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definition - Brasenose_College,_Oxford

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Brasenose College, Oxford

Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford

Brasenose College

Oxford Brasenose College.jpg
College name The King's Hall and College of Brasenose
Latin name aula regia et collegium aenei nasi
Named after Bronze door knocker
Established 1509
Sister college Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Principal Alan Bowman
Undergraduates 360
Graduates 190
Location Radcliffe Square
Brasenose College, Oxford is located in Oxford (central)

Location of Brasenose College within central OxfordCoordinates: 51°45′12″N 1°15′17″W / 51.753206°N 1.254731°W / 51.753206; -1.254731
A shield blazoned as "Tierced in pale, Argent, a chevron sable between three roses gules seeded or, barbed vert; or, an escutcheon gules, two lions of England in pale or, on a chief azure Our Lady crowned seated on a tombstone issuant from the chief, in her dexter arm the Infant Jesus, in her sinister arm a sceptre, all or, ensigned with a mitre proper; quarterly, first and fourth argent, a chevron between three bugle-horns stringed sable, second and third argent, a chevron between three crosses crosslet sable."
Blazon see below

Brasenose College, originally Brazen Nose College (in full: The King's Hall and College of Brasenose, often referred to by the abbreviation BNC), is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. As of 2006, it has an estimated financial endowment of £98m.[1] Brasenose is home to one of the oldest boat clubs in the world, Brasenose College Boat Club.



  A copy of the original Brasenose Knocker is mounted on a door in Stamford.
  Brasenose College, viewed from St Mary's (in High Street). The entrance to Brasenose Lane is just to the right of the centre of the picture.
  Brasenose College in the 1670s
  Brasenose College as it fronts on to the High Street, Oxford, with St Mary's in the background.
  The High Street (south) end courtyard of Brasenose College, as seen from St Mary's (to the east), looking towards All Saints.

The College was founded[2] in 1509 by a lawyer, Sir Richard Sutton, of Prestbury, Cheshire, and the Bishop of Lincoln, William Smyth. A foundation stone was laid in this year, although it was not until January 15, 1512 that a royal charter was obtained from Henry VIII.[3] Smyth provided the money for the college's foundation, and Sutton acquired the property. The college still maintains traditional ties to its official Visitor, the Bishop of Lincoln. It was built on the site of several of the medieval Oxford Halls, which were institutions which originally existed just as lodging houses, but which had grown to become a seats of learning. Brasenose Hall, Little University Hall and St Mary's Entry were amongst the Halls taken over by Brasenose College during its establishment.[3]

For the first few hundred years of its existence, many members of the college originated from Lancashire and Cheshire, the same areas of England which Smyth and Sutton hailed from.[3] Like any Oxford college during that period, Brasenose was essentially a religious foundation in Tudor times. The daily routine for students included mass at dawn, a paltry breakfast followed by study and lectures until dinner at 11am, more study until supper and prayers at 5pm, and finally tuition and disputation before sleep at 10pm. Food was basic, heating inadequate, sanitation rudimentary and life was generally pious and spartan for many.[3]

Among the earliest to endow the new College (or Hall) was John Elton, an early Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, and later Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral, who donated funds on 20 May 1529 towards the tuition of any Elton family member who wished to attend the new Brasenose Hall.[4] Other notable early benefactors include Alexander Nowell, Joyce Frankland, Elizabeth Morley and Sarah Seymour, Duchess of Somerset.

The name "Brasenose" is thought to originate from a brazen (bronze) door knocker in the shape of a nose;[5] the nose-shaped door knocker which hangs above the high table of the main hall of Brasenose College is thought to be the original door knocker belonging to Brasenose Hall. In the 1330s, a group of students left Oxford for Stamford in Lincolnshire led by a student from Brasenose Hall, and are thought to have taken the door knocker with them. Another brass knocker in the shape of a nose was fixed to the college gate in the early 16th century, and this has remained above the main entrance ever since.[3] However, in 1890, a house in Stamford named "Brazenose" bearing a 12th-century door knocker in the shape of a nose was put on sale. The house was purchased by the college for the sake of the door knocker, which was removed and placed in the hall, believed to have been returned to its rightful home. The house, and remains of the Hall, are now part of the estate of Stamford School. Interest in the college's history by its members is still strong, and in 2006, Brasenose students made a pilgrimage to Lincoln and Stamford.

An alternative theory is that the name is a corruption of brasenhuis (brewhouse), but this is not widely accepted, although the college did have its own brewhouse up until 1889.[6] Brasenose College uses the "nose" as an informal symbol.

  Location and buildings

Brasenose faces the west side of Radcliffe Square opposite the Radcliffe Camera in the centre of Oxford. The north side is defined by Brasenose Lane, while the south side reaches the High Street. To the west is Lincoln College. At its south-east end, the college is separated from the University Church by St Mary's Passage. The main entrance of the College can be found on Radcliffe Square. Although not located on Turl Street the college has links with the three Turl Street colleges (Lincoln, Jesus, and Exeter).The College is also physically linked to Lincoln College through a connecting door, which Brasenose College members are permitted to enter Lincoln College through on Ascension Day each year. The door is opened for five minutes and it is the only time during the year that this door is unlocked. Brasenose members are then served an ale by Lincoln College, which is traditionally flavoured with ground ivy.[7]

The main college site[8] comprises three quads, the original Old Quad, the small second quad affectionately known as the Deer Park, and the large New Quad, as well as collection of smaller houses facing Radcliffe Square and the High Street. The original college buildings comprised a single two storey quad, incorporating the original kitchen of Brasenose Hall on the south side. In the 17th century a third floor was added to the quad to form the current Old Quad. A separate chapel was also built to the south, connected to the quad by a library built over a cloister as shown in a 1670 print, thus enclosing the Deer Park. The cloister was for a time the college burial ground, and evidence suggests there were at least 59 people buried there, with the last recorded burial being in 1754. The cloister was filled in to make two or three chambers in around 1807, used as student bedrooms or administrative offices until 1971, when the space was converted into the graduate common room.[9] More recently the graduate common moved to the Old Quad, and the space, still known as the "Old Cloisters" has been used as a library overspill area, a teaching room and, in 2010-11, as the temporary Senior Common Room. The nickname for the Chapel Quad is often thought to be a friendly jibe at Magdalen College which has a genuine deer park known as The Grove; a former Brasenose student named C.C. Bradford (matriculated 1884) claimed that in 1886 he was walking through Chapel Quad with R.H Tilney (matriculated 1885), discussing a visit to Magdalen the previous day. When they saw a man preparing to put up a post and chain fence Mr. Bradford exclaimed, 'They are going to give us a deer-park', and his companion replied, 'By Jove we’ll call it that'.[9]

During the 16th century the dining hall was heated by an open fire in the centre of the room, supplemented by movable braziers. In the 1680s the hall was renovated, with a raised floor to accommodate a wine cellar below and a reconstructed roof. Another renovation phrase in the mid-18th century included a new chimneypiece, a new ceiling to cover the original timber beams and two gilded chandeliers. The original brazen nose was placed above high table in 1890.[3]

Building began on the current chapel in 1656, and it replaced an old chapel which was located in a space now occupied by the Senior Common Room. Building materials were taken from a disused chapel at the site of St Mary’s College (now Frewin Hall), transported piece by piece by horse-and-cart to Brasenose College. The chapel, a mix of Gothic and Baroque styles, features a hanging fan vault ceiling of wood and plaster, and was consecrated in 1666.[3] The internal fittings are largely 18th and 19th century, and include chandeliers presented to the college in 1749. These were donated to a parish church and later converted to gas but then returned to Brasenose when the church switched to electric lights. The chandeliers were then converted back to their original state so that candles could be used in them once again.[10] The current library was begun in 1658 and received its first books in 1664. It replaced a smaller library on Staircase IV, which is now used as a meeting room. The books in the current library were fixed by chains, which were only removed in the 1780s, over a hundred years later.[3]

  The Mediaeval Kitchen

New Quad was designed by Jackson and finished in 1911, replacing a number of existing buildings. The current site was completed in 1961 with new buildings, used largely for first year undergraduate accommodation, designed by the architects Powell and Moya. In 2010, a project was begun to renovate the kitchens, servery, dining hall and some other areas of college. The project included the installation of under floor heating and a new timber floor in the dining hall, new kitchen equipment, a new servery area, additional dining and meeting places, and disabled access to the dining hall.[11] During the project, the Old Quad housed a temporary dining hall and kitchen, while the New Quad was used to store building materials. The dining hall refurbishment was completed by September 2010, whilst the remaining work was completed around Easter 2012. The new catering facilities were unveiled during a ceremony on 14th March 2012. During the ceremony, college members gathered in a restored 15th century building in the heart of college, originally the college kitchens and most recently used as the servery. This room, to be known as the Mediaeval Kitchen, will be used as a new dining space in addition to the main dining hall, which will remain the usual location for student meals. The temporary kitchen and builder's yard were removed and the Quads restored to their normal state during the Easter 2012 vacation [12]. In recent years the Junior Common Room (JCR) and Bar have also been renovated.

The college also has a large undergraduate annexe situated on St Michael's Street, developed from Frewin Hall in the 1940s, and a graduate annexe shared with St Cross College was completed in 1995. The St Cross annexe is laid out in clusters of five bed-sitting rooms, sharing two shower rooms and a well equipped kitchen. A second graduate annexe, Holly Bush Row, was opened in September 2008 and is located close to the railway station and Said Business School. It consists of single rooms with en suite bathrooms and shared kitchens. There are also a small number of other graduate houses offered by the college.

  Student life

Brasenose College Boat Club (BNCBC) is sometimes held to be the oldest boat club in the world; this is impossible to verify but BNCBC is certainly the oldest collegiate boat club and took part in the first ever head race, beating Jesus College Boat Club on that occasion.

The College has an active Music Society and several concerts per term. Regular dates include the termly Platnauer Concerts, established to honour the memory of Maurice Platnauer, Principal of Brasenose (1956–1960); termly Heberden Concerts, recently established to honour Charles Buller Heberden (1849–1921), Principal of Brasenose (1889–1920) and to showcase talented undergraduates and graduates of Oxford University; the Principal's Concerts, established in 2009, for junior and senior members of Brasenose and other colleges to display their talents.[13] Brasenose College has a choir, which is voluntary, although choral awards are offered to members of Brasenose through auditions at the beginning of the academic year. The choir sings Evensong every Sunday, and also sings for various special services and events, including two Carol Services, Roman Catholic Masses, the annual joint service with Lincoln College and other occasions. The choir goes on regular singing tours, for instance Rome in 2004, Paris in 2006, Lombardy in 2009 and back to Rome in 2010.[14] In 2010 and 2011 the college has run the Wondrous Machine event, where local Primary School children are invited to Brasenose for interactive sessions to learn about the pipe organ and the science behind the musical instrument.[15]

Brasenose College Rugby Football Club proudly associates itself with William Webb Ellis, who is often credited as the inventor of the game, founder of BNCRFC, the club's first captain, and graduate of the college. Webb-Ellis's 'outside-the-box' approach has underpinned the tactical philosophies of a long and illustrious line of BNCRFC captains.

The JCR plays a central part in the life of the undergraduate community. Offering social, recreational and welfare support to the students, the elected committee addresses many aspects of student life and liaises with the governing body and graduate student representatives. A weekly report is collated and distributed on the mailing-list by official JCR Scribe and Vice-President. Unlike most Oxford colleges, the graduate common room is known as the Hulme Common Room (HCR), named after a past benefactor, rather than the Middle Common Room (MCR).[16]

The college also prides itself on its annual summer arts festival, first staged in 1994, involving various plays, pantomimes, comedy evenings and musical performances. The 2010 summer arts festival featured six days of open-air plays, music concerts, workshops, poetry readings and exhibitions as well as an outdoor summer bar, all organised by Brasenose students.[17]

  Coat of arms

Coat of arms of Brasenose College

Brasenose College's coat of arms is quite complex, since it incorporates the personal arms of the founders and the arms of the See of Lincoln.[18]

In heraldic terminology: Tierced in pale: (1) Argent, a chevron sable between three roses gules seeded or, barbed vert (for Smyth); (2) or, an escutcheon of the arms of the See of Lincoln (gules, two lions of England in pale or, on a chief azure Our Lady crowned seated on a tombstone issuant from the chief, in her dexter arm the Infant Jesus, in her sinister arm a sceptre, all or) ensigned with a mitre proper; (3) quarterly, first and fourth argent, a chevron between three bugle-horns stringed sable; second and third argent, a chevron between three crosses crosslet sable (for Sutton).[19]

Within the college a simpler form is sometimes used where the central tierce simply contains the arms of the See of Lincoln, rather than displaying them on a mitred escutcheon.

Because of the complexity of the arms they are not suitable for use on items such as the college crested tie, where the nose is used instead.

  College prayers

  The College Prayer

The college prayer is read by the principal or a fellow at evensong on Sundays during term and at gaudies.[20]

Almighty and heavenly Father, we desire thy loving-kindness upon this, our well loved Society. We implore thy blessing on those of its members who now serve thee in their several callings. Strengthen them, O Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest, and, as thou hast called them to thy service, make them worthy of their calling. And we keep for ever before thee in grateful remembrance of their lives and their sacrifice, those of our body who fell in the Wars; and into thy hands we commend them, thou God with whom do live the spirits of just men made perfect. And we pray for ourselves, that we may learn here to know and do thy will; that through thy protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen. O Lord God, in whose name are gathered here the memorials of many generations, we give thanks for all former members of this College, who have served thee with faithful labour in thy Church and Kingdom; as thou didst enable them to add their portion to thy work, so teach and strengthen us, we pray thee, to do the tasks awaiting us in this our generation; through him who offered himself to do thy will and finish thy work, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. O eternal God, the Resurrection and the Life of all them that believe in thee, trust in thee, and serve thee; thou that art always to be praised, as well for the dead as those that are alive; We give thee most hearty thanks for our Founders and Benefactors, by whose Bounty and Charity we are brought up to religion and the studies of good learning, and particularly for William Smyth and Richard Sutton our Founders; beseeching thee, that we may so well use these thy blessings to the praise and honour of thy holy Name, that at last, we, with them, may be brought to the immortal glory of the Resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Individual benefactors are commemorated in an annual pattern, with the founders being commemorated (as shown above) on the first Sunday of Michaelmas Term, and at all gaudies.


The preprandial grace[21] is read by the Bible Clerk at Formal Hall.

Oculi omnium spectant in te, Deus! Tu das illis escas tempore opportuno. Aperis manum tuam et imples omne animal tua benedictione. Mensae caelestis nos participes facias, Deus, Rex aeternae gloriae.

The eyes of all look to thee, O God! Thou givest them meats in due season. Thou openest Thy hand and fillest every living thing with thy blessing. Make us participants at the heavenly banquet, O God, King of eternal glory.

The grace after dinner is only read on special occasions, and the list of benefactors included in this grace is quite variable.

Qui nos creavit, redemit et pavit, sit benedictus in aeternum. Deus, exaudi orationem nostram. Agimus Tibi gratias, Pater caelestis, pro Gulielmo Smyth episcopo et Ricardo Sutton milite, Fundatoribus nostris; pro Alexandro Nowel, Jocosa Frankland, Gulielmo Hulme, Elizabetha Morley, Mauritio Platnauer, aliisque benefactoribus nostris; humiliter te precantes ut eorum numerum benignissime adaugeas. Ecclesiam Catholicam, et populum Christianum custodi. Haereses et errores omnes extirpa. Elizabetham Reginam nostram et subditos eius defende. Pacem da et conserva, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

May he who hath created, redeemed and provided for us be blessed for ever. Hear our prayer, Lord. We give thee thanks, heavenly Father, for William Smyth, Bishop, and Richard Sutton, Knight, our Founders; for Alexander Nowel, Joyce Frankland, Elizabeth Morley, Maurice Platnauer and for our other benefactors, humbly beseeching thee that thou wilt add to their number in goodness. Safeguard the Catholic Church and all Christian people. Root out all heretical waverings. Defend Elizabeth our Queen and her subjects. Grant peace and preserve it, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

  People associated with the College

Notable former students of the college have included politicians, scientists, writers, entertainers and academics. Perhaps the best known living Brasenose alumni are Prime Minister David Cameron, the comedian Michael Palin as well as Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey, all of whom are honorary fellows. Earlier alumni include Henry Addington, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, William Webb Ellis, often credited with the invention of Rugby football, William Golding, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, and Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury.

See also: Alumni of Brasenose College, Oxford and Fellows of Brasenose College, Oxford

  Fictional Brasenose

  • Thomas Love Peacock in his novel Crotchet Castle (1831) has one of his characters say: 'the Friar is gone, and his learning with him. Nothing of him is left but the immortal nose, which, when his brazen head had tumbled to pieces, crying "Time's Past," was the only palpable fragment among its minutely pulverised atoms, and which is still resplendent over the portals of its cognominal college. That nose, sir, is the only thing to which I shall take off my hat, in all this Babylon of buried literature.'


  1. ^ Oxford College Endowment Incomes, 1973-2006 (updated July 2007)
  2. ^ "A History of Brasenose: An Outline of College History". http://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/345/brasenose-college-archives-and-history-38/college-history-212/a-brief-history-of-brasenose-397.html. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Mordaunt Crook, J. (2008). Brasenose: The Biography of an Oxford College. Oxford University Press. 
  4. ^ Alumni Oxoniensis: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500-1714: Their Parentage, Birthplace, and Year of Birth, with a Record of Their Degrees. Being the Matriculation Register of the University, Alphabetically Arranged, Revised and Annotated, University of Oxford, Joseph Foster, Published by James Parker, 1891. http://books.google.com/books?id=MeMtAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA461&dq=ambrose+elton+mayo. 
  5. ^ "A History of Brasenose: The Oddest Name in Oxford". http://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/345/brasenose-college-archives-and-history-38/college-history-212/the-oddest-name-in-oxford-396.html. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  6. ^ "Brasenose Ale Verses". http://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/345/brasenose-college-archives-and-history-38/brasenose-traditions-and-legends-215/brasenose-ale-verses-419.html. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  7. ^ "Ascension Day festivities". http://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/288/about-brasenose-31/news-152/ascension-day-festivities-816.html. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  8. ^ "A History of Brasenose: The Buildings". http://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/345/brasenose-college-archives-and-history-38/college-buildings-217.html. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  9. ^ a b "Deer Park". Retrieved 2011-04-20.
  10. ^ Brasenose College 1509-2009: pamphlet viewed September 2010
  11. ^ Brasenose College Building Project Explained: Flyer viewed August 2010
  12. ^ New Catering Facilities Unveiled: Retrieved 2012-04-13
  13. ^ "Music". Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  14. ^ "Choir". Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  15. ^ "Wondrous Machine: Recent Organ Events". Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  16. ^ "Hulme Common Room constitution". Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  17. ^ "Brasenose Arts Festival". Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  18. ^ "A History of Brasenose: The College Coat of Arms". http://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/345/brasenose-college-archives-and-history-38/college-history-212/the-college-coat-of-arms-395.html. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  19. ^ Oxford University Calendar 2001-2002 (2001) p.217. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-951872-6.
  20. ^ Order of Service for use at the College Gaudy, The King's Hall and College of Brasenose.
  21. ^ Adams, Reginald (1992). The College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford: Perpetua Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 1-870882-06-7. 

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