Oxford University - Oriel College. Image curtesy of Tejvan Pettinger.

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Oriel College

Located in Oriel Square, Oriel College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. It is the oldest royal foundation in Oxford (a title formerly held by University College, which formerly it was founded by Alfred the Great).

King’s College has been known historically as King’s College and King’s Hall, in recognition of the college’s royal connection. Since 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has been the college’s official visitor. In 1324, Adam de Brome founded the House of the Blessed Mary at Oxford, under the patronage of King Edward II of England, and the college received a royal charter in 1326. In 1329, an additional royal grant of a manor house, La Oriole, eventually gave rise to its common name. 

What's the History of Oriel College?

Oriel College was founded in 1324, when the rector of University Church, Adam de Brome, obtained a licence from King Edward II to support scholars studying various disciplines in honour of the Virgin. Brome bought two properties the same year, and got its foundation confirmed in a charter dated 21 January 1326. In 1329, the college received a large house belonging to the Crown, known as La Oriole, by royal grant on the site of what is now First Quad.

The Buildings of Oriel College

The Front Quad or First Quad

Although nothing survives of Oriel College’s first buildings (the two original houses were demolished before the quad was built), the south and west ranges as well as the gate tower were built between 1620 and 1622. The east range of the quad forms a classical E shape and comprises the college chapel, the undercroft, and the hall. The ranges (both outside and inside) are topped by an alternating pattern of decorative gables. 

The Hall

The hall entrance commemorates the construction during the reign of Charles I and bears the legend Regnante Carolo (‘Charles, being king’) in capital letters pierced in the stonework. The hall has a hammer-beam roof and a louvre in the centre, which originally let the smoke from the central fireplace scape. Behind the high table is a portrait of Edward II and underneath is a longsword brought to Oriel College in 1902.

The Chapel

The first Oriel Chapel was built in 1373, but the present one was consecrated in 1642 and retains most of its original appearance. The panelling, stalls and screens are all 17th-century. The chapel was extensively restored during the late 1980s.

The Black Quad or Second Quad

This quad was originally a garden until the need for more undergraduate accommodation in the 18th century resulted in the erection of two free-standing blocks. Designed in Neoclassical style, the north range houses the library and senior common rooms. 

St. Mary’s Quad or Third Quad

This quad contains elements of St Mary Hall, which Oriel incorporated in 1902. There are several surviving parts of medieval buildings in this quad, especially incorporated in staircase ten. The Rhodes Building, pictured, was built in 1911.

The O’Brien Quad or Island Site

O’Brien Quad is a convex quadrilateral of buildings. The site took six hundred years to acquire. In the centre of the quad is the Harris Building, a real tennis court where Charles I and King Edward VII played tennis in 1642 and 1859.

Bartlemas

Bartlemas is a conservation area that incorporates the remaining buildings of a leper hospital founded by Henry I.

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

All undergraduates are provided accommodation at Oriel College. Members are generally expected to dine in the hall. There are two settings every evening (Informal Hall and Formal Hall). 

Oriel College has its own drama society, and a student-run publication called The Poor Print. In the summer, students play croquet in St Mary Quad and bowls on the south lawn of the First Quad. 

The college also runs the Oriel College Boat Club and has its own boathouse near Christ Church Meadow.

Where is Oriel College?

Oriel College is located on Oriel Square (OX1 4EW), Oxford. Tel 01865 276555.

Oriel College Coat of Arms.
Arms: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or, a bordure engrailed argent.

Can you Visit Oriel College?

Yes, Oriel College is open to the public. 

  • Open: Open 14.00-17.00 or dusk (whichever is earlier). Closed in Trinity Term (summer term).
  • Charge: Adults £2; concessions £2. Guidebook available for £1.
  • Groups: Maximum 12 people in a group.

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