Trinity College, Oxford

Last updated

Trinity College
UK-2014-Oxford-Trinity College 01.JPG
Trinity College, Oxford arms.svg
Arms: Per pale or and azure, on a chevron between three griffins' heads erased four fleurs-de-lis all counter-changed [1] (arms of Sir Thomas Pope, Founder [2] )
Location Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BH
Coordinates 51°45′19″N1°15′25″W / 51.755343°N 1.256958°W / 51.755343; -1.256958
Full nameThe College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope (Knight)
Latin nameCollegium Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis in Universitate Oxon. ex Fundatione Thomae Pope Militis [3]
Motto Latin: Quod tacitum velis nemini dixeris (That which you wish to be secret, tell to nobody)
Established1555;469 years ago (1555)
Named for The Holy Trinity
Sister college Churchill College, Cambridge
PresidentDame Hilary Boulding
Undergraduates308 [4] (2011/2012)
Boat club Boat Club
Oxford map small.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Oxford city centre

Trinity College (full name: The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope (Knight) [5] ) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford [6] in England. The college was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, on land previously occupied by Durham College, home to Benedictine monks from Durham Cathedral. [7]


Despite its large physical size, the college is relatively small in terms of student numbers at approximately 400. It was founded as a men's college and has been coeducational since 1979. [8] As of 2022, the total funds of Trinity amounted to £212 million, including a financial endowment of £181 million. [9] It shares name with other two colleges, with whom it also has historical roots in common; Trinity College, Cambridge, and Trinity College, Dublin. Like them, Trinity, as a constituent college at Oxford, is part of the seven ancient universities of the British Isles. Nevertheless, unlike Oriel College, it has not been recognised as a sister college of the Irish Trinity. Otherwise, its sister college at Cambridge is the eminent Churchill College.

On the other hand, Trinity has produced three British prime ministers, placing it third after Christ Church and Balliol in terms of former students who have held that office. [10]


Durham College

Durham Quadrangle Durham Quad, Trinity College, Oxford.jpg
Durham Quadrangle

The site where Trinity College now stands was originally occupied by Durham College, built for Benedictine monks from Durham Cathedral. [7] This college had been founded after land was bought in 1291, though monks had been sent to Oxford for a few years previous to this. [11] The site was surrendered to the crown in March 1545, being granted to private owners in 1553. They were then acquired by civil servant Thomas Pope on 20 February 1555 (February 1554 as then was), who used them to found Trinity College 16 days later. [7] Durham College was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St Cuthbert, and the Trinity, and it is thought that Trinity College took its name from the last element of this dedication. [12]

Trinity College

Trinity College in 1566 (looking north), shortly after its foundation. This quadrangle is now Durham Quad Trinity College Oxford, 1566.png
Trinity College in 1566 (looking north), shortly after its foundation. This quadrangle is now Durham Quad

Trinity College was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, on land bought following the abolition of Durham College during the period of Protestant Reformation, whose buildings housed the original foundation. Pope was a Catholic who had no surviving children, and he hoped that by founding a college he would be remembered in the prayers of its students. His remains are still encased beside the chapel altar. The original foundation provided for a president, 12 fellows, and 12 scholars, and for up to 20 undergraduates. The fellows were required to take Holy Orders and to remain unmarried.[ citation needed ]

The college remained an all-male institution until 1979, when (in common with a number of other Oxford colleges) it admitted its first women undergraduates. It is now fully co-educational and co-residential. Between 2015 and 2017, 41.1% of UK undergraduates admitted to Trinity came from state schools. [13]

Trinity was one of the locations used for filming of the original series Brideshead Revisited ; its grounds were also, in part, the basis for Fleet College in Charles Finch's The Last Enchantments . Trinity has also featured heavily in episodes of Inspector Morse , Lewis and Endeavour .[ citation needed ]

Dame Hilary Boulding, formerly principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, succeeded Sir Ivor Roberts as president in August 2017.[ citation needed ]

Trinity–Balliol rivalry

For many years, there has been a traditional and fierce rivalry shown between the students of Trinity and those of its immediate neighbour to the west, Balliol College. [14] It has manifested itself on the sports field and the river; in the form of songs (of greater or less offensiveness) sung over the dividing walls; and in the form of "raids" on the other college. The rivalry is also reflected in that which exists between Trinity College, Cambridge and Balliol's sister college, St John's College, Cambridge though the two Trinities are not themselves sister colleges.[ citation needed ]

In college folklore, the rivalry goes back to the late 17th century, when Ralph Bathurst, president of Trinity, was supposedly observed throwing stones at Balliol's windows. [15] In fact, although the first antagonism was recorded in 1583, the rivalry in its modern form appears to date from the late 1890s, when the chant or song known as a "Gordouli" began to be sung from the Balliol side. [16] The traditional words run:

Face like a ham,
Bobby Johnson says so
And he should know. [17]

Although these words are now rarely heard, the singing of songs over the wall is still known as "a Gordouli". The traditional Gordouli is said to have been sung by Balliol and Trinity men in the trenches of Mesopotamia during the First World War. [18]

The rivalry was given an extra edge in the early 20th century by the contrast between the radical tendencies of many Balliol students and Trinity's traditional conservatism and social exclusivity. The president of Trinity between 1907 and 1938 was Herbert Blakiston, who became notorious for his reluctance to admit non-white students. Notably, he stubbornly resisted pressure from the India Office to admit undergraduates from British India, something that government department was attempting to promote. [19] Balliol in contrast did admit a number of Indian and Asiatic students which gave many of the taunts from the Trinity side a distinctly racist tone: Balliol students, for example, were sometime referred to as "Basutos". [20]

In Five Red Herrings (1931), a Lord Peter Wimsey novel by Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter (a Balliol man) is asked whether he remembers a certain contemporary from Trinity. "'I never knew any Trinity men,' said Wimsey. 'The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.'" [21] Sayers also alludes to the rivalry in Murder Must Advertise (1933): Mr Ingleby, a Trinity man, comments, "If there is one thing more repulsive than another it is Balliolity." [22]

One of the wittier raids from Balliol, in 1962 or 1963, involved the turfing of the whole of Trinity JCR (complete with daffodils). [23] One of the most famous incidents was perpetrated by three Trinity students (Richard Todd, Richard Cohen and Deidrie Small) on the new intake of freshers to Balliol in October 1985. They sent personally addressed letters to each of Balliol's new freshers on Balliol headed notepaper. It enclosed a narrow neck 100ml screw-top receptacle. The attached letter read, "Dear [X], Welcome to Balliol. As you are aware the university requires a short medical check-up as part of your Coming-Up. Could you therefore please provide a urine sample in the attached sample bottle and return it to your college tutor's office by no later than 5.00 PM on Wednesday." The letters were sent out on that Wednesday evening. Balliol admitted to some 57 being returned. The incident was subsequently reported in the Daily Express under the headline, "students play wee joke on neighbours". The incident concluded with Todd and Cohen unfurling a banner over Balliol reading, "We are Balliol. Please Don't Take The Piss!". The last incident suspected to relate to the feud was the vandalism of Trinity's SCR pond in 2010, which led to the death of all but one of the fish. [24]


Entrance from Broad Street Trinity College, Oxford - - 48834.jpg
Entrance from Broad Street

The main entrance to the college is on Broad Street, located between Balliol College and Blackwell's bookshop, and opposite Turl Street. It is enclosed by an iron palisade rather than a wall, and the college's distinctive blue gates provide it with a more open and accessible appearance than many others in Oxford. The rear of the college backs onto St John's College, and has entrances on both St Giles' and Parks Road. As well as its four major quadrangles, the college also boasts a large lawn and gardens, which include a small area of woodland.[ citation needed ]

Trinity College's dining hall (currently closed for renovations) Trinity College Dining Hall, Oxford, UK - Diliff.jpg
Trinity College's dining hall (currently closed for renovations)
Trinity College's temporary dining hall (post-2022) Trinity College Oxford's current (temporary) hall.jpg
Trinity College's temporary dining hall (post-2022)

Durham quadrangle

Trinity was built around a single quadrangle, now known as the Durham quadrangle, named after Durham College which previously occupied the site of Trinity.


The chapel Trinity College Chapel, Oxford - Diliff.jpg
The chapel

The chapel, though relatively modest in size compared to some of its Oxford counterparts, was the first college chapel to be designed entirely in the Baroque style.[ citation needed ] It was designed by Henry Aldrich, with advice from Christopher Wren, and was consecrated in 1694.[ citation needed ]

On the top of the west tower sit four female statues, which represent Astronomy, Geometry, Medicine and Theology.[ citation needed ]

Garden Quadrangle

The north side of the quad was designed by Christopher Wren and built in 1665–1668 as a freestanding block to the north of the Durham quad. The west side was added to the same plan in 1682. [25]

Front quadrangle

The front quadrangle between the Durham quadrangle and Broad Street was formed by the new buildings (1883–1885) and the president's lodgings (1885–1887), both designed by Thomas Graham Jackson. It also includes some older buildings on Broad Street: four old cottages and Kettell Hall, a stone house built by President Ralph Kettell in around 1620. [25]

Library quadrangle

The library quadrangle is located between Jackson's new buildings and the new library of 1925–1928, built as a memorial to members of the college who perished in World War I. [25] The building was designed by architect Mr. J. Osborne Smith, with the ornate barrel roof created by the leading architectural designer Leonard Shuffrey. [26]

The Cumberbatch buildings to the north and south were designed by Maguire and Murray and built in 1964–1966. [27] The 10,000 square feet (930 m2) Norrington Room (named after Sir Arthur Norrington, a former president of the college [28] ) of Blackwells bookshop lies underneath the quad.

In 2018 the college gained planning permission for a new building, designed by ADAM Architecture, to the north of the library quadrangle and the university's Weston Library and replacing the northern Cumberbatch building. [29] The Levine Building was opened in 2022 and marked the beginning of the overarching transformation of Trinity College. [30]

Student life

The college offers accommodation to all undergraduate students. First and second years are housed on the college's main site, and third and fourth years in college buildings on the Woodstock Road. [31]

Chapel Choir

The Trinity College Chapel Choir consists of up to eight choral scholars and over thirty voluntary singers. The college has one of the largest chapel choirs in the university with the majority of members from within the college. The choir sing a weekly Evensong on a Sunday with occasional weekly services to mark college events. Trinity College has no music director, and responsibility falls to the organ scholars and is overseen by the chaplain. [32]

The choir goes on annual tours, recent tours include Dublin in 2008, where they sang concerts and a Sung Eucharist in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Rome in Summer 2009, Paris in 2010, Barcelona in 2011 and Vienna in 2012. In 2009, the choir released a CD, called 'A Voice from Afar', directed by then-organ scholar, Catherine Wallace. [33]

Notable former students

In over four centuries of its history, Trinity has produced a number of notable students who have led careers in fields such as; academia, politics, science, religions and the arts.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Somerville College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Somerville College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England, was founded in 1879 as Somerville Hall, one of its first two women's colleges. Among its alumnae have been Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Dorothy Hodgkin, Iris Murdoch, Vera Brittain and Dorothy L. Sayers. It began admitting men in 1994. Its library is one of Oxford's largest college libraries. The college's liberal tone derives from its founding by social liberals, as Oxford's first non-denominational college for women, unlike the Anglican Lady Margaret Hall, the other to open that year. In 1964, it was among the first to cease locking up at night to stop students staying out late. No gowns are worn at formal halls.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Magdalen College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Magdalen College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1458 by Bishop of Winchester William of Waynflete. It is one of the wealthiest Oxford colleges, as of 2022, and one of the strongest academically, setting the record for the highest Norrington Score in 2010 and topping the table twice since then. It is home to several of the university's distinguished chairs, including the Agnelli-Serena Professorship, the Sherardian Professorship, and the four Waynflete Professorships.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Balliol College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Balliol College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. Founded in 1263 by John I de Balliol, it has a claim to be the oldest college in Oxford and the English-speaking world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christ Church, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, the college is uniquely a joint foundation of the university and the cathedral of the Oxford diocese, Christ Church Cathedral, which also serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exeter College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Exeter College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England and the fourth-oldest college of the university.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hertford College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Hertford College, previously known as Magdalen Hall, is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. It is located on Catte Street in the centre of Oxford, directly opposite the main gate to the Bodleian Library. The college is known for its iconic bridge, the Bridge of Sighs. There are around 600 students at the college at any one time, comprising undergraduates, graduates and visiting students from overseas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, located on a bank of the River Cherwell at Norham Gardens in north Oxford and adjacent to the University Parks. The college is more formally known under its current royal charter as "The Principal and Fellows of the College of the Lady Margaret in the University of Oxford".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Merton College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Merton College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its foundation can be traced back to the 1260s when Walter de Merton, chancellor to Henry III and later to Edward I, first drew up statutes for an independent academic community and established endowments to support it. An important feature of de Merton's foundation was that this "college" was to be self-governing and the endowments were directly vested in the Warden and Fellows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham in conjunction with Winchester College as its feeder school, New College was one of the first colleges in the university to admit and tutor undergraduate students.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pembroke College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Pembroke College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, is located at Pembroke Square, Oxford. The college was founded in 1624 by King James I of England, using in part the endowment of merchant Thomas Tesdale, and was named after William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain and then-Chancellor of the University.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Edmund Hall, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

St Edmund Hall is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. The college claims to be "the oldest surviving academic society to house and educate undergraduates in any university" and was the last surviving medieval academic hall at the university.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St John's College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. Founded as a men's college in 1555, it has been coeducational since 1979. Its founder, Sir Thomas White, intended to provide a source of educated Roman Catholic clerics to support the Counter-Reformation under Queen Mary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Peter's College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

St Peter's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. Located on New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, United Kingdom, it occupies the site of two of the university's medieval halls dating back to at least the 14th century. The modern college was founded by Francis James Chavasse, former Bishop of Liverpool, opened as St Peter's Hall in 1929, and achieved full collegiate status as St Peter's College in 1961. Founded as a men's college, it has been coeducational since 1979.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">University College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

University College, formally The College of the Great Hall of the University of Oxford and colloquially referred to as "Univ", is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. It has a claim to being the oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1249 by William of Durham.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wadham College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is located in the centre of Oxford, at the intersection of Broad Street and Parks Road.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcester College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Worcester College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. The college was founded in 1714 by the benefaction of Sir Thomas Cookes, 2nd Baronet (1648–1701) of Norgrove, Worcestershire, whose coat of arms was adopted by the college. Its predecessor, Gloucester College, had been an institution of learning on the same site since the late 13th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Founded as a men's college, Worcester has been coeducational since 1979. The provost is David Isaac, CBE who took office on 1 July 2021

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colleges of the University of Oxford</span>

The University of Oxford has thirty-nine colleges, and four permanent private halls (PPHs) of religious foundation. Colleges and PPHs are autonomous self-governing corporations within the university. These colleges are not only houses of residence, but have substantial responsibility for teaching undergraduate students. Generally tutorials and classes are the responsibility of colleges, while lectures, examinations, laboratories, and the central library are run by the university. Students normally have most of their tutorials in their own college, but often have a couple of modules taught at other colleges or even at faculties and departments. Most colleges take both graduates and undergraduates, but several are for graduates only.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Durham College, Oxford</span>

Durham College was a college of the University of Oxford, founded by the monks of Durham Priory in the late 13th century. It was closed at the dissolution of the monasteries in the mid 16th century, and its buildings were subsequently used to found Trinity College, Oxford.

Herbert Edward Douglas Blakiston was an English academic and clergyman who served as President of Trinity College, Oxford, and as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

The history of Trinity College, Oxford documents the 450 years from the foundation of Trinity – a collegiate member of the University of Oxford – on 8 March 1554/5. The fourteenth oldest surviving college, it reused and embellished the site of the former Durham College, Oxford. Opening its doors on 30 May 1555, its founder Sir Thomas Pope created it as a Catholic college teaching only theology. It has been co-educational since 1979.


  1. Brooke-Little, John P. "The Arms of Oxford University and its Colleges". The Heraldry Society. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard, The General Armory, London, 1884, p.814 "Pope of Wilcote, Wroxton and Deddington, Oxfordshire"
  3. Warton, Thomas (1780). The life of Sir Thomas Pope. Thomas Cadell. p.  316.
  4. "Undergraduate numbers by college 2011–12". University of Oxford.
  5. Hopkins 2005 , p. 18
  6. "Trinity College | University of Oxford". Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  7. 1 2 3 Hopkins 2005 , pp. 9–15
  8. Oneltd. "Trinity College – Modern Trinity". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  9. "Trinity College : Annual Report and Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2022" (PDF). p. 11. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  10. "British Prime Ministers educated at Oxford - University of Oxford".
  11. "Houses of Benedictine monks: Durham College, Oxford". A History of the County of Oxford Volume 2 (1907), pp. 68-70. Accessed 27 March 2012.
  12. Hopkins 2005 , p. 17
  13. "Annual Admissions Statistical Report May 2018" (PDF).
  14. Clare Hopkins and Bryan Ward-Perkins, "The Trinity/Balliol Feud", Trinity College Oxford Report (1989–90), pp. 45-66.
  15. Hopkins and Ward-Perkins, "Trinity/Balliol Feud", p. 45.
  16. For the Gordouli, see G. Norman Knight, "The Quest for Gordouli", Balliol College Record, 1969; reprinted in Trinity College Oxford Report, 1984–5.
  17. "Gordoulis" was a popular brand of Egyptian cigarette. As "Gordouli", it became a nickname applied by Balliol men to a Trinity undergraduate, Arthur Galletti, who later joined the Indian Civil Service (I.C.S.) in the British Indian Province of Madras and cemented a reputation as an unconventional, maverick official whose words and actions constantly challenged the Raj and blighted his career for his extremely liberal support of the Indian people in contrast to the official government positions expected to be enforced by a member of the ruling class. Bobby Johnson, later Deputy Master and a Controller of the Royal Mint, was an undergraduate at New College. See Knight, "Quest for Gordouli".
  18. Knight, "Quest for Gordouli".
  19. Hopkins (2005), p.344
  20. Hopkins and Ward-Perkins, "Trinity/Balliol Feud", pp. 54-60.
  21. Sayers, Dorothy L. (1968) [1931]. Five Red Herrings . London: New English Library. p. 157. Wimsey's Biblical quotation is from John 4: 9.
  22. Sayers, Dorothy L. (1969) [1933]. Murder Must Advertise . London: New English Library. p. 8.
  23. Hopkins and Ward-Perkins, "Trinity/Balliol Feud", p. 51.
  24. Segrove, Natalya (25 February 2010). "Trinity fish murdered".
  25. 1 2 3 "Trinity College". Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  26. "Leonard Shuffrey". Architecture Magazine: 276–279. Spring 1927.
  27. "The War Memorial Library". Trinity College, Oxford. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  28. The Guinness Book of Records (14th ed.). London: Guinness Superlatives Limited. 1967. p. 123. ISBN   0-900424-00-1.
  29. "Go Ahead for the Levine Building". Trinity College, Oxford. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  30. "Prince Charles opens Trinity College's Levine Building". BBC News . 13 May 2022. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  31. "Undergraduate accommodation". Retrieved on 2018-08-09.
  32. "Chapel Choir". Retrieved on 2022-27-06.
  33. "Trinity College Oxford, Report 2008 – 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.