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Oriel College, Oxford University

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Oriel College, University of Oxford

Oriel Square, 0xford

Founded by Adam de Brome 1324


On 24 April 1324,[9] the Rector of the University Church, Adam de Brome, obtained a licence from 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.[10] De 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 purchased the advowson of a church in Aberford.

The 1326 college charter given by Edward II. The concluding nine words give the date as 21 January in the nineteenth year of his reign. De Brome's foundation was confirmed in a charter of 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, Oxford at that time being part of the diocese of Lincoln. Under Edward's patronage, de Brome diverted the revenue 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 remained in force with the Bishop of Lincoln as Visitor.[11] In 1329, the college received through royal grant a large house belonging to the crown, known as La Oriole,[12] standing on the site of what is now First quad;[13] it is from this property that the college acquired its common name, "Oriel", the name being in use from about 1349. The word referred to an oratoriolum, or oriel window, forming a feature of the earlier property.[10]

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 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 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.[14]

Early Modern[edit]

1675 copper engraving of the College, looking east across the front entrance and First quad; on the left is the tiered garden where Second quad would be built. 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 for 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, using 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 insisted on, 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 a recommendation for Twitty's election from the King, 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]

1733 copper engraving of the College, looking south, after the completion of Bishop Robinson's and Provost Carter's buildings in Second quad 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. Rejections of candidates by the Provost continued, fueling 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 first set of statutes, claiming the Crown as Visitor, making Gibson's decisions invalid; Provost Carter, supported by Bishop Gibson, appealed to the second set, claiming the Bishop of Lincoln as Visitor. The jury decided for the Fellows, supporting the original charter of Edward II.[11]

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.


College name St Mary Hall

  • Named after Church of St Mary the Virgin
  • Established 1326 (as part of Oriel College)
  • 1545 (as an independent hall)
  • Closed 1902 (incorporated into Oriel College)