Astoft

The architecture of 

Christ Church College, Oxford

Click on photos to enlarge.
Notes in italics from Oxfordshire by Jennifer Sherwood and Nikolaus Pevsner (1974)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London.



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Originally founded as Cardinal College in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey.
In 1546 Henry VIII created Christ Church as a union of the college and the cathedral church.
Christ Church has a long formal facade. But if it is essentially symmetrical, that is due to the C17, not the C16. ... The S half of the facade is built on falling ground. It starts two-storeyed and ends three-storeyed. ... Wolsey gave it two polygonal projections. Between them is a large oriel window ... The top balustrade is of course of the Wren period. ... The N half of the facade was begun by Wolsey, but ... completed no earlier than c. 1668. So that is the date of the symmetricizing. ... 


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In the centre is Tom Tower, its lower part Wolsey's, its upper part Wren's work in 1681-2. ... The lowest stage of  Tom Tower was started with two turrets flanking the archway ... (They) have a very odd plan, square with, projecting from the middle of the three sides, triangular spurs. It is really two squares set across one another. This breaking up of surfaces was a fashion of the Latest Perp. ... The next stage is simply polygonal with ogee caps. ... Wren did not continue the Tudor scheme but built one tower without turrets instead ... His lower stage is a chamfered square, then follows an octagonal stage with two-light windows, Perp indubitably, and then the big ogee cap, perhaps the most telling element in the skyline of Oxford, though no-one would praise this big ogee shape for its beauty. Wren's also are the large windows of five lights over the gateway with their ogee gables to E and W. In the middle light, to the W (third picture), in a niche, is a statue of Wolsey by Francis Bird, made in 1719 and put up here in 1872. The statue of Queen Anne to the E ... was set up in 1706 (last picture). But the gateway entrance is Wolsey's, a wide four-centred arch with quatrefoil spandrels. ... The facade to the quad instead of the flanking turrets has only slight projections which Wren made to end in obelisks.



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Tom Quad was meant to have cloisters all round; that is unmistakable. ... The ranges are of Wolsey's time in the S half  (1st picture, with Hall in centre), but of c.1660-8 in the N  (2nd picture), the N half of the W, and the N half of the E ranges  (3rd picture). They are all two-storeyed and embattled ... The battlements are an addition of Bodley & Garner. They also added to Tom Quad what variety of skyline it has, i.e. the pinnacles of the hall, the tower of Fell Tower in the NE corner .. in 1876-8, and the much more prominent  and sumptuous Bell Tower in the SE corner in 1876-9  (last two pictures). Three statues, highly ornamental top parts, higher stair turret (as Fell Tower has too). ...


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South side of Dining Hall, 1525-9 with 19th century battlements and pinnacles. Bell Tower of 1879 to the right.
Under the tower is hall staircase, that spectacular piece of early Gothic Revival which, though not precisely dated, can be assigned to c.1640. It has a convincing Perp centre pier ... and a fan-vault.


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Interior of dining hall. It has a hammerbeam roof, the braces of four-centred section, and also four-centred arches longitudinally from hammerbeam to hammerbeam. The principal bay-window .. has two three-light windows with three transoms and a charming fan-vaultlet.



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Peckwater Quad, north range. The building was designed by Henry Aldrich, Dean of Christ Church. The date is 1705-14, and it is amazingly classical, not only in contrast to C17 continuations is such places as Oriel and University Colleges, but even more in contrast to the Baroque of Hawksmoor. The building, impeccably uniform, occupies three sides of the quad. Each side has fifteen bays. There are two and a half storeys, with smooth rustication from the ground floor, and giant Ionic pilasters over. But the centres of all three ranges are five bays with attached giant columns and a pediment. ...


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Immediately after the completion of Peckwater the Library was built, and that all but closed the quad. All but - for it is a building detached on both short sides. It was begun in 1717 but only completed in 1772. The designer was Dr George Clarke of All Souls ... The design is much stronger than that of Peckwater.. Clarke was indeed more in sympathy with the Baroque. So the facade here - seven broad bays of it - has giant unfluted Corinthian columns starting right off the ground. ... The upper windows have pediments alternatingly triangular and segmental.
The sides have paired giant pilasters and a large Venetian window on the upper floor. ... The top is a truly monumental cornice and a balustrade. (The contrast of white and buff stone is original).
Third picture: Rear of Library



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Canterbury Quad Entrance. By Wyatt, 1773-83. The centre is a noble triumphal arch, as it were, with four Roman Doric columns, an arch in the middle, and a shallow blank recess l. and r. The sides l. and r. of this frontispiece are of three bays, but have no openings at all, only blank recesses again. A delicate fluted frieze above the lower range of these recesses is the only ornamental motif ...



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