Morning site visits
Oxford is always very busy in the summer months, so site visits first thing in the morning avoid a clash of interests between me and tourists keen to wander the colleges and chapels. Most Colleges are also far happier for me to arrive before their door open officially.
Today there were three visits planned and my 08:30 arrival at Balliol College was met by a largely deserted Oxford. Balliol is one of Oxford’s oldest colleges and has existed on its present site since 1263. There has been a chapel on site since the late 1320s, although the College had a private oratory prior to that. The present building is the third chapel, designed by William Butterfield and completed in 1856.
Butterfield’s work did not receive wide praise and his apparent disregard for the stained glass of the second chapel resulted in brutal cutting to fit the new chapel. Most of his decorations and furnishings have now been replaced and the Chapel glass underwent wholesale reorganisation and was reset in 1912 by Hugh Arnold.
Close to two-thirds of the Chapel glass is dated 1529-1530, with one panel of 1431 and another of 1857. The rest was the work of Abraham van Linge in 1637.
Just a couple minutes walk took me to my next location: founded in 1509, the official title of Brasenose College is The King’s Hall and College of Brasenose. Its original chapel was located in the space now occupied by the Senior Common Room. Work on the current chapel was overseen by John Jackson and begun in 1655 using building materials taken from a disused chapel of the Augustinian College of St. Mary, now Frewin Hall. Consecrated in 1666, no glass survives from this period.
It was a pleasure to visit another school – one I knew well, but by reputation only. Permission to photograph was quite a protracted affair, but eventually agreed upon so long as I make contact again prior to any plans to sell prints of the edited stained glass image (the school already has a print that is sold through their shop to raise funds for the school’s Bursary Fund).
By the late morning, the sun had for the most part burnt through the clouds and the conditions were less than perfect, with a noticeable shadow being cast onto the upper section of the stained glass window.
With its origins dating back to the 1470s when it was a department of Magdalen College to educate boy choristers who sang in the college’s choir, MCS moved to Cowley Place in 1928, since when it has grown into a highly successful Independent Junior and Senior School.
At any one time, sixteen MCS boys are Choristers of Magdalen College, singing daily services in the College Chapel – a tradition unbroken from more than 500 years.
Within the School, acts of worship take place in the contemporary designed Big School: a hall that can adapt with well-conceived ease from a sophisticated theatre into an elegant chapel. The building was designed by Booth, Ledeboer, and Pinckheard and opened in 1966. The stained glass window depicts Chinese bridges and was designed by Lawrence Stanley Lee, best known for designing the 21m high red and gold windows in the nave of Coventry Cathedral.
Big School is the third place of worship for MCS: from 1928 until 1966, School Chapel was at the Milham Ford end (now the library), which contains stained glass from the original (1850s) chapel on Longwall Street – MCS’s home until its move to Cowley Place.