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Jesus College

Home > London > Architecture | Churches | Day Trips | Historic Houses
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published January 30th 2014
Where politicians, adventurers (and Welshmen) come to learn
Founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571, Jesus College is one of the older Oxford colleges tucked neatly away in the tightly packed area of Turl Street. Part of the University of Oxford, the college has 340 undergraduates, 190 graduates, 68 Fellows and 20 College lecturers. Teaching and research both flourish in this small community. It's a small gem of a college in a part of town where space is at such a premium that it resembles a jigsaw puzzle or elaborate game of Tetris, as all the buildings slot in together.

The main site is compact, and can be visited in a short space of time. The first, 'Front' Quad opens directly onto Turl Street.

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Front Quad, Jesus College


The chapel forms the right hand side of the quad. The quad was begun with the college's foundation in 1571, while the chapel was only dedicated in 1621.

jesus, college, oxford, chapel
Entrance to Jesus College chapel


The stone entrance has a gilt takes you into an inviting interior with a particularly warm, rich tiled floor.

jesus, college, chapel, oxford
Jesus College chapel


You can reach Second Quad by going through a small corridor at the far side of Front Quad, which takes you past the dining hall. The hall is not particularly large, but is beautifully decorated and has attracted praise throughout the centuries. Portraits adorning the walls are both of and by famous people Charles I was painted by Anthony van Dyck, and Charles II by Sir Peter Lely, for example.

jesus, college, oxford, hall
Jesus College hall


Second Quad features some striking 'Dutch Gables', and it's worth comparing what you see here with other areas. There are differences between all these old Oxford buildings, and it is definitely a good idea to tune your eyes in to appreciating these.

jesus, college, quad, oxford
Jesus College Second Quad


The so-called 'Third Quad' was created by a restructuring of the space between 1906 and 1908. It's now just a thin strip of space surrounded by a variety of college buildings, but is technically still a quadrangle and so merits the name. It is not accessible as part of a general college visit.

There is another nearby site, just over the road on Ship Street. Here there are state of the art conference and teaching facilities alongside 31 student rooms, but it's not an area generally open to casual visitors.

T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, is perhaps one of the college's most famous alumni. His image can be found around the college, particularly, for visitors, in the college. Other famous alumni include Harold Wilson and Magnus Magnusson the college includes politicians, entertainers, sportsmen, clerics, academics and many other notable people among its old members.

It's often known as a college with a Welsh connection. Founded at the request of a Welsh clergyman, Hugh Price, the college has maintained its links with Wales. It has, for example, specified Welsh Supernumerary Fellows, and continues to work closely with secondary schools there.

You can book college facilities including conferences, dinners or occasionally bed and breakfast accommodation. Visiting the college on a more ad hoc tourist basis is also possible. It's open 14:00-16:30 most days.
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Why? A compact, old, pretty, charming college
When: 14:00-16:30 most days, ring to check particular days
Phone: 01865 279700
Where: Turl Street, Oxford
Cost: 2 standard, 1 concessions, free for Alumni, Oxford University Staff and Students, Prospective Students, and Children under 5
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