J. Mordaunt Crook's history of the college explains with copious footnotes documentation that two brass or brazen noses have been associated with the hall and then college:
From before 1279 it was this knocker that marked the entrance to Brasenose Hall. In 1553 — so Brasenose loyalists believe—it was removed to Stamford in Lincolnshire by a band of migrating students. Stamford at that time was host to a group of Carmelite schools. It was 'an university in all but name'." Hence its selection by these wandering scholars. Their origins were northern, and it seems to have been a battle between North and South that drove them from their Oxford home. Be that as it may, in Stamford the nose remained, long after its bearers had returned to Oxford in 1355 at the command of Edward III. Not until 1890 was it retrieved and set up in hall, in a place of honour over high table. Meanwhile—and here at last we move to stronger ground—another nose of brass had been fixed to the new-built college gate. As early as 1534—perhaps as early as 1513—this second nose was noted as already existing by Polydore Vergil. Since then, for nearly 500 years, its rude proboscis has greeted freshman and Fellow alike. And there it stands to this very day, the object of many a priapic pun. [9-10]
Plates 4 and 5 of Brasenose: The Biography of an Oxford College illustrate both brazen or brass noses.
Crook, Joseph Mordaunt. Brasenose: The Biography of an Oxford College. Oxford University Press, 2008. [review by George P. Landow]
Last modified 30 September 2012