Regent's Park College is a Permanent Private Hall in the University of Oxford, situated in central Oxford, just off St Giles.

The College admits both undergraduate and graduate students to take Oxford degrees in a variety of Arts, Humanities and Social Science subjects. The College also trains men and women for ordained ministry among Baptist churches in Great Britain and overseas.

History
Origins in Stepney, East London

Regent’s Park College traces its roots back to the formation of the London Baptist Education Society in 1752. This venture led to the development of the Stepney Academy in East London, in 1810. The impetus for the creation for the Academy arose from the fact that only members of the Church of England were given places at ancient universities. It wasn’t until the Oxford University Act of 1854 that Baptists and other Dissenters were admitted to the University of Oxford. In 1810 there were only 3 students, though by 1850 the number had risen to 26. (See dissenting academies.)

The premises at Stepney consisted of two large houses near Whitechapel Road. Between them was King John’s Tower. This structure, which can still be seen in the present Regent’s Park College crest, is believed to be all that remained of a royal suburban lodge. In 1849 Dr Joseph Angus (Principal 1849–1893) became Principal at just 33 years old. At the beginning of his time as Principal, Angus admitted a small number of lay students to college. His belief was that it would benefit the ministerial students to have contact with them as well as bringing much needed finances to the Academy.

After sites in Gordon Square and Primrose Hill were considered, on 12 December 1855 Angus decided to relocate the College to Holford House in the rural environs of Regent’s Park and to rename the Academy ‘Regent’s Park College’. Holford House was a private dwelling built in the classical Georgian style on crown land. Students were able to read for university degrees in the Arts and Law, as well as training for Christian ministry.

In 1856, anxious to ensure the College had a high academic standing, he sought to move closer to University College in order that closer links could be fostered with the University of London. From this point onwards the relationship with the University of London, which began as early as 1841, began to develop and for the first time Baptist ministerial students were able to associate closely with the University of London. According to Angus the links with the University drove up standards of scholarship in the college. In 1901 the College became an official Divinity School of the University of London.

In 1920 G P Gould (1896–1920) passed on to H Wheeler Robinson the role of Principal, a post he would hold until 1942. Wheeler Robinson was educated at Regent’s Park College for one session; he then went to Edinburgh University and finally onto Mansfield College, Oxford. Wheeler Robinson believed that Oxford was a more congenial setting than London for a college. This belief, coupled with the lure of the advantages of the tutorial system and the fact that the Baptist Church remained the only Free Church denomination without a college in one of the ancient universities, led Wheeler Robinson to decide to relocate the College to Oxford.

The College and its buildings

In 1926 a site became available which Wheeler-Robinson saw as an opportunity “too precious to be lost”. In 1927 the main portion of the site was purchased and the buildings, including various farm buildings and two wells, in Pusey Street were secured shortly afterwards from St John’s College. The site as a whole cost just over £17,000. The college appointed Mr T Harold Hughes (1897–1949) as the Architect for the site. Hughes was responsible for much extension and restoration work in Oxford including Exeter College, Hertford College and Corpus Christi College

The first 4 students went to Oxford in 1928. The site in Oxford was to be used along with the London premises for a further 10 years. At this time many of the classes were held at Mansfield College and other lectures were held at various other colleges.

As early as 1924, Wheeler Robinson started to promote his plans for a new building scheme on the Oxford site to former students. Between 1935 and 1938 he and E A Payne spoke a various meetings and raised £20,000 of the £50,000 needed for the project.

The foundation stones for Helwys Hall were laid on 21 July 1938 by representatives from the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, The Particular Baptist Fund, The Baptist Missionary Society. Stones were also laid in memory of Angus and Gould, former Principals of the college.

The development of the College in the 20th century

1938 - 1940 Main Block was constructed, consisting of 16 study bedrooms, along with Helwys Hall, the College Library, the Senior Common Room and part of the building on Pusey Street.

1957 Regent’s Park College became a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford. From this point on the College underwent dramatic change under the leadership of its eleventh Principal, Gwynne Henton Davies (1958–1972). During this period the college once again started to accept non-ministerial undergraduates and new buildings were erected to accommodate the College’s growing size. Since then, the student body has grown to include around 110 undergraduate students and 50 graduates, as well as ministerial students.

1958 Reconstruction and remodelling of the east end of the quad and back of 55 St Giles.

1961 Balding student accommodation block built, and longest single pane of glass in Europe fitted.

1966–1968 Further developments to the South side (Pusey Street) which completes the quad.

1977 Angus student accommodation block built.

1985 Wheeler Robinson House (on the corner of St Giles and Pusey Street) built.

2008 When Greyfriars Hall closed in 2008 the remaining 30 students joined Regent’s Park College.

The College Buildings

Regent’s Park College is based around a quadrangle (as seen in the picture above). On the West side of the quad is the Hall which can be entered from the quad via two glass doors. The names ‘Thomas Helwys’ and ‘William Carey’ are carved on either side of the door. Helwys was a religious refugee in Holland and returned to England to start the first Baptist church. Carey was a missionary to India and inspired the foundation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.

Helwys Hall, as it is now known, is an imposing room with a very high ceiling clad in Canadian pine. Above the High Table there is a Symbolic representation of the main emphases of Baptist life and faith designed by Dr H Wheeler Robinson (Principal 1920–1942). Helwys Hall is home to some fine portraits which taken together present a brief history of the College. Most of the former Principals’ portraits are displayed including a recent portrait of Professor Paul Fiddes. There are also portraits of Joshua Marshman, Hannah Marshman, William Carey, and Willam Ward who were all missionaries to India and Andrew Fuller who was a missionary and first secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. Helwys Hall was completely renovated in 2009 with a gift to the Annual Fund from an anonymous donor.

The Senior Common Room

The Senior Common Room (SCR), which is used by academic and administrative staff, was provided by a gift from the nieces and nephews of Dr George Pearce Gould (Principal 1896–1920). One of the striking features of the room is the Gould’s portrait which hangs over an Adam’s brothers mantelpiece. Facing Gould is a portrait of William Kiffin which dates back to 1667. The SCR was refurbished in 2008 using gifts to the College's Annual Fund from the American Friends of Regent’s Park College.

The Staircase

The Staircase which leads from the doors of Helwys Hall up to the Library was designed by Hughes and attempts to express the effect that reading Dr Pearce Carey’s life of William Carey had upon him. The balustrade exhibits strength, simplicity and an out-flowing floral design which recall Carey’s life and work. Each landing has a striking 1930s window which looks out over the gardens of St Cross College.

The College Library

In the Library there is a semi-circular window with sixteen panels, on which is etched a map of the world with many interesting symbols and emblems. The window came from the Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1937 and is a fine example of modern glass work. The library contains portraits of both William Carey and John Bunyan.

The Collier Room

The Collier Room was provided by a gift from Mr H H Collier who was a member of College Council for many years and the one who conducted the negotiations for the purchase of the site. The room was refurbished in 2010 using a gift to the College's Annual Fund from The American Friends of Regent’s Park College and Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church.

The Craig Knight Room

The Craig Knight room is a seminar room which seats 16 people. The room is named after Craig F Knight, an alumnus of the college who was invested as the College’s first member of the Vice Chancellor’s Circle in 2008.

The Angus Library and Archive

British Baptist life began in 1612 when a group of men and women returned to England from the Netherlands where they had been sheltering from religious persecution. They did so in the knowledge that they would face more persecution. From that day, through to the late nineteenth century, when the final restrictions on Baptists and other non-conformists were lifted, Baptists faced fines, imprisonment and restrictions on their liberties. The Angus Library and Archive holds many volumes and documents which are critical to the understanding of this time in history and many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The core of the collection was left to Regent’s Park College by Dr. Joseph Angus who was Principal from 1849 to 1893. The Angus now comprises over 70,000 printed books, pamphlets, journals, church and association records, church histories, manuscript letters and other artifacts from the late fifteenth century to the present day. The collection relates to the life and history of Baptists in Britain and the wider world. Alongside this unique insight into Baptist and nonconformist history there is a considerable amount of material from non-Baptist sources relating to issues and controversies in which Baptists were involved. There is also an extensive hymnody collection from various denominations and cultures. Many of the items are only found in The Angus Library.

The Angus incorporates the former libraries and archives of:

  • The Baptist Missionary Society (founded in 1792)
  • The Baptist Union of Great Britain (founded in 1832)
  • The Baptist Historical Society

Apart from the origins of the Baptist movement, the collection has special holdings relating to:

  • The early colonies
  • English sermons on the American War of Independence
  • Jonathan Edwards and Fullerism
  • Anglo-American relations
  • Slavery and its abolition
  • The founding of the modern missionary movement
  • The Baptist World Alliance

The Angus Library and Archive is used by international scholars researching Baptist history, the history of Dissent in the UK, the social history of foreign missions and linguistics. It is also used by members of the public researching, among other things, the history of their families or local communities. Each year there are in the region of 1000 requests for information from outside the University of Oxford. The people involved in research come from a variety of countries including the USA, Australia, China, India, the Caribbean and Europe.

The Junior Common Room

The JCR is a large oak paneled room which is adorned with the pictures of Regent’s many sports teams. The room also has a JCR Presidents’ board with the name of every JCR President and a board recording all Regent’s students who have received a Blue.

Student life

In line with all other Colleges and Halls of the University of Oxford, students are admitted and matriculated according to the Oxford admissions procedures. The College specialises in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Students are provided with guaranteed accommodation in the first and final years of study. In the first year this usually takes the form of a study bedroom, whereas in the third year students tend to live on site in flats in either Wheeler Robinson House, the Gould Building or the Angus Building.

Regent’s Park College students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of extra-curricular activities. There are sports teams in football (men’s and ladies’), rowing, netball and basketball as well as opportunities to play other sports for other University colleges. The Junior Common Room also provides Arts activities, such as an annual play and pantomime, as well as several social societies. The Junior Common Room itself is a large oak-panelled room, including leather sofas, a sound system for bi-termly parties (bops), a football table. The College Bar includes a TV and quiz machine. There is also a free DVD rental library.

Each summer, the college hosts a themed ball named The Final Fling. Croquet and Pimms are enjoyed on the Quad, which is also occupied by the college tortoise Emmanuelle. Emmanuelle is around 90 years old, and has won the Corpus Christi Tortoise Fair.

Traditions
Motto

The College Motto is: Omnia probate quod bonum tenete. It is taken from 1 Thessalonians v.21: "Test all things; hold fast that which is good" (A.V.)

Grace

The College Grace is quite unlike other Oxford colleges since it is recited in English: For the gifts of your grace and the community of this college, we praise your name, O God. Amen.

In the early days of the college at Oxford there was a Latin grace which was thought to be composed by Dr Aubrey Argyle: Agimus Tibi gratias, Omnipotens Deus, pro his et universis donis Tuis quae de Tua largitate sumus sumturi, Per Jesum Christum, Dominum Nostrum. Amen.

Valediction

The principal ceremonial occasion in the College year is the Service of Valediction, which takes place on the afternoon of the last day of Full Term in Trinity (always a Saturday). The most important part of the ceremony is the signing of the register by members of the Junior and Middle Common Rooms whose periods of study have come to an end. This is different from the practice at other colleges that maintain a register (now a minority of colleges), where the signing takes place at the beginning of a student's course.

Brew

Members of the Junior Common Room meet each week day at 11am and 4pm for tea, coffee and biscuits. It is the JCR secretary’s role to ensure the refreshments are available. Uber-brew takes place on Sundays and is provided by the JCR welfare officer.

Hall

Regent’s is one of the last colleges to have waiter service at both lunch and dinner. Unlike many other Oxford colleges, the same menu is served to all members of college and there is no High Table apart from at Formal Halls.

Distinguished Old Members
  • Professor Robin Attfield MA (Oxon) PhD (Wales), philosopher and author
  • Professor Malcolm Evans, Professor of International Law
  • Malcolm Bishop, QC, judge and barrister
  • The Reverend Simon Bailey, priest and author
  • Professor Samuel E. Balentine DPhil (Oxon), Professor of Old Testament
  • Professor Stephen Brachlow DPhil (Oxon), Professor of Spirituality
  • William Brock (pastor) (1807–1875), first minister of Bloomsbury Chapel, London, abolitionist and supporter of missionary societies
  • Dr Isabella Bunn, Vice Chair of the Central Committee on Human Rights and Global Corporate Responsibility of the American Bar Association
  • The Reverend Wayne Clarke, award-winning religious broadcaster
  • The Reverend Gwynne Henton Davies DD (Glasgow), Professor of Old Testament, President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (1971-2)
  • The Reverend Paul Fiddes MA DPhil DD (Oxon), Professor of Systematic Theology, Principal of Regent's Park College, and Honorary Fellow of St Peter's College in the University of Oxford
  • Steve Hall, British comedian, member of We Are Klang
  • The Reverend Dr R T Kendall, Minister of Westminster Chapel); prolific writer; he completed his DPhil thesis, 'The nature of saving faith from William Perkins (d. 1602) to the Westminster Assembly)' at Regent's Park in 1977
  • Tamsin Kendrick, British poet and writer. Charismatic Megafauna, Penned in the Margins and Chambers Publishing, Spring 2008.
  • The Hon. Alexandra Knatchbull, great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, third cousin twice removed of the Queen, and god-daughter of Diana, Princess of Wales
  • The Reverend Christopher Ellis MA (Oxon) MPhil PhD (Sussex), Former Principal, Bristol Baptist College from September; representative of the Baptist World Alliance at the 1998 Lambeth Conference; member of the Council of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Moderator of the Faith and Unity Executive, and delegate to conversations with the Church of England, and to the Worship and Spirituality Commission of the Baptist World Alliance
  • The Reverend William Jaeger), pioneer of Moral Re-Armament
  • The Reverend Dr Alan Kreider BA (Goshen) AM PhD (Harvard), Associate Professor of Church History and Mission at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
  • The Reverend Rex A Mason PhD (London) MA DD (Oxon), sometime Lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew, University of Oxford and President, Society for Old Testament Study
  • Frederick Brotherton Meyer (1847–1929), evangelist, writer, and moral reformer
  • The Reverend John Morgan-Wynne PhD (Dunelm) MA BD (Oxon), sometime Lecturer in New Testament and Greek, University of Oxford and Principal, Bristol Baptist College
  • Gregory Norminton, novelist (The Ship of Fools, Arts and Wonders, and Ghost Portrait) and dramatist (The Third Half)
  • The Reverend A A Peck MA BEd, General Secretary, the European Baptist Federation.
  • The Reverend (James) Martin Preston MA (Cantab) MA (Oxon), Anglican priest and activist
  • Professor W. Wesley Pue LLM DJur, Professor of Legal History
  • The Reverend Dr. Michael Quicke MA Cambridge University MA Oxford University D.D. William Jewell College, former Principal of Spurgeon's College, London. Charles W. Koller Professor of Preaching & Communication at Northern Seminary, Lombard Illinois. Award-winning author and international lecturer.
  • The Reverend Edwin Robertson, DD (Archbishop of Canterbury), Writer and broadcaster
  • The Reverend the Honorable Dr Olin C Robison, thirteenth President, Middlebury College, Vermont); President Emeritus (1990); Chairman, US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy); President, Salzburg Seminar); broadcaster
  • Deborah W Rooke MA (Cantab) MA DPhil (Oxon), Senior Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, King's College London
  • The Right Reverend Dr Dhirendra Sahu, Lord Bishop of Eastern Himalaya; General Secretary, National Council of Churches of India; author, The Church of North India: a historical and systematic theological inquiry into an ecumenical ecclesiology (1994) and United & uniting: a story of the Church of North India (2001)
  • The Reverend Canon Jane Shaw MA (Oxon) MDiv (Harvard) PhD (Berkeley) HonDD (GTF) HonDD (EDS), Official Fellow, Chaplain, and Dean of Divinity, New College, Oxford
  • The Honorable Dr Cecil Staton, Georgia State Senator (18th District)
  • Professor Michael Sullivan, MA (Oxon), PhD (Wales), FRSM, Director, National Centre for Public Policy and Professor of Policy Analysis in the University of Wales Swansea; Special Adviser to the First Minister, Welsh Assembly Government; first Sabbatical president of the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU)
  • Professor James Sully, Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College, London
  • Michael Symmons Roberts, poet
  • The Reverend Professor Thomas Vincent Tymms DD (St Andrews), Professor of Theology and author
  • The Reverend H. Wheeler Robinson DD (Edinburgh), Old Testament scholar; President and Acting President of the Society for Old Testament Studies
  • Professor Robert Warner, BA (York), MA (York), MA (Oxon), PhD (King's College London), Dean of Humanities, University of Chester.
  • The Reverend Dr Nicholas J. Wood, Fellow in Religion and Culture and Director of the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, Regent's Park College; President Christian Muslim Forum; Chair, Joppa Group - The Baptist Interfaith Network.
  • Dr Philip Ryken, pastor and author
Further information
  • Robert E. Cooper, From Stepney to St Giles': the Story of Regent's Park College, 1810-1960 (London: Carey Kingsgate Press, 1960) (148 pages, illustrated)
  • Geo. P. Gould, "The Baptist College at Regent's Park (Founded at Stepney 1810): A Centenary Record" (London: The Kingsgate Press, 1910) (99 pages, illustrated)

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