Oxford University - Brasenose College. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

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Brasenose College

Oxford University’s Brasenose College (BNC) was founded in 1509 and is home to one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world. Brasenose College ranked 10th in the Norrington Table for the years 2011-2014. The college faces the west side of Radcliffe Square opposite the Radcliffe Camera in the centre of Oxford. To the west is Lincoln College. Brasenose College has produced top sportsmen, including cricketers, rowers, and others.

What's the History of Brasenose College?

The history of this college dates back to 1509, when it was founded on the site of Brasenose Hall – a medieval academic hall from the 13th century. The name is believed to derive from a bronze or brass knocker that adorned this hall’s door.

The founders of Brasenose College, Sir Richard Sutton and the Bishop of Lincoln, William Smyth, came from Lancashire and Cheshire. This link was maintained through the twentieth century.

During the English Civil War, most of the College favoured the Royalist side. It achieved academic success between 1790 and 1810, when the income doubled. Brasenose lost 115 men in the First World War and saw its numbers greatly reduced. 

The Buildings of Brasenose College

The main site comprises three quads: The original Old QUad, a small one called “Deer Park”, and the larger New Quad – as well as smaller houses that face Radcliffe Square and the High Steet. 

The Dining Hall

The Dining Hall was renovated in the 1680s, raising the floor to accommodate a wine cellar and reconstructing the roof. Until the 16th century, the hall was heated by a large open fire in the centre of the room. 

The New Quad

Brasenose’s New Quad was finished in 1911 and replaced a number of older buildings. Further renovations in the 2010s added underfloor heating, a new equipped kitchen, a servery area, and additional dining and meeting places. 

The Chapel

The Chape began construction in 1656, replacing an older one that was located where is now the Senior Common Room. The chapel is a mix of Gothic and Baroque styles and features a hanging fan vault ceiling. It was consecrated in 1666 and redecorated (the interior) in 1819.  

The Library

The library was built in 1658 and received its first books in 1664. The books were initially fixed by chains, which were removed in the 1780s – over a hundred years later!

The Annexes

Brasenose Colleg has a large annexe for undergraduates, situated on St Michael’s Street. A second graduate annexe opened in September 2008 close to the railway station.

What is it Like to Study at Brasenose College, Oxford?

Brasenose College offers social, recreational and welfare support. The graduate common room, known as the Hulme Common Room or HCR, is named after a past benefactor. 

The college organises an annual summer arts festival featuring pantomimes, musical performances, comedy evenings, and a contested bake-off spanding several days. Students have also held an outdoor summer bar, outdoor film nights, poetry brunches, and a stage combat workshop, among other activities.

Brasenose College has a BoatClub (BNCBC), believed to be one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world. Several college members have rowed for the university against Cambridge University in the Boat Race and the Women’s Boat Race. 

Where is Brasenose College?

Brasenose College is located on Radcliffe Square (OX1 4AJ), Oxford. Tel: 01865 277830.

Brasenose College Coat of Arms
Brasenose College's coat of arms is quite complex, since it incorporates the personal arms of the founders and the arms of the See of Lincoln.

Can you Visit Brasenose College?

Yes, Brasenose College is open to the public. 

  • Open: Mon – Fri 10.00-11.30, Sat – Sun 9.00-10.30 (term time), 10.00-11.30 (vacations), 14.00-16.30 (17.00 in summer).
  • Charge: Free, donations welcome.
  • Groups: Groups must book in advance. Maximum group size of 40.
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