Oxford University - All Souls College. Image courtesy of Gary Campbell Hall.

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All Souls College

All Souls College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. It was founded by Henry VI and it has no undergraduate members. Unique to All Souls, all of its members automatically become fellows or members of the college’s governing body.

Sir Christopher Wren was a fellow from 1653, and in 1658 produced a sundial for the college. For over five hundred years All Souls College admitted only men; women were first allowed to join the college as fellows in 1979.

What's the History of All Souls College?

All Souls College was founded by King  Henry VI of England and Henry Chichele, a fellow of New College and Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1438. The college was created to commemorate the victims of the Hundred Years’ War.

The founding Statutes provided for a warden and forty fellows. They were all to take Holy Orders. 24 were to study arts, philosophy and theology, and 16 to study civil or canon law.

Old Photos of Oxford's All Souls College

The Buildings of All Souls College

The All Souls College Library

The library, formerly known as the Codrington Library, was founded in 1710 through a bequest by Christopher Codrington (1668–1710), a fellow of the college and a wealthy slave and sugar plantation owner. Under the terms of his will, Codrington donated books worth £6,000 and £10,000 in currency for the library to be rebuilt and endowed. Today, it comprises about 185,000 items, a third of which were published before 1800. The collections are particularly strong in law and history (especially military history).

The Chapel

The chapel was built between 1438 and 1442 and remained largely unchanged until the Commonwealth. The 42 misericords date from the Chapel’s building and show a resemblance to the misericords at St Mary’s Church, Higham Ferrers. During the 1660s a screen was installed in the Chapel, which was based on a design by Wren – although it had to be rebuilt in 1713. All services at the chapel are according to the Book of Common Prayer.

What is it Like to Study at All Souls College, Oxford?

Every hundred years, usually on 14 January, there is a commemorative feast. The fellows parade around the college with flaming torches, singing the Mallard Song and led by a “Lord Mallard” who is carried in a chair, in search of a legendary mallard that supposedly flew out of the foundations of the college when it was being built. The last mallard ceremony was in 2001 and the next is due in 2101. The custom dates from at least 1632.

Where is All Souls College?

All Souls College is located on High Street (OX1 4AL), Oxford. Tel 01865 279379.

All Souls College Coat of Arms
Arms: Or, a chevron between three cinquefoils gules (arms of Henry Chichele).

Can you Visit All Souls College?

All Souls College is currently closed to the public.

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