Oriel College. Source: Album of Oxford Photographs.

Edward I founded what became Oriel College in 1326, basing its statutes on those of Merton, and with the additional support of the Bishop of Lincoln and Queen the ”college received further endowments and the gift of a large messuage [home and surrounding land] called La Oriole, from whence its present name is derived, and on the site of which the southern half of the first quadrangle now stands.” According to Elsie M. Lang, “The period between 1429 and 1476 was one of the most brilliant and fortunate in the history of Oriel. The four provosts who governed in succession during that time were exceptionally able men whose fame and repute brought gifts and endowments to the college, doubling and trebling its original revenues, and moreover began to attract thither young men of wealth and position, eager to pay for the privilege of membership, who were called commoners.”

Oriel College. Source: Album of Oxford Photographs.

By 1642 “the quadrangle had assumed the appearance it presents to - day, with the hall facing the gateway and approached by a flight of steps under a portico adorned with sculptured figures of the Virgin Mary, to whom the college is dedicated, its founder, Edward II., and Charles I., in whose reign it was completed.” Unlike some other Oxford colleges, Oriel suffered little during the commonwealth, and but it produced few “eminent men” during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries “probably because a great deal of corruption entered into the elections to fellowships; no restriction had ever been placed on the choice of the electors and the buying and selling of nominations had become a common practice.” However, by the close of the eighteenth century an Oriel fellowship had become “the highest prize of an Oxford career, a step which raised the college from mediocrity to the first place in the university” (), and the college produced many famous graduates.

Oriel College by W. Matthison. c. 1909. Source: Artistic Colored Views of Oxford.


Album of Oxford Photographs containing 20 Views printed by the permanent collotype process. Oxford: Miss Beesley, Fancy Stationery Repository, 43, High Street, Oxford, nd. Internet Archive version of a copy in St. Michael's College Toronto. 4 October 2012.

Lang, Elsie M. The Oxford Colleges. London: T. Werner. HathiTrust online version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 8 November 2022.

Last modified 29 November 2022