Merton College

Merton College information

Oxford , England
Merton St
More information
admission £3
Opening hours
2-5pm Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat & Sun
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Founded in 1264, Merton is the oldest of the three original colleges and the first to adopt collegiate planning, bringing scholars and tutors together into a formal community and providing a planned residence for them. Its distinguishing architectural features include large gargoyles whose expressions suggest that they're about to throw up, and the charming 14th-century Mob Quad – the first of the college quads.

Just off the quad is a 13th-century chapel and the Old Library (admission on guided tour only), the oldest medieval library in use (look for the chained books). It is said that Tolkien spent many hours here writing The Lord of the Rings and that the trees in the Fellows' Garden inspired the ents of Middle Earth. Other literary giants associated with the college include TS Eliot and Louis MacNeice.

During the summer holidays it may be possible to join a guided tour of the college grounds (£4). Also in summer, look out for posters advertising candlelit concerts in the chapel.

Behind Merton College is the ominously named Dead Man's Walk , so called because the medieval Jewish community, who were not allowed to bury their dead within the city, would take bodies along this route to the Jewish cemetery (now the Botanic Garden).