Outside the New College chapel

New College


New College isn’t really that new. Established in 1379 as Oxford’s first undergraduate college, it’s a glorious Perpendicular Gothic ensemble. Treasures in the chapel include superb medieval stained glass and Sir Jacob Epstein's disturbing 1951 statue of Lazarus, wrapped in his shroud; in term time, visitors can attend the beautiful choral Evensong service (6.15pm nightly). The 15th-century cloisters and evergreen oak featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, while the dining hall is the oldest in Oxbridge.

A warden of New College, William Spooner (1844–1930), who had a habit of transposing the first consonants of words, gave rise to the term 'spoonerism'. Supposedly, for example, he told a lazy student ‘you have tasted an entire worm’. Other high-profile alumni include actors Hugh Grant and Kate Beckinsale.

New College is also famous for a bizarre medieval ritual. Every three years, the Lord Mayor of Oxford inspects the ruins of the city wall here, to check New College is fulfilling its obligation to repair the wall if necessary. These days, though, the inspection is purely symbolic.

Access for visitors is through the New College Lane gate from Easter to early October, and via the Holywell St entrance otherwise.

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