New College, Oxford

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New College
New College Oxford chapel.jpg
New College Oxford Coat Of Arms (Motto).svg
Arms: Arms of New College Oxford (arms of William of Wykeham): Argent, two chevronels sable between three roses gules barbed and seeded proper.
Location Holywell Street and New College Lane
Coordinates 51°45′15″N1°15′05″W / 51.754277°N 1.251288°W / 51.754277; -1.251288 Coordinates: 51°45′15″N1°15′05″W / 51.754277°N 1.251288°W / 51.754277; -1.251288
Full nameSt Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford
Latin nameCollegium Novum/ Collegium Beatae Mariae Wynton in Oxon [1]
MottoManners Makyth Man
Established1379;642 years ago (1379)
Named for St. Mary
Sister colleges Winchester College
King's College, Cambridge
Warden Miles Young [2]
Undergraduates422 [3] (2011/2012)
Major events Commemoration Ball 2016
GraceBenedictus benedicat. May the Blessed One give a blessing Benedicto benedicatur. Let praise be given to the Blessed One
Endowment £260.1 million (2018) [4]
Boat club Boat Club
Oxford map small.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Oxford city centre

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 College of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford. [5] 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. [6]


In 2017 and 2020, the college ranked first [7] in the Norrington Table, a table assessing the relative performance of Oxford's undergraduates in final examinations. Historically, it has been ranked highly. It has the 3rd-highest average Norrington Table ranking over the previous decade. [8] The college is located in the centre of Oxford, between 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.

Its striking architecture has made the college a popular location for film and television, featuring in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, and His Dark Materials among others. [9]

The college is one of the main choral foundations of the University of Oxford. The college choir is regarded as one of the leading choirs of the world, and has recorded over one hundred albums; [10] it has been awarded two Gramophone Awards.

Like many of Oxford's colleges, New College admitted its first mixed-sex cohort in 1979, after six centuries as an institution for men only. [11]


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 "Saint Mary College of Winchester in Oxenford", [5] the second college in Oxford to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[ citation needed ]


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 . [12] 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 Queen's College. This land had been the City Ditch, a haunt of thieves, and had been used for burials during the Black Death. [13]

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. 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).[ citation needed ]

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. [14]

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.[ citation needed ]

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. [15] 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. [16]

As well as being the first Oxford college for undergraduates and the first to have senior members of the college give tutorials, [17] New College was the first college in Oxford to be deliberately designed around a main quadrangle, [18] a format which has since become synonymous with Oxford and Cambridge colleges.[ citation needed ]

Students at New College were until 1834 exempt from taking the university's examinations for the BA and (in earlier times) the MA degrees, and were also ineligible for honours, though they still had to take the college's own tests. This contributed to the college's old reputation for "Golden scholars, silver bachelors, leaden masters and wooden doctors." [19]

Civil war

In August 1651, New College was fortified by the Parliamentarian forces and the cloisters and Bell Tower were used for musketry training and munitions storage. 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. [20]


The college's motto, created by William of Wykeham, is "Manners Makyth Man". The motto was in many respects fairly revolutionary. First, 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; it is not by birth, money, or property that an individual is defined, but by how he or she behaves towards other people. Wykeham's motto is reminiscent of the insight found in Aristotle's Ethics : that a man or a woman is what he or she does, and what we do is what we are.[ citation needed ]

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. [21]

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. [22]

New College has an informal link with Winchester College, Eton College, and King's College, Cambridge, dating back to 1444, a four-way relationship known as the Amicabilis Concordia, [23] [24] which now expresses itself in periodic choral music events.[ citation needed ]

King's College remains New College's official sister college in Cambridge. There exist, however, few continued links between New College and Winchester, excepting the presence of some of its fellows on the school's similarly constituted governing body of a Warden and Fellows. Until the late 20th century, but no longer, New College offered some scholarships only available to people who had their previous education at Winchester College: these were called "closed scholarships" to distinguish them from the "open scholarships" which could be held by anyone. This distinction no longer exists and no New College scholarships are currently reserved for former pupils of Winchester College.[ citation needed ]

Buildings and gardens

At the time of its founding, the college was a grand example of the "perpendicular style". [25] and was larger than all of the (six) existing Oxford colleges combined. [26] With the evolution of the college over the centuries, it has regularly added to its original quadrangle. The upper storey of the quad was added in the sixteenth century as attics which, in 1674, were replaced by a third storey proper as seen today. The oval turf at the centre of the quad is an eighteenth-century addition. [25] Many of its buildings are listed as being of special architectural or historical importance [lower-alpha 1] and, today, the college is one of Oxford's most widely visited. [27] The college's grounds are among the largest of the Oxford University colleges.[ citation needed ]

The three-sided, ‘open’ Garden Quadrangle, said to be modelled on the Palace of Versailles, was built in the 17th century, and further college expansion led to the formation of Holywell Quad in the 19th century, with a range known as ‘New Buildings’ built along Holywell Street. [28]

New College is currently building a new development on its Savile Road site, next to New College School. The Gradel Quadrangles, as this will be known, were designed by David Kohn Architects and received planning permission in June 2018. They will provide an additional 70 student rooms, a flexible learning hub and a performance base.[ citation needed ]


Hall New College, Oxford (3915166725).jpg

The hall is the dining room of the college and its dimensions are eighty feet by forty feet (24 m × 12 m). In his charter, Wykeham forbade wrestling, dancing and all noisy games in the hall due to the close proximity of the college chapel, and prescribed the use of Latin in conversation. [25]

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 18th century, and little is known of it. It was not until the Junior Common Room offered £1000 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. The hall underwent a major restoration project and reopened in January 2015.[ citation needed ]


The altar and reredos New College Chapel Interior 2, Oxford, UK - Diliff.jpg
The altar and reredos
Looking back towards the ante-chapel entrance and organ New College Chapel Interior 3, Oxford, UK - Diliff.jpg
Looking back towards the ante-chapel entrance and organ

The cloisters and the chapel are of particular note; [29] much of the medieval stained glass in the ante-chapel was restored in a 20-year project which was commended in the 2007 Oxford Preservation Trust Environmental Awards. [30] Renowned for its grand interior, the chapel contains works by Sir Jacob Epstein and El Greco [31] and some of the stained glass windows were designed by the 18th-century portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds. [32] For example, the Great West window shows a design by Sir Joshua Reynolds.[ citation needed ]

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. [25] 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. [33]

The cloisters, containing a large holm oak tree, sit by the western wall of the Chapel, and were made famous by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – featuring in a memorable scene in which Draco Malfoy is turned into a white ferret. [34] 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.[ citation needed ]

City wall

The Garden Mound, famous for the sound produced by clapping beneath it, and up which only Members of the College are permitted New College, Oxford mound.jpg
The Garden Mound, famous for the sound produced by clapping beneath it, and up which only Members of the College are permitted

The medieval Oxford City Wall, belonging to New College, is often noted. When William of Wykeham acquired the land on which to build the college, he agreed to maintain the city wall. [35] 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. [36]

Savile Road site

The Gradel Quadrangles were designed by David Kohn Architects and received planning permission in June 2018. They will provide an additional 70 student rooms, a flexible learning hub and a performance base on a site on the corner of Mansfield Road and Savile Road. [37]


The Middle Gateway opens to the Garden Quadrangle, said to be modelled on the Palace of Versailles. [38] 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."

New College has a large herbaceous border running alongside the medieval City Wall. Despite tour guides regularly claiming that this is the largest herbaceous border in the UK, Dirleton Castle in Scotland [39] holds the accolade.

Notable possessions

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). According to A. J. Prickard (writing in 1909) the library once contained a copy of the editio princeps (first printed edition) of Aristotle. [25]


New College Choir recording an English edition of Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation (2008) Oxford Philomusica2977b.jpg
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.[ citation needed ]

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. [40] Some seventy recordings of the choir are still in the catalogue [41] and as well as appearing a number of times at the BBC Proms, the choir make numerous concert tours. [42]

In 1997, the choir won a Gramophone Award in the best-selling disc category for their album Agnus Dei, [43] and in 2008, they won a Gramophone Award in the early music category for their recording of Nicholas Ludford's Missa Benedicta. [44] 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. [45] The choristers are educated at New College School on Savile Road, a short distance from New College itself.[ citation needed ]

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. [46]

On 29 June 2015 and 2016, 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. [47] [48] [49]


The original organ was given by William Porte (1420–3). [50] Records note that an organ was removed in 1547 under Edward VI, and likewise in 1572. [51] A Willis organ installed in 1874 contained parts from organs by Samuel Green in 1776, James Chapman Bishop, and Dallam in 1663. [52]

The present instrument was constructed by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer in 1969. [53] 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). [54]

Organists and directors of music

Student life

Middle Common Room

The Middle Common Room (MCR i.e. the graduate member of the college) is very active. The common room itself and the MCR bar are located in the Weston Buildings 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 [57] ) to share the wide range of research of its members.

In 2019/20, 38% of New College graduate students identified themselves as BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic).[ citation needed ]

Junior Common Room

The Junior Common Room (JCR) refers to the body of undergraduates at the college. It has a committee of elected and appointed members, which plays a central part in the life of the undergraduate community. Offering social, recreational and welfare support to the students, the elected committee addresses many aspects of student life and liaises with the governing body and graduate student representatives.[ citation needed ]

Positions which are held include the President, Vice President, welfare representatives (reps) for male, female and non-binary genders, LGBTQ and BME students, a women's officer, charities rep, MADD rep, access rep, international rep, food and bar rep, housing rep, treasurer, environment and ethics rep, academic affairs rep and entz reps. There are also several non-committee roles such as officers for board games, bicycles, IT, band room and wine steward. [58] An unusual appointed position in the JCR is that of Mint Julep Quarterperson, who is tasked with providing free mint julep cocktails to all members on 1 June to commemorate the anniversary of the visit of William Trapier to the college in 1845. He was shocked that the college butler had never heard of the drink, and so made one himself from ingredients which he found, and then left a fund so that every year, members of the college could enjoy a mint julep on the anniversary of his visit from America. The quarterperson is tasked with organising the continuation of this tradition each year.[ citation needed ]

Between the years 2017 and 2019, 45.2% of UK undergraduates admitted to New College were women and 19.3% identified themselves as BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic). [59]


New College has been running outreach initiatives for years, seeking to help and attract students from under-represented groups to apply to the University of Oxford. In 2017, it launched Step Up, a sustained contact outreach initiative which seeks to inspire students from partner schools in England and Wales to apply to Oxford and supports them to make a competitive application. [60]

In 2020, the college also founded the Oxford for Wales consortium, Oxford Cymru, along with Jesus College and St Catherine’s College, offering support to students from state schools in Wales. [61]

Field sports

New College has a tradition in field sports, with the two main ones being Rugby and Football. Both clubs compete in the top division of the college league system, thereby placing them in the top 5 colleges at the university in their respective sports. In 2019 NCAFC won cuppers, the inter-collegiate knockout competition, whilst NCRFC won the division 1 trophy in back to back seasons in 2015/16 and 2019/20.[ citation needed ]


New College at the 1912 Summer Olympics New College Olympics 1912.png
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 earned a silver medal. [62] 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.[ citation needed ] The two British crews were favourites for gold, and so started at opposite ends of the draw, and progressed 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. [63] 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.[ citation needed ] 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, and appears to this day on the bottom of the NCBC letterhead. Today, the New College Olympic blade is on display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.[ citation needed ]

New College Boat Club is also one of the few Oxford boat 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. [64]

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. [65]


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


  1. Buildings listed as being of special architectural or historical importance by the public body Historic England:

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