New College, Oxford

New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.


The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always called "New College". One of the most famous and academically successful of the Oxford colleges, it stands along Holywell Street and New College Lane (known for Oxford's Bridge of Sighs), next to All Souls College, Harris Manchester College, Hertford College, The Queen's College and St Edmund Hall.

The College is one of the main choral foundations of the University of Oxford. The College Choir has a reputation as one of the finest Anglican choirs in the world, has recorded over one hundred albums, and has been awarded two Gramophone Awards.

In 2006 the College had an estimated financial endowment of £143m. That year the College sold an area of land in Buckinghamshire for £55m, and the subsequent extra endowment income was put towards academic development, salaries, and repair to buildings.


Despite its name, New College is one of the oldest of the Oxford colleges, having originally been founded in 1379. The second college in Oxford to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was founded by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester as "The College of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford".

New College was founded in conjunction with the famous Winchester College, which was envisaged as a feeder to the Oxford college, and the two institutions have striking architectural similarities: both were the work of master mason William Wynford. The grand collection of buildings is a testament to Williams's experience in administering both ecclesiastical and civil institutions as the Bishop of Winchester and High Chancellor of England.

Both Winchester College and New College were originally established for the education of priests, there being a shortage of properly educated clergy after the Black Death. William of Wykeham ordained that there were to be ten chaplains, three clerks and 16 choristers on the foundation of the college. The original choristers were accommodated within the walls of the college under one schoolmaster. Since then the school has expanded and in 1903 moved to New College School in Savile Road.

As well as being the first Oxford college for undergraduates and the first to have senior members of the college give tutorials, New College was the first college in Oxford to be designed around a main quadrangle.

College links

Admiring William of Wykeham's achievements in creating his twinned institutions, King Henry VI modelled the establishment of his new schools, King's College, Cambridge and Eton College, upon Wykeham's foundation of New College and Winchester College.

Indeed, the link that King's College, Cambridge and Eton College share is a direct copy of William of Wykeham's link between New College and Winchester College.

New College has formal ties with Winchester College, Eton College, and King's College, Cambridge dating back to 1444, a four-way relationship known as the Amicabilis Concordia.

The four institutions share formal ties to this day; King's is New College's official sister college.

Architecture and gardens

At the time of its founding, New College was larger than all of the existing Oxford Colleges combined. One of Oxford's most prestigious colleges, it is also one of the most widely visited. The College's grounds are among the largest of the Oxford University colleges.

The Cloisters and the Chapel are of particular note; much of the mediæval stained glass in the ante-chapel has recently been restored. Renowned for its grand interior, some of the stained glass windows were designed by the 18th-century portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds and contains works by Sir Jacob Epstein and El Greco. The organ was built by the firm of Grant, Degens, and Bradbeer in 1969, in a case designed by George Pace; somewhat revolutionary at the time, the instrument remains no less remarkable and idiosyncratic today. The choir stalls contain 62 14th-century misericords which are of outstanding beauty — it is worth noting that several of New College's misericords were copied during the Victorian era, for use at Canterbury Cathedral

The ancient Oxford City Wall, belonging to New College, is of particular interest. When William of Wykeham founded the College, he formally agreed to maintain the City Wall when he acquired the land on which to build the College. Every three years the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Oxford take a walk along the Wall to make sure that the obligation is being fulfilled, a tradition dating back to the College's foundation in 1379. The gardens of New College include a Mound (which originally had steps, but is now smooth with one set of stairs) and boast one of the largest herbaceous borders in Oxford.

The bell tower contains one of the oldest rings of ten bells, which is rung by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers and the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers. The college is also in possession of a large collection of silver (including the mediæval silver gilt Founder's Crosier, housed in a display case in the chapel), and two notable "unicorn horns" (which are in fact narwhal tusks).


As part of the original College statutes, William of Wykeham provided for a choral foundation of lay and academical clerks, with boy choristers to sing mass and the daily offices. It is a tradition that continues today with the choral services of evensong and Eucharist during term.

In addition to its choral duties in the chapel, the New College Choir has established a reputation as one of the finest Anglican choirs in the world and is known particularly for its performances of Renaissance and Baroque music. Some seventy recordings of the choir are still in the catalogue and as well as appearing a number of times at the BBC Proms, the choir make numerous concert tours.

In 1997, the choir won a Gramophone Award in the Best-selling disc category for their album Agnus Dei, and in 2008, they won a Gramophone Award in the Early Music category for their recording of Nicholas Ludford's Missa Benedicta. Edward Higginbottom, Organist and Tutor in Music at New College, has been made Oxford University’s first Choral Professor.

The choristers are educated at New College School on Savile Road, a short distance from New College itself.

On Thursday 21 May 2009, the choir revived an ancient custom of processing to Bartlemas Chapel for a ceremony and then on to the location of an ancient spring. The ceremony had not been observed for the past 400 years.


The present instrument was constructed by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer in 1969.

Tuning is regulated by Bishop and Son of London and Ipswich.

Organists and directors of music

New College is one of not very many Oxford or Cambridge Colleges to have won an Olympic Medal; the New College Boat Club represented Great Britain at the Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912 and obtained a silver medal.

In 1912, Great Britain sent two men's crews to the Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. One was a Leander crew, composed mostly of Magdalen College (Oxford) rowers, and captained by the Magdalen captain. The second was the New College 1st VIII.

The two British crews were the favourites for gold so started at opposite ends of the draw. They both worked up through the competition to make the final. The course in Stockholm was not straight, and one of the two lanes was clearly favoured, the other requiring the cox to steer around a protruding boathouse and then back under a bridge.

Before the final, the two British captains met to toss for lanes. New College won the toss and following gentlemanly tradition offered the choice of lanes to their opponents, who would — in a gentlemanly fashion — refuse this offer. However the Leander/Magdalen captain accepted this offer and chose the better lane. Leander went on to win the gold medal, leaving New College with the silver.

King Gustav V of Sweden was so disheartened by this display of ungentlemanly conduct that, as a consolation, he presented his colours to New College. Ever since then, New College have raced in purple and gold, the colours of the royal house of Sweden. A further tradition has been the adoption of the toast: God Damn Bloody Magdalen!, the supposed words of the New College stroke Robert Bourne as they crossed the line. The abbreviation GDBM is still used commonly, being on the bottom of the NCBC letterhead to this very day.

New College Boat Club is also one of the few Oxford clubs to have held both Headships at Summer Eights (though not in the same year), and one of only 11 Oxford or Cambridge colleges to have won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, having also won the Visitor Challenge Cup twice, the Ladies Challenge Plate twice and the Stewards' Challenge Cup twice.


The College's motto, created by William of Wykeham, is "Manners Makyth Man". The motto was in many respects fairly revolutionary. Firstly, it was written in English, rather than Latin, which makes it very unusual in Oxford, and is especially revolutionary considering the College's age; even St Catherine's College, founded in 1965, has a Latin motto ("Nova et Vetera": "the new and the old").

Secondly, the motto makes a social statement. While it might initially seem to be suggesting that it is beneficial to have good manners, this does not really capture its full scope. What it really means is that it is not by birth, money, or property that an individual is defined, but by how he (or she) behaves towards other people.


The Warden is the college's principal, responsible for its academic leadership, chairing its governing body, and representing New College to the world.

New College in popular culture

New College was used as a filming location for the 1991 Inspector Morse episode "Fat Chance" in which it doubled as the fictitious "St Saviour's College", the 2005 film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. In Tomorrow Never Dies, the Holywell Buildings are used as the location of the 'Swedish Embassy'. New College appears in the alternate Oxford of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials as 'Wykeham College'. In the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, New College Cloisters served as the Hogwarts background for some scenes, notably that in which Draco Malfoy is transformed into a ferret by Mad-Eye Moody.

In Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham, the character Alroy Kear, believed to be a parody of Hugh Walpole, is a graduate of New College. In the opening chapter, the narrator describes Kear's time at the college, saying "he was president of the Union and but for an unfortunate attack of measles might very well have got his rowing blue".

Notable alumni

New College has a legacy of notable individuals who have studied and worked at the College. Among them are Nobel Prize winners, churchmen, statesmen, leading scientists and literary figures.

For a more complete list, see Former students of New College

Fellows and lecturers

The Simonyi Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science was held by Richard Dawkins and is now held by Marcus du Sautoy, both of whom are fellows of New College.

  • Richard Dawkins
  • W. D. Hamilton
  • Michael Atiyah
  • G. H. Hardy
  • Harold Wilson
  • A. J. Ayer
  • Isaiah Berlin
  • Alan Bullock
  • Paul Campbell
  • Raymond Carr
  • David Cecil
  • Richard Crossman
  • Robin Lane Fox
  • H.L.A. Hart
  • Nigel Hitchin
  • Julian Huxley
  • Willis Lamb
  • Hermione Lee
  • Rudolf Peierls
  • Craig Raine
  • Jane Shaw
  • Joe Silk
  • Marcus du Sautoy
  • William Archibald Spooner
  • Olaf Davis

For a more complete list, see: Fellows of New College


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