Brasenose College St. Mary's, the university church, appears under restoration at right.

The view along the High Street from the St. Mary's Passage end

J. Mordaunt Crook explains that this addition to the college could only have been made after its infamous Principal Shippen arranged for the purchase of eight properties on the High between 1715 and 1736 (134). See Crook for the interesting story how the New Quad almost became a Classical Revival building when the college asked in turn Nicholas Hawksmoor, James Wyatt, John Nash, John Soane, and Philip Hardwick for designs (137-38, 165-67).


A century and a half later, long after all the properties had been assembled, Thomas Graham Jackson (1835-1924), finally created the New Quad, beginning with its West and North sides of a new quadrangle (1881-83 and 1886-87). Then came the side facing the High, which saw completion in two phases, 1887-90 and 1909—11. “Jackson's design had to look two ways: inward towards the quiet world of the college; outward on to the bustle of the High. The inner front he made appropriately collegiate; it simply followed the pattern of what had already been built. It was the outer front which presented him with problems” (293), the most important of which involved creating a powerful “symbolic entrance” that would not jar with the buildings on the High. He had to build a gateway.

“But in Oxford there could be no gateway without a tower. And a conventional tower posed difficulties: it would present too bold a rectangle, too harsh a cube, when placed sequentially between the spire of St Mary's and the steeple of All Saints. Again, a third vertical feature could assume the form of neither steeple nor spire without at least some sense of visual redundancy. So Jackson hit upon a daring compromise: a steeple with an open crown; a multi-buttressed pinnacle—gravity defying, diaphanous—soaring high above the squarest of square towers; the tower itself, pierced at its base with a vaulted, ceremonial porch. One final touch: this grand vertical feature was to be set back from the line of the High Street, placed behind an open screen” (293).

Other images of Brasenose College, Oxford

Photograph, formatting, and text by George P. Landow. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Crook, Joseph Mordaunt. Brasenose: The Biography of an Oxford College. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Last modified 1 October 2012