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

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Hertford College

Hertford College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England located on Catte Street in the centre of Oxford. In the two world wars, a total of 171 members of Hertford College died. These men are commemorated by a memorial on the south wall of the chancel in the Chapel and a memorial in the portico, to the right of the Chapel door). There are around 600 students at the college at any one time.

What's the History of Hertford College?

Hertford College was established in the 1280s as Hart Hall and became a college in 1740 (although it was dissolved in 1816 and revived in 1874).

The first Hertford College began life as Hart Hall or Aula Cervina, a small tenement bought by Elias de Hertford from Walter de Grendon. Medieval academic halls were primarily lodging houses for students and resident tutors. In 1490, Hart Hall is described as having a library, which was unusual for this type of establishment. For some time, Cat Hall was leased by All Souls College and Exeter College, until it was subsumed into the growing Hart Hall early in the 16th century. In the latter half of the 16th century, Hart Hall became known as a refuge for Catholic recusants.

After Richard Newton’s death in 1753, the principalship of the college fell to a succession of men who were not interested in continuing their predecessor’s plan (except maybe for David Durell).  In May 1805, Bernard Hodgson, the last principal of Hertford College died. Without a suitable successor, matriculation ended in 1810. The last students were awarded their degrees and the college was dissolved in 1816. 

Richard Michell brought a bill before Parliament in 1873 for the incorporation of Magdalen Hall as Hertford College. The bill received significant financial support and Thomas Baring (then newly elected MP for South Essex) bought a house across New College Lane from the college to serve as fellows’ lodgings. 

Famous Alumni of Hertford College

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher and is considered one of the founders of modern philosophy. He’s well known for his book “Leviathan”, written in 1651. Hobbes attended Magdalen Hall, the predecessor of Hertford College, Oxford. He studied scholastic logic and mathematics.

See more Famous Oxford Alumni >

The Buildings of Hertford College

The Old Quadrangle

The Old Quadrangle (Old Quad or OB Quad, for Old Buildings) is the oldest and the original quadrangle. Its Gatehouse is on Catte Street, directly opposite the main gates of the Bodleian Library, and is a late 19th-century building by Thomas Graham Jackson. The wooden doors with their colourful floral decorations are from the 17th century. Through the Gatehouse, the quadrangle is laid out around a lawn with decorative trees.  On either side of the lodge are slightly earlier buildings, the southern of which is the Principal’s Lodgings, and the northern mostly houses the college’s offices. 

The Old Hall

In the northeast corner of the quad is the Old Hall, which dates back from the 1570s. The hall and its Buttery are now in regular use for dining, especially by the Fellows. Originally, the portion closest to the Old Hall was student accommodation. Today, the building is mostly taken over by the Senior Common Room.

The Chapel and Library

The southern side of the quad consists of the Chapel, built in 1908 and featuring ante-chapel houses a stained-glass window depicting William Tyndale. West of the Chapel is the Library, which was the previous chapel built in the 18th century by Newton. The Library possesses many fine, antique books.

The New Quadrangle

The New Quadrangle (New Quad or NB Quad, for New Buildings) is connected to the Old Quadrangle, across New College Lane, by the Bridge of Sighs. The north-western corner of New Quad is taken up by the Indian Institute building (not part of the college). The most significant building in the quad is the Octagon, north of the gate on Catte Street, which houses the Middle Common Room.

The Holywell Quadrangle

Holywell Quadrangle backs directly onto New Quad and is connected to it by an arched corridor. Holywell Quad was built in 1975, and is almost exclusively for first-year undergraduate housing.

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

Hertford is home to a college cat named Simpkin, who lives in the Lodge. The entire lineage of Hertford College cats is called Simpkins. 

Undergraduate students are accommodated for the full three or four years of their study on the main site or on college-owned property primarily in North Oxford and the Folly Bridge area. 

Hertford College Boat Club is among the leading Oxford college boat clubs, both in men’s and women’s divisions for the Torpids and Eights Weeks. The college was endowed with a new gym in 2011 and has playing fields in New Marston.

Hertford College has the largest and most active music society of any Oxford college, drawing in musicians from around the university.

Where is Hertford College?

Hertford College is located on Catte Street (OX1 3BW), Oxford. Tel 01865 279400.

Hertford College Coat of Arms
Arms: Gules, a hart's head cabossed argent, attired and between the attire a cross patty Or, fitched in the foot.

Can you Visit Hertford College?

Yes, Hertford College is open to the public. 

  • Open: Daily 14.00-16.30.
  • Charge: Free.
  • Groups: Maximum 6 people in a group. Larger groups by advance booking only.
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