St John's 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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'St John's College', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, ed. H E Salter, Mary D Lobel( London, 1954), British History Online [accessed 24 July 2024].

'St John's College', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford. Edited by H E Salter, Mary D Lobel( London, 1954), British History Online, accessed July 24, 2024,

"St John's College". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford. Ed. H E Salter, Mary D Lobel(London, 1954), , British History Online. Web. 24 July 2024.

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St. John's College was founded in 1557 by Sir Thomas White, a leading member of the Merchant Taylors' Company, who had been Lord Mayor for the year ending Nov. 1554. In the summer of 1554, when he bought the manor of Fyfield, Berks., and other property, he must have had a college in view, but it was only in Dec. 1554 that he obtained from Christ Church, practically as a gift, the site and buildings of St. Bernard's College, on condition that within three years he would found a college there. Possession could not be given him until Ladyday 1555. (fn. 1) A trace of this transaction remains in the statutes, where it is laid down (fn. 2) that if among the fellows or exfellows of the college there is no candidate suitable for the post of President, choice shall be made of one of the canons of Christ Church. The buildings were comparatively new, and if the quadrangles of New College and Corpus Christi were adequate for colleges of 70 and 40 respectively, the quadrangle of St. Bernard's would accommodate 50, which was the number at which the founder aimed. There is a deed of May 1555 by which the founder transferred the site to Alexander Belsyre and three others, (fn. 3) but they were only feoffees, and the buildings were occupied by workmen until 1557. The chapel, hall, and rooms had to be furnished, and the east side of the quadrangle was still unfinished when St. Bernard's came to an end.

There is a well-known story that the founder was guided to St. Bernard's by a dream in which he saw a building and near it two elm-trees springing from one stem, and for generations a tree of this kind was identified as the Founder's Tree. Contemporary evidence proves that there is some truth in the story. Campion, in his funeral oration (fn. 4) of 1567, says that the founder had spoken to him of a dream in which he saw some ancient buildings with a row of elm-trees at the side, and that the buildings of St. Bernard's seemed to him like what he had seen in his dream, but it was not one particular tree which was the feature but a row of trees. At that time there was such a row where now are Cook's Buildings.

The object of the foundation was to 'strengthen the orthodox faith, in so far as it is weakened by the damage of time and the malice of men' and especially 'to help theology, much afflicted of late, as we see with sorrow and grief'. (fn. 5) The college was to provide educated clergy who could hold their own in argument with Lutherans and Calvinists.

The founder went to Corpus Christi College for his statutes and borrowed them almost verbatim, but unlike that college he did not divide his scholars into two classes discipuli and socii; they were to be all of one class, as at New College. A lad on his election was a fellow at once, although he had no voice in college matters for the first two years; and he might remain a fellow for the whole of his life if he took priest's orders within somewhat less than five years after taking the M.A. degree. Of course, he lost his fellowship by marrying or by inheriting wealth of £10 a year. This definition of wealth also applied to the holding of livings, but in the case of Doctors of Divinity it was raised to £15, (fn. 6) and as the value of a living was according to the low valuation of the King's Book of 1536, it was often possible to hold a living without forfeiting the fellowship. A man had difficulties about residing in his parish, for the statutes ordained that under normal conditions no fellow should be absent from Oxford for more than 60 days in the year. But the statutes allowed that ex causis promotionis a fellow might have 60 days more and that 'for a most urgent cause' this might be doubled; (fn. 7) and there was a provision that for every sermon preached a man might claim tempus absentie; (fn. 8) in the case of important sermons a man was allowed 10 days, but in ordinary cases the allowance was 8 days for each sermon. In this way a beneficed fellow could be absent for the whole year and yet retain the emoluments of his fellowship, if the benefice was less than £10 in the King's Book. Of the 50 fellows, 12 were to study law; but they lost their fellowships if at the end of 12 years they were not in priest's orders; actually few or none of these legists took orders. As an inducement to early ordination there was an additional payment of 2 marks a year to those who were in priest's orders; (fn. 9) all fellows in holy orders were to preach from time to time in the college manors, their expenses being paid by the college. In the earliest set of statutes, made in 1562, 12 places in the college were reserved for lads from 'the school at London', which must mean Christ's Hospital, and one from the school of Tonbridge, but the rest were to be filled by the college from other sources; the founder suggests from Coventry School, or from Winchester College, or from the choristers of the college, but above all from colleges and halls in Oxford, provided that the candidates had been at Oxford for the greater part of a year. (fn. 10) But an important change was made in the statutes of 1566. By that time the Merchant Taylors' School, founded in 1561, with the help and encouragement of Sir Thomas White, had proved a success, and the founder reserved to it 37 places. On St. Barnabas day the President with two fellows was to be present in London, and with the Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company elect from the school to fill what vacancies there were; generally there were about three vacancies, but in one year there was none. To Bristol and Coventry, towns in which White was interested, two places each were reserved; two to Reading, where the founder was born; and one to Tonbridge School, which was created by Andrew Judd, the founder's friend. Six places were for those who were of the founder's kin, by which was meant those who could trace descent from either of the founder's grandfathers. Two other small changes were made in 1566; the period of probation for a fellow was extended from two years to three, and the Visitors of the college were to be William Roper and William Cordell, Master of the Rolls, the founder's friends. When they died, the Visitor would be the Bishop of Winchester, as at Corpus.

The college, which was under the patronage of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of tailors, began at Michaelmas 1557 with 20 members. Alexander Belsyre, canon of Christ Church, was President; five of the others were already M.A.; two were B.A.; others were near that degree, and seven were freshmen. They were, of course, all chosen by the founder and, as long as he lived, the college had no share in electing its members or even its officers. The funds of the college for its first fifteen years were so deficient that they could not maintain more than half the intended number, and it was not until 1583 that the college was filled. Besides the fellows, there were commoners; by the statutes they were limited to 16 in number, (fn. 11) and the founder in a letter of the autumn of 1566 ordered that there should be no more than 12; but, eighteen months after the death of the Founder, at Michaelmas 1568, when the bursars' accounts begin, they were more than 40; and although there was not room for so many when the college was able to maintain more fellows, they were rarely less than 25. In the early years of the college a majority of the commoners did not take any degree and some were never matriculated. They were not really members of the college, but lodgers who were allowed to rent a room (or part of a room) within the college, to be near their tutors. What instruction they received and what they paid for it was their own concern; the college was not responsible for their instruction or their behaviour, but disorderly lodgers could no doubt be expelled and attendance at chapel was required of them. It must be remembered that the allowance to scholars and also to graduates according to the college statutes was so meagre that additional income was required. Even the Masters received only £2 13. 4d. a year in cash and the bursars accounts show that few could keep their battels (i.e. the food they bought beyond their commons) below £2 a year. Some of the seniors received additional pay from holding college offices, but probably many bachelors and masters would have been unable to live but for acting as tutors. Commoners were allowed to have dinner and supper in hall, but at their own cost; it was a matter of arrangement between the commoners and the manciple. In hall there was a commoners' table, but some favoured commoners were allowed to sit at the bachelors' table, or the masters' table, or even at the high table as a mark of honour, but wherever they sat they had the commons of commoners. There is no register of the admission of commoners; but in those years for which the bursars' accounts survive we have their names; for, like those on the foundation, they were allowed to buy additional food from the buttery, which was practically a shop kept by the college, and the bursars' rolls mention every man's battels each quarter. Many commoners remained only for a term or two, others for several years. We also hear from time to time in the college register of poor scholars or servitors, of whom there were 20 in 1612 and 8 in 1667. (fn. 12) They are not mentioned in the college statutes, nor do they appear in the bursars' accounts; they received from the college no rooms, no commons, no pay, nor did they have battels; though undergraduates they were private servants maintained by some of the members of the college. The buildings were very crowded, and many of the rooms contained three or four persons. It is probable that portions of the room were boarded off, about 9 ft. square or less, to form studies. Those under 16 years of age slept two in a bed. (fn. 13) In the years 1570 to 1573 the top story was added on two sides of the quadrangle to provide more space.

The college has always been famed for its garden, and it is the founder who acquired it. The southern half of it was originally part of the grounds of Durham College, but when Durham College and Bernard College were in the hands of the king, he assigned half the garden to Bernard College, and about 1558 the wall was built which stands between Trinity College and St. John's. Before the founder died (Feb. 1567), he had obtained four acre strips in the open fields, lying immediately to the north of the original wall of Durham College; these were enclosed with a wall about 1606 and became the bachelors' garden, on the north side of the masters' garden. Letters written by the founder, shortly before his death, show that he had foreseen the necessity of acquiring the tenements adjacent to the college on either side, and also the strips in the open field which are now part of the President's garden.

The endowment provided by the founder was the whole of Fyfield and small manors in Long Wittenham, Warborough, Shillingford, Frilford, and Garford, a rent of £40 from the town of Coventry, land in Northmoor and Cumnor, and tithes worth £60; the whole amounted to £280 a year, but £50 was leasehold tithes, and would lapse in time. In 1560 he bought the site and buildings of the White Friars for £63, and in the same year the site and buildings of Gloucester College, the price being probably about £100, as it was let for £7 a year. The founder stipulated (fn. 14) that his brother and his heirs male should hold Fyfield at a fixed rent of £38, and it was only in 1728 that the college, by the death of Francis White, obtained control of Fyfield, its value at that time being reckoned at £240 a year. (fn. 15)

An important part of the endowment, though it produced no rent, was a portion of Bagley Wood, which the founder wisely purchased in 1557 for £270. Two other portions were acquired in 1584 and 1619, and in consequence St. John's, more than any college, had close at hand a good supply of wood blocks, faggots, and charcoal. (fn. 16)

The first years of the college were disturbed and there were four presidents in five years. Belsyre was dismissed by the founder in 1559 for dishonesty; (fn. 17) his successor, William Eley, would not accept the settlement of religion in 1560 and resigned. William Stock, who was appointed by the President to be his successor, resigned or was deprived in 1564, and, from what we know of his later years, the second word is the more likely. He then became Principal of Gloucester Hall for a time and held two livings, if not more; yet he could not, or would not, pay his debts to the college, until the college gave him an additional living. That Stock was an unsatisfactory President is suggested by the fact that a lay friend of the founder, named Yaxley, was in charge of the college in 1563. (fn. 18) Finally in 1564 the founder nominated John Robinson of Cambridge to be President, and in 1566 in his last illness decreed that John James, one of the original fellows of the college, who had ceased to be a fellow in 1563 when he was made sub-dean of Salisbury, should be perpetual Vice-President, (fn. 19) no matter what his wealth might be, with permission to be non-resident; no doubt he hoped that a man of his legal experience would be able to guide the college through the difficulties which threatened.

The founder died in London on 12 Feb. 1567 and was buried in the college chapel on 24 Feb., according to the provisions of his will. A trustworthy account (fn. 20) of the funeral speaks of its magnificence; all the heads of the University were present; banners were carried in the procession; after the funeral there was a feast for all the company, followed by the delivery of a Latin speech by Campion (fn. 21) in praise of the founder. Sixteen of his letters survive for the years 1560 to 1567, which show his desire for hard study, for reverence in worship, and for unity among the fellows.

The college was in financial difficulties as soon as the founder died. He had himself paid from time to time any deficits in the college accounts, but it is evident that between 1557 and 1567 the profits of his business had been less than formerly, and the endowment he had planned was far from being reached. By the law of London his widow could claim half his personal property, and as he had failed to secure real estate to the value of 400 marks a year for his wife's jointure as he had promised, he had incurred a penalty of £4,000. If the widow had claimed this sum, there would have been nothing for the college, except after her death that portion of the jointure which he had completed, viz. house property in London worth 200 marks a year. This by the founder's will was to become the property of the college. After long delay 'the Foundress', as she was called, promised in 1570 that she would not exact the penalty, but the founder's estate was to furnish £3,000 to complete her jointure, and on her death the whole would be added to the endowment of the college. She died in 1572, but it was only in 1574 that the college (its numbers reduced to 20) was able to begin the annual election from Merchant Taylors' School. It was some years before the college received the full amount of the jointure of the foundress, and in 1575 Sir William Cordell, as Visitor, advised that the choir, consisting of four clerks and six choristers, should be discontinued, partly to secure more room in the college, but mainly to save expense.

In 1572, when John Robinson resigned on being appointed canon (subsequently Precentor) of Lincoln Cathedral, and there was no fellow or ex-fellow suitable for election, a canon of Christ Church, Toby Mathew, was chosen. He resigned in 1577 when he became Dean of Christ Church, and in the previous five years he must often have been absent from Oxford, as he was much in request for sermons.

In the course of 1572 and 1573 eight fellows or ex-fellows of the college migrated to Douai. These were John Bavant and Gregory Martin, who had left the college in 1564 and 1568 respectively through preferment; William Wiggs, who had ceased to be fellow at Michaelmas 1571, probably for the same reason; Humfry Eley, Thomas Bramston, and Edmund Campion, who were all in receipt of their fellowships at Michaelmas 1572, (fn. 22) and perhaps later; while Henry Shaw and Henry Holland, who were present at a college meeting on 30 June 1573, were at Douai within a month or two. Of these eight, the youngest had joined the college in 1563 and all were of the degree of M.A. except Eley and Bramston. A man did not lose his fellowship by going to Douai or being a Romanist, but by breaking the college statutes, one of them being that a fellow might not be absent from Oxford for more than 60 days in the year without leave. This remarkable migration was not due to anything that had happened in the college; for three of them were already ex-fellows, while Campion, Eley, and Bramston had been absent from the college for two years, but with leave. John Robinson who was President until 1572 was far from a Romaniser, and the perpetual VicePresident was a canon of Salisbury, and so far as we know adverse to the old religion. All the eight had been in the college at the same time in 1564 and it is probable that Gregory Martin and Campion were the first to reach Douai, and persuaded the others to join them. It may be added that Campion was holding a travelling fellowship which would not end until Michaelmas 1575. Of course, for a time the men of St. John's were viewed with suspicion. When Jonas Meredith supplicated for the degree of M.A. in Oct. 1573 he was refused because his religion was suspect; (fn. 23) and when, in the course of the next year, he was expelled from the college for a breach of the statutes, he joined the Church of Rome, became a priest, and was subsequently imprisoned at Wisbech. Likewise Arthur Torless, a fellow of founder's kin, who applied for the degree of M.A. at the same time, was rejected on three grounds, religionis suspicio, morum improbitas, et literarum ignoratio. (fn. 24) In March 1574 when a commoner, Thomas Powle, wished to determine as a bachelor, he was required to state that he accepted the articles of religion of the Church of England. (fn. 25) After this the University was content with the religion of the college, and from 1574 no fellow joined the Church of Rome for many years. But the idea arose among later historians, such as Fuller and Wood, that it was a college of Recusants, and therefore they attributed to religious motives the withdrawal of Belsyre, Stock, and Case, being unaware of the true reasons. In religious matters the college was like any other college; the bursars' accounts show that the services in the chapel were far from elaborate, the Communions were infrequent, and the banners and vestments given by the founder and still owned by the college are described in the college register as 'superstitious stuff'. When a visitation of the college was held in 1574, (fn. 26) the Visitors found much cause for blame, but not in religious matters.

One result of this visitation was that the college lost its most able member, John Case, who was admitted in 1564 and was M.A. in 1572. There was some scandal between him and a widow named Dobson, and he married her in 1574 and set up as a private tutor at no. 2 Magdalen St.; he was made a canon of Salisbury in 1589, but continued to reside in Oxford. He was M.D. in 1590. His pupils were either boys preparing for the University or undergraduates reading for the B.A. degree; and Case's house was recognized by the University as on a level with the halls. He wrote important works on Aristotelian philosophy and was an authority in medicine and music. He died in 1600, aged 54, and was the ablest scholar in Oxford during the reign of Elizabeth.

By the death of the foundress in 1572 the college became possessed of freehold houses in London worth 200 marks a year; and if the college had retained them it would now be very rich, but the founder had directed that they should be sold and the money invested in land near Oxford. By 1590 the process had been completed, the houses having been sold for £3,600, and with this and the other £3,000 the college had acquired the manor and advowson of Charlbury, the great tithes and the advowson of Kirtlington, a manor in Draycot and Southmoor, and in particular the manor of Walton with the advowson of St. Giles's and its great tithes. This was bought in 1573 from Richard Owen of Godstow for £1,563; of course, it did not mean the freehold of all the land in the manor, but the college acquired perhaps 500 acres and several houses on both sides of St. Giles's including Black Hall. Nor did it mean the whole of the great tithes of the parish; for nearly half the land had not paid tithe to St. Giles's church but to Oseney or St. Frideswide's. From the first this was a profitable investment.

When Toby Mathew was made Dean of Christ Church he resigned the post of President, and in May 1577 Francis Willis, an ex-fellow and married, was elected with the approval and at the instigation of the Visitor. He was a good accountant, though not a great scholar. Unlike his predecessors, he refused to incur debts, and on one occasion at the risk of unpopularity he reduced the commons rather than have a deficit in the annual accounts. The numbers in the college increased, until at July 1583 the full total was reached of a President and 50 fellows. All salaries were now paid at the full rate contemplated by the statutes, and in a short time new lecturers were added. The rise in the price of agricultural produce which occurred during the reign of Elizabeth, while it increased the price of food, brought a benefit to landed proprietors in an increase of rents, or at least an increase of fines when leases were renewed, and this was far more than a compensation. The steady improvement in the position of the college was due partly to Willis but still more to the Visitor, Sir William Cordell, Master of the Rolls. A collection of the letters (fn. 27) that he wrote to the college between 1567 and his death in 1582 shows that there has never been a Visitor of any college that showed such diligence, care, and patience. He wrote to Willis every two or three weeks, strengthened him against his opponents in the college, advised him in financial matters, spurred him when he was indolent, and placated him when his feelings were hurt. He deserves to be placed with Laud and Paddy as one of the great benefactors of the college. In 1587 Willis, who had been searching for promotion for some time, was made Dean of Worcester, but remained President until 1590.

His successor, Ralph Hutchinson, elected June 1590, was not eminent, but as he was selected in 1604 to be one of the translators of the New Testament, he must have been a good scholar. The college was still so young that the choice of candidates was limited and Hutchinson, who was only 38, was the oldest fellow or ex-fellow. Having been Medical Fellow, it had not been necessary for him to take Holy Orders, but in the spring of 1586 he resigned his fellowship, married the daughter of Mrs. Willis by her first husband, and was ordained. The college was becoming rich in good scholars from a succession of the best boys in Merchant Taylors' School, but they were all youthful. In the volumes, consisting of Latin poems, which were issued by the University in 1587, 1592, and 1593, St. John's College contributed more than its due share for so young a college. (fn. 28)

Hutchinson died in 1606 and for the next 40 years the college was ruled by men of prominence, John Buckeridge (1606–11), William Laud (1611–21), William Juxon (1621–33), Richard Baylie (1633–48 and 1660–7); and no college has played a more important part in national affairs for so long a time. At the beginning of the century among the commoners was Sir William Paddy (1554–1634), physician to the king, and Griffin Higgs (1589–1659), who by Laud's advice was made chaplain to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, and afterwards was Dean of Lichfield; among the fellows was Mathew Gwyn (until 1605), famed as a playwright; Michael Boyle (until 1614), who became Bishop of Waterford; Christopher Wren, who was made Dean of Windsor in 1635, the father of Sir Christopher Wren. In the same year Richard Baylie was made Dean of Salisbury. In the period 1635–41 five of the college were holding the sees of Canterbury and London and the deaneries of Windsor, Salisbury, and Lichfield; and in addition Laud was Chancellor of the University and a leading figure in the Privy Council, while Juxon was Lord High Treasurer. In Church and State the college was preeminent.

John Buckeridge, who was elected President in 1606, had come to the college in 1578 as of founder's kin. The fellows of founder's kin were for the most part of less ability than the other fellows, as might be expected, but Buckeridge was an exception. Two centuries later the able family of Austen, to which Jane Austen belonged, supplied fellows of founder's kin. Buckeridge was Canon of Windsor (1606–11), Canon of Hereford (1604–11), and held other preferment, so that in 1600 he had been obliged under the statutes to resign his fellowship. He was Bishop of Rochester in 1611, and subsequently became Bishop of Ely.

He was succeeded by William Laud. When one of the Reading fellowships became vacant in Nov. 1589, and information had been sent, as was customary, to the Mayor of Reading, he nominated William Laud, son of William Laud, clothier, who was churchwarden of the church of St. Laurence at Reading in 1587. Young Laud was already in residence at St. John's as a commoner, having been matriculated 17 Oct. 1589 aged 16. He was admitted as a fellow 30 June 1590, and resigned his fellowship 10 Oct. 1610, no doubt in consequence of promotion, and received, as was then the custom, a gratuity of £10. Subsequently, when he became President, he persuaded the college to discontinue this custom, and refunded the £10 he had received. He was elected President (fn. 29) in May 1611 and held the office until he was promoted to the bishopric of St. David's in 1621. In 1663, eighteen years after his execution, Laud's body was interred in the chapel between those of Archbishop Juxon and the founder. Apart from a coffin-plate (now fixed to the wall behind the sedilia) there is no monument to his memory, but the college possesses a notable collection of Laudian relics.

In the period of William Juxon (1621–33) the Canterbury Buildings were begun at the expense of Laud. They were completed in 1636 and inaugurated on 30 Aug., the king and queen and others of the royal party being entertained in the college with a feast and a play. (fn. 30) In the year 1635 the college received a liberal endowment by the will of Sir William Paddy. Having been a commoner from Michaelmas (fn. 31) 1570 onwards, and afterwards a great London physician, he ended his life in the college, where he had a room from about 1606. He died in 1635 and left £3,200 to be invested to maintain a choir such as was directed by the statutes, the abolition of which in 1575 had been felt by many (fn. 32) as a slur upon the college. To the sum left by Paddy £500 was added, a legacy of Bishop Buckeridge, and the whole was laid out in the purchase of the township of Wood Bevington in Warwickshire.

During the period 1611–40 the college acquired many livings, for the most part by the efforts of Laud. When the founder died, it possessed only three, Northmoor, Kingston Bagpuize, and Fyfield; but when the London property was sold and reinvested, the vicarages of St. Giles in Oxford, Kirtlington, and Charlbury were obtained in the years 1573, 1578, and 1590. Crick rectory was given in 1613 by Sir William Craven, a Merchant Taylor, who was a good friend to the college. St. Sepulchre's, Holborn, was given in 1632; and in 1635 William Parker, a Merchant Taylor, gave Bloxwich in Staffordshire. In the same year the patron of Bardwell rectory with Laud's assistance conveyed the church to the college. William Sandys, out of respect for Archbishop Laud, gave the rectory of South Warnborough in 1636 and Handborough in 1638. Great Staughton vicarage was given to Laud in 1637 together with the manor, the reversion being to the college. Cheam rectory was acquired on easy terms (i.e. £380) in 1638 by the efforts of Laud; and Codford St. Mary in 1639 and St. Laurence, Reading, in 1640 both by the persuasion of Laud. Other livings acquired subsequently were Chalfont St. Peter in 1661, Farndon in 1676, Barfreston in 1678, and Bainton in 1703. In 1706 Dr. Woodroffe bequeathed the advowson of Winterslow and also the manor, the rents of which were to be spent on advowsons; from this source the college bought Winterbourne (Gloucestershire) in 1733. In 1716 Dr. William Brewster left the college £2,000 for the purchase of advowsons, and in 1725, when the money had accumulated, the trustees appointed in the will bought the advowsons of Tackley (for £750), Leckford (for £590), and Aston le Walls (for £1,169). The trustees explain that at the request of the college they had spent the money 'on advowsons of considerable value that the ingenuous men of your body may be the sooner induced to quit your society'. (fn. 33) In 1733 Belbroughton was acquired by a legacy of £1,000 from Dr. Gibbon and a gift of £300 from his wife. Sutton (Beds.) was purchased (£1,500) in 1743, Linton (£4,000) in 1827, Cranham (£4,500) in 1830, Polstead (£5,500) in 1847, and in 1860 the college granted to the Bishop of Oxford the advowson of St. Laurence, Reading, in exchange for the rectory of Lower Hardres in Kent. (fn. 34)

On the outbreak of the Civil War St. John's was among the most loyal of the colleges, and in July 1642 it lent the king £800 of which £300 was borrowed on the security of the college plate; six months later when the king had made Oxford his headquarters and asked the colleges to lend him their plate, St. John's sent all they had, computed to be worth about £800, but the mint returned £300 in coin to enable the college to repay their loan. (fn. 35) We know little about the college during the next three years. It was a time of great poverty as Parliament had forbidden college tenants to pay their rents; and we read that in Dec. 1645 when at the audit it was shown that there was a large deficit, Mr. Dutton of Sherborne (Gloucestershire) lent, and finally gave, the college £40 'to prevent the threatened dissolution of the college'. In return he was granted the use of two rooms 'in the New Quadrangle', (fn. 36) but this he can have enjoyed for only a few months. Under the date of 22 Dec. 1655 the register records that the debt to Cave the brewer which in June 1646 was £103 9s. was now finally cleared; no doubt there were similar debts to the baker and the butcher when the siege came to an end. We may gather that by 1655 the college was once more solvent.

In 1648 the Parliamentary Commissioners removed Dr. Baylie, the President, and several of the fellows, but Baylie and some of the others returned in Aug. 1660. A note drawn up by Dr. Baylie on 20 May 1664 shows that when the intruders withdrew they left the college with debts amounting to £1,022 12s., among them being £158 to the baker, £351 to the brewers, £206 to the butcher, £169 neglected repairs of the college buildings, and £90 the caution money of 'commoners and gentlemen', which had been carried away; 'by thrift and care' the college had reduced the debt, and at the audit of 1663 only £291 remained. This sum was paid by the decision of the college from Laud's legacy of £500 which reached the college in 1663. (fn. 37)

Dr, Baylie died in 1667. Peter Mews, elected President at the special request of the king, resigned on 3 Oct. 1673, when he was appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells, and seven days later William Levinz was elected. He was succeeded by William Delaune, elected 12 March 1698.

After the Restoration, study and discipline were lax, and for thirty years the register narrates, almost annually, the confessions of scholars and fellows that they have broken the statutes and will submit to expulsion if it occurs again. They confess such things as 'insolencies more notorious than that a name can be found for them', 'striking and beating' a bachelor, being drunk and breaking open the door of the bursary, 'blows and opprobrious words', 'affronting the Dean', 'profane cursing and swearing', 'falling into the fault of pernoctation and absence from all prayers for a week', 'debauchery and grievous crimes', and so forth; three offenders submit 'to the very favourable punishment of sitting at the Oyster table for a week and confinement to the college for a fortnight'. (fn. 38) After 1690 we have no more entries of this kind.

In the course of the 17th century rents rose and the college income increased. By the college statutes some of this increase might be spent on augmenting the commons (i.e. the dinner and supper), but salaries and the personal allowances remained at the figures fixed by the founder. They might not be advanced by decisions of the college, but only if new endowments were given. Luckily these were forthcoming. In 1639 George Benson, a Merchant Taylor, gave £1,000 to purchase lands, the proceeds to be divided among the 40 junior fellows, excluding the 10 seniors, who held salaried posts. (fn. 39) In 1668 Sir Tobias Rustat gave £1,000 to purchase lands, that £50 yearly might be distributed to 13 of the fellows or scholars who are most indigent. (fn. 40) In 1663 Juxon left to the college £7,000, to produce at least £300 a year which was to be distributed equally to all resident fellows. (fn. 41) In 1710 a rent charge of £20 a year was left by Mrs. Barker of Sonning, to be paid yearly to 4 fellows or scholars of not more than six years' standing. By these allowances the scholars and young fellows had pocket-money, wherewith to buy books and clothes and to pay for battels, which at this time were an absolutely necessary addition to commons.

St. John's, like other colleges, found a difficulty in accommodating unalterable foundation statutes to the altered circumstances of the 17th century. As has been explained, the statutes demanded that fellows who did not reside in Oxford for ten, or at least eight months in the year should lose their fellowships, and those who were schoolmasters, chaplains to noblemen, or curates, looked for some loophole in the statutes by which they might retain their fellowships, though they were absent from Oxford. In the years which followed the Restoration this was found at first in the statute which allowed a fellow to be absent for six months if he was in the service of a bishop or a high official of state. In some years the register records six or more letters from bishops, asking for six months' absence for some fellow, as they understand 'on credible evidence' that this is granted on receipt of a bishop's letter. It is evident that the men were not such as the statute contemplated, i.e. they were not in the service of the bishop. Towards the end of the century these letters become few, and it seems that the college decided to observe the statutes more strictly. Another device was to make use of the statute which allowed a fellow to travel abroad for five years, receiving the emoluments of his fellowship, on condition that when he returned he would give lectures in college on the subjects he had studied while abroad. No one made so much use of this statute as Dr. Sherard, who had leave to travel for five years on 11 Dec. 1685; the Visitor having decided that the statutes did not forbid the granting of a second five years, he was permitted to remain abroad on condition 'that he begin his journey home by August 1695'. (fn. 42) But on 2 Dec. 1697 he is granted another five years, and later the Bishop of Lichfield asks that he may have six months 'by a bishop's letter'. Finally in April 1703 the college declares that his fellowship is void. Dr. Sherard was studying botany in particular and resided much at Smyrna. In Dec. 1699 Mr. Conyers had a 'travelling cause of absence'; in Oct. 1700 Mr. Torriano; in Jan. 1701 Dr. Blechynden; in Dec. 1701 Mr. Charles Perrot; in Dec. 1702 Mr. Lombard. Thus there were six at one time who were absent from the college but retained their fellowships under the statute which allowed five years' travel. It may be added that the statute had laid down that not more than two fellows should enjoy this privilege at once. The college at this time was choked with fellows in Holy Orders who would not vacate their fellowships by matrimony, and were waiting for a wealthy living. It was the same in other colleges, but at New College and St. John's it was specially harmful because it blocked the admission of scholars; in these colleges no scholar could be elected unless a fellowship was vacated. We gather from the registers that under William Delaune, elected 12 Mar. 1698, the statutes were enforced more strictly, and the registers begin to make frequent mention of fellowships declared vacant because of absence.

It was in 1713 that the college sold Gloucester Hall that it might become the site of Worcester College. Sir Thomas Cookes, who had thought to turn the hall into a college, nominated trustees in his will to complete his purpose; but they had doubts if they could proceed with the plan so long as St. John's College had property in the hall. Wherefore on 5 Feb., at a special College Meeting, attended by 9 Doctors, 10 M.A.s, 5 B.A.s, and 3 undergraduates who had completed the three years of probation, it was agreed unanimously that the college was willing, with the Visitor's permission, to alienate the hall that it might become a college. (fn. 43) On 19 June the college decided 'that Counsell should be advised before they proceeded to their valuation' of Gloucester Hall, and on 3 July Mr. Wright, the Recorder, gave his opinion that although the fee simple belonged to the college, yet that the hall had so long been used as a place of learning that the college was only 'seized of it in trust' for the successive principals and students of the Hall, and that it could not be converted to any other use, nor could the rent be raised. The same opinion was given by the Attorney-General ten years later when Exeter College wished to raise the rent of Hart Hall, and it had been the verdict in the Court of Common Pleas in 1694 when Magdalen College desired to obtain possession of Magdalen Hall. As the rent of Gloucester Hall was £7, the college decided to sell it for £200 and a quit-rent of 20s., with the approval of the Visitor and the permission of the Crown.

William Holmes was elected President in June 1728 and although he became Dean of Exeter in 1742 he remained President until his death 4 Apr. 1748. He left to the college, after certain life interests, £200 a year and two farms, (fn. 44) ordaining that when the money had accumulated to £2,000, it should 'be employed in a convenient building for the Fellows'; in 1794 the plans were passed for the erection of the Holmes Buildings containing rooms for four fellows. William Derham, elected 14 April 1748, died 17 July 1757. He has enriched all the college registers with annotations which are legible, accurate, and useful. William Walker, elected July 1757, resigned in November on the ground of ill health. Thomas Fry succeeded (1757–72), followed by Samuel Dennis (1772–95). In his time more rooms were added to the college on the north side. In 1742 the college had bought from Exeter College a large tenement in St. Giles's with a frontage of 112 feet, adjacent to St. John's on the north side. This was let to three tenants, of whom one was named Thomas Wood. The college in 1794 purchased from Wood the remainder of his lease 'that the house may be converted into college rooms'. They were known as Wood's Buildings for more than a century, but have now been destroyed. Under the same President the garden reached its present shape. As has been explained, it was originally the north end of Durham College garden, but on 1 Dec. 1600 a decree was passed that the four acres in the open field 'lying on the north side of the Grove' should be inclosed by a wall as an addition to the Grove. (fn. 45) This was carried out in 1612, when Edward Sprot, formerly a fellow, left £200 by his will to the college, and an inscription on the garden wall states that the wall was built with his money. Thus the college had two walled gardens; that on the north was the Bachelors' garden, the other the Masters' garden. The former by 1748 was laid out with 'a mount, a wilderness and wellcontrived arbours'; (fn. 46) the Oxford Guide of 1774 says that it 'was so contrived as not to satiate the eye'; the Masters' garden was formal and regular. On 21 Oct. 1776 the college decided that the wall between the gardens (i.e. the original wall of Durham College) should be pulled down, (fn. 47) which was accomplished a few years later. George III declared that his dominions did not contain another specimen of gardening skill to match it. (fn. 48)

Dennis was followed by Michael Marlow (1795–1828), and he by Philip Wynter (1828–71). During his presidency the college received two notable benefactions; in 1843 Dr. Casberd founded four scholarships of £80 each, and in 1854 Dudley Fereday granted money to found four fellowships, tenable for fourteen years, preference being given to founder's kin or natives of Staffordshire. James Bellamy was president from 7 Dec. 1871 to 24 June 1909, when he resigned, only two months before his death. After Bellamy the Presidents were: Herbert Armitage James, elected 29 July 1909, died 15 Nov. 1931; Frederick William Hall, elected 18 Dec. 1931, died 11 Oct. 1933; Cyril Norwood, elected 13 Dec. 1933, resigned 26 Dec. 1946; Austin Lane Poole, elected 14 Feb. 1947.

The Royal Commissions of the last half-century have altered much in the constitution of the college. All the regular fellowships have been thrown open by the statutes of 1881 and scholars do not become fellows automatically. But some of the best of the old features remain; there are still seven scholarships reserved to Bristol, Coventry, Reading, and Tonbridge, and also fifteen are reserved to Merchant Taylors' School. Founder's kin no longer have scholarships, but there is a preference in the Fereday fellowships for those of founder's kin, and those born in Staffordshire, with the qualification that they are 'likely to do credit to the College'. In practice this means that the fellowships are thrown open, unless the privileged candidates are men of academic distinction.

The Library.

The library has its share of manuscripts and early printed books. (fn. 49) The chief benefactors were Laud and Paddy, but three of the clergy of London, who were friends of the founder, made contributions. Henry Cole, Dean of St. Paul's, who was deprived in 1559, gave more than 70 volumes; Gabriel Dunne, once a monk at Buckfast, afterwards a canon of St. Paul's, by his will of Dec. 1558 gave 38 works; and in 1564 Thomas Paynel, once a canon of Merton and from 1545 to 1564 rector of All Hallows, Honey Lane, left all his books to the college, 70 or 80 in number. (fn. 50) Mention should also be made of Richard Rawlinson, a commoner of the college; born in 1690, he must have come into residence in 1706, as he took his M.A. in 1713; he died in 1755. Although his great collection of manuscripts was given to the Bodleian, he left some of his books and coins to St. John's, and also part of his real estate. In accordance with his wishes, his heart was placed in a marble urn in the college chapel, with the inscription Ubi thesaurus, ibi cor.


The portraits belonging to the college are described by Mrs. Poole in her Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, vol. iii (O.H.S. 1926). Of the other pictures the most notable is a flower-piece by Peter Breughel the Younger, which hangs in the President's Lodgings.

The college possesses a remarkable collection of medieval and later vestments, (fn. 51) and in the President's Lodgings there are three tapestries, a Supper at Emmaus made at Mortlake c. 1625, and two small Flemish tapestries of c. 1560 depicting Esther before Ahasuerus and The youthful Moses presented to Pharaoh. (fn. 52)


In 1642 the college sacrificed all but its communion plate to the Royalist cause, and the register records the surrender of 176 1b. of 'white' and 48 lb. of 'guilt' plate in obedience to Charles I's appeal. (fn. 53) The earliest of the surviving vessels date from the early 17th century. They include an unusual silver-gilt chalice of pre-Reformation type dated 1641 and a pair of silver-gilt flagons made in 1605. The secular plate includes a silver-gilt standing cup and cover dated 1671, a silver ewer and rosewater dish dated 1685, a fine porringer given by Sir John Pakington in 1689, and two silver tankards (1676 and 1688). (fn. 54)


The original seal of the college was a pointed oval bearing a figure of St. John the Baptist within the legend Sigillvm Commvne Collegii Sancti Ioannis Baptistae In Oxonio. (fn. 55) The seal now in use is an oval with a similar figure and legend.


Alexander Belsyre, 1557–9
William Eley, 1559–60
William Stock, 1560–4
John Robinson, 1564–72
Toby Mathew, 1572–7
Francis Willis, 1577–90
Ralph Hutchinson, 1590–1606
John Buckeridge, 1606–11
William Laud, 1611–21
William Juxon, 1621–33
Richard Baylie, 1633–48
Francis Cheynell, 1648–50
Thankful Owen, 1650–60
Richard Baylie, 1660–7
Peter Mews, 1667–73
William Levinz, 1673–98
William Delaune, 1698–1728
William Holmes, 1728–48
William Derham, 1748–57
William Walker, 1757
Thomas Fry, 1757–72
Samuel Dennis, 1772–95
Michael Marlow, 1795–1828
Philip Wynter, 1828–71
James Bellamy, 1871–1909
Herbert Armitage James, 1909–31
Frederick William Hall, 1931–3
Cyril Norwood, 1933–46
Austin Lane Poole, 1947–


The front quadrangle represents the buildings of St. Bernard's College, the residence for student monks of the Cistercian Order, as Gloucester College was for the Benedictine Order. In 1540 it fell into the hands of the king, was granted by him to Christ Church in 1546, and by Christ Church to Sir Thomas White in 1554. (fn. 56) It was built gradually from 1437 to 1540, as funds could be obtained, and was not quite complete at the Dissolution. A survey of it, made probably about May 1546, (fn. 57) says that the east side, which was to be a library with chambers below, was nearly finished but lacked its roof; the rest of the quadrangle was complete and outwardly much as it is now. The beginning was made in March 1437 when Archbishop Chichele obtained the royal licence to erect notabile mansum collegiale in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen in Northgate St.; in Feb. 1438 the building was complete and seisin was granted to the head of St. Bernard's College; (fn. 58) it may be added that the Cistercian students had been known as St. Bernard's College, even when they had no central buildings and lived scattered in different lodgings. (fn. 59) It is obvious that a building which was finished in less than 11 months cannot have been large, and it is generally agreed that it was at the north-west corner of the quadrangle, being a hall on the ground floor with a room above (perhaps an oratory), and an undercroft (probably a kitchen) which still survives; it was 27 ft. from north to south, and from east to west either 30 or 41 ft.; the point is uncertain. (fn. 60) A moulded stringcourse which survives on the outer wall, facing the street, suggests that the original roof was low-pitched, and that it was raised when, in process of time, the north side of the quadrangle was built with a higher roof. As early as 1433 it was reported at the general chapter at Citeaux that Archbishop Chichele proposed to build a college at Oxford for Cistercian scholars and four of the Cistercian abbots in England were commanded to collect £80 a year from the Cistercian abbeys for the construction of this college. (fn. 61) It is not likely that the sum collected was so large, but it seems that the abbeys contributed something every year, and the building proceeded slowly. In 1492 the Abbot of Stratford wrote to the Abbot of Citeaux 'at the college of St. Bernard at Oxford we continue the building' (continuamus structuram), (fn. 62) and we have mention of building in 1438, 1456, 1482, 1483, and 1502. (fn. 63) The work described in 1438 was certainly on the south side of the quadrangle, and it is thought that the western front dates from about 1480–90 as the tower resembles the old tower of Balliol College of c. 1495. (fn. 64) The chapel was consecrated in 1530, and both it and the building next to it on the west, which was the kitchen, may have been under construction from 1500 to 1530.

By means of the Survey of 1546 we are able to discover some of the alterations in the buildings which the founder made in 1555 and 1556. On the south side of the quadrangle he did nothing, and on the west side the only alteration that we can discover is that a statue of St. John the Baptist with beard and flowing hair was set up in the tower on its west side above the front gate. (fn. 65) In 1915, when the statue was taken down, it was found that the hair was not of stone but was an addition of cement, and that the beard, though it was of stone, was separate from the head, and attached by lead. The architect who was in charge was of the opinion that the original figure represented St. Bernard, clean-shaven and with a tonsure, and that it had been altered, by the addition of a beard and hair, to serve for John the Baptist. (fn. 66)

On the east side the founder must have made considerable alterations. The Survey of 1546 says that though the range was unfinished, it was intended for a library above with rooms below, and that it had 25 windows on the west side and 12 on the east. The natural assumption is that there were 6 rooms on the ground floor, each with 4 windows, and that the library had 13 windows, all on the west side, an oriel window (which still survives) being in the centre and 6 windows on either side. The founder completed the roof of this range, but altered its purpose. The northern half of it was to be the residence of the President of the college, on both floors; and as by the statutes he might be married, and would need a kitchen of his own, and certainly had his own servants, probably quite half that side of the quadrangle was allotted to him. The other half seems to have consisted of two rooms on the ground floor, that on the south being a library, and next to it a bursar's room; (fn. 67) on the floor above was the 'gallery' (superius ambulacrum of the statutes), a sort of common room for the fellows. These buildings were so altered by the founder that neither in Bereblock's picture (fn. 68) nor in Loggan's can we identify the windows and the rooms of the Survey of 1546. In 1583 we read that two new stone windows were made in the gallery, and the library was enlarged, and there are other entries of the same kind, especially after 1596, which warn us how difficult it is to discover from the present buildings what they were like in 1555. The windows and the positions of the doorways have been frequently altered. (fn. 69)

On the north side the founder made a radical change. The building to the west of the chapel, 42 ft. in length, and consisting of three bays, which had been the kitchen of St. Bernard's College, was now made the hall, and no doubt it was the founder who erected the louvre which is to be seen in Bereblock's drawing of the college; a central wood fire was customary in dining-halls, but would have been of no use in a kitchen. A new louvre was made in 1616, when the hall was enlarged and wainscoted. The framework of this louvre can still be seen in the timbers of the roof. (fn. 70) To the west of this was a passage, 11 ft. wide, which is described in the Survey of 1546 as an 'entry' leading out of the 'quadrant' northwards. This passage remained untouched, but was put to a new purpose; for the founder built a kitchen, outside the college, close to the north end of this passage, and, as the statutes state, this northern gate was of necessity kept open during meal-time, as the food from the kitchen to the hall passed through it; but the front gate was to be closed. The building to the west of this, which had formerly been a hall, 30 ft. from east to west, was now the pantry and the buttery; and the room above was partitioned into chambers. (fn. 71)

It may be pointed out that the plan of the quadrangle with the chapel and hall on the north side and the library on the east with its windows facing west is the same as Wykeham's plan at New College. In both cases the entrance was under a tower and the rooms for the residents each had four small windows and one large one with a fire-place opposite the large window: they were intended at New College to hold four persons, and no doubt the same was the intention at St. Bernard's College. Though the building was still unfinished in 1541, it is clear that the plan in its main outlines dates from 1437.

The founder made two additions to the building which he acquired from Christ Church. As has been said, he erected a kitchen outside the north wall of the college, and Bereblock's drawing shows the difference between the stonework of the kitchen and that of the college. The other building was the pigeon-house. Its position is indicated by the terms of an agreement between St. John's and Trinity College in 1560 concerning the wall to be built between the colleges, (fn. 72) where it is stated that the wall at its west end would start from the dove-house, and a tenement next but one to the college on the south side extended at its east end to 'a little dove-house appertaining to the College of St. John's'. (fn. 73) It was therefore on the site of the Holmes buildings. That it was erected by the founder and not by the Cistercian monks is shown by the words of a resolution passed by the college in 1599 that the dovehouse should be pulled down as its situation 'was not so commodious as was hoped for by our good Founder'. (fn. 74) The bursars' accounts, such as survive for 1568–90, mention each year the purchase of barley for the pigeons, and when the finances of the college had improved there was a salary of '6s. 8d. or a load of wood' for the keeper of the pigeons, who was generally one of the younger fellows.


The North-West Wing of the College

Attics were added to the quadrangle, on the south and west sides, in 1572 and 1573. We learn from a college resolution of April 1573 that some of the upper rooms had lofts over them, evidently made recently, and it was decided that the same step should be taken with the other upper rooms. (fn. 75) By this means nine rooms were added to the college. Each attic had two dormer windows, but they did not face towards the quadrangle. It was at this period that many colleges, e.g. All Souls and New College, were expanding their accommodation by this inexpensive device. As the bursars' accounts are wanting for some years after Michaelmas 1572, we have no knowledge what the cost was. In 1616 the eight dormers which faced the street were enlarged and 'stone windows were made instead of wooden ones'. (fn. 76)

The Canterbury Quadrangle dates from two periods; in the years 1596–8 the greater part of the south side was built, and in 1631–6 the other three sides were erected. As early as 1573 the college had contemplated a new library, to be built somewhere to the east of the front quadrangle, (fn. 77) but nothing was done, probably from lack of funds. In the bursars' accounts of 1583 we read that the original library was enlarged, (fn. 78) and in 1584 that 24 dozen chains were bought to chain books in the library. (fn. 79) In the autumn of 1595 the college decided to build a new library 'for the enlarging of roome and lodgings in the College, and for the better commodity of the said College and students in the same and in many good respects'; and for this purpose to obtain possession of the 'great house or building with appurtenances called the house of the Fryers, near Gloucester Hall' at that time leased to Mr. Leech; the house was to be pulled down and the material used in erecting a library 'with other rooms and lodgings under the same'. (fn. 80) This house, the remains of the monastery of the White Friars, must have stood near the west end of Beaumont St., being reached through Friars' Entry. It was at first intended that the library should be a building 'in the Masters' garden' running north and south, with the south end resting on, or touching, the wall that separated Trinity and St. John's; but when the President and fellows of Trinity raised objections, it was decided that the library should run east and west, and on 2 Mar. 1596 six foundation stones were laid by the officers of the college and by Mr. Robert Berkeley, who gave £100. It was by luck and not by intention that the building was erected on such a site that it could become the south side of a second quadrangle; and at first it was completely detached from the original college buildings. By the end of 1598 it was finished, being a library above, with four chambers below. (fn. 81) The cost had been more than £766, apart from 1,000 loads of stone and timber from the 'great-house', which the college estimated to be worth more than £200. The Company of Merchant Taylors had, as usual, come to the aid of the college by a gift of £100, and individual members of that company gave more than £200; several legacies fell to the college about this time, so that the total from all benefactors was £466; the residue was paid by the college from the sale of timber. (fn. 82) All colleges, when they needed funds for a special purpose, could obtain it by cutting timber on the college manors; but for the fellows of St. John's it was especially easy, as they owned so much of Bagley Wood. During the three following years (1599–1601) there were more building operations at the west end of the library, which cost the college £300, but it is uncertain what they were, as much of it was cleared away less than forty years later when Laud extended the west end of the library to form the south side of the new quadrangle. We hear of 'a convenient cloister and dry walk', which was made to connect the college with the new library, and of a 'lodging for some of the students or servants of the College'. (fn. 83) Part of the site had been occupied by the pigeon-house which was 'now for want of pigeons unprofitable and otherwise very ruinous'. In Feb. 1599 the college decided to pull it down, and the resolution said that another would be built in a site 'less noisome to the students', but this was not done. Loggan shows a building on this site, perhaps 40 ft. north to south and 50 ft. east to west, and it is probable that this represents the greater part of what was erected in 1599–1601. This must have been the 'lodging for the students and the servants' which was planned in 1599.

During Laud's Presidency (1611–21) there was much building. In 1612 Thomas Clarke, senior cook of the college, was granted leave to build a kitchen of which the college was in need, and above it four chambers which were to be let to commoners, who should be selected by the President. This was the beginning of what came to be known as Cook's buildings. Clarke was to receive the rents of the chambers for twenty years. (fn. 84) We may compare with this the rooms at Exeter which were erected by Thomas Bentley, butler of that college, in 1597; they were for the accommodation of undergraduates of the college, and Bentley was to receive the rents. In each case a college servant invested his savings in a way which would benefit him for life, and subsequently would benefit the college.

In 1616–17 there were repairs and alterations in the oldest part of the college at the north-west corner, where the undercroft was strengthened by the insertion of an additional pier; at the same time the hall was lengthened 11 ft. by the inclusion of the old passage which led northward from the quadrangle, and a new passage was made to the west of it, which in turn was included in the hall in 1936, when a new passage was made through what had hitherto been the antechapel. The total cost was £436, towards which the Merchant Taylors' Company contributed £100. The accounts also mention 'Wainscottinge both sydes of the Hall', the 'makinge of a newe Skreene in the Hall', and of a new louvre in its roof. (fn. 85) It was at this time that battlements were added to the quadrangle at a cost of £150, the gift of Mr. Benjamin Henshaw, whose arms are carved on the south and east sides.

In Aug. 1630 William Laud, then Bishop of London, contemplated among other 'intentions for charitye' a range of buildings opposite to the library. The west end of the new range was to provide a lower and upper chamber as an addition to the President's Lodging. The new building and the library were to be battlemented, and a cloister upon pillars, backed by a high wall, was to join the new wing and the library. John Lufton, a fellow, was appointed as overseer of the work, which was first started in July 1631 on the north side of what was to be the Canterbury Quadrangle. By March 1632 Laud's original estimate of £1,055 had already become £3,200, which included £120 for 'the Peecing out of the Librarie 20 feete Eastward'. This increase was caused by the provision of a gallery for the President over a cloister at the west end of the new quadrangle to balance Laud's original idea of a cloister at the east end, and a range of buildings over the east cloister to form an addition to the library. It was this last extension that necessitated the extra bay to the original library, from which the buttresses at the east end were removed. It appears that the first part of the scheme was completed by 1633. The original masons, Richard Maude, Hugh Davis, and Robert Smith, were then discharged and a William Hill was engaged, only to be dismissed the following year. John Jackson, later employed on the porch of St. Mary's and at Brasenose, was then put in control. A London man, he may well have been selected by Laud personally as a result of the failure of the local builders. He seems to have been treated with some consideration as he is always styled as 'Mr.'. In May 1633 Laud had commissioned Le Sueur to fashion for £400 two bronze statues of King Charles and his queen. (fn. 86) To set them off, the elaborate frontispieces imposed on the east and west walls over the two cloisters were designed. Although the architect of these and of the arcades remains unknown, circumstantial evidence suggests Nicholas Stone. He was responsible for the stone gateways of the Physic Garden and for the porch of St. Mary's. He visited Oxford at this time, and the two principal carvers at St. John's—Antony Gore (responsible for the sixteen busts representing Religion and the Virtues on the west, and Science and the Liberal Arts on the east) and Harry Acres (who worked both the Gothic grotesques and the classical cartouches)—were his assistants. (fn. 87) There is, however, no reference to Stone in Lufton's minutely detailed accounts, and the only payments for drawing are to a Mr. Browne, who received £5 in Feb. 1632/3 'for his paines in coming downe [from London] & drawing ye Drafts, & making ye Moulds'. (fn. 88) The tradition that Inigo Jones was the architect is without foundation. The whole quadrangle was completed by April 1636 and cost upwards of £5,500. (fn. 89)

The building between the library and the college (whatever it may have been), dating from 1600, was removed, producing stone to the value of £14, and the library block was continued westward to connect with the college. The passage which led eastward from the first quadrangle was moved towards the north so that it might be central with the new quadrangle. The gallery over the east cloister was meant to be a chamber where some of the treasures of the college were to be preserved; it was to be kept locked, and at first there were only two keys. It was not until 1838 that it was fitted up with bookshelves and the seven original cases were removed. Three of them are now in the President's Lodging, one is at Lambeth, and one, formerly at Bainton, was recovered by the college in 1947.

In 1642 and 1643 there was much alteration to Cook's building. In 1620 the college had bought Clarke's interest for £40; and the college accounts for 1620–31 show the receipt of £7 10s. a year from three chambers in Cook's building, the fourth perhaps being used by the college for some special purpose; after 1631 the annual accounts are lacking for some years. In April 1642 there was 'taken out of the Tower and carried into the Chest in the Bursary, for the building of some chambers adjoining to the Kitchin, two baggs', containing £106 13s. 4d., the combined legacies of Nicholas Lymbie and Henry Price. In the following year over £550 was spent on 'the raising of the new chambers by the Kitchin and the new building neere to the President's Lodging'. The latter, a detached building shown in Loggan's view, no longer exists: (fn. 90) but it is clear that Cook's building, as it now stands, dates from 1642 and 1643. The mason employed was Jackson, who had finished the Canterbury Quadrangle, and who later acted as 'overseer' of the new chapel and library of Brasenose. (fn. 91)

Two Restoration additions are noteworthy. In 1662 Richard Baylie, Laud's executor newly restored to the Presidency, completed the erection of a mausoleum at the north-east end of the chapel. It is distinguished by its fan vaulting with Renaissance cartouches, a remarkable evidence of the conservatism of the local builders. In 1676 a common room was built, to the northwest of the Baylie Chapel, the master-mason employed being Bartholomew Peisley. (fn. 92) It is a separate building with basement and attic, finely wainscoted in oak and ornamented by a plaster ceiling of considerable merit and curiosity, the work of Thomas Roberts, a local plasterer, in 1742. The inner common room was built soon after 1826, 'according to a Plan exhibited by Mr. Robinson, Architect'. (fn. 93) The ceiling was designed by Crace, with a frieze of Latin and Greek mottoes said to have been suggested by H. L. Mansel. (fn. 94) The adjoining smoking-room, added in 1900, was remodelled internally to the designs of E. Maufe in 1936.

The hall was considerably altered in the course of the 18th century. The ceiling in its present form dates from 1730, (fn. 95) and in the following year the marble chimneypiece, the gift of John Preston, a fellow, whose arms it bears, was erected by William Townesend. (fn. 96) The screen of 1616 was replaced in 1742 by the existing stone screen, designed by James Gibbs, and built by John Townesend for £120. (fn. 97) The wainscoting was introduced in 1744. (fn. 98) It was probably at this time that the windows were deprived of their transoms and mullions, shown in Williams's Oxonia Depicta of 1732–3. (fn. 99) No further change took place until 1936, when the screen was set back in order to increase the accommodation in the hall.

The chapel has undergone many alterations since its consecration in 1530. It is described in the survey of 1546 as 'a fayre chapele, in length iiiixx fote, in bredeth xxvii fote within the wallis with iii aullters and vii wyndowes', those at the sides having three transomed lights and the east window seven. (fn. 100) It is said to have been repaired and beautified by Sir Thomas White, but nothing is known of its internal arrangement before the 17th century. In 1619–20, however, extensive alterations were carried out under Laud's direction, including the erection on the north side of an organ-loft 'built of stone from ye Ground', with 'a Vestry under it'. This stood immediately to the west of the present Baylie Chapel, and is shown in Loggan's view of 1674 as a gabled projection with a plaque of the founder's arms on its west wall. At the same time £280 was spent on 'the settinge up of an Organ and guildinge it'; the position of the screen was altered, the seating was enlarged, and the walls were wainscoted. Stained glass depicting the story of St. John the Baptist was placed in the east window, and the communion-table was furnished with 'cloths of Crimson and purple Vellvett'. (fn. 101) In 1632 Laud commissioned Adam Brown, the joiner employed by him at Lambeth, to make a 'skrin to part the upper end of the Chappell'. (fn. 102) A Cornishman who visited Oxford in 1639 found work still in progress, and reported that the chapel was 'partly paved with checkred worcke of blacke and white Marble, as Most off the rest are, and to bee painted in imitation of Magdalin Chappell'. (fn. 103) How much of Laud's work survived the Commonwealth is uncertain, but an extensive restoration was carried out during the years 1663–78, for which partial accounts exist. (fn. 104) The windows were reconstructed with semicircular arches and debased Gothic tracery, (fn. 105) the walls were again wainscoted, (fn. 106) and the marble paving was repaired and extended to the Baylie Chapel. (fn. 107) A new, and according to Wood 'a very beautiful', screen was erected, perhaps to the designs of Wren, whose father had been a fellow of St. John's, and whose elevation for a screen bearing the college arms is preserved among his drawings at All Souls. (fn. 108) £90 was paid to 'Mr. Hawkins ye Painter', and £9 15s. was spent on 'Candle-Sticks for ye Chappell'. A new altarpiece, for which the joiner, William Sells, received £219, was erected in 1717. (fn. 109) In 1767–9 the Laudian altar-loft was demolished, and a new organ by Byfield was placed over the screen at the west end of the chapel. (fn. 110) Apart from some extensive repairs carried out in 1790–1 by James Pears, (fn. 111) there were no further changes until 1843, when the chapel was entirely remodelled in Perpendicular Gothic by Edward Blore. (fn. 112) Of the 17thcentury work only the Baylie Chapel and the marble pavement were allowed to remain (fn. 113) —though the former was 'thrown open by means of two arches'—and the chapel as it exists to-day is virtually a Victorian building. The monuments round the walls were taken down and re-erected elsewhere—the more important in the Baylie Chapel, the rest on the west wall of the antechapel. (fn. 114) The sedilia on the south side of the sanctuary were inserted by C. E. Buckeridge, architect, c. 1870. (fn. 115) Behind them is what the Ecclesiologist for 1845 described as 'a comfortable red-cushioned pue for the President's lady and family', communicating directly with the Lodgings. (fn. 116) The present stone reredos, with figures representing the Baptism of Christ, was designed by C. E. Kempe in 1892: stained glass by Kempe was placed in the east window at the same time, replacing the work of O'Connor (1853). Glass to the memory of President Wynter, Dean Mansel, and R. C. L. Dear, fellow and tutor, was placed in three other windows in 1872. In 1949 the Baylie Chapel was provided with an altar and communion-rails, and Dr. Baylie's monument, partially dismantled in 1843, was restored to its former position on the south side. (fn. 117)

The Holmes Buildings, to accommodate four fellows, were begun in 1794. The builder was James Pears. (fn. 118) Dr. Holmes had left funds for this purpose in 1748, but some life interests intervened, and the legacy did not reach the college at once. But, even so, the delay is remarkable. Perhaps Loggan's engraving of the college supplies the answer; for he shows that the site was occupied by buildings—two stories high, with four chimneys and many windows, capable of lodging eight or ten undergraduates. It may be that the college was unwilling to remove this old building until other lodgings had been found. It is noteworthy that it was in 1794 that the Wood Buildings for undergraduates were erected on land to the north of the college.

It was mainly to increase the accommodation for undergraduates that the buildings forming the North Quadrangle were erected from 1880 onwards, replacing the Wood buildings. In 1742 the college had bought from Exeter College a large property south of Middleton Hall, and this, with further purchases in the same area, (fn. 119) made it possible to extend the college in this direction. The block facing St. Giles' was built in two parts, the gate-tower and rooms to the south of it in 1880–1 to the designs of G. G. Scott junior, those to the north in 1899–1900 (E. P. Warren, architect). The Rawlinson Building which forms the north side of the quadrangle was designed by N. W. Harrison and built in 1909: nine additional sets of rooms were added at the east end in 1933 (E. Maufe, R.A., architect). The remainder of the east side of the quadrangle north of the senior common room is occupied by the old Fellows' Stables.

In 1948 a new block (fn. 120) containing ten sets of rooms was built on the vacant area to the south of the front quadrangle, the intervening space being formed into a colonnaded court known as the Dolphin Quadrangle from the Dolphin inn which once occupied part of the site. (fn. 121) The architect was Edward Maufe, R.A.


  • 1. Early History of St. John's College, pp. 114–41 (O.H.S.).
  • 2. Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford (1853), iii, 15.
  • 3. Wood (Gutch), Hist. and Antiq. of Oxford, iv, 537.
  • 4. Only printed in the most recent edition of Campion's works.
  • 5. Statutes, p. 36.
  • 6. Statutes, p. 70.
  • 7. Ibid., p. 68.
  • 8. Ibid., p. 82.
  • 9. Ibid., p. 69.
  • 10. Early History of St. John's College, p. 444.
  • 11. Statutes, p. 80.
  • 12. Hutton's History of St. John's College, p. 102; Surveys and Tokens (O.H.S.), p. 328.
  • 13. Statutes, p. 81.
  • 14. Statutes, p. 124.
  • 15. Early Hist. of St. John's College, p. 501.
  • 16. a  Early Hist. of St. John's College, pp. 119 and 256; W. C. Costin, William Laud, p. 6.
  • 17. Founder's letter of 12 Dec. 1566 (Early Hist. of St. John's College, p. 424).
  • 18. Letter of 12 Nov. 1563.
  • 19. Letter of 7 July 1566.
  • 20. The life of the founder in Latin verse by Griffin Higgs.
  • 21. It is printed in the latest (i.e. the Barcelona) edition of Campion's works. There is a better text in Early Hist. of St. John's College, p. 406.
  • 22. Proved by the bursars' accounts ending Mich. 1572; the next few years are tacking.
  • 23. Register of the Univ. of Oxford, ii, 1, 152.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Printed in Early History of St. John's College, p. 473.
  • 27. Ibid., pp. 479–500.
  • 28. F. Madan, Oxford Books, ii, 25, 32.
  • 29. For the dispute about his election and for his benefaction to the college see W. H. Hutton, History of St. John's, pp. 104–48, and W. C. Costin (1945), William Laud. pp. 5–6.
  • 30. Ibid., pp. 122–39, and Costin, pp. 10, 11. An account by an eyewitness, hitherto unprinted, is given in Oxoniensia, vol. i, 151–8.
  • 31. As proved by the bursars' accounts.
  • 32. e.g. by Higgs in his poetical life of the founder.
  • 33. Coll. Reg. vi, 344.
  • 34. Much of this is from a paper by W. H. Stevenson.
  • 35. Coll. Reg. iii, 323, 343.
  • 36. Ibid. 363.
  • 37. Ibid. vii, 1.
  • 38. Ibid. iv, 368 (July 1686).
  • 39. Ibid. iii, 221.
  • 40. Ibid. v, 12.
  • 41. Ibid. iii, 748.
  • 42. Coll. Reg. v, 130.
  • 43. Ibid. vi, 16.
  • 44. The gift was valued at £13,000, being later increased to £15,000 on the death of Dr. Holmes's widow. (Ingram's Memorials of Oxford, ii, 7.)
  • 45. Coll. Reg. ii, 170.
  • 46. Ingram's Memorials of Oxford, vol. ii, 15.
  • 47. Coll. Reg. vii, 500.
  • 48. Reminiscences of T. F. Dibdin, i, 87.
  • 49. See Hist. of St. John's, by W. H. Hutton, pp. 238–42.
  • 50. Early History of St. John's College (O.H.S.), pp. 133–6.
  • 51. a For these see W. H. Hutton, op. cit., pp. 245–8 and Early History of St. John's College, p. 472.
  • 52. b Illustrated by H. C. Marillier, 'Tapestries at St. John's College, Oxford.' Burlington Magazine, vol. xlix, 1926.
  • 53. c W. H. Hutton, op. cit., pp. 150–1, 263.
  • 54. d Illustrated by H. C. Moffatt, Old Oxford Plate (1906), pl. 81–6.
  • 55. e An impression attached to a document of 1571 survives in Munim. xvii, 9.
  • 56. Early Hist. of St. John's College (O.H.S.), pp. 36–9, 114.
  • 57. Ibid., p. 90.
  • 58. Ibid., p. 94.
  • 59. Ibid., p. 13.
  • 60. Ibid., p. 95.
  • 61. Ibid., p. 19.
  • 62. Ibid., p. 27.
  • 63. Ibid., pp. 19, 23, 26, 28, 40.
  • 64. Ibid., p. 58.
  • 65. In 1936 a statue of St. John the Baptist by Eric Gill was set up on the east side of the tower.
  • 66. Ibid., p. 92.
  • 67. Ibid., p. 107.
  • 68. a Ibid., p. 94, plate 1.
  • 69. Ibid., p. 108.
  • 70. Ibid., p. 100, plate vi.
  • 71. Ibid., p. 99.
  • 72. Ibid., p. 125.
  • 73. Ibid., p. 504.
  • 74. Ibid., p. 300.
  • 75. Early Hist. of St. John's College, p. 196.
  • 76. Ibid., p. 100.
  • 77. Ibid., p. 198.
  • 78. Ibid., p. 244.
  • 79. Ibid., p. 254.
  • 80. Ibid., p. 293.
  • 81. Ibid., p, 109. The original barrelceiling of plaster in the library was removed in the 19th century in order to expose the timber framing. The iron tie-rods were inserted in 1888.
  • 82. Ibid., p. 298.
  • 83. Ibid., p. 300.
  • 84. Coll. Reg. ii, 511, 543.
  • 85. Early Hist. of St. John's College, p. 100.
  • 86. Le Sueur's contract is in P.R.O., S.P. Domestic 138, ff. 16–17.
  • 87. See A. S. Oswald in Country Life, 2–9 Nov. 1929.
  • 88. Munim. lxii, 13, p. 81. It should be noted that there is no mention of St. John's in Nicholas Stone's Notebook, or in the list of his works drawn up by his son-in-law Charles Stoakes, both published by the Walpole Society in 1919.
  • 89. The quadrangle was restored by J. J. Stevenson in 1888 with the advice of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. The battlements were partly rebuilt in Box Ground stone and many of the carvings were renewed in Milton stone. An elaborate record of the restoration prepared by the architect and his clerk of the works (F. W. Troup) is preserved in the library. In 1905 five pillars in the arcades were removed and replaced in Portland stone. In 1910–11 the Garden Front was repaired by H. Redfern (see Archaeological Journal, lxvii, 1911, pp. 350–1 for a description of the methods used), but in 1928 it became necessary to patch it extensively with Clipsham stone. The quadrangle was partially refaced in Clipsham stone 1922–36.
  • 90. This is the building described in Early History of St. John's College, p. 108. It was demolished during Wynter's presidency (1828–71).
  • 91. Computus Annuus, 1642–3, f. 25; Bursar's Private Accounts 1641–3, f. 67; 'Mr. Crowther's Booke of Accounts', 1643; Early Hist. of St. John's College, pp. 103, 362, 365.
  • 92. Accounts in Computus Annuus, 1673–8, f. 150v. The joiner is not named, but he was probably John Wild, who, with Peisley, was being employed in the Chapel in 1676–7 (ibid., ff. 150, 191).
  • 93. Coll. Reg. viii, 325, 326. 'Mr. Robinson' was probably Daniel Robertson, the architect of the Clarendon Press.
  • 94. Manuscript note in Hutton's copy of his History of St. John's College (1898). As Mansel did not become a fellow until 1844 the mottoes cannot have formed part of the original design.
  • 95. Coll. Reg. vi, 633.
  • 96. Munim. lx, 118 (1), 133. The reproduction on scagliola of Raphael's St. John the Baptist now over the fireplace is by Lamberto Gorri. It was brought from Italy in 1759 and presented to the college by John Duncan, a fellow. It was not placed in its present position until about 1815.
  • 97. College Bills and Receipts. Gibbs received 5 gns. for his design (Computus Annuus, 1743, f. 45).
  • 98. Ibid.
  • 99. The windows in the front quadrangle were sashed in about 1740. The cost of this and subsequent improvements was included in the valuation of the rooms, one third being deducted at each change in ownership.
  • 100. Early History of St. John's College, p. 106.
  • 101. Bodleian, Tanner MS. 338, ff. 377–9.
  • 102. P.R.O. State Papers Domestic, vol. 226, f. 21.
  • 103. The Travels of Peter Mundy, iv, 27 (Hakluyt Soc., 1925).
  • 104. Computus Annuus, 1673–8, ff. 150, 191, 228v. See also Wood, Antiquities of Oxford, ed. Gutch, iv, p. 555.
  • 105. According to Wood 'they took away the old painted glass in the east window and much of the crustation or arched work, as well of that as of the other windows in the Chapel', and the accounts show that Mr. Rawlins was paid £12 2s. for 'cutting and putting up' glass which had been brought to Oxford by water. In 1818, however, W. M. Wade, in his Walks in Oxford, i, 70 ff., says that 'the eastern window is very fine' and asserts that it was put up in the reign of James I. There are some notes on heraldic glass formerly in the windows made by Dr. M. Hutton in 1659 in MS. Rawl. B. 397, p. 202.
  • 106. The joiner was John Wild, who was also employed to fit up Brasenose College chapel at this time.
  • 107. There are considerable payments 'for Marble' to 'Mr. Wood', probably Thomas Wood, the builder of the Old Ashmolean, who laid the marble floor at St. Mary's in 1673–5.
  • 108. Reproduced in Wren Society, vol. ix, pl. 39 (cf. vol. x, p. 129). It should be noted that Wren's design includes Corinthian columns, and that in 1817 The Oxford University and City Guide describes the then existing screen as 'of the Corinthian Order'.
  • 109. College Bills and Receipts. The carver was Richard Smith. The altar-piece is shown in the design for an east window submitted in 1732 by John Rowell of High Wycombe, the glass-painter (Munim. xl, 140). This represents 'a large Compas (i.e. apsidal) Building suported with Colums of a Proper order, and the Curtains on Each side drawn up to shew the Alltar & Enlargement of the Chappele'. There is no record that Rowell's design was executed.
  • 110. College Bills and Receipts, cf. W. M. Wade, Walks in Oxford (1818), i, 70 ff.
  • 111. College Bills and Receipts.
  • 112. Blore's alternative design for a decorated chapel with a roof in the form of a lierne vault is preserved in the library. There is another copy of this among his drawings in the British Museum (Add. MS. 42027, f. 89).
  • 113. The former altar-rails are now in Northmoor church and a fragment of carved woodwork is preserved in the library. 'A pair of finely carved Angels' Heads ... obtained by Mr. J. S. Pinkerton when he was Tutor (and Bursar) at the time of the restoration of the Chapel' were sold by auction at Willis's in 1918.
  • 114. Their exact positions before 1843 are recorded in the 'Bursars' Memorandum Book' compiled by J. S. Pinkerton, and now in the library.
  • 115. Manuscript note in W. H. Hutton's copy of his History of St. John's College (1898).
  • 116. In 1789 James Pears submitted an estimate for a new Presidential pew with a curved front, access to which was to be gained by 'a new Wainscott Stair Case with Moulded Noseings and Cutt Bracketts, Mahogany handrail with Ramps and Twists and 2 Curtail Steps'. This, if erected, was removed in 1843. The space behind the pew, and beneath the main staircase of the Lodgings, was formerly used as a vestry. In 1764–5 it was fitted up with a 'pair of neat Gothick Sashes' which are illustrated in the Hist. Mon. Com. Rep., City of Oxford, pl. 185.
  • 117. The arms of Archbishop Juxon were carved on the western bay of the roof of the Baylie Chapel at this time. Those of Archbishop Laud in the eastern bay are original. The armorial glass in the east window was designed by E. Maufe, R.A., architect, in 1936. The window itself was rebuilt by Blore in 1843, when the doorway beneath it was blocked.
  • 118. Coll. Reg. vii, 636. Pears probably supplied the designs, as no architect is mentioned.
  • 119. Early Hist. of St. John's College, pp. 506–7.
  • 120. Illustrated in The Builder, 14 Jan. 1949.
  • 121. Early Hist. of St. John's College, pp. 501–2.