Brasenose and the Ashmolean

The Ashmolean, the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, was officially founded in 1683. It is perhaps most famous for being the earliest public museum in England. Named after Elias Ashmole, it was originally founded as a scientific institution for research and education, where Ashmole’s collection, along with items from John Tradescant’s Ark were displayed. So what has the history of the Ashmolean got to do with Brasenose?

2017 marks the 400th year since Elias Ashmole’s birth. He did not attend University, having been educated at Lichfield Grammar School and tutored privately in Law. He subsequently practiced in London before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. A committed royalist, in 1644 he was appointed King’s Commissioner of Excise at Lichfield and was then given a military post at the royalist stronghold of Oxford. During his time at Oxford Ashmole was able to devote time to study, and developed an interest in natural philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. Whilst in Oxford Ashmole lodged in Brasenose, though he does not appear to have matriculated as a student in the College’s records. During the Civil War era Brasenose remained loyal to the King; indeed as the King’s headquarters Oxford was full of strangers – ‘soldiers, life-gauards, grromes, mayds, King’s pastrymen and yeomen, Lieftenants, Lords and ladyes’. The Colleges themselves effectively became hotels for these supporters and several resided at Brasenose, including Ashmole. Also in residence at Brasenose were Sir John Spelman (member of the King’s Council 1642) and Sir Henry St. George (Garter King of arms). Of course, Ashmole may have encountered the Brasenose Fellows still in residence, including Thomas Sixesmith, a Senior Fellow, who had been responsible for publishing Edward Brerewood’s writings, including Tractatus quidam logici in 1628. Brerewood was in fact a Brasenose student who became the first professor of astronomy in Gresham College. Ashmole’s presence at Brasenose can perhaps be explained by his connection to the Mainwaring family; he had married Eleanor Mainwaring in 1638, which affiliated him with the wealthy Cheshire family, many of whom studied at Brasenose. Ashmole left Oxford in 1645, but his period residing at Brasenose clearly greatly influenced him.

Later members of Brasenose also played an important role in the history of the museum. No less than three Brasenose men would become Keepers of the Museum. These included:

  • John Whiteside (Keeper 1714-1729), a student of Brasenose from 1696 to 1700. Whiteside was an experimental philosopher, keen astronomer and is regarded as the founder of physics teaching at Oxford.
  • Sir Arthur Evans (Keeper 1884-1908, BNC 1870-1874) who was in fact the first undergraduate to take archaeology as a special subject in the Modern History School at Oxford. His work at the Ashmolean transformed the institution, establishing its world-wide reputation as a museum of important archaeology. It was during Evans’ tenure that the Museum moved from Broad Street (now the Museum of the History of Science) to Beaumont Street. Evans is chiefly remembered for his discoveries at Knossos on Crete, but left the museum in 1908, it having been amalgamated with the University Galleries.
  • Edward Thurlow Leeds (Keeper 1928-1945, Fellow of BNC 1938-1946, Honorary Fellow 1946-1955). Leeds was from 1908 to 1928 Assistant Keeper of the Museum and focused much of his research on Anglo-Saxon archaeology.  He was the first to integrate documentary and archaeological evidence to study the historical past with particular reference to Oxfordshire, as well as the first to excavate an Anglo-Saxon settlement site (at Sutton Courtenay).

To find out more about current events at the Ashmolean please visit

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A biography of John Idowu Conrad Taylor

John Idowu Conrad Taylor the renowned Nigerian lawyer is a seminal figure in Lagos. During his time practicing at the Nigerian Bar he was a commanding lawyer, well remembered for several high profile cases. In tributes paid to him after his death, at the young age of 56, he was remembered as bold, independent, fearless; a classical legalistic conservative lawyer who had received his legal training in England and went on to contribute immensely to the development of Nigerian case law. The former head of state of Nigeria said of Taylor: “In an age which corruption, intrigues, back biting and the love of office and power are fast becoming a virtue, Mr. Justice Taylor stood out from the crowd with a detachment that has brought immense dignity to the High Office of a Judge”.

John Idowu Conrad Taylor was born on 24 August 1917 at Victoria Street (close to Tinubu Square) in Lagos, Nigeria, the fourth child of Eusebius James Alexander Taylor and Remilekun Alice Taylor (née Williams). A well-known lawyer and nationalist in his own right, E. J. A. Taylor had been called to the Bar on 10 July 1905 and gained the nickname ‘the Cock of the Bar’. John Taylor’s education began in Lagos where he attended the Olowogbowo Methodist School (primary) and then the Methodist Boys High School (secondary) before leaving for England in 1929. It was in England that he completed his secondary education at Culford School in Bury St. Edmunds, between April 1929 and July 1936. His younger brother Alaba Taylor would also follow in his footsteps to be schooled at Culford. During his time at the school John was a school prefect and was described as ‘a fine sportsman’, being captain of the Athletics team, as well as playing rugby, hockey and cricket. He also won the Senior Boxing Cup.

In September 1936 he entered King’s College, London – the 1937-38 King’s College Calendar shows that he was a registered student in the ‘Faculty of Laws’. However in 1937 he transferred to Brasenose College, Oxford. His name was entered in the College admission book on 18 December 1936, where his home address was listed as Wycliff House, 58 Lewisham Park, London, S13. He matriculated at Oxford on 9 October 1937 (Michaelmas term), as a ‘commoner’ i.e. he did not hold a scholarship or an exhibition. He was the only African student to matriculate in 1937, and though the list of matriculants mainly included men from England, there were many other students from overseas (including Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Egypt, South Africa, Argentina and Serbia).

From Michaelmas term 1937 to Trinity term 1940 Taylor lived in Oxford. During his first year (1937-1938) he resided on staircase XIV, room 3 (which cost him £15 a term) and during his second year (1938-1939) he lived on staircase XII, room 7 (£16 a term). The termly rates for room and board varied depending on which room a student could afford; payments ranged from £9 to £20. By 1939 war had broken out and its repercussions were being felt in Oxford. The Brasenose buildings were requisitioned by the military authorities from the beginning of the war and this meant that the students who were still in residence had to live elsewhere. Most undergraduates were moved to the Meadow Building at Christ Church College, and whilst we have no record of where Taylor lived from 1939-1940 it is likely to have been at Christ Church, where the Brasenose and Christ Church students (in some cases) even amalgamated their sports teams to make up the numbers. During this time the Principal of the College was William Teulon Swan Stallybrass, a lawyer (University Reader in Criminal Law and Evidence, editor of Salmond on Torts and Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple) whose influence was widely felt around the College. He loved sport, especially cricket and was the leader in many Brasenose social gatherings. Taylor was probably also influenced by his tutor at Brasenose: Sir (Claud) Humphrey Meredith Waldock, the jurist and international lawyer. In 1947 Waldock became Chichele Chair of public international law at Oxford and later served as the British Judge in the European Court of Human Rights (1966-1974) and in the International Court of Justice (1973-1981). The College law society, the Ellesmere, was flourishing between 1937 and 1939. Luncheons and moots were regularly held and Taylor would have had every opportunity to participate in the life of the society. Whilst at Oxford Taylor also boxed (lightweight division) for Oxford University Amateur Boxing Club. He boxed in two Varsity matches (Oxford against Cambridge), but lost both in 1938 and 1939.

He had applied to join the Middle Temple on 6 September 1937 and was admitted on 6 October 1937. His first certificate of character was supplied by the Headmaster of Culford School who wrote ‘Taylor obtained his London Matriculation in September 1936, his subjects being English, French, History, Elementary Mathematics, Heat, Light and Sound. He is a boy of good average ability, a conscientious worker, and of sterling character’. The second was supplied by a Police Magistrate from Lagos. His report was equally favourable: ‘Mr J. I. C. Taylor…was known to me as a little boy, and his parents…are well known and highly respected people in Lagos; he has had the advantage of an early upbringing in a Christian home, and I believe him to be a gentleman of respectability who will live up to the reputation of his own august parents and uphold the traditions of whatever College into which he may be admitted.’ He was ultimately awarded a 2nd Class B.A. (Honours) degree in Jurisprudence, graduating on 27 July 1940, and on 14 January 1941 he was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple.

In December 1941 he returned to Nigeria where he joined his father’s law firm. On 22 June 1944 he was awarded an Oxford M.A. (in absence). The M.A. is a status within the University and did not entail further study or examination; at Oxford students can progress to the degree of MA on application, 21 terms after matriculation. Following his father’s death in 1947 Taylor was made head of the law firm and went on to serve on the Nigerian Bench for a total of 17 years. One well-known case the firm defended, in 1944 (before Taylor senior’s death) was that of a group of King’s College boys in Lagos. King’s College was a colonial government college which had been requisitioned by the army. This situation meant that its students were forced to move out and in response they wrote a petition protesting of the problems created by this move. Unfortunately the Taylor’s were unsuccessful; the student’s appeal was ignored and their ensuing strike culminated in the detention, trial and expulsion of 75 pupils, whilst their 8 ring leaders were conscripted into the British Army to fight in the 1939-1945 Second World War.

Taylor continued to play sport when he returned to Nigeria and between 1947 and 1949 captained the Nigerian cricket team. By 1956, aged 39, he had risen to the position of Judge of the High Court, Western Region (Nigeria) and four years later he was Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In 1964 he became Chief Justice of the High Court of the Federal Territory of Lagos, a position he held until 1967. When Lagos State was created on 27 May 1967 Taylor became the first Chief Justice of the new state, which restructured Nigeria into a Federation of 12 states. Today Lagos is considered to be the financial centre of Nigeria, as well it’s most populous state. John Taylor died on 7 November 1973. His funeral was held at the Wesley Cathedral, Olowogbowo, where Dr Dr. Bolaji Idowu delivered a sermon of remembrance. The John Idowu Conrad Taylor Memorial Lecture, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (Lagos branch) is held annually and delivered by an eminent jurist and he also has a street in Lagos named after him.


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An Archaeologist in the Archives

(Brasenose Archaeology Blog III by Francesca Anthony)

This summer I was given the wonderful opportunity of spending a few weeks working in the college’s archives, alongside the archivist Georgie Edwards. I had been eager to undertake such experience as archives are always cited as a possible career path for those interested in the heritage sector.

I had not previously been inside an archive. My preconceptions were limited to the misinformed view that it would be a slightly chaotic, gloomy space full of old documents and books, a treasure-trove of history strewn across shelves. I was correct about the stores being a magic treasure-trove of insight into the people and buildings of the college, but I was entirely wrong about the level of organisation and protection afforded to the records. Currently Brasenose is in the process of building a state-of-the-art archive store on site, with many of the documents being held off site. And yet, even the small temporary store was crammed full of grey boxes of varying size, protecting information regarding the history of the college and its occupants, dating from as early as the 1500s. These custom-made boxes are acid free and designed to last several hundred years. From the very start of my work experience it became apparent that many of the ethical questions and decisions that we apply in the archaeological field are relevant to archive work. Much of Georgie’s work is devoted to ensuring the documents are afforded the greatest possible protection so that they can be accessed by future generations. This means that many hours are spent moving documents and objects from their original files, boxes, or cases, into those that are known to be chemically neutral and will not have a negative impact upon the condition. Whilst I was there Georgie focused some of her time on placing college photos into new plastic wallets. This allowed me to look at photos from the early twentieth century, including JCR matriculation photos. I was jealous to see that in previous years the JCR was encouraged to take an informal group photo half-way through their degrees, one of which was ‘silly’ (imagine beer tankards, large hats, cuddly toys), showing that for many decades at least, Brasenose has lived up to its moniker as the happiest college in Oxford.

One of the greatest delights of the Brasenose archive is its sheer breadth. The ‘documents’ refer to a vast variety of materials and records. One of my favourites was a map from 1601 which covered the area of Oxford where I now live. The map was laid out by basic ink lines indicating topographical features such as the river and meadow boundaries, and yet a few features, such as a gate, were drawn in three dimension. Another map from the same century revealed how such a document could be an important statement of wealth. The map of college lands in Lincolnshire was beautifully gilded and embossed, with ornate flowers and paintings of compasses. This map was especially interesting because it was created before the introduction of enclosure, so showed the specific land strips farmed by college tenants. I was also fascinated to discover that the archives include fabric records, namely clothes. My favourite was a mid-19th century stripped velvet blazer that had belong to a member of the ‘Vampires’. It transpired that the ‘Vampires’ were a college cricket society who became infamous for their drinking escapades. Another college society I discovered was the ‘Crocodile Club’. In a rather different vein they were a reading club. I was shown one of their society meeting minute books, which included a beautiful hand-drawn picture of a crocodile in the front cover. The society’s mascot was a stuffed crocodile which I stumbled across when helping to clear a tutor’s office. However long you are at college, there is always more eccentricity to encounter.


1600s Map of Burrough

In my two weeks Georgie allocated me a number of diverse roles, in order that I gain a comprehensive understanding of an archivist’s job. One of my first tasks was to sort out several hundred letters that had been found in a box in a basement room. This involved identifying any key figures or places in the letters so that they could be cross-referenced in the database, chronologically ordering them, and creating a catalogue reference. The letters transpired to be correspondence between/regarding John Arderne Oremerod, the Senior Bursar in college in the mid eighteen-hundreds (1848-1863). In contrast to the large quantities of minute papers that the college has stored, these surprisingly personal letters were a refreshing insight into the governing of college at that date. Once I had overcome, and learnt to decipher, the handwriting, they were also surprisingly funny. For example, the college was revealed to be exceptionally concerned about its venison stock! One cutting comment from the bursar to Principal Cradock remarked upon the University’s Vice Principal struggling to recover from his love affair with a woman who had married another man days after their dalliance. It really felt like I was reading a sitcom; the fellow Chaffers kept disappearing around the country and confusing the rest of the academic staff with his choices of residence; Ormerod regularly provided the principal with an in-depth description of his ailments, including his pulse-rate; Ormerod’s brother the Arch-Deacon was complained to be very “fat and weepy”. My favourite anecdote was Ormerod’s expedition to the river to prove a Brasenose fellow wrong about the presence of eels, but he himself managed to find one and killed it with an oar, upsetting his family by bringing such a trophy home.

My other tasks included organising correspondence from ‘The Visitor’, a nominal college position that initially allowed someone outside college to arbitrate on disputes. On hearing this, my housemates did question whether I was actually archiving for MI6. I also worked through a messy box merely entitled ‘Styler’. Styler was Brasenose’ Vice Principal in the 1960s. I organised a strange collection of personal effects, including his tutorial notes, holiday photos, diaries, correspondence and dinner invitations, once again showing how varied the material is that an archivist encounters. Styler’s box also included hundreds of photo slides, some in very poor condition. I had to attempt to put these into some form of logical order. To my surprise my degree came in useful because Styler had been a classics tutor, so many of his slides recorded classical sites or material remains.

I enormously enjoyed my weeks unearthing the college archives. Not only did it appeal to my historical investigatory nature, but it felt worthwhile helping to protect such an incredible record of the college that I call home.

Francesca Anthony

MSt in Classical Archaeology


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Joyce Frankland

Since its foundation in 1509 several benefactions have been bestowed upon the College, which have allowed the academic community here to grow and prosper. These benefactions started with the endowments of the founders, William Smyth (Bishop of Lincoln) and Sir Richard Sutton (Lawyer). Smyth ‘gave the expenses of constituting & building the College’ and also endowed the College with many large estates around England, including property in Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire. Sir Richard Sutton complemented these estates with property at Burrough in Leicestershire, Oxfordshire and the White Hart Inn on the Strand in London.

Throughout the 16th century many more names were added to the list of benefactors, including Hugh Oldham (Bishop of Exeter),  John Claymond (President of Corpus Christi College) and Alexander Nowell (Dean of St Paul’s and Principal of Brasenose in 1595). Women also feature on the list, and interestingly some of the largest benefactions were received from women, namely Elizabeth Morley, Queen Elizabeth I and Joyce Frankland. Many of the original papers detailing these benefactions are kept in the archive and offer a brilliant insight into Tudor and Elizabethan philanthropy. These early College benefactors are also remembered through annual dinners or commemorations, and many of their portraits adorn the walls of some rooms in the College.

It is undoubtedly thanks to the founders, along with the early Principals and Fellows that these individuals chose to invest in Brasenose. The philanthropic efforts of William Smyth, for example, could clearly have been developed through his connection to such leading educational patrons as Lady Margaret Beaufort (the mother of King Henry VII).  Smyth is thought to have developed a connection with Beaufort during his upbringing close to her home at Knowsley Hall. Beaufort is of course well-known for her leading educational patronage and for being the founder of Christ’s College and St John’s College, Cambridge. However whilst Brasenose owns a portrait of Beaufort, (given by George Hornby, Fellow, in the 19th century) she does not appear to have contributed to the founding of the College directly.

One woman who did give to Brasenose was Joyce Frankland, for whom the Archives hold a large collection of papers relating to her accounts and everyday life. Joyce was the daughter of Robert and Joan Trappes. Her father was a London goldsmith and in 1549 she married her first husband Henry Saxey, a clothworker. After Henry’s death Joyce remarried, this time to another clothworker, William Frankland, but she was to outlive him too. Joyce experienced further tragedy when her only son, William Saxey, died in a horse riding accident in 1581. An acquaintance of Alexander Nowell, Frankland was said by him to have fallen ‘into sorrows uncomfortable, whereof I, being of her acquaintance, having intelligence, did with all speed ride to her house near Hoddesdon to comfort her the best I could, and I found her crying, or rather howling, continually ‘Oh my son, my son!’. And when I could by no comfortable words stay her from that cry and tearing of her hair, God I think, put me in mind at the last to say ‘Comfort yourself good Mrs Frankland, and I will tell you how you shall have 20 good sons to comfort you in these your sorrows … if you would found certain fellowships and scholarships to be bestowed upon studious young men, who should be called Mrs Frankland’s scholars, they would be in love towards you as dear children … and they and their successors after them, being still Mrs Frankland’s scholars, will honour your memory for ever and ever’ (Venn, 3.229).

Franklin 2

Joyce Frankland by Gilbert Jackson (1629)

Nowell’s words seem to have worked and on her death Frankland left a substantial amount of property to Brasenose, mostly in London and the surrounding counties as well as much of her silver collection. The income from the property benefitted the commons of the Principal and Fellows and endowed one fellowship and four scholarships.

Many members of College will be familiar with the portrait of Joyce Frankland which hangs in Hall, and others will also have seen the second portrait which hangs in the SCR. Both of these were left to the College by Frankland in her will. Recently researchers from the National Portrait Gallery in London have been using the Brasenose portraits and archives for research into British artistic practice and patronage between 1540 and 1620. This is just one of many research projects, which the College’s collections are being used for, indicating why we continue to conserve and maintain the collections for generations to come. Please visit the new Library and Archives Flickr site to see a selection of the Joyce Frankland Archives, as well as images of some of the other collections kept by the College.

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BNC Library participates in Oxford Traherne undergraduate studentship scheme

As part of the Oxford Traherne undergraduate summer studentship, I have been lucky enough to explore Brasenose’s impressive collection of rare books. Liz Kay gave us a comprehensive tour of Brasenose’s collections, presenting a snapshot of the broad range of rare books held at Brasenose, each with their own history and eccentricities. I was also struck by the variety of contexts in which the books are stored, from the traditional and atmospheric library at the top of Brasenose tower’s seemingly endless spiral steps to the more modern air-conditioned rolling stacks of the basement, providing an illuminating insight into the challenges and complexity of looking after these rare books and ensuring their survival for the future.

I returned to Brasenose to look at some particular items and was very pleased to discover that Brasenose, Traherne’s old college, still has some copies of works which he read and took notes from as an undergraduate. Though it is impossible to say whether these are the copies Traherne himself read, it was fascinating to examine these four-hundred year old books and the marks of earlier readers which they contain – it seems Oxford’s seventeenth-century students were as prone to marginalia as the students of today.

I would like to thank Liz Kay for her fascinating tour and the insight she gave us into both Brasenose’s historic collection and the challenges and responsibilities facing a 21st century library. She was extremely helpful and accommodating even in the midst of the renovation for the new library and contributed greatly to my research project and the studentship.

Christopher Archibald


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66 men of Grandpont

Regular readers of the Library and Archives blog may be interested to know more about a local history project, which has recently made use of the College Archives. A south Oxford community project, run by a group of local volunteers, has been researching the lives of 66 men from Grandpont (close to the Abingdon Road) who died in the First World War and whose names appear on the memorial in St Matthew’s Church.

Many of the men who died were Oxford College servants, and they included the son of Thomas Townsend, who was a servant at Brasenose from 1872 to 1916. The research offers an extremely interesting insight into the lives of those who resided in Grandpont and the social and cultural interests of many of the College servants and those in other professions, working in Oxford at this time.

A 40 minute documentary film has been produced by the project, under the direction of Liz Woolley, and is due to be shown at the Ultimate Picture Palace on 10 September as part of the Oxford Open Doors weekend. More information about the project can be found here.





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Modern architecture at Brasenose

Hidden away, between New Quad and Lincoln College, is what many consider to be an unremarkable concrete building. Commonly referred to these days as the ‘car park’, staircases 16, 17 and 18 were in fact designed by two of Britain’s most significant post-war architects, Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya.

Modern architecture such as this is often much misunderstood, and modern buildings of the 20th century seem to appear particularly alien within a city such as Oxford, where medieval Colleges and magnificent examples of neoclassical and gothic architecture reign supreme. Whilst architectural designs from the arts & crafts and art deco movements are much loved, and even reflected in many of today’s fashion and interior crazes, many post-war buildings are often met with severe criticism. It is therefore hoped that this blog post will generate a greater understanding of Brasenose’s Powell and Moya building.

The history of this building begins in a post-war Brasenose, where rationing and conscription continued to affect College resources. Words such as ‘gloomy’ and ‘grim’ are often used to describe the post-war era, but it cannot be denied that this period also saw the emergence of some inspiring new ideas in the world of British architecture. One such event that celebrated these new ideas, not only in architecture but also in the sciences, technology, arts and design was the Festival of Britain. Held in 1951 the exhibition was an attempt to propel the country away from the experiences of the Second World War. The remnants of the main festival site on London’s South Bank can still be viewed today, in the form of the riverside walk and the Royal Festival Hall. Architectural inspiration was taken from the international style of architecture championed by the likes of Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. Amongst these buildings stood the Skylon, a huge steel structure designed by none other than Powell and Moya. It stood at approximately 300 ft. high and gave the illusion that it was floating in mid-air. The Powell and Moya firm had been founded in 1946, and as well as the Skylon they were famous for their pioneering design of the Churchill Gardens housing estate in Pimlico – which had proved a successful effort to provide a housing solution to an area of London damaged during the blitz. As well as housing schemes they designed hospitals and university buildings and it was to be Powell and Moya who successfully brought modernism to both Oxford and Cambridge, beginning with Brasenose.

Site 1959

The building site after the demolition of the Bath-house

College resources might have been affected but following the war undergraduate numbers continued to increase, and to put pressure upon the College to provide more accommodation. A site was eventually found for a new building, when in 1959 every staircase, except one, had become equipped with toilets and bathrooms or showers. This made it possible to demolish the old College bath-house, built in 1911 when its popularity as a modern convenience was reported in the Brazen Nose. It had by all means replaced the 19th century student experience; one student in the 1840s described his room as ‘rather strongly scented with the salutiferous exhalations of a certain capacious necessary in its immediate vicinity’. Indeed the area was described as ‘the most squalid part of the College’, and also housed a dust-bin shelter and bicycle racks. The new accommodation building was envisaged as one of the most ambitious pieces of work projected by the College, not only because of its compact site, but also because of the architects chosen. The last major building completed in the College had been New Quad, designed by the Victorian architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson and built between 1887 and 1911.

The feelings put forward in John Betjemen’s famous poem Slough, alongside such ideas conveyed in Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture make it clear that radical changes had started to occur with regards to a new urban aesthetic before the Second World War. Brasenose had, since the construction of Old Quad, been concerned about the appearance of its buildings. Whilst 18th century plans to rebuild the College to neoclassical designs never came to fruition, it is interesting that when building New Quad, the Bursar had elicited the opinion of the designer William Morris, who said:

‘considering the historical value of what is left of old Oxford…those who have any share in the guardianship of its history & antiquity, should build a little as possible, should consider it a misfortune when they are forced to build; and also that when forced to build, they should make their building as modest and unpretentious as possible, chiefly taking care that the materials used should be harmonious with the old buildings.’

What Morris would have made of Powell and Moya’s branch of humane modernism, we can only surmise, but its clear that the College chose these architects because they were a practice who built ethically for the people in a modern way. The new building was financed initially by College funds but mostly by benefactions from Brasenose men and was completed in late 1960, when the Brazen Nose reported:

‘By general consent Powell and Moya have made a great success of a most difficult assignment: the architectural equivalent of a century in bad light on a turning wicket. On a site which had little to commend it they have produced a building with dignity and charm which is admirably adapted to the purpose it is to serve and contrives to make the most of a few surprisingly delightful views. As an expert said on the Third Programme, “Anyone who is interested in real modern architecture should go and see it”….In human terms the new building, which contains thirty-two bed-sitting-rooms, will enable every member of the College to spend two years in Brasenose. So we have achieved a goal that has sometimes seemed too much to hope for in the last few years.’

Newly built

The newly built Powell and Moya building

This building conicided with a period at Brasenose that saw a rise in interest towards the arts, most especially modern art. The JCR Picture or Arts Committee was formed, to purchase art and put on exhibitions within College. This had included a small exhibition of pictures by the Borough Group in 1949. Then in 1963, on completion of the new building, a sculpture by Henry Moore was placed outside. This piece, executed in 1960, was a substantial work in bronze, 45 inches long, entitled Reclining Figure on Pedestal. It was selected and loaned for the site by Henry Moore himself. By 1977 the College had welcomed its first Fellow in Creative Arts. This was Howard Hodgkin, who had a studio in Shoe Lane. During his year in College his paintings were exhibited in the HCR and at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art. Another, often overlooked, work of art remains part of the Powell and Moya building. This is the mosaic mural on the wall by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schuize which was based on the polyhedron, a mediaeval symbol of research and learning.

Room from BN.jpg

One of the thirty-two bed-sitting rooms in 1963

The Powell and Moya building was awarded a Bronze Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects, alongside a First Class Award by the Oxford Civic Trust. The reputation of the building also inspired other Colleges to employ Powell and Moya to complete their extensions. This included Christ Church College (Blue Boar Quad) and most prominently Wolfson College, which was designed in its entirety by Powell and Moya in conjunction with Sir Isaiah Berlin and ‘laid out on the egalitarian principles which governed the college’. It might come as a surprise to many that the Powell and Moya building at Brasenose was Grade II listed in 1998, and though it has faced its difficulties, it should be appreciated as a fine example of 1960s British architecture. Each century the College has had to find new and ingenious ways to build, and the Powell and Moya remains as its 20th century example.

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