St Benet's Hall, Oxford

St Benet's Hall is a Permanent Private Hall (PPH) of the University of Oxford. It is located at the northern end of St Giles' on its western side, close to the junction with Woodstock Road.

Composition and status

St Benet's Hall, founded in 1897, is a Benedictine foundation, whose principal historic function was to allow Catholic monks (primarily Benedictines from Ampleforth Abbey, and members of related orders) to study for secular degrees as undergraduates within the University. The Hall continues to have a monastic Master, currently The Revd Dom Felix Stephens, OSB, MA (and the Chaplain and the Theology Tutor are both also Benedictine monks), but it now principally admits laymen both as undergraduates and post-graduates. There is no requirement that lay members of the Hall should be Catholics, but all are asked to be supportive of the monks' life and values.

St Benet's became a Permanent Private Hall of the University in 1918 when new University legislation created the status of PPH. Unlike some of the other PPHs, the Hall has never been a theological college, although this is a frequently stated misunderstanding. The Governing Body of the Hall are the Trustees of the St Lawrence Education Trust, and a number of functions are also performed by the St Benet's Hall Sub-Committee of the Governing Body. Its chief buildings consist of adjacent houses in St Giles.

As St Benet's is a PPH of the University, its Fellows do not constitute its Governing Body; but they share with the Master the day-to-day running of the Hall, and elect one of their number to the St Benet's Hall Sub-Committee. The Hall matriculates students to be members of the University, and those of its members who have matriculated are full members of the University, and able to supplicate for degrees on the successful completion of their studies. For most of its members the only noticeable difference made by the Hall's legal status is that it is very much smaller than any of the Colleges.

Following a dispute over "subsidised condoms being provided by OUSU", the Hall disaffiliated in 2004, and was not represented in the OUSU Council. However, the JCR has reaffiliated with OUSU as of May 2010.

The Hall is known as "Benet's" within the University, and is now the only constituent body of the University admitting men alone for undergraduate degrees. The recent review of the PPHs conducted by the University concluded that St Benet's had a 'good sense of its place within the collegiate University', and drew attention to the 'commitment and care' of the Hall's academic staff.

Private Hall

The Hall was originally established in 1897. It took on its official name "Aula Privata Sancti Benedicti" ("St Benet's Hall") in 1918.

Prior to this date, Private Halls of the University of Oxford took their name from their Master, and the Hall was known successively as Hunter-Blair's, and Parker's Hall.

The Hall was initially set up in October 1897 at 103 Woodstock Road. This house is still in existence, opposite SS Philip and James Church, and is now a guest-house. The Hall lived there until 1904, when it moved to the former Grindle's Hall in Beaumont Street, from which it removed in 1922 to the present buildings of 38 and 39 St Giles. The Beaumont Street houses were demolished in 1938 to make space for the Oxford Playhouse theatre.

The Hall had primarily been a house for monks reading for degrees of the University of Oxford; but, over time, laymen have come to be the majority of the Hall's undergraduate members.

Current subjects in which students are admitted by St Benet's include Theology, Theology and Philosophy, Classics, History (including both Modern History and Ancient and Modern), History and Politics, Oriental Studies, PPE and Classics and Oriental Studies.

38 & 39 St Giles

The Hall currently occupies 38 St Giles, a Georgian-style building, built around 1830, initially as two separate houses (38 and 39). The site was previously part of Coster's yard and stable.

The north hall (38) was, in 1841, occupied as the private dwelling of Philip Bliss, his wife and four servants. A decade later, it was the home of the University's Public Orator and Vice Principal of Magdalen Hall, Rev. Richard Michell. After a two year period as the Oxford High School, it became a private home once more, belonging to Charlotte Cotton, former Provost of Worcester College. It then belonged to a Rev. S. J. Hulme (Chaplain of Wadham College 1867-1872), before becoming the Oxford Eye Hospital. In 1898, it was bought by a Madame de Leobardy and opened as St Ursula's Convent, a boarding and day school for Roman Catholic girls.

The south hall (39), meanwhile, was the private home of Mrs Letitia Pett (1841), Mrs Maria Brown (1852), Mrs Greswell (1861), Rev Richard Greswell (1866), Misses Greswell (1882), Charles William Chadwick Oman, Fellow of All Souls College and Chichele Professor of Modern History (1898). In 1909, it too was purchased by Madame de Leobardy and became an extension of the convent school next door.


The Master of St Benet's Hall is The Revd Dom Felix Stephens OSB MA.

St Benet's has had ten Masters since it was established in 1897:

  • Abbot Oswald Hunter Blair OSB (1898–1909)
  • Father Anselm Parker OSB (1909–1920)
  • Father Justin McCann OSB (1920–1947)
  • Father Gerard Sitwell OSB (1947–1964)
  • Father James Forbes (1964–1979) OSB (famed pottery expert and Knight of Malta)
  • Father Philip Holdsworth OSB (1979–1989)
  • Father Fabian Cowper OSB (1989–1990)
  • Father Henry Wansbrough OSB (1990–2004) (Editor of the New Jerusalem Bible)
  • Father Leo Chamberlain OSB (2004–2007)
  • Father Felix Stephens OSB (2007–present)
Officers, fellows, and lecturers

As of Trinity Term 2010 the Officers, Fellows and Lecturers of the Hall were as follows:


  • Senior Tutor, Tutor for Graduates: Santha Bhattacharji, MA, PhD
  • Deputy Master: Philip McCosker, MA, MTS, PhD
  • Chaplain: The Revd Dom Michael Phillips OSB, MA
  • Dean: Julian Borthwick, MA, MSc, MBCS
  • Librarian: The Revd Dom Michael Phillips OSB, MA
  • Development Executive: Paul Eros BA, MA, MSt
  • College Secretary: Miss Hannah Dunnington
  • IT Officer: Brian Wright MA


  • Brian Klug, BA, MA (London), PhD (Chicago): Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy (2000—)
  • Joseph Shaw, MA, DPhil (Oxon.): Fellow in Philosophy (2000—)
  • Stuart Carney, MB, ChB (Edinburgh), MPH (Harvard), MRCPsych: Senior Research Fellow in Psychiatry (2003—)
  • Santha Bhattacharji, MA (Oxon.), PhD (Bristol): Senior Tutor; Director of Studies in English (2004—)
  • Julian Borthwick, BA (Bristol), MA (Oxon.), MSc (Reading), MBCS: Dean and IT Fellow (2004—)
  • John Eidinow, MA (Oxon.), DipLaw (City), Barrister (Middle Temple): Fellow and Tutor in Classics (2004—); Director of Studies
  • The Revd Dom Bernard Green OSB, MA (Oxon.), MPhil (Cantab.), DPhil (Oxon.): Fellow and Tutor in Theology (2004—); Director of Studies
  • Stratford Caldecott, MA (Oxon.): G. K. Chesterton Fellow (2005—)
  • The Revd Ian Ker, MA (Oxon.), PhD (Cantab.), Hon DLitt (Leicester): Senior Research Fellow in Theology (2005—)
  • Susan Doran, BA (Oxon.), PhD (London): Fellow in History (2007—)
  • Philip McCosker, MA (Oxon.), MTS (Harvard), PhD (Cantab.): Deputy Master; Research Fellow in Theology (2007—)
  • Frances Reynolds, BA, PhD (Birmingham): Senior Research Fellow and Director of Studies in Oriental Studies (2007—); Shillito Fellow in Assyriology, Faculty of Oriental Studies
  • Harry Sidebottom, BA (Lanc.), MA, MPhil (Manc.), DPhil (Oxon.): Fellow and Director of Studies in Ancient History (2008—)
  • Mark Sheehan, MA (Melbourne), PhD (New York): Senior Research Fellow (Fixed Term) in Philosophy (2009—); James Martin Fellow and Deputy Director of the Oxford Bioethics Network
  • Yvonne Cornish, MA, DPhil (Oxon.): Fellow and Tutor in History (2010-); Director of Studies


  • Jane Baun, BA (Yale), MA (Catholic University of America), PhD (Princeton): Research Lecturer in Byzantine Studies
  • Marina Bazzani, Laurea (Genova), MA (Catholic University of America), DPhil (Oxon.): Research Lecturer in Classics
  • Rev Jennifer Cooper, BA (Toronto), MA (Ottawa), DPhil (Oxon.): Lecturer in Theology
  • Ferdinando Giugliano BA, MPhil (Oxon.): Director of Studies in Economics
  • Edward Turner, MA (Oxon.), PhD (Birmingham): Director of Studies in Politics
  • Cornelia van der Poll, BA (Stellenbosch), MPhil, PhD (Cantab.); Director of Studies in Ancient Greek
  • Nicholas Waghorn, MA (Oxon.), PhD (Reading): Director of Studies in Philosophy
  • Christa Steinby, MA (Turku), FL (Helsinki), Dip. Ed. (Turku), PhD (Helsinki): Visiting Research Lecturer in Ancient History (2009–10); British Academy Visiting Fellow

Honorary Fellows

  • Professor Henry Mayr-Harting, MA, DPhil (Oxon.), FBA (Emeritus Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Oxford)
  • Professor Peter Hennessy, MA (Cantab.), FBA, FRHistS (Atlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Very Revd Henry Wansbrough OSB, MA (Oxon.), STL (Fribourg), LSS (Biblical Commission) (Master of St Benet’s Hall (1990—2004); Titular Cathedral Prior of Norwich (2004—9); Titular Cathedral Prior of Durham)
  • Very Revd Leo Chamberlain OSB, MA (Oxon.)(Master of St Benet’s Hall (2004—2007); Titular Cathedral Prior of Gloucester)

Unlike other Colleges and PPHs, St Benet's has a united Common Room of which all students at the Hall are members. The J.C.R. has its own committee.


Despite the small size of the Hall, an VIII has been put on the river for many years, the self-proclaimed 'Benet's Bisons'; in recent years, it has had a good record of winning 'blades', the trophy awarded for 'bumping' (rowing past teams ranked above) every day in a regatta.

University life

Despite having a small number of members, St Benet's has a big presence in the University. Several Presidents of the Oxford University Newman Society, a President of the Oxford Law Society, several Officers in the Oxford University Conservative Association, an elected Standing Committee member, and several Returning Officers and Chairmen of the Consultative Committee of the Oxford Union, officers of the Light Entertainment Society, and prominent University sportsmen have come from St Benet's. The Hall currently has three Blues: one is the immediate past Captain of the University Golf Club, another plays for the University Association Football Club, the third for the University Rugby League Football Club.

In 2009, a junior member of the Hall was elected Rhodes Scholar by the Canadian Rhodes Foundation for 2010–2011. The generous scholarship provides up to two years of funded graduate study at a Canadian University.


Members of the Hall are entitled to invite guests to all meals. A tradition of the Hall is that there is one Common Table for all members, with the result that fellows, lecturers, monks, students, and their guests mix freely at all meals.