11th February 1836.

Oxford’s rise in medieval England owes much to its central position and in that no town had so many roads of general importance converging on it.

However its monopoly in university education along, with Cambridge, was challenged Today when London University was chartered today in 1836.

Famous later for its pioneering external degrees which opened up higher education to the less privileged classes, and being secular, it was where the reforming refugees from Europe came in 1848 after the uprisings.


The House of the Scholars of Merton College, Oxford.

The House of the Scholars of Merton College, Oxford.

It was in 1277 that Walter de Merton, three times Lord Chancellor and later Bishop of Rochester, added a codicil to his will leaving the residue of his property to found [probably] the first Oxford College, Merton which was founded in stages between 1264 and 1274.

Oxford became a place of learning when in the 12th century Henry II in 1167 ordered home from Paris all English clerks [priests] on pain of losing their benefices.

In 1214 the scholars received a charter from the Papal Legate and appointed a Chancellor, and thus constituted an attack on the monopoly of monastic learning.

The buildings as later seen in William of Wykeham’s, New College, Oxford of 1379, were based on the new manor house plan with a defensive quad entered through gateway with hall, chapel with a dean, and domestic offices.

Enrolment was through the Regents Master, aided by a Proctor and Bedel, who entered the student’s name on a roll-Matricula.(1)

The period now saw monasteries and priories, as Burton Abbey, now sending students, paying £10 per annum, to Gloucester College, the Benedictine House at Oxford, where there had been monastic institutions from the 13thc until the 16thc Monastic Dissolutions.

Gloucester was later re-founded and Incorporated as Worcester College (2). Corpus Christi was originally intended as a Oxford House for the monks of S. Swithin’s, Winchester.

Four disciplines were studied: Law, Medicine, Theology, and Arts (which taught the Trivium: logic, grammar and rhetoric).

It was also the time of the growth of towns and mercantile trade creating a demand for Civil Law as against Church, Canon Law, and the rise and power of a secular legal class along with the independent Inns of Court.

The conflict between ‘town and gown’, with rioting and disputes, which saw students being hanged for a murder, resulted in the 13thc exodus to Cambridge, with the foundation of Peterhouse College taking the statutes of Merton as its model.

Peterhouse Old Court. Founded by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely 1284.

Peterhouse Old Court. College founded by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, in 1284.

By the 17thc Oliver Cromwell attempted to provide an alternative to ‘Oxbridge’ with his New College at Durham which awarded degrees in 1659, and used the Cathedral Chapter House which had been dissolved in 1649.(3)

It was dissolved in 1660, at the Restoration, owing to opposition to the Durham Charter from John Conant, Vice-Chancellor at Oxford, who apart from acquiring the John Selden Library Collection for the Bodleian, also restored caps and hoods which his predecessor John Owen had considered Popish.

After London it was not until the later 19thc that the first of the new civic universities were chartered.

(1) Thus developed the word to Matriculate.

(2) On 29th July 1714.

(3) One Fellow was Israel Tongue who was later implicated in the 17thc Popish Plot.

Ref: wikipedia.org.peterhouse and merton/Pic Images.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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