Buildings and architecture

Wadham’s architectural heritage spans a variety of building styles from the classical Oxford Gothic of the original buildings to the contemporary lines of the new Graduate Centre.

  • Front Quad

    Front Quad

  • McCall MacBain Graduate Centre

    McCall MacBain Graduate Centre

  • Chapel


  • Bowra building

    Bowra building

  • Hall


  • Library


  • Holywell Music Room

    Holywell Music Room

  • Wadham's magnificent dining hall
  • The impressive Hall ceiling (taken from the minstrels gallery)

  • Bursary Quad

    Bursary Quad

Original College buildings

The gothic style Front Quad comprising the Lodge, Warden's Lodgings, Hall, Chapel, Senior Common Room, function rooms and student accommodation, form the oldest parts of Wadham College

Wadham’s main building was designed by architect, or master mason, William Arnold and erected between 1610 and 1613. The traditional Oxford Gothic style of the building is modified by classical decorative detail, most notably the ‘frontispiece’ (which faces visitors on entry to the College) framing statues of James I and founders, Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham.  Classical, too, is the over-powering emphasis on symmetry.  The central quadrangle, originally gravelled, was laid to lawn in 1809.  The building comprises the Wardens Lodgings, the Hall, Chapel, Porters’ Lodge, Senior Common Room, function rooms and student accommodation.

The Hall

The Hall, one of the largest in Oxford, is notable for its great hammer-beam roof and for the Jacobean woodwork of the entrance screen. The portraits include those of the founders and of distinguished members of the college. The large portrait in the gallery is of Lord Lovelace, who delivered Oxford to William of Orange during the Revolution of 1688; the inscription records his role in freeing England 'from popery and slavery'.

The Chapel

The Gothic style Chapel is part of the original College building and the original pulpit still stands. The Chapel screen, like that in the Hall, was carved by John Bolton who was paid £82 for both. Originally Jacobean woodwork ran right round the chapel but the stone altarpiece was inserted in the east end of the chapel in 1832. The magnificent east window was made by Dutchman, Bernard van Linge, for £113 in 1621, showing scenes of Christ from the Old Testament. Note especially Jonah and his whale (top right). Dorothy had the contract with the glazier, Robert Rudland, terminated on hearing bad reports of his Old Testament prophets on the North (left) of the chapel. The name of the glazier for the more successful depiction of Christ and the Apostles on the south side of the chapel is unknown.

In the ante chapel, the elegant young man reclining on his monument is Sir John Portman, baronet, who died in 1624 as a nineteen-year old undergraduate. Another monument, in the form of a pile of books, commemorates Thomas Harris, one of the College Fellows appointed at its foundation who died in 1614, aged 20. The Chapel organ dates from the 1877. It is one of the few instruments by Henry Willis, the doyen of Victorian English organ builders, to survive without substantial modification of its tonal design. Another Wadham architect, Christopher Wren, may have given the clock in 1671, from which only the clock face, in the quad, still survives. More about Wadham Chapel

Europe's first music room and other College buildings

Holywell Music Room

The Holywell Music Room, with access from Holywell Street, is said to be the oldest, purpose built music room in Europe, and hence England's first concert hall. It was designed by Thomas Camplin, former Vice- Principal of St Edmund Hall, and opened in July 1748. The interior has been restored to a near replica of the original and contains the only surviving Donaldson organ, built in 1790 by John Donaldson of Newcastle. It is regularly used for music recitals and concerts including the public Sunday morning Oxford Coffee Concerts.

Holywell Music Room history Graduate Centre Wadham Library

Bowra Building

Situated to the rear of the College site, the Bowra Building, designed by MacCormac, Jamieson & Pritchard, opened in 1992. It consciously evokes Elizabethan-Jacobean great houses, in order to relate to the main building.   As well as student rooms it includes a cafeteria, bar, seminar rooms, squash court and the Moser Theatre.   A particular feature is the narrow pedestrian ‘street’ through the spine which manages to appropriate the bell-tower of New College as an impressive end-feature.

McCall MacBain Graduate Centre

Opened in October 2012 the Graduate Centre was designed by Lee/Fitzgerald Architects. It is located on the site of the former Blackwell’s music shop, latterly Holywell’s restaurant, fronting onto Holywell Street. The Centre has its own terraced garden which provides access to adjoining student rooms. The Graduate Centre provides space for taught and research students and social space for all MCR members.

Other buildings

Surrounding the informal 'back quad' are a variety of buildings. The large five-bay Donald Locke Staircase (staircase 9) was built as college rooms in 1693. Many of the other buildings are adapted for college purposes from other uses; they include a former warehouse which the Oxford University Press used for storing Bibles (staircases 10 and 11), the upper floors of the King's Arms Hotel (the ground floor still flourishes as a popular student pub) and several domestic buildings. The raised 'deck' on the south side was designed by the architects Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, and was inserted in 1970. It includes a small hidden quadrangle (the 'Holywell quad').  The steps from Back Quad lead to a glass and concrete building with lead roof, also designed by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, and opened in 1978. It includes a large library and further student rooms.

Building projects

Wadham has two major building projects underway. Student accommodation on the Iffley Road will provide rooms for 135 second year students from October 2019. From the summer of 2020 Wadham's Back Quad will boast a state of the art Undergraduate Centre and Oxford's first Access Centre.

Back Quad project Iffley Road accommodation

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