The architecture of

New 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.

William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, founded Winchester College and New College at the same time, or to be precise, New College in 1379, Winchester College in 1382 (the feeder school). ...

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In its approach .. as one visits New College now it is unique. New College Lane, with its 90 degrees kink and then the straight stretch between the mute walls of the cloister and Warden's Barn ... and the cutting short of the approach by the gate tower, takes one right out of the feel of a town centre. The gate tower is a fitting introduction to the novelty of the college, as it is the first of the Oxford gate towers - but matched by the gate tower of Winchester College. ... The Gate Tower is of three storeys ... Above (the archway) are two simple, transomed two-light windows, and above that niches for a figure of the Virgin and figures of an angel and the kneeling founder. The original full name of the college is "the St.Mary College of Winchester in Oxford." It became known as "the new college of St.Mary" because Oriel College, founded earlier, was also the College of St.Mary. 

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Front Quadrangle. William of Wykeham's plan was for a large, regular quadrangle with chapel and hall in line along the N range and a gate tower in the W range (i.e. the entrance gate above), in line with a gateway out to the E - the Muniment Tower where the college records are kept - four-storeyed, with the hall stair going up in it. ... Above the archway are again three niches with Virgin, Angel, and Founder. ... The W, S and E ranges had a third storey and battlements added in 1674, and the windows sashed about 1718. An original window is reproduced on the first floor next to the Muniment Tower. ...
The Chapel has four-light windows with transoms and panel tracery, the first preserved Perp tracery at Oxford. ... The Hall adjoins the chapel to the E and continues its roof-line. ... Its windows are again transomed but of only two lights. The tracery is one broad Perp panel unit .. The hall has a roof by Scott, 1877-81, and linenfold panelling put in in 1533-5.

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The chapel is one of the largest in Oxford. The antechapel is two bays deep from W to E. The tall piers have a section of four main and four thin diagonal shafts separated by shallow hollows. Capitals only to the shafts, and they are very small capitals. Two-centred arches. Its timber roof is of the sweeping restoration of 1877-81 by Sir George Gilbert Scott. ... The huge reredos is also of the restoration, although it had the same arrangement which it has now. ... Sedilia, piscine, etc. are all Scott's and lavishly decorated. 

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The floor of the W arm of the antechapel is filled with brasses ... nearly all C15 and none earlier ...

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The three W windows (of the the antechapel) towards the cloister are four, seven (two-three-two), and again four lights. Developed panel tracery everywhere. ... The cloister built for burials has three-light openings and a single-frame pointed wagon roof. Immediately to its N is the Bell Tower, four-storeyed, plain, with simple pairs of bell-openings and a higher stair-turret.

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In 1449 the college began to expand to the E (with) the Chequer (the low building in the corner in the first picture). The upper floor was added in c.1480. This was the beginning of the development of Garden Quad, not a quadrangle and moreover open to the E. In 1682 William Bird remodelled the building and matched it by one opposite to the S. However, his facades have been sashed. Then, in 1700 and 1707 the quad was formed by widening the area (beyond the Chequer) ... The new buildings are three-storeyed ..., of six bays, with on the main floor window pediments, alternately triangular and segmental. ... These two ranges are  among the earliest cases of Palladianism in Oxford. They are also the earliest datable case at Oxford of sash-windows. In the contract of 1707 the term sashing is not used. Instead it is specified that the windows should be 'hung on box pullies with hemp lines', whereas the contract for the sashing of 1718 speaks of 'sashing'.  

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The site chosen by William of Wykeham is just S of the city wall. This and several bastions have become part of the college (12th century)The picture is from the garden, east of the Garden Quad.  

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Through the gate made in the wall to the N in 1700 one gets to the more recent buildings of the college. ... The first new building, and a substantial one, came in 1872. Scott was the architect chosen. His range faces Holywell Street. It was continued to the E by the Robinson Tower, a tutor's house and more sets by Champneys, the former in 1896, the latter in 1885. It is rewarding to compare the Collegiate of Scott born in 1811 with that of Champneys born in 1842: High Victorian as against Late Victorian, earnestness as against what Arnold of Rugby would have called levity. Scott is correct in his motifs - Middle Pointed of course - but their assembly, the general composition, the asymmetry of big, heavy elements, all that is mid-C19. ... Champneys's range is of three storeys only and treats the period motifs more freely. There is plenty of pretty close-leaf decoration. The house of 1885 projects at the E end of the range. ... 

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