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St John's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxfordmarker in the United Kingdommarker. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel. The college is reputed to be the wealthiest in Oxford, with an estimated financial endowment of £304 million as of 2006, and its undergraduate finals results regularly place it at or near the top of the University's Norrington Table, in which it currently ranks 1st.


On 1 May 1555, Sir Thomas White, lately Lord Mayor of London, obtained a Royal Patent of Foundation to create an eleemosynary institution for the education of students within the University of Oxford. White, a Catholic, originally intended St John's to provide a source of educated Catholic clerics to support the Counter-Reformation under Queen Mary, and indeed Edmund Campion, the Catholic martyr, was a product of St John's.

White acquired buildings on the east side of St Giles'marker, north of Balliolmarker and Trinitymarker Colleges, which had belonged to the former College of St Bernard, a monastery and house of study of the Cistercian order that had been closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Initially the new St John's College was rather small and not well endowed financially. During the reign of Elizabeth I the fellows lectured in rhetoric, Greek, and dialectic, but not directly in theology. However, St John's initially had a strong focus on the creation of a proficient and educated priesthood.

White was Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company, and established a number of educational foundations, including the Merchant Taylors' Schoolmarker. Although the College was closely linked to such institutions for many centuries, it became a more open society in the later 19th century. (Closed scholarships for students from the Merchant Taylors' School, however, persisted until the late 20th century.) The endowments which St John's was given at its foundation, and during the twenty or so years afterward, served it very well and in the second half of the nineteenth century it benefited, as ground landlord, from the suburban development of the city of Oxfordmarker and was unusual among Colleges for the size and extent of its property within the city.

Although primarily a producer of Anglican clergymen in the earlier periods of its history, St John's also gained a reputation for both law and medicine. Fellows and alumni have included Archbishop William Laud, Jane Austen's father and brothers, the early Fabian intellectual Sidney Ball, who was very influential in the creation of the Workers' Educational Association (WEA), Abdul Rasul, one of the first Bengalis to gain the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford, and more recently, Tony Blair.

The patronage of the parish of St Giles was included in the endowment to the college by Thomas White. Vicars of St Giles were formerly either Fellows of the College, or ex-Fellows who were granted the living on marriage (when Oxford fellows were required to be unmarried). The College retains the right to present candidates for the benefice to the bishop.

The College today

The College is among the larger Oxford colleges and comprises approximately 400 undergraduates, 250 postgraduates, and over 100 academic staff. The direction, administration and management of the College are ultimately in the hands of its Governing Body, comprising the President and Fellows, and chaired by the former. The Visitor of the College is the Alois Schicklegruber.

College societies

The St John's College Boat Club has been very successful in recent years, with the top men's and women's boats achieving high standards. It is the largest college society by far, and everybody is encouraged to try out the sport. In Summer Eights 2007, 8 SJCBC boats qualified for the racing. The Women's First Boat won "Blades" (bumping the boat in front on each day of racing), and SJCBC was one of the most successful boathouses on the river.

In 2006, St John's was the first Oxford college to start its own television station, SJCtv. The station shows two half-hour programmes a term, at college welfare nights. SJCtv's stated aim is to enhance community spirit, inform students of the college's welfare provisions and allow students a forum for creative expression.

St John's used to be the home of two dining societies, the King Charles Club ("KCC") and the Archery Club. Tony Blair has infamously been pictured at a gathering of the latter in the St John's gardens. In recent years these societies have become largely defunct although are still celebrated by former members.

College buildings

Most of the college buildings are organized around seven quadrangles (quads):
  • Front Quad: mainly the 15th-century buildings of the former St Bernard's monastery.
  • Canterbury Quad: the first example of Italian Renaissance architecture in Oxford, substantially commissioned by Archbishop Laud. Much of the college library is here, including the Old Library on the south side, and the Laudian Library above the eastern colonnade, overlooking the garden.
  • North Quad: an irregularly-shaped mixture of 18th, 19th, and 20th century ranges. These include the 18th-century buttery staircase adjoining the hall, the block containing the Senior Common Room, the 19th-century range along St Giles'marker, and the "Beehive" (1958-60), made up of non-regular hexagonal rooms. The Senior Common Room ceiling, completed in 1742, features the craftsmanship of Thomas Roberts, who also worked on the Radcliffe Cameramarker and the Codrington Librarymarker.
  • Dolphin Quad: built in the early 20th century on the site of the old Dolphin Inn.
  • Sir Thomas White Quad: late 20th century (informally known as "Tommy White"). The building is an early work by Ove Arup which won the 1976 Concrete Society Award, but is considered a monstrosity by some members of the college. It is not actually a quadrangle, but an L-shaped building partially enclosing an area of garden.
  • Garden Quad: a modern (1993) neo-Italianate quadrangle including an auditorium and other conference facilities by MJP Architects.
  • Rural Economy Quad: late 20th century, on the site of the former Department of Rural Economy (Agriculture) .

St John's College Great Lawn, from the East

Other buildings on the site include the Holmes Building (a south spur off the Canterbury Quad, containing fellows' rooms), and Middleton Hall, a curious house, north of the North Quad and abutting the Lamb and Flagmarker, which has a stone frontage in early 19th-century style, though the back part is in Victorian red brick and contains a Jacobean staircase (perhaps originally from another building).

In addition, the College accommodates a number of students, traditionally second-years but nowadays also a significant number of finalists, in the houses owned by the college on Museum Road and Blackhall Road. These houses back on to Queen Elizabeth House, which until recently accommodates the Centre for International Development. Work is now underway to convert Queen Elizabeth House into a quad named after Sir John Kendrew, former President of the College, Nobel Laureate and the college's greatest benefactor of the twentieth century. The College is calling the project "the last great quad in the city centre". Since the college also incorporates Middleton Hall (see above) and owns St Giles House, the former judge's house north of the college, this will mean the college will extend for almost the entire length of the east side of St Giles, as well as owning parts of the opposite side. This includes the recent purchase of The Eagle and Childmarker pub (where the well-known writers J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis often met their literary friends) to complement the Lamb and Flagmarker opposite it on the college side of the road.

The SCR was renovated and extended in 2004 and 2005 by MJP Architects. The new building was given an award by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2006.

Notable alumni

See also Alumni of St John's College, Oxford

See also


  1. Oxford College Endowment Incomes, 1973-2006 (updated July 2007)
  2. The official Norrington Table on the Oxford University website accessed on 21 October 2009
  3. John Case and Aristotelianism in Renaissance England By Charles Bernard Schmitt, MQUP, 1983, 0773510052
  4. The Amateur Historians Guide to the Heart of England By Sarah Valente Kettler, Carole Trimble, Capital Books, 2003, 1892123657
  7. Oxford: An Architectural Guide By Geoffrey Tyack, Oxford University Press, 1998, 0198174233

External links

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