Oxford Worcester College. Image courtesy of Dave_S.

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Worcester College

A constituent college of the University of Oxford in England, Worcester College was founded in 1714 by Sir Thomas Cookes, whose coat of arms the college adopted. Gloucester College existed on the same site from the late 13th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Worcester has been coeducational since 1979.

What's the History of Worcester College?

Worcester College has been a coeducational college since 1979. It was founded as a men’s college in 1714 by the benefaction of Sir Thomas Cookes, 2nd Baronet (1648-1701) of Norgrove, Worcestershire. Then, there were only sufficient funds to rebuild the Chapel, Hall and Library and the north side of the Front Quad, known as the Terrace. In 1736, Clarke generously left to the College his great collection of books and manuscripts.

The Buildings of Worcester College

Worcester College has a diverse range of buildings, including a row of medieval houses known as “the cottages” that are amongst the oldest in Oxford. 

The Chapel

The Chapel was built in the 18th century. Its benefactors included Dr George Clarke, Henry Keene and James Wyatt. The interior columns, the dome, and the foliage plastering are all Wyatt’s work. Between 1864 and 1866 the chapel was redecorated by William Burges. The chapel is highly unusual and decorative, predominantly pink, with pews decorated with carved animals (including kangaroos and whales!). The walls also have frescoes of dodos and peacocks. Oscar Wilde said of the Chapel, “As a piece of simple decorative and beautiful art it is perfect, and the windows very artistic.” Worcester has not one, but two chapel choirs of equal status. They share out the weekly services between them.

The Hall

A reduced design of that presented by William Burges was completed in 1877 and substantially altered in the early twentieth century. In 1966 Wyatt’s designs were restored using his original drawings .

Modern Buildings

New residential blocks for undergraduates and graduates were added in recent years. These include the Earl building, Sainsbury Building, Linbury Building, Canal Building, Ruskin Lane Building, the Franks Building, and the Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak Centre.

The Gardens

Because Worcester College was situated on the edge of the city in the eighteenth century, it has been able to retain very extensive gardens and contiguous playing fields. These gardens have won numerous awards.

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

Every three years in June, the college hosts a Commemoration Ball. Worcester College also holds a Formal Hall every day of term except on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturday.

Before each meal, the College grace is recited by a scholar, or student studying a field related to Literae Humaniores. Every Hilary (spring) term on the Saturday of 4th Week, second-year members of the College celebrate ‘Midway’ to mark the point at which they are exactly halfway through their degree.

Worcester College is known for its sporting prowess, especially in football, cricket and hockey.

Where is Worcester College?

Worcester College is located on Worcester Street (OX1 2HB), Oxford. Tel 01865 278300.

Worcester College Coat of Arms
Arms: Argent, two chevronels between six martlets, three, two and one gules (arms of Cookes).

Can you Visit Worcester College?

Yes, Worcester College is open to the public. 

  • Open: Daily 14.00-16.00.
  • Charge: Free.
  • Groups: Maximum 6 people in a group; larger groups by appointment.
Oxford Worcester College. Image courtesy of Dave_S.

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