Oriel College, Oxford

Oriel College[2] is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Located in Oriel Square, the college has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford (a title formerly claimed by University College, whose claim of being founded by King Alfred is no longer promoted). In recognition of this royal connection, the college has also been known as King's College and King's Hall.[3] The reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (since 1952, Elizabeth II) is the official Visitor of the college.[4]

Oriel College
Blazon: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or a bordure engrailed argent
Coordinates51.751567°N 1.253702°W / 51.751567; -1.253702
Full nameThe House of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford, commonly called Oriel College, of the Foundation of Edward the Second of famous memory, sometime King of England
Latin nameCollegium Orielense
Named forBlessed Virgin Mary
Sister collegeClare College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Dublin
ProvostNeil Mendoza
Undergraduates323[1] (2018/2019)
Boat clubBoatclub
Location in Oxford city centre

The original medieval foundation set up by Adam de Brome, under the patronage of Edward II, was called the House or Hall of the Blessed Mary at Oxford.[5] The first design allowed for a provost and ten fellows, called 'scholars', and the college remained a small body of graduate fellows until the 16th century, when it started to admit undergraduates.[6] During the English Civil War, Oriel played host to high-ranking members of the King's Oxford Parliament.[7]

The main site of the college incorporates four medieval halls: Bedel Hall, St Mary Hall, St Martin Hall and Tackley's Inn, the last being the earliest property acquired by the college and the oldest standing medieval hall in Oxford.[8] The college has nearly 40 fellows, about 300 undergraduates and some 250 graduates. Oriel was the last of Oxford's men's colleges to admit women in 1985, after more than six centuries as an all-male institution.[9] Today, however, the student body has almost equal numbers of men and women.[6]

Oriel's notable alumni include two Nobel laureates; prominent fellows have included founders of the Oxford Movement. Among Oriel's more notable possessions are a painting by Bernard van Orley and three pieces of medieval silver plate.

As of 2018, the college's estimated financial endowment was £81 million.[10]


Middle Ages

On 24 April 1324,[11] the Rector of the University Church, Adam de Brome, obtained a licence from King Edward II to found a "certain college of scholars studying various disciplines in honour of the Virgin" and to endow it to the value of £30 a year.[12] Brome bought two properties in 1324, Tackley's Hall, on the south side of the High Street, and Perilous Hall, on the north side of Broad Street, and as an investment, he also purchased the advowson of a church in Aberford.

Brome's foundation was confirmed in a charter dated 21 January 1326, in which the Crown, represented by the Lord Chancellor, was to exercise the rights of Visitor; a further charter drawn up in May of that year gave the rights of Visitor to Henry Burghersh, Bishop of Lincoln, as Oxford at that time was part of the diocese of Lincoln. Under Edward's patronage, Brome diverted the revenues of the University Church to his college, which thereafter was responsible for appointing the Vicar and providing four chaplains to celebrate the daily services in the church.[5] The college lost no time in seeking royal favour again after Edward II's deposition, and Edward III confirmed his father's favour in February 1327, but the amended statutes with the Bishop of Lincoln as Visitor remained in force.[13] In 1329, the college received by royal grant a large house belonging to the Crown, known as La Oriole,[14] on the site of what is now Front Quad.[15] It is from this property that the college acquired its common name, "Oriel"; the name was in use from about 1349. The word referred to an oratoriolum, or oriel window, forming a feature of the earlier property.[12]

In the early 1410s several fellows of Oriel took part in the disturbances accompanying Archbishop Arundel's attempt to stamp out Lollardy in the University; the Lollard belief that religious power and authority came through piety and not through the hierarchy of the Church particularly inflamed passions in Oxford, where its proponent, John Wycliffe, had been head of Balliol. Disregarding the provost's authority, Oriel's fellows fought bloody battles with other scholars, killed one of the Chancellor's servants when they attacked his house, and were prominent among the group that obstructed the Archbishop and ridiculed his censures.[3]

In 1442, Henry VI sanctioned an arrangement whereby the town was to pay the college £25 a year from the fee farm (a type of feudal tax) in exchange for decayed property, allegedly worth £30 a year, which the college could not afford to keep in repair. The arrangement was cancelled in 1450.[16]

Early Modern

In 1643 a general obligation was imposed on Oxford colleges to support the Royalist cause in the English Civil War. The King called for Oriel's plate, and almost all of it was given, the total weighing 29 lb. 0 oz. 5 dwt. of gilt, and 52 lb. 7 oz. 14 dwt. of "white" plate. In the same year the college was assessed at £1 of the weekly sum of £40 charged on the colleges and halls for the fortification of the city.[5] When the Oxford Parliament was assembled during the Civil War in 1644, Oriel housed the Executive Committee of the Privy Council, Parliament being held at neighbouring Christ Church.[7] Following the defeat of the Royalist cause, the University was scrutinised by the Parliamentarians, and five of the eighteen Oriel fellows were removed. The Visitors, on their own authority, elected fellows between 1648 and October 1652, when without reference to the Commissioners, John Washbourne was chosen; the autonomy of the college in this respect seems to have been restored.[5]

In 1673 James Davenant, a fellow since 1661, complained to William Fuller, then Bishop of Lincoln, about Provost Say's conduct in the election of Thomas Twitty to a fellowship. Bishop Fuller appointed a commission that included the Vice-Chancellor, Peter Mews; the Dean of Christ Church, John Fell; and the Principal of Brasenose, Thomas Yates. On 1 August Fell reported to the Bishop that:

When this Devil of buying and selling is once cast out, your Lordship will, I hope, take care that he return not again, lest he bring seven worse than himself into the house after 'tis swept and garnisht.

On 24 January 1674, Bishop Fuller issued a decree dealing with the recommendations of the commissioners—a majority of all the fellows should always be present at an election, so the provost could not push an election in a thin meeting, and fellows should be admitted immediately after their election. On 28 January Provost Say obtained from the King a recommendation for Twitty's election, but it was withdrawn on 13 February, following the Vice-Chancellor's refusal to swear Twitty into the University and the Bishop's protests at Court.[5]

During the early 1720s, a constitutional struggle began between the provost and the fellows, culminating in a lawsuit. In 1721, Henry Edmunds was elected as a fellow by 9 votes to 3; his election was rejected by Provost George Carter, and on appeal, by the Visitor, Edmund Gibson, then Bishop of Lincoln. The provost continued to reject candidates, fuelling discontent among the fellows, until a writ of attachment against the Bishop of Lincoln was heard between 1724 and 1726. The opposing fellows, led by Edmunds, appealed to the original statutes, claiming the Crown as Visitor, making Gibson's decisions invalid; Provost Carter, supported by Bishop Gibson, appealed to the second version, claiming the Bishop of Lincoln as Visitor. The jury decided for the fellows, supporting the original charter of Edward II.[13]

In a private printing of 1899, Provost Shadwell lists thirteen Gaudies observed by the college during the 18th century; by the end of the 19th century all but two, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Purification of the Virgin, had ceased to be celebrated.[5]


In the early 19th century, the reforming zeal of Provosts John Eveleigh and Edward Copleston gained Oriel a reputation as the most brilliant college of the day. It was the centre of the "Oriel Noetics" — clerical liberals such as Richard Whately and Thomas Arnold were fellows,[17] and during the 1830s, two intellectually eminent fellows of Oriel, John Keble and Saint John Henry Newman, supported by Canon Pusey (also an Oriel fellow initially, later at Christ Church) and others, formed a group known as the Oxford Movement, alternatively as the Tractarians, or familiarly as the Puseyites. The group was disgusted by the then Church of England and sought to revive the spirit of early Christianity.[18][19] Tension arose in college since Provost Edward Hawkins was a determined opponent of the Movement.[17]

During the First World War, a wall was built dividing St Mary's Quad from Back Quad to accommodate members of Somerville College in St Mary's Hall while their college buildings were being used as a military hospital. At that time Oxford separated male and female students as far as possible; Vera Brittain, one of the Somerville students, recalled an amusing occurrence during her time there in her autobiography, Testament of Youth:

[...] the few remaining undergraduates in the still masculine section of Oriel not unnaturally concluded that it would be a first-rate "rag" to break down the wall which divided them from the carefully guarded young females in St. Mary Hall. Great perturbation filled the souls of the Somerville dons when they came down to breakfast one morning to find that a large gap had suddenly appeared in the protecting masonry, through which had been thrust a hilarious placard:
Throughout that day and the following night the Senior Common Room, from the Principal downwards, took it in turns to sit on guard beside the hole, for fear any unruly spirit should escape through it to the forbidden adventurous males on the other side.[20]

In 1985, the college became the last all-male college in Oxford to start to admit women for matriculation as undergraduates. In 1984, the Senior Common Room voted 23-4 to admit women undergraduates from 1986. The Junior Common Room president believed that "the distinctive character of the college will be undermined".[21]

A second Feast Day was added in 2007 by a benefaction from George Moody, formerly of Oriel, to be celebrated on or near St George's Day (23 April). The only remaining gaudy had been Candlemas; the new annual dinner was to be known as the St. George's Day Gaudy. The dinner is black tie and gowns, and by request of the benefactor, the main course will normally be goose.[22] The inaugural event took place on Wednesday 25 April 2007.

Buildings and environs

Front Quad (First quadrangle)

Nothing survives of the original buildings, La Oriole and the smaller St Martin's Hall in the south-east; both were demolished before the quadrangle was built in the artisan mannerist style during the 17th century. The south and west ranges and the gate tower were built around 1620 to 1622; the north and east ranges and the chapel buildings date from 1637 to 1642.[3][6] The façade of the east range forms a classical E shape comprising the college chapel, hall and undercroft. The exterior and interior of the ranges are topped by an alternating pattern of decorative gables. The gate house has a Perpendicular portal and canted Gothic oriel windows, with fan vaulting in the entrance. The room above has a particularly fine plaster ceiling and chimney piece of stucco caryatids and panelling interlaced with studded bands sprouting into large flowers.[14]

The cartouches over staircases one, two, three, five and six and the chapel, bar and provost's lodgings entrances bear the arms of important figures in the college's history:

(1) Anthony Blencowe (Provost 1574–1618) who left money that paid for building the west side of the front quad.

(2) Richard Dudley (Fellow 1495–1536) who gave property for fellowships.

(3) John Carpenter (Provost 1428–1435, later Bishop Carpenter) who gave property, plate, fellowships and Exhibitions.

(Chapel) John Frank (Master of the Rolls) gave property for fellowships around 1441.

(Bar) William Lewis (Provost 1618–1621) who canvassed successfully for donations for the rebuilding of college.

(5) William Smith (Bishop of Lincoln) who gave property for a fellowship around 1508.

(Provost's lodgings) John Tolson who was provost during the building of Front Quad.

(6) Edward Hawkins (Provost 1828–1882).


In the centre of the East range, the portico of the hall entrance commemorates its construction during the reign of Charles I with the legend "REGNANTE CAROLO", Charles, being King, in pierced stonework. The portico was completely rebuilt in 1897, and above it are statues of two Kings: Edward II on the left, and probably either Charles I or James I, although this is disputed; above those is a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary after whom the college is officially named.[6] The top breaks the Jacobean tradition and has classical pilasters, a shield with garlands, and a segmental pediment.[14]

The hall has a hammerbeam roof; the louvre in the centre is now glazed, but was originally the only means of escape for smoke rising from a fireplace in the centre of the floor. The wooden panelling was designed by Ninian Comper and was erected in 1911 in place of some previous 19th-century Gothic type, though even earlier panelling, dating from 1710, is evident in the Buttery.

Behind the High Table is a portrait of Edward II; underneath is a longsword brought to the college in 1902 after being preserved for many years on one of the college's estates at Swainswick, near Bath. On either side are portraits of Sir Walter Raleigh and Joseph Butler. The other portraits around the hall include other prominent members of Oriel such as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Arnold, James Anthony Froude, John Keble, Saint John Henry Newman, Richard Whately and John Robinson.

The heraldic glass in the windows display the coats of arms of benefactors and distinguished members of the college; three of the windows were designed by Ninian Comper.[6] The window next to the entrance on the East side contains the arms of Regius Professors of Modern History who have been ex-officio fellows of the college.[3]


The current chapel is Oriel's third, the first being built around 1373 on the north side of the front quadrangle. By 1566, the chapel was located on the south side of the quadrangle, as shown in a drawing made for Elizabeth I's visit to Oxford in that year. The present building was consecrated in 1642 and despite subsequent restorations it largely retains its original appearance.

The bronze lectern was given to the college in 1654. The black and white marble paving dates from 1677–1678. Except for the pews on the west, dating from 1884, the panelling, stalls and screens are all 17th-century, as are the altar and carved communion rails. Behind the altar is Bernard van Orley's The Carrying of the Cross — a companion-piece to this painting is in the National Gallery of Scotland. The organ case dates from 1716; originally designed by Christopher Schreider for St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington, it was acquired by Oriel in 1884.[23]

In the north-west window of the gallery there is a small piece of late medieval glass, a figure of St Margaret of Antioch. In the south window of the gallery there is a painted window of "The Presentation of Christ in the Temple", executed by William Peckitt of York. It was originally set in the east window in 1767; a later version of his work can be seen in New College Chapel. The rest of the stained glass is Victorian: the earliest is on the easternmost part of the south side; the rest date from after the 1884 restorations by Powell.

Above the entrance to the chapel is an oriel that, until the 1880s, was a room on the first floor that formed part of a set of rooms that were occupied by Richard Whately, and later by Saint John Henry Newman. Whately is said to have used the space as a larder and Newman is said to have used it for his private prayers — when the organ was installed in 1884, the space was used for the blower. The wall that once separated the room from the ante-chapel was removed, making it accessible from the chapel. The organ was built by J. W. Walker & Sons in 1988;[23] in 1991 the space behind the organ was rebuilt as an oratory and memorial to Newman and the Oxford Movement. A new stained glass window designed by Vivienne Haig and realised by Douglas Hogg was completed and installed in 2001.

During the late 1980s, the chapel was extensively restored with the assistance of donations from Lady Norma Dalrymple-Champneys. During this work, the chandelier, given in 1885 by Provost Shadwell while still a fellow, was put back in place, the organ was restored, the painting mounted behind the altar, and the chapel repainted. A list of former chaplains and organ scholars was erected in the ante-chapel.[24] The chaplain is Rev Dr Robert Wainwright and the director of music is Dr David Maw.

Back Quad (Second quadrangle)

Originally a garden, the demand for more accommodation for undergraduates in the early 18th century resulted in two free-standing blocks being built. The first block erected was the Robinson Building on the east side, built in 1720 by Bishop Robinson at the suggestion of his wife, as the inscription over the door records. Its twin block, the Carter Building, was erected on the west side in 1729, as a result of a benefaction by Provost Carter. The two buildings stood for nearly a hundred years as detached blocks in the garden, and the architectural elements of the Front quad are repeated on them — only here the seven gables are all alike. Between 1817 and 1819,[14] they were joined up to the Front quad with their present, rather incongruous connecting links. In the link to the Robinson Building, two purpose-built rooms have been incorporated – the Champneys Room, designed by Weldon Champneys, the nephew of Basil Champneys, and the Benefactors Room, a panelled room honouring benefactors of the college. A Gothic oriel window, belonging to the provost's lodgings, was added to the Carter Building in 1826.[14]

The north range houses the library and senior common rooms; designed in the Neoclassical style by James Wyatt, it was built between 1788 and 1796 to accommodate the books requested by Edward, Baron Leigh, formerly High Steward of the University and an Orielensis, whose gift had doubled the size of the library.[25] The two-storey building has rusticated arches on the ground floor and a row of Ionic columns above, dividing the façade into seven bays — the ground floor contains the first purpose-built senior common rooms in Oxford, above is the library.[3]

On 7 March 1949, a fire spread from the library roof; over 300 printed books and the manuscripts on exhibition were completely destroyed, and over 3,000 books needed repair,[25] though the main structure suffered little damage and restoration took less than a year.[3]

St. Mary's Quad (Third quadrangle)

The south, east and west ranges of St Mary's Quadrangle contain elements of St Mary Hall, which was incorporated into Oriel in 1902; less than a decade later, the Hall's buildings on the northern side were demolished for the construction of the Rhodes Building. Bedel Hall in the south was formally amalgamated with St Mary Hall in 1505.

In the south range, parts of the medieval buildings survive and are incorporated into staircase ten — the straight, steep flight of stairs and timber-framed partitions date from a mid-15th century rebuilding of St Mary Hall. The former Chapel, Hall and Buttery of St Mary Hall, built in 1640, form part of the Junior Library and Junior Common Room. Viewed from St Mary's Quad, the Chapel, with its Gothic windows, can be seen to have been built neatly on top of the Hall, a unique example in Oxford of such a plan.

On the east side of the quad is a simple rustic style timber-frame building; known as "the Dolls' House", it was erected by Principal King in 1743.

In 1826 an ornate range was erected by St Mary Hall in the Gothic Revival style, incorporating the old gate of St Mary Hall, on the west side of the quad. Designed by Daniel Robertson, it contains two quite ornate oriels placed asymmetrically, one is of six lights, the other four. They are the best example of the pre-archaeological Gothic in Oxford.[14] The large oriel on the first floor at the north end was once the drawing room window of the Principal of the Hall. Parts of the street wall incorporated into this range show traces of blocked windows dating from the same period of rebuilding in the 15th century as the present-day staircase ten.[3]

The Rhodes Building, pictured right, was built in 1911 using £100,000 left to the college for that purpose by former student Cecil Rhodes.[14] It was designed by Basil Champneys and stands on the site of the house of the St Mary Hall Principal, on the High Street. Champneys's first proposal for the building included an open arcade to the High Street, a domed central feature and balustraded parapet. The left hand block and much of the centre was to be given up to a new provost's lodging, and the five windows on the first floor above the arcade were to light a gallery belonging to the lodging. The college eventually decided to retain the existing provost's lodging and demanded detailing "more in accordance with the style which has become traditional in Oxford". It became the last building of the Jacobean revival style in Oxford.[26]

On the side facing the High Street, there is a statue of Rhodes over the main entrance, with Edward VII and George V beneath. The inscription reads: "e Larga MUnIfICentIa CaeCILII rhoDes", which, as well as acknowledging Rhodes' munificence, is a chronogram giving the date of construction, MDCCCLLVIIIIII.

The staircases of the interior façade are decorated with cartouches similar to those found in Front Quad, and likewise bear the arms of important figures in the college's history; (13) Sir Walter Raleigh who was an undergraduate from 1572 to 1574, (14) John Keble who was a fellow between 1811 and 1835), (archway) Edward Hawkins who was provost from 1828 until 1882 and (15) Gilbert White who was an undergraduate from 1739 until 1743 and a fellow from 1744 until 1793.

The building was not entirely well received; William Sherwood, Mayor of Oxford and Master of Magdalen College School, wrote:

Oriel [has] broken out into the High, ... destroying a most picturesque group of old houses in so doing, and, to put it gently, hardly compensating us for their removal.[27]

O'Brien Quad (Island site)

This is a convex quadrilateral of buildings, bordered by the High Street, and the meeting of Oriel Street and King Edward Street in Oriel Square. The site took six hundred years to acquire and although it contains teaching rooms and the Harris Lecture Theatre, it is largely given over to accommodation.

On the High Street, No. 106 and 107 stand on the site of Tackley's Inn; built around 1295,[6] it was the first piece of property that Adam de Brome acquired when he began to found the college in 1324.[15] It comprised a hall and chambers leased to scholars, behind a frontage of five shops, with the scholars above and a cellar of five bays below. The hall, which was open to the roof, was 33 feet (10 m) long, 20 feet (6 m) wide, and about 22 feet (7 m) high; at the east end was a large chamber with another chamber above it. The south wall of the building, which survives, was partly of stone and contains a large two-light early 14th-century window. The cellar below is of the same date and is the best preserved medieval cellar in Oxford; originally entered by stone steps from the street, it has a stone vault divided into four sections by two diagonal ribs, with carved corbels.[16]

The Oriel Street site was acquired between 1329 and 1392.[16] No. 12, now staircases 19 and 20, is the oldest tenement acquired by the college; known as Kylyngworth's, it was granted to the college in 1392 by Thomas de Lentwardyn, fellow and later provost, having previously been let to William de Daventre, Oriel's fourth provost, in 1367. A back wing to the property was added around 1600 and further work to the front was conducted in 1724–1738.[28] In 1985, funded by a gift from Edgar O'Brien and £10,000 from the Pilgrim Trust, Kylyngworth's was refurbished along with Nos. 10, 9 and 7.

King Edward Street was created by the college between 1872 and 1873 when 109 and 110 High Street were demolished. The old shops on each side of the road were pulled down and rebuilt, and to preserve the continuity, the new shops were numbered 108 and 109–112. Named after the college's founder, the road was opened in 1873.[29] On the wall of the first floor of No. 6, there is a large metal plaque with a portrait of Cecil Rhodes; underneath is the inscription:

In this house, the Rt. Hon Cecil John Rhodes kept academical residence in the year 1881. This memorial is erected by Alfred Mosely in recognition of the great services rendered by Cecil Rhodes to his country.[30]

In the centre of the quad is the Harris Building, formerly Oriel court, a real tennis court where Charles I played tennis with his nephew Prince Rupert in December 1642 and King Edward VII had his first tennis lesson in 1859. The building was in use as a lecture hall by 1923,[31] and after modernisation between 1991 and 1994, funded by Sir Philip and Lady Harris, contains accommodation, a seminar room and the college's main lecture theatre. The bronze plaque in the lobby commemorates Sir Philip's father, Captain Charles William Harris, after whom the building is named. The building was opened by John Major, then Prime Minister, on 10 August 1993.[32]

Whereas the staircases on the first three quadrangles are marked with Arabic numerals, the Island site is marked with Roman numerals. Both sites have the numbering running anticlockwise around each quadrangle and there are two staircase eighteens − Mary Quad's staircase numbering finishes at XVIII and O'Brien Quad's staircase numbering begins with 18.

Rectory Road

Bordered by the Cowley Road, this site was formerly Nazareth House, a residential care home convent — Goldie Wing (shown left) and Larmenier House are its surviving buildings. Nazareth House itself was demolished to make room for two purpose-built halls of residence, James Mellon Hall (shown right) and David Paterson House. The two new halls were opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 8 November 2000.[33]

As it is about ten minutes walk from college and more peaceful than the middle of the city, it has become the principal choice of accommodation for Oriel's graduates and finalists.[34] The site has its own common rooms, squash court, gymnasium and support staff.


Bartlemas is a conservation area that incorporates the remaining buildings of a leper hospital founded by Henry I;[35] it includes the sports grounds for Oriel, Jesus and Lincoln Colleges, along with landscaping for wildlife and small scale urban development.

In 1326 Provost Adam de Brome was appointed warden of St Bartholomew's;[35] a leper hospital in Cowley Marsh, the hospital was later granted to the college by Edward III, along with the payments it had been receiving from the fee farm. It was increasingly used as a rest house for sick members of the college needing a change of air.[36] In 1649 the college rebuilt the main hospital range north of the chapel, destroyed in the Civil War, as a row of four almshouses, called Bartlemas House.[37] Bartlemas Chapel and two farm cottages are the other extant buildings.

Filming location

The buildings of Oriel College were used as a location for Hugh Grant's first film, Privileged (1982), as well as Oxford Blues (1984), True Blue (1991) and The Dinosaur Hunter (2000).[38] The television crime series Inspector Morse used the college in the episodes "Ghost in the Machine", under the name of 'Courtenay College', "The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn", "The Infernal Serpent", "Deadly Slumber", "Twilight of the Gods" and "Death is now My Neighbour",[38] and in the one off follow on, Lewis, the Middle Common Room and Oriel Square were used.[39]


The arms of the college are blazoned: Gules, three lions passant guardant or a bordure engrailed argent.

The arms of the college are a differenced version of the royal arms of the founder King Edward II, namely the three gold lions of the Plantagenet arms on a red background. However, as no one may bear another's arms unaltered, an engrailed silver border was added "for difference".

The Prince of Wales's feathers, often adopted as insignia by members of the college, appear as decorative elements within the college buildings and appear on the official college tie. It probably represents Edward, the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, who first adopted the device, the senior grandson of King Edward II, although it may represent King Charles I, who was Prince of Wales when the building of the Front quad began in the 17th century.[41]

The College colours are two white stripes on navy, used on the college scarf, sports clothing, oar blades etc.

The long-time informal emblem of the Tortoise Club (1st Summer VIII and 1st Torpid crews), was formalized in a grant to the college by Letters Patent dated 20 April 2009 of Garter, Clarenceux and Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. The Badge is blazoned A Tortoise displayed the shell circular Azure charged with two concentric annulets Argent.[42] The grant is formulated to provide the college, the Boat Club, and the Oriel Society (Oriel's Alumni society) use of the badge in relation to Tortoise Club alumni activities; the Tortoise Club is not itself an incorporated entity and does not bear Arms in its own right; therefore it could not be granted such a heraldic Badge directly.


Before formal Hall, the following Latin grace is recited by one of the student bible clerks. The translation is reputedly by Erasmus in his Convivium Religiosum of a grace recorded by St John Chrysostom:

Benedicte Deus, qui pascis nos a juventute nostra et praebes cibum omni carni, reple gaudio et laetitia corda nostra ut nos affatim quod satis est habentes abundemus in omne opus bonum, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum, cui, tecum et Spiritu Sancto, sit omnis honos, laus et imperium, in saecula saeculorum.

Blessed God, who feedest us from our youth and providest food to all flesh, fill our hearts with joy and gladness, that we, having enough to satisfy us, may abound in every good work, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be all honour, praise and power for all ages.

After the meal, the provost, or a fellow, usually recites a short Latin prayer [Benedicto benedicatur, per Jesum Christum, Let praise be given to/by the Blessed One] instead of the full post cibum grace:

Domine Deus, resurrectio et vita credentium, qui semper es laudandus cum in viventibus tum in defunctis, agimus tibi gratias pro Eduardo secundo, Fundatore nostro, pro Adamo De Brome, praecipuo benefactore caeterisque benefactoribus nostris, quorum benficiis hic ad pietatem et ad studia bonarum literarum alimur; rogantes ut nos his donis tuis recte utentes, ad resurrectionis gloriam immortalem perducamur, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.

Lord God, the resurrection and life of all who believe in thee, who art always worthy to be praised by both the living and the dead, we give thee thanks for Edward the Second, our Founder, for Adam de Brome, our principal benefactor and for all our other benefactors, by whose benefits we are here maintained in godliness and learning; and we beseech thee that using these thy gifts rightly we may be led to the immortal glory of resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.[43]

Student life

Accommodation is provided for all undergraduates, and for some graduates, though some accommodation is off-site. Members are generally expected to dine in hall, where there are two sittings every evening, one informal and one formal, except on Saturdays, where there are no sittings.[8][44] The Bar, situated underneath the Hall, serves food from mid-morning and drinks in the evening. There is both a Junior Common Room (JCR), between Back and St Mary's quad and a Middle Common Room (MCR), on the Island Site.

The college lending library supplements the university libraries and holds over 100,000 volumes, including undergraduate texts. Most undergraduate tutorials are carried out in the college, though for specialist papers, undergraduates may be sent to tutors in other colleges.

Between 2001–2010, Oriel College students chose not to be affiliated to the University-wide Students' union, OUSU,[45] although this did not stop some students from getting involved with OUSU and running for elected office. In a 2010 student referendum the JCR decided to reaffiliate.[46] However, in 2013, in a fresh referendum, the Oriel JCR again voted to disaffiliate from OUSU.[47]



Oriel College has its own drama society, the Oriel Lions, which funds college and Oxford University shows.[48]


Oriel College also has its own student-run publication, The Poor Print. The Poor Print publishes a range of content, including news, poetry, photography, science, comment, drawing, music, events and entertainment. Each issue is based around a theme, decided upon by the editors, and content comes from members of all common rooms and the college staff.[49]

The Poor Print was originally set up in Hilary 2013. However, the publication in its current guise was established in Michaelmas 2014 as an online-only magazine, with a fortnightly print edition then introduced in Michaelmas 2015. This format of a fortnightly print edition, supplemented with additional content online, has continued until the present day.[50]


Croquet may be played in St Mary quad in the summer, as can bowls on the south lawn of Front quad.[8] The sports ground is mainly used for cricket, tennis, rugby union and football.


Rowing at Oriel is carried out from the college's own boat-house across Christ Church Meadow, on Boat House Island. Oriel has a reputation for its success in rowing, in particular the two intercollegiate bumps races, Torpids and Eights Week.[51]

As of 2018, Oriel holds 33 Torpids Men's Headships, the most of any college, with Brasenose in second with 22 the most recent of which was in 1894. It also holds 32 Summer Eights Headships, second to Christ Church at 33, from 1968 to 2018 Oriel won 25 headships.[52]

In 2006 Oriel claimed the first ever double headship in Torpids, rowing over as Head of the River in both the men's and women's first divisions. In 2018 Oriel repeated this victory with their second double headship. It remains the only college to possess a double headship in Torpids.

In recent years, Oriel claimed the women's Torpids Headship in 2017 and held it in 2018. It has held the men's Headship in Eights in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. It regained men's Headship in Torpids in 2018. The women's and men's second boats are currently in "fixed divisions" in the bumps charts and, as such, are guaranteed a place in racing each year. The college usually fields third boats (and sometimes more) for the bumps events.

More extensive information on the results of Torpids and Eights can be found here: http://eodg.atm.ox.ac.uk/user/dudhia/rowing/bumps/

In addition to the Oxford-based races, Oriel crews compete in external events including the Head of the River Race, the Women's Eights Head of the River Race, the Henley Boat Races and regional events. In 2016 the men's first boat won the men's eights collegiate event at the Fairbairn Cup, it won again in 2017 and won the entire event in 2018.[53]

In Tom Brown at Oxford by Thomas Hughes, Oriel's win in the 1842 Head of the River Race, with Oriel bumping Trinity, was re-written as Tom's college, "St Ambrose" taking first place and "Oriel" in second place.[5]

During the 7th week in Trinity Term, the boat club hosts the annual Oriel Regatta; events in this competition are mixed and crewdate eights. Mixed Eights are crews from a single college that must contain at least four female rowers. For Crewdate Eights one enters as a group of four rowers with or without a coxswain and are then matched up with another group, where possible creating a mixed college and mixed gender crew. The final two crews have a crewdate paid for them by the Regatta. It is a fun event with which to end the years collegiate racing schedule. The course runs upstream from the Longbridges Boathouse to past the end of boathouses on Christ Church Island and races are conducted in knock-out format.

The general emblem of the Oriel College Boat Club is the three feathers. In recent years this has been augmented by the addition of crossed-oars below the feathers.

Further information and current news can be found at the Oriel College Boat Club website: http://rowing.oriel.ox.ac.uk/

The Tortoise Club

The purpose of the Tortoise Club is two-fold: the recognition and celebration of outstanding Oriel rowing; and the financial support of the OCBC.

Membership is by election: proposal by the Men's Captain of Boats, Women's Captain of Boats and the President of the Tortoise Club. Election is by the approval of the Tortoise Council.

Members must be Orielenses (excepting Honorary members) who have represented OCBC with excellence. Members of the men's and women's 1st Summer VIII and 1st Torpid are judged to have fulfilled these criteria but still must be approved by the Tortoise Council. All other potential members are at the Council's discretion.

The unique emblem of the Tortoise Club is the tortoise badge.[42] The College of Arms' narrative should not be misunderstood to imply the use of the Tortoise emblem by the general Oriel College Boat Club membership or members of the Oriel Society – these have their own appropriate emblematic devices.

The Blessed Virgins Club

The Blessed Virgins Club was the female counterpart of the Tortoise Club. As of 2016, the women of Oriel College Boat Club are inducted into the Tortoise Club on the same terms as men and the Blessed Virgins Club is defunct. At the creation of the Oriel College Women's Boat Club in 1986,[54] Oriel's female rowers in the 1st VIII and 1st Torpid became members of The Blessed Virgins Club, in like fashion and styling as their male counterparts in the Tortoise Club. The respective unique emblem of The Blessed Virgins was a pair of (angelic) wings. The choice of "Blessed Virgins" is a play on the official name of the college, that being 'The House of Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford'.[55]

Oriel Rowing Jackets

Until 2009 the wearing of Boat Club Jackets (ivory with navy blue piping and cuff rings, bearing the three ostrich feather emblem on the left breast) was limited to the 1st and 2nd Summer VIII's and Torpids and the Oriel College Boat Club Committee. At that time cuff ring designations were: Three rings for 1st Summer VIII and 1st Torpid; two rings for Boat Club Committee; one ring for 2nd Summer VIII 2nd Torpid. These now obsolete designations can still be seen at the Walters of Oxford website.[56]

Changes brought about in the Oriel Blazer Act of 2009 to become more inclusive of lower-boats' alumni (3rd, 4th, and sometimes 5th VIII's as well as boat coxswains) reformed the cuff ring designations as follows: Three rings for 1st Summer VIII; two rings for 1st Torpid and those awarded Tortoise membership at the Tortoise Council's discretion; one ring for general boat club members (no specific distinction for committee members exists today).

Academic performance

Oriel is currently ranked 8th out of the 30 colleges in the Norrington Table (Oxford University's ranking of colleges by undergraduate academic performance).[57]

People associated with the College

Many notable and famous people have passed through Oriel's gates, from statesmen to cricketers to industrialists; their most famous undergraduate is the 16th-century explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh.[8][58] On the graduate level, the college boasts as former fellows the principal founders of the Oxford Movement: John Keble, E.B. Pusey, and Saint John Henry Newman. The College has produced many other churchmen, bishops, cardinals, governors, and two Nobel Prize recipients: Alexander Todd (Chemistry) and James Meade (Economics).

The professorial fellowships the college holds are: the Regius Professor of Modern History, held by Lyndal Roper and formerly by Robert Evans, Sir John Elliott, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Michael Elliot Howard, and Thomas Arnold, the Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, held by Hindy Najman, the Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, held by Brian Leftow, and the Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.[2]

In the 1700s, Oriel attracted its first transatlantic students — sons of planters in Virginia. 'One of them came to regret giving a job to a young surveyor: George Washington.'[59]

Notable possessions

Oriel has three notable pieces of medieval plate.[60] The first is a French beaker and cover in silver gilt; past estimates on its dating from 1460–1470 are thought mistaken, and circa 1350, with later decoration, was later expounded.[61] It was bought in 1493 for £4.18s.1d., under the mistaken belief that it had belonged to Edward II.[6] In a college inventory of plate dated 21 December 1596, it is named as the Founder's Cup.

The second notable piece of plate is a mazer of maplewood with silver gilt mounts, dating from 1470–1485. On the edge of the rim is a row of grouped beads; below is an inscription in black letters:

Vir racione vivas non quod petit atra voluptas sic caro casta datur lis lingue suppeditatur
Man, in thy draughts let reason be thy guide, and not the craving of perverted lust;
So honest nourishment will be supplied, and strife of tongue be trampled in the dust

This type of shallow drinking vessel was quite common in the Middle Ages, but the only other mazers in Oxford are three dating from the 15th century, and one standing mazer from 1529–1530, all belonging to All Souls. Third is a coconut cup, one of six in Oxford; the Oriel cup has silver gilt mounts and dates from the first quarter of the 16th century.[62]

Among the later plate are two flagons, two patens and a chalice which date from 1640–1641. The larger pieces of Buttery Plate include the Sanford and Heywood grace cups, dated 1654–1655 and 1669–1670, a rosewater ewer gifted in 1669, a punchbowl dating from 1735–1736, and the great Wenman tankard presented in 1679, which holds a gallon and is the largest in Oxford. Many of the 17th- and 18th-century tankards were given by commensales and commoners as a form of an admission fee.[3]

Oriel also possesses an engrossment of the Magna Carta.[63]

See also


  1. "Oriel College". University of Oxford.
  2. Oxford University Calendar 2005–2006 (2005) p.323 has the corporate designation as "The Provost and Scholars of the House of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford, commonly called Oriel College, of the Foundation of Edward the Second of famous memory, sometime King of England", p324 has people — Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-928370-2.
  3. Watt, D. E. (editor), Oriel College, Oxford (Trinity term, 1953) — Oxford University Archaeological Society, uses material collected by C. R. Jones, R. J. Brenato, D. K. Garnier, W. J. Frampton and N. Covington, under advice from W. A. Pantin, particularly in respect of the architecture and treasures (manuscripts, printed books and silver plate) sections. 16 page publication, produced in association with the Ashmolean Museum as part of a college guide series.
  4. "QUEEN'S VISIT: Special lunch fit for a Queen". Oxford Mail.
  5. Rannie, David, Oriel College (1900) — published by F. E. Robinson & Co. London (Part of the University of Oxford College Histories series) pp.1, 5–10, 102, 105, 108–110, 241 and 235.
  6. Oriel College Oxford, A short guide — published by Oriel College Development Trust on behalf of Oriel College, Oxford.
  7. "The Oxford Parliament". British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate 1638–60. Retrieved 3 September 2006.
  8. Oriel College Memorandum 2003–4.
  9. "College History | Oriel College". Oriel College. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  10. "Oriel College : Trustees' Annual Report & Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). ox.ac.uk. p. 35. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  11. Christopher and Edward Hibbert's The Encyclopedia of Oxford at p. 291 gives the date as April 24, with the wording "Adam de Brome, obtained from King Edward II, licence". Jeremy Catto's article about Brome in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives the date as April 20, with a similar wording. Rannie's Oriel College at p. 4 has "On April 28, 1324, Letters Patent issued by the King giving licence"
  12. Hibbert, Christopher, The Encyclopedia of Oxford London: Macmillan (1988) pp. 291–295.
  13. Varley, F.J., The Oriel College Lawsuit, 1724–26 Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society, Oxford Archived 14 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine (DOC).
  14. Sherwood, Jennifer; Nikolaus Pevsner (1974). The Building of England: Oxfordshire pp.176–180. Penguin/Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09639-9.
  15. Pantin, W.A., Tackley's Inn Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society, Oxford Archived 14 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine (DOC).
  16. Crossley, Alan (editor), 'Medieval Oxford', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4: The City of Oxford (1979) — Oxford University Press British History Online ISBN 0-19-722714-7.
  17. Newman's Oxford – A Guide for Pilgrims, Ecumenical undertaking between the Vicar of Littlemore and the Fathers of the Oratory at Birmingham — (Oxonian Rewley Press, c. 1978), p. 10
  18. Ollard, S.L., The Oxford Architectural and Historical Society and the Oxford Movement Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society, Oxford Archived 14 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine (DOC)
  19. DeLaura, David, 'The Oriel Inheritance' (chapter one), Hebrew and Hellene in Victorian England: Newman, Arnold, and Pater (1969) — published by University of Texas Press. Retrieved on 30 September 2006
  20. Brittain, Vera Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900–1925 (1933) — Penguin Books Reprint edition (1994) p.136 ISBN 0-14-018844-4.
  21. Cherwell Retropsective (1984 section) The Cherwell 24 November 1989 edition.
  22. Oriel News Issue 6 Summer 2007 published by the Oriel College Development Trust.
  23. Pacey, Robert and Popkin, Michael, The Organs of Oxford (1980) — Second edition published by Positif Press, Oxford, p.73 ISBN 0-906894-25-5.
  24. "Oriel College Chapel Guide & History". (reference for the section). Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  25. "Oriel College History of the Library". Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  26. Colvin, Howard Unbuilt Oxford Yale University Press Archived 19 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 0-300-03126-2.
  27. "95–101 High Street, Oxford". oxfordhistory.org.uk. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  28. Pantin, W. A., 'Kylyngworth's', The Oriel Record, Jan 1944, pp. 246–253.
  29. "King Edward Street". oxfordhistory.org.uk. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  30. An ABC of notables oxfordinscriptions.com Archived 15 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine .
  31. Crossley, Alan (editor), 'Social and Cultural Activities', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4: The City of Oxford (1979) — Oxford University Press British History Online ISBN 0-19-722714-7.
  32. Oriel College Record, 1993, pp.54–55.
  33. Royal visit brightens up the day thisisoxfordshire.com news report Archived 1 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved on 11 September 2006
  34. "Oriel Graduate Accommodation". orielmcr.org. Archived from the original on 21 May 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2006.
  35. Page, William (editor), 'Hospitals: St Bartholomew, Oxford', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2 (1907), pp. 157-58 has 1326 to de Brome and 1328 to Oriel — published by Oxford University Press British History Online ISBN 0-7129-1041-7.
  36. Markham, Margaret, Medieval Hospitals has grant date as 1328 Local History Series: Medieval Hospitals Archived 12 June 2004 at the Wayback Machine , Vale and Downland Museum, Wantage, UK.
  37. Sherwood, Jennifer, A guide to the Churches of Oxfordshire (1989) p. 143 has grant date as 1327 — published by Robert Dugdale in association with Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust ISBN 0-946976-03-1.
  38. Leonard, Bill, The Oxford of Inspector Morse Location Guides, Oxford (2004) pp.100 and 176 ISBN 0-9547671-1-X.
  39. "Inspector Lewis". PBS. Retrieved 13 December 2006.
  40. Dateable from strapwork design, used during reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and early reign of King James I
  41. "The name and arms of the College". Oriel College sub-page. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  42. "The College of Arms newsletter". College of Arms. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  43. Adams, Reginald, The College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge The Perpetua Press, Oxford (1992) pp. 26–27 and 93 (reference for the section) ISBN 1-870882-06-7.
  44. "Food | Oriel College". Oriel College. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  45. "Oriel Split with OUSU". Buckley, Julia, The Oxford Student article of. 31 May 2001. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2006.
  46. Only two Sab positions uncontested Archived 2007-10-12 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 4 January 2007 Mead, Jessica, Cherwell article of 10 November 2006.
  47. Nick Toner (26 January 2014) "Oriel to quit OUSU after referendum ruling", The Oxford Student
  48. Oriel Lions Archived 4 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine – the Oriel College Dramatic Society
  49. https://thepoorprint.com/contributing-to-the-poor-print/
  50. https://thepoorprint.com/the-poor-print-about-us/
  51. "Oriel stay a-Head of river". The Oxford Student. 30 November 1999. Archived from the original on 12 January 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2006.
  52. "Anu Dudhia catalogue of bumps charts". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  53. "Fairbarin Cup Results – Jesus College Boat Club (Cambridge)". Archived from the original on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  54. "The Blessed Virgins Club". Oriel College Women's Boat Club. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  55. "A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford". British History Online (Victoria County History). Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  56. "Rowing Blazers of Oxford Colleges". Walters of Oxford. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  57. "Undergraduate Degree Classifications". Oxford University. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  58. Brock, M.G. and Curthoys, M.C., The History of the University of Oxford, Volume VII, Part 2 — Oxford University Press (2000) p. 689. Thomas Hariot of St Mary Hall was teaching mathematics to Walter Ralegh of Oriel. ISBN 0-19-951017-2.
  59. This is from the history section on the official college website, and can be checked here (just below half-way down).
  60. British History Online. Retrieved on 7 January 2011.
  61. The more recent date is for example given in the Victoria County History of the Counties of England, Oxfordshire Volume III (1954) p.124. In a modern work, such as the Oriel College Oxford, A short guide (2006), the year is given as 1350.
  62. Jones, Alfred, Catalogue of the plate of Oriel College Oxford (1944) — Oxford University Press pp.xi-xiii, 1–2, 97.
  63. Oxford University News releases for journalists Oxford's Bodleian library holds a quarter of the world's Magna Cartas 9 November 2007 Archived 20 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine the engrossment (an official document from the Royal Chancery bearing the ruler's seal) dates from 1300.

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