Campion Hall

Pages 339-340

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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The history of Campion Hall is briefly as follows. In 1896 the Rev. Richard Clarke, S.J., who had taken his degree as a member of St. John's College in 1860 and had rowed for the Varsity in 1859, obtained leave from the Vice-Chancellor to open a Private Hall. On 9 Sept. 1896 this hall was opened under Fr. Clarke's direction at 40 St. Giles's. The house proved to be too small, and 15 months later the remainder of an 80 years' lease of 11 St. Giles's was purchased from the Rev. Bartholomew Price, who had just been appointed Master of Pembroke College. This house, formerly known as Middleton Hall, had originally been the 'grange' where the nuns of Godstow Abbey received the rents of the manor of Walton, but belonged now to St. John's College, which it adjoins and whose tenant the Master of Clarke's Hall now became on his taking possession of the house in June 1897. In the next year the lease of 13 St. Giles's was purchased and this house, situate on the other side of The Lamb and Flag Inn and formerly a shop where Japanese goods were sold, became the 'Annexe' of Clarke's Hall. In 1900 Fr. Clarke died suddenly at York, and with his death 'Clarke's Hall' ceased to exist. It was reconstituted as 'Pope's Hall' under Fr. O'Fallon Pope as licensed Master, and the statues were amended so as to allow the Vice-Chancellor to appoint any Member of Convocation as temporary Master in case of need. In 1902 Fr. Pope purchased the freehold of nos. 14 and 15 St. Giles's (the former from Balliol College) and in 1903 purchased (also from Balliol College) the freehold of no. 13. This with a view to providing the hall with a site when the lease of 11 St. Giles's should fall in in April 1936.

In 1915, after hoding the office of Master for 15 years, Fr. O'Fallon Pope was succeeded by Fr. Charles Plater, and the hall once again changed its name. But in 1918 a statute was passed empowering the Vice-Chancellor, subject to the consent of Convocation, to grant licences for the establishment of Permenent Private Halls for the reception of academical students on condtition that provision is made for their government on a permanent footing, and that such halls are not established for purposes of profit. There were then two private halls, Plater's Hall and Parker's Hall, which became respectively Campion Hall and St. Benet's Hall, and in 1928 a third Permanent Private Hall was licensed, St. Peter's.

On the death of Fr. Plater in 1921 Fr. Henry Keane was appointed Master of Campion Hall, and upon his retiring in 1926 he was succeeded by Fr. Ernest G. Vignaux, during whose mastership plans were drawn for the building of a new hall on the site of nos. 13,14, and 15 St. Giles's. This site, hemmed in on three sides by the property of St. John's College, was barely adequate for present purposes and offered no scope for expansion. Consequently, when in 1933 Fr. Vignaux was succeeded as Master by Fr. Martin D'Arcy, the project of building on the site in St. Giles was dropped and a new site was sought and at length found in Berwer St. This site comprised two buildings, a large and ancient lodging-house, known as Mucklem Hall, which for nearly a hundred years had housed a succession of distinguished undergraduates, most of them members of Christ Church, and, adjoining it, a garage which had once been the stables for the horses which pulled the Oxford trams. The freehold of Micklem Hall belonged to and was purchased from Hall's Brewery, and the freehold of the garage from the Feoffees of the Parish of St. Aldate's. The latter tenement was granted soon after 1485 to the church of St. Michael South, whence it passed to St. Aldate's; it was a strip about 20 ft. wide, extending from the street to Trillmill stream. On the west it had a similar strip which was acquired by Balliol in 1473, sold to Hall & Co. about 1913, and united with Micklem Hall. Micklem Hall itself covered the site of two medieval tenements, extending westward to the parish boundary; it had a frontage of over 60 ft. and had at one time been a gentlemen's residence owned by brewers named Micklem (c. 1820–70), previously by brewers named Drought (c. 1750–1800), earlier (c. 1600–60) by brewers named Carpenter. The house contained some Elizabethan work, which is still preserved in Campion Hall. The site in St. Giles's was sold to St. John's College. Sir Edwin Lutyens, O.M., K.C.I.E., P.R.A., was appointed the architect for the new building in Brewer St., the construction of which was entrusted to the firm of Messrs. Benfield and Loxley, who had already built the New Infirmary in Oxford and have since built the New Bodleian Library. They began work in 1934. The garage and the kitchen, out-buildings, and some dilapidated servants' rooms were demolished, but at the request of the Oxford Preservation Trust the more interesting portion of Micklem Hall was retained, including an old panelled room and the old doorway, but the wall to the left of the doorway had to be rebuilt and set back owing to its unsafe condition.

The present Campion Hall extends from Brewer St. to Rose Place, adjoining the Christ Church Choir School. The main entrance is in Brewer St., with a subsidiary entrance in Rose Place. It comprises, in addition to Micklem Hall (which has two common rooms, a parlour, and seven living-rooms) an entrance hall, chapel, dining-hall, library, 30 rooms for students and resident members of the hall, and, in the semibasement, kitchens and 7 rooms for the domestic staff. The building is of Clipsham stone with a red-tiled roof, unbroken by gables. In the garden is a fountain which is a relic of Micklem Hall, and a flight of steps leading to a doorway in the centre of the main building, over which are the arms of the hall. In the entrance hall, facing the main staircase, is a large Spanish wood-carving, early 17th century, depicting St. Ignatius Loyola surrounded by the early members of his Order. On the staircase is a plaque by Eric Gill, representing St. Martin of Tours in modern military dress. The antechapel, separated from the main chapel by an oak screen, is in memory of Francis Urquhart of Balliol, and is dedicated to St. Thomas More, whose life and martyrdom are depicted symbolically in a painting by Daphne Pollen. In the main chapel is a baldacchino, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and Stations of the Cross designed and executed by Frank Brangwyn and originally intended for Rheims Cathedral. A small Lady Chapel adjoins the main chapel, and above the sacristy is another small chapel with a window overlooking the main chapel. On the ground-floor of the east wing are the dining-hall and library, the latter panelled in Austrian oak. On the first and second floors are corridors running the length of the building and flanked on either side by living-rooms. The staircases in this wing, three in number, are all of teak, and the floors throughout the building are also of teak—Rhodesian teak, polished a deep red.

The west wing was completed in Sept. 1935, and was handed over for occupation on the 1st of Oct. The remainder of the building was completed in the spring of 1936, and was solemnly opened by the Duke of Alba in June 1936, in the presence of the architect and the Vice-Chancellor. The foundation-stone was laid by the Archbishop of Bombay, the late Alban Goodier, in conjunction with Julian, Earl of Oxford and Asquith.

The residents are generally about 35 in number, of whom 5 or 6 are lecturers and tutors, the rest are undergraduates; they are mostly members of the Society of Jesus, though a few secular priests and one or two laymen are generally in residence. In 1945 Fr. Thomas Corbishley succeeded Fr. D'Arcy as Master.

When circumstances permit, it is hoped to add a west wing corresponding to the existing east wing, on the site of a factory at present occupied by Hall the Printer. The plans for the new building were drawn by Sir Edwin Lutyens before his death in 1944.