Balliol College () is one of the constituent in England. One of 's oldest colleges, it was founded around 1263 by , a rich landowner from in County Durham, who provided the foundation and endowment for the college. When de Balliol died in 1269 his widow, , a woman whose wealth far exceeded that of her husband, continued his work in setting up the college, providing a further endowment and writing the statutes. She is considered a cofounder of the college. The college's alumni include the incumbent , , as well as three former (, and ), , of , five laureates, and numerous literary and philosophical figures, including , , , and . , who translated the Bible into English, was of the college in the 1360s.


Foundation and origins

Balliol College was founded in about 1263 by under the guidance of , the . According to legend, the founder had abducted the bishop as part of a land dispute and as a penance he was publicly beaten by the bishop and had to support a group of scholars at Oxford. After de Balliol's death in 1268, his widow, (their son and grandson each became ), made arrangements to ensure the permanence of the college in that she provided capital and in 1282 formulated the college statutes, documents that survive to this day. Along with and , Balliol can claim to be the oldest Oxford college. Balliol's claim is that a house of scholars was established by the founder in Oxford in around 1263, before Merton in 1274 and University in around 1280.

New Inn Hall

Under a statute of 1881, , one of the remaining , was merged into Balliol College in 1887. Balliol acquired New Inn Hall's admissions and other records for 1831–1887 as well as the library of New Inn Hall, which largely contained 18th-century law books. The New Inn Hall site was later sold and is now part of .

''The Masque of Balliol''

In 1880, seven mischievous Balliol undergraduates published ''The Masque of B-ll--l'', a broadsheet of forty quatrains making light of their superiors – the master and selected fellows, scholars, and commoners – and themselves. The outraged authorities immediately suppressed the collection, and only a few copies survived, three of which found their way into the college library over the years, and one into the . Verses of this form are now known as s. The best known of these rhymes is the one on . This has been widely quoted and reprinted in virtually every book about Jowett and about Balliol ever since. This and 18 others are attributed to . The other quatrains are much less well known. included 18 of these quatrains in his ''Reminiscences'' in 1900, but they all came out only in 1939, thanks to Walter George Hiscock, an Oxford librarian, who issued them personally then and in a second edition in 1955.

Balliol–Trinity rivalry

For many years, there has been a traditional and fierce shown between the students of Balliol and those of its immediate neighbour to the east, . It has manifested itself on the sports field and the river; in the form of songs (of varying degrees of offensiveness) sung over the dividing walls; and in the form of "raids" on the other college. The rivalry reflects that which also exists between and Balliol's sister college, . In college , the rivalry goes back to the late 17th century, when , President of Trinity, was supposedly observed throwing stones at Balliol's windows. In fact, in its modern form, the rivalry appears to date from the late 1890s, when the chant or song known as a "Gordouli" began to be sung from the Balliol side. The traditional words run: The shouting of chants over the wall is still known as "a Gordouli", and the tradition continues as the students gather to sing following boat club dinners and other events. The traditional Gordouli is said to have been sung by Balliol and Trinity men in the trenches of in the . Balliol became known for its radicalism and political activism in the 20th century, and saw an abortive coup in the 1960s in which students took over the college and declared it "the People's Republic of Balliol". The contrast between the tendencies of many Balliol students and the traditional conservatism and social exclusivity of Trinity gave the rivalry an extra edge. The fact that Balliol (in contrast to Trinity) had admitted a number of Indian and Asiatic students also gave many of the taunts from the Trinity side a distinctly tone: Balliol students, for example, were sometime referred to as "". In ' (1931), a novel by alumna , Lord Peter (a Balliol man) is asked whether he remembers a certain contemporary from Trinity. I never knew any Trinity men,' said Wimsey. 'The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Sayers also alludes to the rivalry in ' (1933): Mr Ingleby, a Trinity man, comments, "If there is one thing more repulsive than another it is Balliolity." One of the wittier raids from Balliol, in 1962 or 1963, involved the turfing of the whole of Trinity (complete with daffodils). The last incident suspected to relate to the feud was the vandalisation of Trinity's SCR pond, which led to the death of all but one of the fish.

Women at Balliol

For over 700 years Balliol College admitted men only. had in 1964 resolved to admit women, but had been prevented from doing so without the approval of the university, which argued that this would be detrimental to the existing women's colleges. On 2 June 1971 a consilium at Balliol voted 26–2 to admit women, and at the next college meeting on 6 December 1971 it was resolved 30–8 to admit women 'as soon as the change in its Statutes permitting this was approved by the Privy Council'. Permission was granted by the university on 8 March 1977. With the appointment of Carol Clark to a Tutorial Fellowship in Modern Languages in 1973, Balliol became the first ancient all-male college to appoint a female fellow. Before the full admission of women as undergraduates, the college had decided to establish a co-educational graduate institution. The decision was made on 16 March 1964, and the senior tutor approached shortly after this. The creation of the Balliol–St Anne's Graduate Institution with St Anne's in 1967 led to the coeducation of men and women on the site. Following the arrival of women at Balliol and men at St Anne's in 1979, the joint Graduate Institution was terminated in 1984 by the consent of both colleges. Holywell Manor is now solely a part of Balliol College. In 1979, along with many other previously all-male colleges, Balliol accepted its first cohort of female students. The first woman undergraduate to reside at Balliol was Elena Ceva-Valla, who arrived on 16 September 1979. In 2010, the college unveiled a sundial in the Garden Quad commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the admission of women to the college, inscribed with the phrase "About Time". The first portrait of a woman in Hall since that of the co-Founder, , was unveiled in 2012, depicting benefactor and founder . This portrait has since been joined by portraits of Carol Clark and the mathematician . In 2018 succeeded to become the college's first female master. In the same year became the twentieth and the first woman to hold that post. Between the years of 2015 and 2017, 39.4% of UK undergraduates admitted to Balliol were women.

Buildings and grounds

The college has been on its present site since its inception by Balliol's scholars as their residence with a lease dating to 1263 to them being the traditional "foundation" date.

Front quadrangle

The oldest parts of the college are the north and west ranges of the front quadrangle, dated to 1431, respectively the medieval hall, west side, now the "new library" and the "old library" first floor north side. The ground floor is the Old Senior Common Room. Balliol's second library pre-dates the publication of printed books in Europe. There is a possibility that the original Master's Chamber, south west side, adorned with a fine oriel window, is earlier than these; it is now the Master's Dining Room. , Bishop of Ely, was a benefactor of the college in the 15th century. Grey devoted much care to the collection of manuscripts, and wherever he resided constantly employed scribes to make copies of such books as he could not otherwise obtain. Many of these he had adorned with costly miniatures and initial letters by the skill of an artist who worked for him at Florence. It was his desire to make his collection the nucleus of a library for Balliol College, to the building of which, as well as to that of the master's lodgings and of the old buttery and hall, he contributed largely. The work was finished about 1477 by , then master of the college, and enriched with some two hundred manuscripts, the bishop's gift. Of these, many were destroyed in the reign of and during the great rebellion, and by Wood's time few of the miniatures in the remaining volumes had escaped mutilation. But by 1890, no less than 152 of Grey's codices were still in the possession of the college, and form a large part of 's 1963 catalogue of the college's manuscripts. The bishop's coat of arms (, a , within a bordure engrailed argent) is displayed on two windows of the Old Library, and in the panels below the window of the 's dining room. The chapel is the third (perhaps fourth) on the site and was designed by in 1857. designed the main frontage of the college (1867–68), along with gateway and tower, known as the Brackenbury Buildings after philanthropist and donor , replacing earlier structures (Staircases I–VII). The first staircase next to the Chapel contains the Organ Scholar's lodgings.

Garden Quadrangle

South-side is the front part of the Master's Lodgings on Broad Street from the Waterhouse improvements of the 1860s of the front quad. The neighbour to this is the Fisher Building of 1759 (Stc X) The undistinguished looking Stc XI, south west side, is in fact the oldest structure in this quadrangle, 1720, originally intended as accommodation for scholars from Bristol, hence its name. Continuing the west-side Stc XII–XIV dates from 1826, by , and marks the beginnings of the college's academic renaissance being required for the increasing number of Commoners applying for places. Stc XV by Warren of 1912 filled in the last gap of the quadrangle; the ground floor and basement is the principal Junior Common Room. This unfortunately obscures the lines of the Salvin designed Stc XVI–XIX with Tower of 1853. As does the 1968 building by Beard Stc XX, replacing a Victorian structure. This completely hides a formal gateway similar to that at the Broad Street main entrance, this can be viewed outside from Little Magdalen Street, through the gap marked XIX one finds the small function room "Massey Room". At north side, of Stc XX is the "Back Gate" which is part of the 1906 Warren building, west and north side, Stc XXI. 1 St Giles' is its neighbour which is part of the college and houses the . Beard's Stc XXII replaces Victorian rooms, which were provided from the Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson benefaction. Beard's Stc XX and XXII are connected by the Snell Bridge accommodation at third-floor level, which was provided from Glasgow University's Snell Benefaction. The college's dining hall was built in 1877, replacing an older hall in the front quadrangle, which had become too small for the college's population. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, the hall is built in geometric style, using and Tisbury stone, with roof and woodwork made of oak. The hall features a organ, again instituted by Benjamin Jowett. The old hall became part of the library. The ground floor contains the college bar and shop, known as "The Buttery" (west side) and the Senior Common Room lunch room (east side). The 1966 new Senior Common Room range (Stc XXIII) (northern and eastern sides) was a benefaction of the and contains some smaller rooms and the principal SCR lounge, replacing Victorian facilities. Below this is a Lecture Room ("LR XXIII"). The east side of the quad is a neighbouring wall with Trinity College, at the southern end is the Master's Garden, in front of the chapel, and the Fellows' Garden in front of the "Old" (Senior) Common Room. The Tower forming the corner between the "Old Hall" and "Old Library" is also by Salvin, of 1853 and balances that at Stc XVI–XIX. Underneath part of the Garden Quad and extending into Trinity were the , the most prominent Oxford physical and chemical laboratories in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which physical chemist (originator of the ) and worked. These are now disused, following the construction of the university on . The Garden Quad at Balliol is the scene of the well-known limerick that parodies the philosophy of :
There was a young man who said, God Must think it exceedingly odd If he finds that this tree Still continues to be When there's no one about in the Quad.
and also of the response, by the Balliol-educated Catholic theologian and Bible translator , which more accurately reflects Berkeley's own beliefs:
Dear Sir, your astonishment's odd: I am ''always'' about in the Quad. And that's why the tree Will continue to be, Since observed by, Yours faithfully, GOD.

Holywell Manor, Manor Road and Jowett Walk

The majority of research and post-graduate students are housed in the complex, a Grade II listed building acquired by Balliol in 1932 under the direction of . It hosts a collection of artworks by alumni of the college, including a mural by depicting the college's founding, and hosts a biennial Holywell Manor Festival, Garden Party, and Garden Play. Balliol hosts more graduate students than any other ancient college, and the Manor forms the centre of this community, providing facilities such as the Middle Common Room (MCR) itself, an extensive garden, TV and computer rooms, music practice rooms, a 'Cockpit' leisure room, and the graduate-student-run 'Megaron' bar. The Manor from 1967 until the full admission of women at Balliol in 1979 was host to the Balliol-St Anne's Graduate Institution, including students from . Former residents include and . The 20th century saw several further additions to the college's accommodation, the Martin Building of 1966 ('Holywell ''Minor, a reference to Holywell Manor, across the road) and the Dellal Building (1986) for graduates on Manor Road. Many undergraduates and some graduates live in buildings on a phased development 1996–2004 (Phase 1 completed September 1996, Phase 2 completed July 2004), containing a small theatre facility, five minutes' walking distance from the main college site; these two developments are on the outskirts of the Master's Field, the sports ground and pavilion facilities of the college. Jowett Walk has also provided accommodation for some non-Balliol undergraduates, as part of an arrangement with . From 2010 , next to the Manor, has been the college's Historic Collections Centre, an extension to the library's services. The church dates from the 11th or 12th century and is a . This is the third time an Oxford college has incorporated a redundant church as a Library (see and ). In 2017 the college entered into a specialised financial arrangement which enabled it to project a new 200 plus 'study-bedsits' accommodation range at the Master's Field/ Jowett Walk/ St Cross Road site which would also replace the Eastman Professor's House, Martin and Dellal buildings there. This would mean a net increase of approximately 140 rooms fulfilling the college's long-term intention of providing accommodation to all its undergraduates for all their Degree terms and also some rooms for Dons. The project includes ten new buildings and a new sports pavilion, including a space for dining, events, spectators and squash courts in the basement. The first building opened in spring 2019 and the completion and occupation of the rest is due by January 2021. In the first phase, work began on the south of the site, at the corner of Jowett Walk and St Cross Road, to provide the accommodation for undergraduates and the new pavilion.

Oxford Internet Institute

Balliol College, and its previous Master , played a major role in 2000–01 in setting up the . This was the first multidisciplinary research and policy centre in a European university devoted to examining the impact of the Internet on society . It is a department within the of , but is physically located within the grounds of Balliol, and its previous Director () was a Professorial Fellow of Balliol.

Student life


The college provides its students with facilities including accommodation, the Hall (refectory), a , two bars, and separate common rooms for the fellows, the and . The JCR provides many services from laundry facilities, one of the few entirely student-run bars left in Oxford (the Manager, Lord/Lady Lindsay, is elected each year by students in the JCR) to a student-run cafeteria known as Pantry. There is a garden quadrangle and a nearby sports ground (the Master's Field) and . The sports ground is mainly used for , , and . may be played in the Master's Field or, in the summer term, in the garden quadrangle. The majority of undergraduates are housed within the main college or in the modern annexes (Jowett Walk buildings) around the sports ground. The graduates are housed mainly within which has its own bar, gardens, common room, gym and computing facilities.

Traditions and customs

Along with many of the ancient colleges, Balliol has evolved its own traditions and customs over the centuries, many of which occupy a regular calendar slot. The of the college is . On her feast day (25 November), a formal dinner is held for all final year students within Balliol. This festival was well established by 1550. Another important feast is the Snell Dinner. This dinner is held in memory of , whose benefaction established exhibitions for students from the to study at Balliol (the first exhibitioners were matriculated in 1699) one of whom was . The feast is attended by fellows of Balliol College, the current Snell Exhibitioners, and representatives from Glasgow University and . The MCR has one black-tie dinner each term: the Christmas Dinner in Michaelmas, in Hilary, and the May Dinner in Trinity Term. By far the most eccentric event is The Nepotists carol-singing event organised by the college's Arnold and Brackenbury Society. This event happens on the last Friday of term each year. On this occasion, Balliol students congregate in the college hall to enjoy and the singing of carols. The evening historically ended with a rendition of "The Gordouli" (see below) on Broad Street, outside the gates of , although in recent years the song has been sung from within the college walls. A college society which no longer survives is the , which aimed to live one day of each term backwards.


Balliol also takes pride in its college tortoises. The original tortoise, who resided at the college for at least 43 years, was known as Rosa, named after the notable . Each June, pet tortoises from various Oxford colleges are brought to where they participate in a very slow race; Balliol's own Rosa competed and won many times. Rosa disappeared in the Spring of 2004, and while numerous conspiracy theories abounded, none is officially recognised by the college. However, on 29 April 2007, , a graduate of working at the House of Commons, donated a pair of tortoises - one to his own college, and one to Balliol, where he had attended an open day in 1999. The new tortoise, Matilda, died in April 2009. Taking care of the resident tortoise is one of the many tasks assigned to Balliol students each year. This position, known as "Comrade Tortoise", has been filled by a student every year.

People associated with Balliol

Notable people

Balliol has produced a wide range of graduates in the fields of , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and who have contributed significantly to public life. Balliol people were, for example, prominent in establishing the , the , the , the , the and . Balliol has produced numerous Nobel Laureates. Five Nobel Laureates were students at Balliol: (Chemistry, 1956), (Economics, 1972), (Physiology or Medicine, 1976), (Physics, 2003) and (Physiology or Medicine, 2007). Seven more have been fellows of the college: (Physiology or Medicine, 1958), (Physics, 1989), (Economics, 1987), (Physics, 1977), (Economics, 1974), (both Peace, 1962, and Chemistry, 1954), and (Physics, 1997). Balliol played an important role in early modern science. The early Newtonian became and a fellow of Balliol in 1692; the mathematician , best remembered for for factorials, was an undergraduate at Balliol, a Snell and Warner exhibitioner expelled in 1715 for his correspondence with Jacobites; and the astronomer , best known for discovering the and therefore conclusively demonstrating that the speed of light is finite, was a student at Balliol (1711–1714), and was appointed in 1721 and became the third in 1742. was a student there from 1959 to 1962. , Chief Executive of and President of the graduated in 2004. In politics, Balliol has produced four : , , and as well as politicians with senior leadership positions in the three major political parties, including , and . MP, former cabinet minister and and MP and government minister are current politically prominent alumni. , President of Germany from 1984 to 1994, also studied at Balliol. The first President of Botswana, studies at Balliol. Royal alumni include of Japan and , after whose donation of expanding the JCR is named the Norway Room, his son and current king also studied here. In , the '’s political editor , the '’s chief arts writer , and columnist and communications specialist are alumni of the college. In the law, was the Senior of the , while and held equivalent positions in and , at one point, all three simultaneously. is the current of the London , the first woman to hold this role. Literary figures include , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and . Notable Balliol philosophers include (), , , , , , , , , , , , and . Balliol has also contributed to the sporting world; and his son , both cricket captains and the 8th and 9th respectively, were both Balliol graduates who played for the University. US Olympian rower received her MBA at Balliol. Balliol members have predominated as holders of the office of of the University from the 20th century to the present; , , and , the last two being opposed in their election by and respectively. Members of the college have been elected to masterships not only at Balliol but also at other colleges, and include the current Master of , , a former fellow of Balliol. , a convicted drug dealer and later author, attended Balliol between 1964 and 1967 to study physics and then again between 1968 and 1969 to study History and Philosophy of Science. The first person documented to brew coffee in England, , was a Cretan student at Balliol from 1637 to 1648. File:Herbert Henry Asquith.jpg, , File:Heathdod.JPG, , File:Aldous Huxley.JPG, , writer and philosopher File:Boris Johnson official portrait (cropped).jpg, , File:The National Archives UK - CO 1069-1-17(cropped).jpg, , File:AdamSmith.jpg, , economist and author File:Richard von Weizsäcker.jpg, , former File:1980, Founding President of Botswana() (cropped).jpg, , Founding

Academics and Fellows

As with all colleges, Balliol has a more or less permanent set of teaching staff, known as Fellows. The college statutes provide for various categories of Fellows and these include both tutorial fellows and professorial fellows. Professorial fellows are those s and of the university who are allocated to the college by the university. One of these professorships is the , which is currently held by . The Professorship of Internet Studies is currently held by political scientist . Other professorships include the and the . Official Fellows are those who hold tutorial or administrative appointments in the college. There are also senior and junior research fellows. The college can also elect "distinguished persons" to honorary fellowships. The fellows are supplemented by on short-term contracts. In addition, there are visiting international academics who come to Oxford for periods of up to a year, an example of this is the George Eastman Visiting Professorial Fellowship.


Balliol College is run by the master and fellows of the college. The master of the college must be "the person who is, in their he Fellowsjudgement, most fit for the government of the College as a place of religion, learning, and education". The current master is , former Director-General of the and , and an alumna of and colleges. Although the rules in no way suggest there is a preference for an alumnus or Fellow of the college to be chosen there have been few who were not, only one in the 20th century had no previous connection. A former student of the college, was the first American master and the first , receiving his prize in medicine for the identification of the virus. The outgoing Master of Balliol Sir was a post-graduate student there (Snell Exhibitioner from Glasgow University) and a scholar of the Romantic poet , and held the post from October 2011 to April 2018 following his retirement as Vice-Chancellor of the in 2008.


Further reading


External links

Balliol College

Junior Common Room (undergraduate students)

Middle Common Room (graduate students)

Balliol College Dining Hall (zoomable image)

Balliol College History & Archives
* {{Authority control Buildings and structures of the University of Oxford