New College, Oxford

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Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford
New College
New College Oxford chapel.jpg
College name The Warden and Scholars of St Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford
Latin name Collegium Novum Oxoniense/Collegium Sanctae Mariae Wintoniae
Motto Manners Makyth Man
Named after St. Mary
Established 1379 (1379)
Sister college King's College, Cambridge
Warden Professor Sir Curtis Price
Undergraduates 422[1] (2011/2012)
Graduates 287
Location Holywell Street and New College Lane

New College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
New College, Oxford

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College website
Boat Club
Commemoration Ball 2016
Grace Benedictus benedicat. May the Blessed One give a blessing

Benedicto benedicatur. Let praise be given to the Blessed One

New College Oxford Coat Of Arms (Motto).svg
Blazon Argent, two chevronels sable between three roses gules, barbed and seeded proper.

New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, the full name of the college is The Warden and Scholars of St Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford. The name "New College," however, soon came to be used following its completion in 1386 to distinguish it from the older existing college of St. Mary, now known as Oriel College.[2]

The college currently ranks second in the Norrington Table, a table assessing the relative performance of Oxford's undergraduates by their performance in final examinations. Having been ranked third in the 2011-12 tables, maintaining its place from 2010 to 2011,[3] New College jumped to 1st after the 2012-13 academic year.[4] The college stands along Holywell Street and New College Lane (known for Oxford's Bridge of Sighs), next to All Souls College, Harris Manchester College, Hertford College, The Queen's College and St Edmund Hall. The college's sister college is King's College, Cambridge.

The college is one of the main choral foundations of the University of Oxford, regarded as one of the leading choirs of the world. The college choir has recorded over one hundred albums,[5] and has been awarded two Gramophone Awards.

In 2014, the college had a financial endowment of £181m.[6] In 2006, the college sold for £55m an area of land in Buckinghamshire that had previously been given to the college, and the subsequent extra endowment income was put towards academic development, salaries, and repairs to buildings.[7]


Despite its name, New College is one of the oldest of the Oxford colleges; it was founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, as "The College of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford", the second college in Oxford to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.


In 1379 William of Wykeham had purchased land in Oxford and was able to apply to King Richard II for a charter to allow the foundation of a college de novo.[8] In his own charter of foundation, Wykeham declared the college to consist of a warden and seventy scholars. The site on which the college would be built was acquired from several sources, including the City of Oxford, Merton College and Queens' College. This land had been the City Ditch, a haunt of thieves and had been used for the burial of dead during the Black Death.[9]

New College was founded in conjunction with Winchester College (opened 1394), which was envisaged as a feeder to the Oxford college, and the two institutions have striking architectural similarities: both were the work of master mason William Wynford. On 5 March 1380, the first stone of New College was laid and, by 14 April 1386, the college entered formal possession of the buildings. Wykeham set to drawing up the statutes of the college, with a first draft presented in 1390. The statutes were not completed until the year before Wykeham died (1404).

The coat of arms of the college is one adopted by William Wykeham. It features two black chevrons, one said to have been added when he became a bishop and the other representing his skill with architecture (the chevron was a device used by masons). Winchester College uses the same arms.[10]

The grand collection of buildings is a testament to William's experience in administering both ecclesiastical and civil institutions as the Bishop of Winchester and High Chancellor of England.

Both Winchester College and New College were originally established for the education of priests, there being a shortage of properly educated clergy after the Black Death. William of Wykeham ordained that there were to be ten chaplains, three clerks and 16 choristers on the foundation of the college.[11] The original choristers were accommodated within the walls of the college under one schoolmaster. Since then the school has expanded and in 1903 moved to New College School in Savile Road.[12]

As well as being the first Oxford college for undergraduates and the first to have senior members of the college give tutorials,[13] New College was the first college in Oxford to be deliberately designed around a main quadrangle.[14]

Civil war

In August 1651, New College was fortified by the Parliamentarian forces and the cloister was used for musketry training. In 1685, Monmouth's rebellion involved Robert Sewster, a fellow of the college, who commanded a company of university volunteers. These volunteers were mostly of New College and exercised in the Bowling Green.[15]


The college's motto, created by William of Wykeham, is "Manners Makyth Man". The motto was in many respects fairly revolutionary. Firstly, it was written in English, rather than Latin, which makes it very unusual in Oxford, and is especially revolutionary considering the college's age; even St Catherine's College, founded in 1965, has a Latin motto ("Nova et Vetera": "the new and the old").

Secondly, the motto makes a social statement. While it might initially seem to be suggesting that it is beneficial to have good manners, this does not really capture its full scope. What it really means is that it is not by birth, money, or property that an individual is defined, but by how he or she behaves towards other people.[citation needed]

College links

Admiring William of Wykeham's achievements in creating his twinned institutions, King Henry VI modelled the establishment of his own new colleges, King's College, Cambridge, and Eton College, upon Wykeham's foundations of New College and Winchester College.[16]

Indeed, the link that King's College, Cambridge, and Eton College share is a direct copy of William of Wykeham's link between New College and Winchester College.[17]

New College has formal ties with Winchester College, Eton College, and King's College, Cambridge, dating back to 1444, a four-way relationship known as the Amicabilis Concordia.[18][19]

Some formal ties continue to this day; King's is New College's official sister college. There exist, however, few continued links between New College and Winchester, excepting the presence of some of its fellows on the school's governing body.

Buildings and gardens

At the time of its founding, the college was a grand example of the "perpendicular style", with the closest resembling college being Merton.[20] New College was larger than all of the (six) existing Oxford colleges combined. [21] At this time, the Quadrangle did not have the upper storey seen today, and the cloisters and bell-tower were added later, completed in 1400. The upper storey was added in the sixteenth century as attics which, in 1674, were replaced by a third storey as seen today. Also, the oval turf is an eighteenth-century addition.[20] Today, the college is one of Oxford's most widely visited.[22] The college's grounds are among the largest of the Oxford University colleges.



The hall is the dining room of the college and its dimensions are eighty feet by forty feet. The panelling was added when Archbishop Warham was bursar of the college. The marble flooring replaced the original flooring in 1722. The open oak roof had been replaced by a ceiling at the end of the eighteenth century and little is known of it. It was not until the junior common room offered a thousand pounds to restore the hall roof that work began on the roof seen today; this was in 1865 under the architect Sir Gilbert Scott. The windows were replaced at the time with painted glass and the portraits moved to a higher level. In giving the uses of the hall, Wykeham forbade wrestling, dancing and all noisy games due to the adjoining chapel, and prescribed the use of Latin in conversation.[20] The hall underwent a major restoration project and re-opened in January 2015.


The altar and reredos
Looking back towards the entrance and organ

The cloisters and the chapel are of particular note;[23] much of the medieval stained glass in the ante-chapel has recently[when?] been restored. Renowned for its grand interior, some of the stained glass windows were designed by the 18th-century portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds[24] and contains works by Sir Jacob Epstein and El Greco.[25] For example, the Great West window shows a design by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The organ was built by the firm of Grant, Degens, and Bradbeer in 1969, in a case designed by George Pace; somewhat revolutionary at the time, the instrument remains no less remarkable and idiosyncratic today. The choir stalls contain 62 14th-century misericords which are of outstanding beauty — several of New College's misericords were copied during the Victorian era, for use at Canterbury Cathedral. The niches of the reredos were provided by Sir Gilbert Scott and were fitted with statues in the 19th century.[20] Near the east end of the chapel is the Founder's Crosier, a relic overlaid with silver gilt and enamel that resembles a pastoral staff. This was exhibited at South Kensington in 1862.[26]

The bell tower contains one of the oldest rings of ten bells, which is rung by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers and the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers.

City wall

Entrance arch to the college gardens

The ancient Oxford City Wall, belonging to New College, is often noted for when William of Wykeham founded the college, he formally agreed to maintain the city wall when he acquired the land on which to build the college.[27] Every three years the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Oxford take a walk along the wall to make sure that the obligation is being fulfilled, a tradition dating back to the college's foundation in 1379.[28]


The Middle Gateway opens to the Garden Quadrangle, said to be modelled on the Palace of Versailles.[29] The gardens of New College include a mound that was arranged in the sixteenth century (which originally had steps, but is now smooth with one set of stairs). In a 1761 edition of Pocket Companion for Oxford the mound is described:

"In the middle of the Garden is a beautiful Mount with an easy ascent to the top of it, and the Walks around it, as well as the Summit of it, guarded with Yew Hedges. The Area before the Mount being divided into four Quarters, [..] the King's Arms, [..] opposite to it the Founder's; in the third a Sun Dial; and the Fourth, a Garden-Knot, all planted in Box, and neatly cut."

They also boast the largest herbaceous border within two hundred yards of the college. Just over two hundred yards away is Rhodes House, where the largest herbaceous border in Oxford is located.[30] Despite tour guides regularly claiming New College has the largest herbaceous border in the UK, Dirleton Castle in Scotland[31] holds the accolade.

The college is also in possession of a large collection of silver (including the medieval silver gilt Founder's Crosier, housed in a display case in the chapel), the Oxford Chest which is currently in the Ashmolean Museum and two "unicorn horns" (which are in fact narwhal tusks). The library once contained a copy of the first print of Aristotle.[20]


New College Choir recording an English edition of Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation (2008)

As part of the original college statutes, William of Wykeham provided for a choral foundation of lay and academical clerks, with boy choristers to sing mass and the daily offices. It is a tradition that continues today with the choral services of evensong and Eucharist during term. In the Middle Ages choristers not only sang, but waited in hall, fetching beer for the students.

In addition to its choral duties in the chapel, the New College Choir has established a reputation as one of the finest Anglican choirs in the world and is known particularly for its performances of Renaissance and Baroque music.[32] Some seventy recordings of the choir are still in the catalogue[33] and as well as appearing a number of times at the BBC Proms, the choir make numerous concert tours.[34]

In 1997, the choir won a Gramophone Award in the best-selling disc category for their album Agnus Dei,[35] and in 2008, they won a Gramophone Award in the early music category for their recording of Nicholas Ludford's Missa Benedicta.[36] Edward Higginbottom, organist and tutor in music at New College until the end of the 2013-14 academic year, has been made Oxford University’s first choral professor.[37]

The choristers are educated at New College School on Savile Road, a short distance from New College itself.

On Thursday 21 May 2009, the choir revived an ancient custom of processing to Bartlemas Chapel for a ceremony and then on to the location of an ancient spring. The ceremony had not been observed for the past 400 years.[38]

On 29 June 2015, at the invitation of the Holy See and the Cappella Musicale Pontificia Sistina, the choir sang at the Papal Pallium mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica.[39][40]


The original organ was given by William Porte (1420–3) and is mentioned in the poem Musae Hospitales of 1610.[41] The present instrument was constructed by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer in 1969.[42] Tuning is regulated by Bishop and Son of London and Ipswich. In the summer of 2014 the organ was restored, with the key actions and other mechanisms being completely renewed by Goetze and Gwynn, and minor registration changes also made, including the 32 ft Fagot receiving a full-length bass (previously half-length).[43] The remaining restoration works were to be completed before the start of Hilary Term 2015.

Organists and directors of music

Student life


The MCR (middle common room, i.e. the graduates) is very active. The common room itself and the MCR bar is located by the New College sports grounds and some of the graduate accommodation. Alongside a variety of social events, the MCR also holds graduate colloquia and produces its own journal (the New Collection[46]) to share the wide range of research of its members.


New College at the 1912 Summer Olympics

New College is one of only a few Oxford or Cambridge colleges to have won an Olympic medal; the New College Boat Club represented Great Britain at the Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912, and obtained a silver medal.[47]

In 1912, Great Britain sent two men's crews to the Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. One was a Leander crew, composed mostly of Magdalen College (Oxford) rowers, and captained by the Magdalen captain. The second was the New College 1st VIII.

The two British crews were the favourites for gold so started at opposite ends of the draw. They both worked up through the competition to make the final. The course in Stockholm was not straight, and one of the two lanes was clearly favoured, the other requiring the cox to steer around a protruding boathouse and then back under a bridge.[48]

Before the final, the two British captains met to toss for lanes. New College won the toss and following gentlemanly tradition offered the choice of lanes to their opponents, who would — in a gentlemanly fashion — refuse this offer. However the Leander/Magdalen captain accepted this offer and chose the better lane. Leander went on to win the gold medal, leaving New College with the silver.

King Gustav V of Sweden was so disheartened by this display of ungentlemanly conduct that, as a consolation, he presented his colours to New College. Ever since then, New College have raced in purple and gold, the colours of the royal house of Sweden.[citation needed] A further tradition has been the adoption of the toast: "God damn bloody Magdalen!", the supposed words of the New College stroke Robert Bourne as they crossed the line. The abbreviation "GDBM" is still used commonly, being on the bottom of the NCBC letterhead to this day.

New College Boat Club is also one of the few Oxford clubs to have held both headships at Summer Eights (though not in the same year), and one of only 11 Oxford or Cambridge colleges to have won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, having also won the Visitor Challenge Cup twice, the Ladies Challenge Plate twice and the Stewards' Challenge Cup twice.[49]

People associated with the college

Alumni and fellows

New College has a legacy of notable individuals who have studied and worked at the college. Among them are Nobel Prize winners, churchmen, statesmen, leading scientists and literary figures.

The Simonyi Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science was held by Richard Dawkins and is now held by Marcus du Sautoy, both of whom are fellows of New College.[50]


The warden is the college's principal, responsible for its academic leadership, chairing its governing body and representing the college internationally.



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External links