol. It must not be suggested that disputes of a domestic character did not occur: as early as 1591 there was a falling-out between two canons as to who should occupy which lodgings, and much bitterness seems to have resulted. (fn. 110)

The number of choristers had been 8 in the refoundation of 1546, and they had been controlled by a master. In 1605 an organist had also been appointed but the post was soon after combined with that of informator musicae et grammaticae at a salary of £4. During the Civil War the numbers shrank, but in 1672 John Grubbe began a 24-year term of office at £6 a year. By 1854 the Master of the Cathedral Choir School was being paid £80 as a schoolmaster, and not long after (1866) 6 probation choristers had been added to the original 8: in addition there were 19 day-scholars.

In the third quarter of the 18th century discipline was indifferent and the college went through a bad period. Its pre-eminent position was, however, restored under the rule of Cyril Jackson (1783–1809). In 1821 Lady Holland could write that a friend 'will go to Christ Church as Dr. Maltby recommends it far above Cambridge, the good set and freedom from vices of drinking, gambling and low manners'. (fn. 111) On Jackson's foundations Gaisford (1831–55) and Liddell (1855–92) built with success. Twenty prime ministers ruled England between 1800 and 1900: of these nine were educated at Christ Church and a tenth was on the books. (fn. 112) Jackson had helped to initiate the examination system, in which Peel gained the first double first. Gaisford, it is true, was firmly opposed to reform, but Liddell was one of its protagonists, and by the end of the century the structure of the college had been radically changed.

In 1858 the Executive Commission which was set up as a result of the Act of 1854 made an ordinance for Christ Church. The 101 students ceased: instead there were to be 28 senior students (19 in Holy Orders) and 52 junior students (of whom 21 were Westminster scholars): two of the canonries were to be abolished. But the senior students still had no share in the government of the college and to that extent were lesser men than the fellows of smaller colleges. This was rectified in 1867 by a special Act of Parliament, whose provisions were drawn up by an arbitrating panel, and confirmed by the Act of 1882. Christ Church now for the first time had statutes; further the 'students' (formerly 'senior students') joined the chapter as a Governing Body, while the quondam 'junior students' became—as in most other colleges—scholars. But the Dean retained his dual function, and, with the canons (and Regius Professors) continued to be appointed by the Crown.

The revenues of the college at its third foundation were about £2,000, and they were still so reckoned in 1592. (fn. 113) This figure was largely made up of rents of various kinds, and has risen fairly steadily in the succeeding years. The audit for December 1721, for example, shows a turnover of nearly £7,500. This is made up as follows (figures to the nearest pound): balance from 1720, £105; arrears of rents, £4,262; arrears of extraordinary receipts, £127; rents (old and improved) for 1721, £2,138; extraordinary receipts for 1721, £242; arrears of Commons, £125; commons for 1721, £242; and caution money since last audit, £215. Expenditure amounted to almost £7,000, leaving a balance of £536. The main items were four quarterly payments, totalling £6,617. Liverys amounted to £100; focalia to £50; £157 was paid out for cautions. The 'focalia' was a fixed sum paid to all who were in possession on Michaelmas Quarter Day. In addition there was a further fund called 'Siga' which was divided among the Dean and canons on Lady Day and Michaelmas. Into it were paid a curious assortment of receipts—rents for the chambers on the east and west sides of Peckwater: tithe from Binsey: certain 'harriots': the surplus of Lock Mead. In 1721 it reached a total of £275. (fn. 114) There were a few other perquisites: the rent of Christ Church meadow went half to the Dean, half among the canons. 'Pro Laboribus' was a sum of £20 for those attending the audit: two shares to the Dean, and one to each canon. In 1764 the total window tax was £38 6s. 6d., of which the Dean paid £5 17s. At that time the college banked with Messers. Snow and Darme at the Golden Anchor without Temple Bar. (fn. 115)

At the audit of December 1776, the total receipts were £8,811 9s. 5d. Expenditure was higher, at a sum of £9,455 14s. 6¾d. Arrears of rents and current rents amounted together to over £7,300. In 1816 the total revenue was almost £14,500, but was again exceeded by an expenditure of £16,676. (fn. 116) But at this time the college had considerable sums in funds, including nearly £2,700 in South Sea Bubble Stock. Rather under £5,000 in Reduced Annuity 3 per cent. in 1789 had risen to well over £30,000 by 1809. A fund for building repairs was invested in 5 per cent. Consols. (fn. 117)

In 1872 the Duke of Cleveland's Commission began its inquiry. Christ Church they found to be possessed of just under 30,000 acres. In 1871 the college had enjoyed a gross income of some £50,000. At that time 145 undergraduates were paying tuition fees: a studentship on the old foundation was worth £67 a year with rooms. The four tutors were paid £405, and two £246. (fn. 118)

Two old traditions, one of royal visits and one of play-acting, (fn. 119) were upheld in 1946. To celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the third foundation, King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth were entertained to dinner in hall on 24 October. Later, and also in Wolsey's Hall, a performance of Shakespeare's 'Henry VIII' was staged with some success.


The seal used by Wolsey's foundation was 4 inches in diameter and showed the Trinity in a roundheaded niche with a saint on either side: at the base were Wolsey's arms supported by griffins holding batons. The inscription ran: SIGILLŪ · COĒ · COLLEGII · THOME · WVLCY · CARDINAL · EBOR · Ī · ĀGALIA · A · LATERE · LEGATI. (fn. 120)

A second seal of a similar pattern, but with the arms of Henry VIII and a lamp on either side of the Trinity, presumably served the first royal foundation. Inscription: s' COMMUNE · DECANI · ET · CANONICORUM · COLLEGII · R[EGIS · HENR]ICI · OCTAVI · IN · OXONIA. (fn. 121)

This was replaced for the foundation of King Henry VIII by a seal 3¼ inches in diameter which is still in existence. The obverse shows the king seated with orb and sceptre on a throne: the background has a diamond pattern powdered with roses and fleurs-de-lis. Inscription: SEVIRE : DEO : REGNARES : EST : FACTUM : ANNO : GRACIE : 1546 : ANNO : REGIS : HENRICO (sic) : 8 : 38. The reverse bears a standing figure of a saint with a halo, carrying an orb and keys and standing in a recess between pillars which are flanked by ten cherubim. Inscription: SIGILLUM : COMMUNE : DECANI : ET: CAPTIVLI : ECCLESIE : CATHEDRALIS : CHRISTI : OXONIE (fn. 122) This seal is illustrated in Plate III of the second volume of this History. In the middle of the 19th century a smaller copy of this seal was made (3¼ inches in diameter) which is alluded to in the Statutes of 1867 and is still in use today. The design and inscriptions were not altered.


The portraits in Christ Church Hall form the most splendid series in the University and are especially strong in the works of Gainsborough, Romney, Reynolds, and Lawrence. (fn. 123) A recent addition is a picture of the 1st Earl of Halifax by L. Gowing.

In addition the College owns an important collection of paintings and drawings by old masters which are housed partly in the Library and partly in the former School of Anatomy which has been re-decorated for this purpose. The pictures are largely the gift of two benefactors, General John Guise (d. 1765) and the 4th Earl of Ilchester who presented two valuable gifts of primitives in 1828 and 1834: among these a Madonna attributed to Piero della Francesca and a Giovanni di Paolo may be mentioned. (fn. 124) The drawings, housed in the Upper Library, also include a large gift from General Guise. (fn. 125) The Common Room also possesses a portrait by Franz Hals, a portrait of Garrick by Reynolds, and a landscape with cows by N. Cuyp.

The Library.

The Library at Christ Church is extremely rich in printed books and manuscripts. It is impossible here to do more than list some of the benefactors: they include Dean Aldrich, Lewis Atterbury (brother of the Dean), Canon William Stratford, Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, and Archbishop Wake. Many rarities can be found among their gifts, including a first edition of Gulliver's Travels and Wake's copy of Pope's Essay on Man, with one part in the original paper wrappers. Unhappily a number of important books disappeared from the Library in the 19th century. (fn. 126) Recently the Library has received valuable gifts from the biblical library of Dean White and the collection of Archdeacon the Hon. K. F. Gibbs. All the papers and library and some of the furniture of John Evelyn have also been deposited on loan with the College.

The Library is rich in manuscripts, and in particular in early Greek MSS. There may also be cited the Liber de Officiis Regis written by Walter de Millemete (1326: edited by M. R. James for the Roxburghe Club) and a 15th-century Chaucer. (fn. 127)

In a room above the cloister is preserved the entire library of Richard Allestree (d. 1681), the complete collection of a 17th-century divine.


Like most Oxford colleges Christ Church sacrificed its plate in the King's cause. The silver-gilt mounted Bible and Prayer-Book given by Canon H. King in 1638 are the only important pre-Civil War pieces to survive. In 1661–2 a silver-gilt sacramental service was provided to replace that which had been melted down: two silver verges also date from this period.

The College plate has been fully catalogued (fn. 128) and, as elsewhere, tankards and other pieces have been melted down and used again. A sweetmeat-box in silver, used daily in the Common Room (1670–1) and a noble tankard given by Sir Nicholas L'Estrange (1679–80) may be singled out.

Since the catalogue was made the Cathedral has been given a Spanish silver-gilt chalice of about 1640, and an important legacy of silver-gilt plate was bequeathed to the Senior Common Room by Dr. A. T. Carter: the latter includes a porringer and chalice-shaped cup, both William and Mary, two salt-cellars, a large twohandled cup with the Newdigate arms, and 18 plates.


Cardinal College
Founded July 1525
1525 John Hygden
King Henry VIII's College
Founded July 1532
1532 John Hygden
1533 John Oliver
Christ Church
Founded 4 Nov. 1546
1546 Richard Cox
1553 Richard Marshall
1559 George Carew
1561 Thomas Sampson
1565 Thomas Godwin
1567 Thomas Cooper
1570 John Piers
1576 Tobie Mathew
1584 William James
1596 Thomas Ravis
1605 John King
1611 William Goodwin
1620 Richard Corbet
1629 Brian Duppa
1638 Samuel Fell
1648 and 1659 Edward Reynolds
1651 John Owen
1660 George Morley
1660 John Fell
1686 John Massey
1689 Henry Aldrich
1711 Francis Atterbury
1713 George Smalridge
1719 Hugh Boulter
1724 William Bradshaw
1733 John Conybeare
1756 David Gregory
1767 William Markham
1777 Lewis Bagot
1783 Cyril Jackson
1809 Charles Henry Hall
1824 Samuel Smith
1831 Thomas Gaisford
1855 Henry George Liddell
1892 Francis Paget
1901 Thomas Banks Strong
1920 Henry Julian White
1934 Alwyn Terrell Petre Williams
1939 John Lowe


  • 1. Rymer, Foedera, vol. xiv, p. 15.
  • 2. Ibid., p. 23.
  • 3. P.R.O.: S.C. 6, 2913.
  • 4. Rymer, op. cit., pp. 246–7.
  • 5. Ibid., p. 254.
  • 6. Published in Oxoniensia, vol. viii/ix, pp. 137–53.
  • 7. Cf. article by J. H. Harvey in Journal of Brit. Archaeological Assn., 3rd Series, vol. viii. Redman died July 1528.
  • 8. P.R.O., E. 36. 102, p. 49. Undated. For the reference to Balliol cf. Salter: Balliol Deeds, pp. 96–8.
  • 9. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 36, pp. 103–10.
  • 10. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 38, p. 207.
  • 11. P.R.O., E/101/479/11.
  • 12. P.R.O., E/101/479/10.
  • 13. Ibid. Cf. also P.R.O., E/101/479/11.
  • 14. P.R.O E/101/479/11.
  • 15. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 40, pp. 104–5.
  • 16. Oxoniensia, loc. cit., p. 147.
  • 17. V.C.H. Bucks. iii, 230; cf. Mill Stephenson, p. 41.
  • 18. P.R.O., E/101/479/9.
  • 19. Ibid. A fother was slightly less than 19½ cwt.
  • 20. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 40, pp. 110–17 gives payments 28 Jan. 1525–30 Dec. 1526.
  • 21. B.M., MS. Tit. B. 100.
  • 22. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 40, pp. 104–5.
  • 23. P.R.O., E/101/479/10.
  • 24. P.R.O., E/101/479/9.
  • 25. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 55, pp. 221–38 gives fortnightly accounts for this period: Gutch (Collectanea Curiosa, i, p. 204) prints extracts from a vanished journal book of expenses, taken from Hearne, who took them from Twyne. But Gutch did not print, nor Hearne copy, the fortnightly expenses in Twyne MS. 21, p. 354 (Bodleian) which make it certain that the two accounts cover the same period. And, as will be seen below, either there were mathematical errors in the original book, or Twyne's transcription was faulty.
  • 26. P.R.O. S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 55 loc. cit.
  • 27. Though Sir William Smith is named as auditor of the college in L. and P. Hen. VIII, vol. 1. iv, 5320.
  • 28. Gutch, op. cit., p. 207. Gutch prints 'town', but it is clearly 'towre' in Twyne's MS.
  • 29. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 55, p. 238.
  • 30. Gutch, op. cit., pp. 205–6.
  • 31. British Museum. Add MSS. 5847, f. 159. Printed Journal Brit. Arch. Assn., loc. cit., pp. 58–9.
  • 32. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 55, pp. 221–38.
  • 33. Journal Brit. Arch. Assn., vol. vi, p. 58.
  • 34. F. J. Haverfield, Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries, vol. xxii, pp. 425–30 (1907–9).
  • 35. Chapuys to Charles V, 8 Nov. 1529. '… part of it is to be demolished, were it for no other purpose than that of removing the Cardinal's escutcheon, which will be no easy work as there is hardly a stone from the top of the building to the very foundations where his blazoned armorial is not sculptured'. C.S.P. Spanish 1529–30, p. 326.
  • 36. Bodleian MS. Top. Oxon. b. 16. This MS. is erroneously stated by DenholmYoung (Mediaeval Archives of Ch. Ch., p. xiii) to correspond with the accountbook printed by Gutch from Twyne, cf. note 25. This error is repeated by J. H. Harvey in Journal of B.A.A. cited in notes 7 and 31.
  • 37. Bodleian MS. Top. Oxon. c. 22, f. 113.
  • 38. Bodleian MS. Top. Oxon. c. 22, f. 52. 'To Shirley and iij with him iv days upon Mr. Dean's backside covering the Jaks.'
  • 39. Wood, City of Oxford, ed. Clark, i, 156.
  • 40. Bodleian MS. Top. Oxon. c. 22, f. 25.
  • 41. Ibid., f. 26.
  • 42. Ibid., f. 39.
  • 43. H. L. Thompson, Christ Church, p. 19.
  • 44. W. G. Hiscock, A Christ Church Miscellany, p. 200.
  • 45. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 3.
  • 46. W. D. Caroe, Wren and Tom Tower, p. 4.
  • 47. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 6.
  • 48. Chapter Minute Book, 22 Dec. 1626. These buildings can be seen in Loggan's print.
  • 49. Sir John Peshall, Antient and Present State of Oxford (1773), p. 126.
  • 50. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 208.
  • 51. Many benefactors are cited in Wood's Colleges (ed. Gutch), pp. 447–8.
  • 52. The chapter to Archbp. Sheldon Bodleian MS. Tanner 147, f. 71. Fell's draft is in Rawlinson D. 398, f. 134.
  • 53. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 201.
  • 54. The first statue of Mercury was given by Radcliffe in 1695. It was destroyed by the 14th E. of Derby in 1817. The present statue was presented in 1928.
  • 55. Wood, op. cit., p. 448.
  • 56. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 202.
  • 57. Arkell, Oxford Stone, pp. 68–9.
  • 58. For details see Caroe, op. cit., passim, and Hiscock, op. cit., Appx. D. 'Tom Tower Accounts'.
  • 59. Hiscock, op. cit., passim for exhaustive discussion of the careers of Aldrich and Townesend and of the building of the Library.
  • 60. H.M.C. Portland Papers, vol. vii, pp. 13, 15, 91.
  • 61. Ibid., p. 217, Stratford to Harley, 20 Sept. 1716.
  • 62. Hiscock, op. cit., pp. 68–9.
  • 63. Arkell, op. cit., pp. 81–2.
  • 64. Ingram, Memorials of Oxford, p. 64.
  • 65. W. Crotch, Six Etchings … of the ruins of the late fire at Christ Church, 1809.
  • 66. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 74.
  • 67. Ingram, op. cit., p. 57 n.
  • 68. Arkell, op. cit., pp. 126, 163.
  • 69. Ibid., 103.
  • 70. Hiscock, op. cit., p. 210.
  • 71. Arkell, op. cit., pp. 83, 101.
  • 72. Schools Inquiry Com. Rep., H.C. p. 246 (1867–8), xxviii (10).
  • 73. Hiscock, op. cit., pp. 217–18.
  • 74. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 43, p. 67.
  • 75. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. iv, Part II, §§ 4452, 4483, and 4603.
  • 76. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 35, pp. 72–9.
  • 77. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 35, pp. 80–93.
  • 78. P.R.O., E 36/103. These statutes are most easily accessible in Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford (Printed by the Commissioners in 1853), vol. ii, Section 11.
  • 79. P.R.O., Wolsey's Patents 23/2. The eighteen names, as transcribed by Hutten, can be found in Plummer's Elizabethan Oxford (O.H.S. viii), pp. 58–9.
  • 80. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. iv, Pt. III, § 6076, p. 2715 (MS. penes Jesus Coll. Oxford).
  • 81. Ibid., § 6076, p. 2716.
  • 82. Ibid., § 6377, pp. 2864–5.
  • 83. Ibid., § § 6574–8, pp. 2961, 2.
  • 84. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 57, pp. 300–1.
  • 85. P.R.O., E. 36/104.
  • 86. Rymer, Foedera (original ed.), XIV, p. 409.
  • 87. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. v, § 173, p. 86.
  • 88. B.M. Faustina C. vii. 99.
  • 89. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, § 68, p. 93.
  • 90. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, fol. (M) 6.
  • 91. They are printed in Plummer, op. cit., p. 60.
  • 92. P.R.O., S.P. 1 Henry VIII, fol. (M) 7.
  • 93. Croke to Cromwell, 'Mr. Dean has lain speechless this 20 hours and purges insensibiliter both ways'. P.R.O., ibid., Fol. (M) 8.
  • 94. cf. ante, p. 229.
  • 95. Le Neve wrongly states (ii, p. 511, n. 72) that Higdon died 13 Jan. 1532/3.
  • 96. P.R.O., Deeds of Surrender, p. 191.
  • 97. Printed in Oxford Statutes (cf. note 77), pp. 185–210.
  • 98. Rymer, Foedera, XIV, p. 754.
  • 99. P.R.O., Deeds of Surrender, p. 187.
  • 100. Both sets of letters patents are preserved in the Treasury at Christ Church.
  • 101. H. L. Thompson, Christ Church, p. 35.
  • 102. Some accounts for this visit are preserved in Bodley., MS. Top. Oxon. e. 9.
  • 103. Gutch, Collectanea Curiosa, i, p. 227.
  • 104. It was bequeathed to 'King's College in Oxford' and claimed unsuccessfully by Oriel and B.N.C.
  • 105. Gutch, op. cit., i, p. 196.
  • 106. Terms chosen casually from old battel books preserved in Muniment Room in Meadow Buildings.
  • 107. Thompson, op. cit., p. 214.
  • 108. Ex inf. Steward's Office, Christ Church.
  • 109. A vivid picture of life in Dean Aldrich's day may be obtained from the letters of Canon Stratford, Hist. MS. Comm., Portland MSS. VII.
  • 110. Bodley, MS. Wood, F. 28 contains a diverting treatise by Canon Thomas Thornton on this vexed question, written c, 1596.
  • 111. Lord Ilchester, Lady Holland to her son, p. 4.
  • 112. Portland, Grenville, Liverpool, Canning, Peel, Derby, Gladstone, Salisbury, Rosebery. Wellington was on the books after he became Chancellor.
  • 113. Gutch, op. cit., i, p. 190.
  • 114. Audit book for 1721, in Christ Church Treasury. Selected at random.
  • 115. 'Treasurer's Minutes' 1764. A single volume which looks as if it may have been made to acquaint a newcomer with procedure. Christ Church Treasury.
  • 116. Audit books in Christ Church Treasury.
  • 117. 'Account of Stock in Publick Funds' in Christ Church Treasury.
  • 118. Report of Commission on College Revenues (C. 856 of 1874).
  • 119. For a good account of Christ Church dramatics in all centuries, cf. Hiscock, op. cit., pp. 165–97.
  • 120. For a full description see Birch, Cat. of Seals in the B.M., vol. ii, no. 5280, though this seal is misdated 1547 there.
  • 121. Ibid., no. 5281.
  • 122. Ibid., vol. i, nos. 2138–9.
  • 123. For a full catalogue see Mrs. R. Lane Poole, Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, iii. 1–116 (O.H.S. vol. lxxxii, 1926).
  • 124. For a full catalogue see T. Borenius, Pictures by the Old Masters in the Library of Christ Church, Oxford (O.U.P. 1916).
  • 125. For a full catalogue see C. F. Bell, Drawings by Old Masters in the Library of Christ Church, Oxford (O.U.P. 1914).
  • 126. For much information on the Library see W. G. Hiscock, A Christ Church Miscellany, passim.
  • 127. See G. W. Kitchin, Catalogus Codicum MSS qui in Bibliotheca Aedis XH apud Oxonienses servantur (O.U.P. 1867).
  • 128. E. Alfred Jones, Catalogue of the Plate of Christ Church, Oxford (O.U.P. 1939).