Worcester College, Oxford: Wikis


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Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford

Worcester College

College name Worcester College
Latin name Collegium Vigorniense
Named after Sir Thomas Cookes,
Established 1714
Sister college St Catharine's College, Cambridge
Provost Richard Smethurst
JCR president Ella Miller
Undergraduates 408
MCR president Kate Beard
Graduates 167

Worcester College, Oxford is located in Oxford (central)

Location of Worcester College within central OxfordCoordinates: 51°45′18″N 1°15′49″W / 51.754971°N 1.263701°W / 51.754971; -1.263701
Worcester College, Oxford Crest.svg

Worcester College (pronounced /ˈwʊstǝr/) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. The college was founded in the eighteenth century, but its predecessor on the same site had been an institution of learning since the late thirteenth century. As of 2006, Worcester had an estimated financial endowment of £32 million.[1]


Buildings and grounds

The buildings are diverse, especially in the main quadrangle: to the right is an imposing eighteenth century building in the neo-classical style; and to the left a row of mediæval buildings known as "the cottages", which are among the oldest residential buildings in Oxford. These cottages are the most substantial surviving part of Gloucester College, Worcester's predecessor on the same site: this was a college for Benedictine monks, founded in 1283 and dissolved with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in about 1539.

Backs of the mediæval cottages

After a lapse of twenty years, the buildings of the old Gloucester College were used in the foundation of Gloucester Hall, in around 1560. In 1714, thanks to a fortunate benefaction from a Worcestershire baronet, Sir Thomas Cookes, Gloucester Hall was transformed into Worcester College. Even then, there were only sufficient funds to rebuild the Chapel, Hall and Library and the north side of the Front Quad, known as the Terrace. The designs were by Dr. George Clarke, who had consulted Nicholas Hawksmoor.

In 1736, Clarke (later Sir George) generously left to the College his great collection of books and manuscripts. These included the papers of his father William Clarke (which are of crucial importance for the history of England during the period of the Commonwealth and Protectorate) and a large proportion of the surviving drawings of Inigo Jones.

Owing to lack of funds, Worcester's eighteenth-century building programme proceeded by fits and starts. The west end of the Terrace and the Provost's Lodgings were added in 1773-6 (architect: Henry Keene). The mediæval cottages were to have been replaced by a further classical range, but survived because money for this purpose was never available; the Hall and Chapel, by James Wyatt, were not completed until the 1770s.

In more recent years several new residential blocks for undergraduates and graduates have been added, thanks in part to a series of generous benefactions. The latest of these include the Earl building, Sainsbury Building (which won the Civic Trust Award in 1984), Linbury Building, Canal Building and Ruskin Lane Building (for undergraduates), and the Franks Building (for graduates).

Worcester College in the early 19th century. The projecting wings are the Hall (left) and the Chapel (right)

A modern addition to Worcester College, the Canal Building, sits next to the north entrance to the college and, as the name suggests, beside the Oxford Canal. It houses fifty students in large en-suite single rooms. The accommodation is usually reserved for third and fourth year undergraduates.


The Chapel

The College Chapel was built in the eighteenth century. Dr George Clarke, Henry Keene and James Wyatt were responsible for different stages of its lengthy construction (1720-91), owing to shortage of funds. The interior columns and pilasters, the dome and the delicate foliage plastering are all Wyatt's work. His classical interior was insufficiently emphatic for the tastes of militant Victorian churchmen, and between 1864 and 1866 the chapel was redecorated by William Burges. It is highly unusual and decorative; being predominantly pink, the pews are decorated with carved animals, including kangaroos and whales, and the walls are riotously colourful, and include frescoes of dodos and peacocks. Its stained glass windows were to have been designed by John Everett Millais, but Burges rejected his designs and entrusted the work to Henry Holiday. Oscar Wilde said of the Chapel, 'As a piece of simple decorative and beautiful art it is perfect, and the windows very artistic.'

The Chapel Choir is augmented by 12 boy choristers who attend Christ Church Cathedral School.

The Hall

Burges also started the redecoration of the Hall in 1877, but the work remained uncompleted at his death, and, in the early 1970s, Wyatt's designs were restored.[2]

The Gardens

Although Worcester is near the centre of Oxford today, it was on the edge of the city in the eighteenth century. This has been an asset in the long run, since it has allowed the College to retain very extensive gardens and playing fields (26 acres, including a lake), and is the only college with on-site playing fields. This may be a factor behind the college's recent domination of the cricket and football leagues. The gardens have also won numerous awards, including the Oxford in Bloom college award every time they have been entered for the competition. The gardens were laid out in 1823 by the then Bursar Richard Gresswell, and are now managed by head gardener Simon Bagnall and a team of seven gardeners [3].

Won Gold in the colleges and universities category for Oxford in Bloom in 2009.

A production of Twelfth Night was directed by Patrick Garland in the gardens with Oz Clarke as Sir Toby Belch and Francis Matthews.

In the mid-1960s, postgraduate philosophy student Daniel Dennett threw what he claims to have been the U.K.'s first frisbee, in the College's grounds.[4] Frisbee games are now explicitly banned in the College gardens.

The gardeners keep a blog to provide an insight into the work involved in looking after the 26 acres. www.wocogaga.blogspot.com


  • Oxford students know Worcester best for its Ball[citation needed] . Every three years a thousand[citation needed] ball-goers enjoy the Worcester College Commemoration Ball on College grounds. Held in June, it lasts from 6pm until 6 am and the dress code is white tie. Recent Worcester Balls have made sizeable donations to local and international charities.[5]
  • The College holds a Formal Hall every day of term except Saturdays; dress is formal with gowns compulsory for students. Before each meal, the College grace is recited by a scholar, or student studying a field related to Literae Humaniores. The text is the same as that recited at Christ Church but, in comparison, always given in the long form:

"Nōs miserī hominēs et egēnī, prō cibīs quōs nōbis ad corporis subsidium benignē es largītus, tibi, Deus omnipotēns, Pater cælestis, grātiās reverenter agimus; simul obsecrantēs, ut iīs sobriē, modestē atque grātē ūtāmur. Īnsuper petimus, ut cibum angelōrum, vērum panem cælestem, verbum Deī æternum, Dominum nostrum Iēsum Christum, nōbis impertiāris; utque illō mēns nostra pascātur et per carnem et sanguinem eius fovēāmur, alāmur, et corrōborēmur. Amen."

Notable former students

See also Former students of Worcester College.

Image Gallery

See also

  • Bromsgrove School that shares a similar coat of arms and the same motto, based on those of their joint benefactor, Sir Thomas Cookes of Norgrove.


External links


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