Part of  New Buildings at Balliol College, Oxford

Part of New Buildings at Balliol College, Oxford (1867) by Alfred Waterhouse. Drawing from Eastlake, facing p. 360. Image scan and text by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Commentary by Charles L. Eastlake

The year 1867 found many architects engaged on buildings which either from their site, their size, or their character, represent interesting points in the history of the Revival. The new buildings for Balliol College, Oxford, for example, show that Mr. Waterhouse kept up with the stream of advancing taste without losing that individuality of design which every true artist wishes to retain. A marked improvement is observable in the breadth and vigour with which this work is treated as compared with earlier examples of his skill. It contrasts strangely, indeed, with the old buildings by which it is surrounded, but as a matter of sentiment it may be questioned whether such a contrast is not an advantage when it is explained by a difference of style as well as of date, while as a matter of taste posterity alone will fairly judge between Oxford of the fifteenth and Oxford of the nineteenth century. Is a high pitched roof more picturesque than one raised at an obtuse angle ? Is an equilateral arch better than a four centred flat one? Is such a lintel as Mr. Waterhouse has used for his windows—we need not say the comeliest which might have been devised, but—more comely than the ordinary type of Tudor window-head? Does the building altogether present a richer variety of features, a greater refinement of mouldings, and on the whole more indication of artistic study than if it had been a mere imitation of Brasenose or All Souls ? If these questions can be answered in the affirmative —and he must be a bold critic who would answer them otherwise— we may safely leave the rest to the hand of time, whose artistic touch has exercised, perhaps, a more potent influence than we suppose on the opinion of modern amateurs. [361-62]

Modern photographs of Balliol College, Oxford


Eastlake, Charles L. A History of the Gothic Revival. London: Longmans, Green; N.Y. Scribner, Welford, 1972. Facing p. 261. [Copy in Brown University's Rockefeller Library]

Created 2008; last modified 23 June 2015