Harris Manchester College, Oxford

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Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford
Harris Manchester
Harris Manchester College Oxford 20040124.jpg
College name Manchester Academy and Harris College
Latin name Collegium de Harris et Manchester
Motto Veritas Libertas Pietas (Truth, Freedom, Piety)
Named after Philip Harris, Baron Harris of Peckham
Established 1786
Sister college Homerton College, Cambridge
Principal The Revd Ralph Waller
Undergraduates 79
Graduates 116

Harris Manchester College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
Harris Manchester College, Oxford

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College website
Harris-Manchester College Oxford Coat Of Arms.svg
Blazon Gules two torches inflamed in saltire proper, on a chief argent, between two roses of the field barbed and seeded, an open book also proper.
Farmington Building
Exterior of Tate Library
Library gallery

Harris Manchester College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Formerly known as Manchester College, it is listed in the University Statutes (V.1) as Manchester Academy and Harris College, and at university ceremonies it is called Collegium de Harris et Manchester.

Located in Mansfield Road in central Oxford, Harris Manchester is one of very few mixed-sex higher education colleges in the UK whose undergraduate places are exclusively for students aged 21 or over. It is the smallest of the constituent full colleges of the University of Oxford, and as of 2012 had an estimated financial endowment of £6 million.[1]


Early day

The college started as the Warrington Academy in 1757 where its teachers included Joseph Priestly,[2] before being refounded as the Manchester Academy in Manchester in 1786.[3] Originally run by English Presbyterians, it was one of several dissenting academies that provided religious nonconformists with higher education, as at the time the only universities in England - Oxford and Cambridge - were restricted to Anglicans. It taught radical theology as well as modern subjects, such as science, modern languages, language, and history; as well as the classics. Its most famous professor was John Dalton, developer of atomic theory.

The college changed its location five times before settling in Oxford. It was located in Manchester between 1786 and 1803. It moved to York until 1840. It was located at 38 Monkgate, just outside Monkbar; later this was the first building of the College of Ripon and York St John (now York St John University).The key person in York was Charles Wellbeloved, a Unitarian minister. Because he would not move to Manchester, the college moved to York to have him as head. At first he taught all subjects, but hired additional tutors after a year. He always worked hard and several times his health broke. Wellbeloved did not allow the school to be called Unitarian because he wanted students to have an open mind and to discover the truth for themselves. In 1809 he wrote to George Wood,

"I do not and will not teach Unitarianism or any ism but Christianism. I will endeavour to teach the students how to study the Scripture—nice if they find Unitarianism there—well if animism—well if Trinitarianism—well, only let them find something for themselves."

Under Wellbeloved's Principalship 235 students were educated at the college: 121 divinity students and 114 laymen. Of the former, 30 did not enter the ministry and five entered the Anglican priesthood. Among the lay students were scholars, public servants, businessmen, and notable men in the arts. The majority was Unitarian.

In 1840, when age forced him to retire, the college moved back to Manchester, where it stayed until 1853.[4] In 1840, the college started an association with the University of London, and gained the right to present students for degrees from London. Between 1853 and 1889 the college was located in London, in University Hall, Gordon Square.[5] From London it moved to Oxford, opening its new buildings designed by the Unitarian architect Thomas Worthington in 1893.

In its early days, the College supported reforming causes, such as the abolition of slavery (1778), and the repeal of the Test Act (1828) and the Corporation Act (1828). In 1901, the College was the first academic institution in Britain to accept a female candidate for the Nonconformist ministry. In the 1920s and 1930s, the College provided courses for the Workers' Educational Association.

Modern day

A detail of the College's Mansfield Road facade.

Manchester College became a permanent private hall of Oxford University in and subsequently a full constituent college, being granted a Royal Charter in 1996.[6] At the same time, it changed its name to Harris Manchester College in recognition of a generous benefaction by Philip Harris, Baron Harris of Peckham.

Today the college focuses on students above the age of 21, both for undergraduate and graduate studies. The college tries to continue its liberal and pioneering ethos, considering its mature student focus as a modern means of providing higher education to those that have been excluded from it in the past.

Student life

Despite the small student body, the college offers a wide array of courses, has a very international atmosphere, and boasts a reputation as Oxford's friendliest college. Many undergraduate tutorials are carried out in the college, though for some specialist papers undergraduates may be sent to tutors in other colleges.

Members are generally expected to dine in the Arlosh Hall, where there is a twice-weekly formal dinner at which students dress in jackets, ties, and gowns.

The college is also the home of a chapel with ornate wood carvings, an organ, and notable stained-glass windows by the Pre-Raphaelite artists Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Reflecting the college's religious roots, the Unitarian-affiliated Manchester College Oxford Chapel Society meets on Sundays.


Aside from the college punt, The Royle Yacht, and a croquet lawn and fishing fountain, the college has no real sports facilities. However, the college does consistently enter a football team into the university leagues, and members do routinely join teams from other colleges, most recently providing several members of the Brasenose Rugby team and the Wadham and St Hugh's football teams. All members of the college have access to the gym and spa at the Oxford Spires Four Pillars Hotel [7] as well as the Oxford University pool on Iffley Road.

In recent years the college's ice hockey team has been successful, once winning second place in the intercollegiate cuppers tournament, with the Basketball team winning third place in its intercollegiate cuppers tournament the year before. There is also an active pool team who play in the second tier of the intercollegiate competition and a thriving squash club.[8]

Harris Manchester also has an affiliation with neighbouring Wadham College for those interested in becoming members of Wadham College Boat Club, which came in second in the 2012 Women's Torpids and Summer VIIIs, and saw both the First and Second Men's boats winning blades.

Junior Common Room (JCR) Bar

Harris Manchester has one of the two remaining student run college bars in Oxford (the other being Balliol College).[9] Recently refurbished, the bar offers some of the lowest prices in Oxford and boasts a particularly strong selection of single malt whiskies.

The Tate Library

Despite being the smallest college of Oxford University, Harris Manchester boasts the sixth largest college library and offers the best student population to book ratio. It houses a collection of books and manuscripts dating back to the fifteenth century. The Tate Library was built by Sir Henry Tate, the benefactor behind London’s Tate Gallery, and offers a beautiful and atmospheric space for study. The library was expanded in 2011 with the addition of a gallery, which blends in seamlessly with the Victorian Gothic architecture. The library is well stocked in all the major subjects offered by the college including English Literature, Philosophy, Theology, Politics, Economics, Law, History and Medicine. It also holds a significant collection on the history of protestant dissent in England and is home to the Carpenter Library of World Religions, donated to the college by its former principal, J. Estlin Carpenter.

Harris Manchester College is also located in convenient proximity to the Bodleian Library, the main research library of Oxford University, as well as the English, History, Social Sciences, and Law faculty libraries.


Notable People


People associated with Harris Manchester

Fellows of the College


Oliver Popplewell, British High Court Judge


  • A Fine Victorian Gentleman: The Life and Times of Charles Wellbeloved by Frank Schulman, published by Harris Manchester College 1999. Pages 55–89 cover Wellbeloved's period as principal of Manchester College, York.

External links