Oxford University: Wadham College. Image courtesy of Andrew Gray.

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Wadham College

Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. It is located in the center of Oxford, at the intersection of Broad Street and Parks Road. The central buildings are a notable example of Jacobean architecture and were designed by the architect William Arnold.

Amongst Wadham’s most famous alumni is Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history (and also an anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician). Sir Christopher Wren was an undergraduate at Wadham before he became a fellow of All Souls and then astronomy professor at Gresham College, London. 

The college now consists of some 70 Fellows, about 230 graduate students, and about 450 undergraduates. Wadham has a relatively high number of state school students, compared to other Oxford colleges.

What's the History of Wadham College?

As a result of the will of Dorothy Wadham‘s late husband, Nicholas Wadham (1531–1609), a member of an ancient Devon and Somerset family, Wadham College was founded in 1610. Between 1610 and 1613, the architect William Arnold erected the central buildings, which are notable examples of Jacobean architecture.

A significant period in the history of the college is the wardenship of John Wilkins (1648–1659). Many members from his London group moved to Oxford to hold regular meetings in the Warden’s lodgings at Wadham. The Warden’s lodgings were stuffed with ingenious instruments, and powerful telescopes were mounted on the college tower.

Maurice Bowra, warden of the college from 1938 until 1970, was influential in determining the character of the college as open and meritocratic.

Famous Alumni of Wadham College

Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren was one of the most acclaimed English architects, as well as a renowned astronomer, geometer, and mathematician among others. He was educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at the University of Oxford around 1650. He was a student at Wadham College. 

See more Famous Oxford Alumni >

The Buildings of Wadham College

The Front Quad

Wadham College is the last major English public building to be created according to the medieval tradition of the master mason. Its front quad is also an early example of the “Jacobean Gothic” style. The main building was erected in 1610–1613. The style of the building is a fairly traditional Oxford Gothic, modified by classical decorative detail. The central quadrangle was originally graveled throughout (it’s lawned today).

The Hall

Wadham’s hall is one of the largest amongst Oxford colleges. It’s notable for its great hammer-beam roof and the Jacobean woodwork of the entrance screen. The hall is decorated with portraits of the founders and of distinguished members of the college.

The Chapel

The chapel has a screen carved by John Bolton. The monumental East window depicting Jonah’s whale was made by a Dutchman, Bernard van Linge, in 1622. Another monument is in the form of a pile of books; it commemorates Thomas Harris, one of the fellows of the college. The Chapel organ dates from 1862 and was made by Henry Willis.

The Back Quad

During the 18th and 19th centuries, several additions were made including converted warehouse originally used to store bibles and modern buildings that create a Back Quad between the Front Quad and Holywell Street.

The Bar Quad

The bar quad or “Ho Chi Minh” quad is small and has the Junior Common Room, the 1950s accommodation block, and the Holywell Music Room. The quad is used for games of croquet.

The Holywell Music Room

This is said to be the oldest purpose-built music room in Europe. It’s also England’s first concert hall. It was designed by Thomas Camplin and opened in July 1748. The interior has been restored to a near-replica of the original.

The Ferdowsi Library

This library specializes in Persian literature, art, history, and culture. It possesses about 3,500 volumes, almost 800 manuscripts, about 200 lithographs. The Wadham library building was initially funded by donations from the then Iranian ruling family, the Pahlavi dynasty

The Gardens

Wadham Gardens are relatively large. Originally a series of orchards and market gardens, their appearance has been significantly modified over the course of the last four hundred years. The present configuration is divided into the Warden’s Garden, the Fellows’ Private Garden, and the Fellows’ Garden, together with the Cloister Garden (originally the cemetery) and the White Scented Garden. 

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

Undergraduate students are offered accommodation for three years (within the college for the first and final ones). All students can use the on-site facilities such as the Moser Theatre, squash court, gym, kitchen, laundry room, music practice rooms, and various meeting rooms.

Since 1976, Wadham College has been distinctive in having a Student Union with both undergraduate and graduate members. 

The college sports ground is located in Summertown. There are three football teams, two chess teams, a cricket team, men and women’s boat crews, a hockey team with Trinity, trampolining Cuppers side (mixed); Gaelic Football Cuppers side, men’s darts, men’s rugby, women’s rugby Fives, as well as Ultimate Frisbee.

Wadham has a student exchange program with the Sarah Lawrence College in New York. 

Where is Wadham College?

Wadham College is located on Parks Road (OX1 3PN), Oxford. Tel 01865 277900.

Wadham College Coat of Arms
Arms: Gules, a chevron between 3 roses argent barbed vert (Wadham); impaling Gules, a bend or between 2 escallops argent (Petre).

Can you Visit Wadham College?

Yes, Wadham College is open to the public. 

  • Open: Term time: 13.00-16.15. Vacation 10.30-11.45-13.00-16.15.
  • Charge: Free.
  • Groups: Groups must book in advance and be accompanied by a Blue Badge Guide.

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