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 Undergraduate Centre.

Foundation buildings

Front Quad

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 the 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 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, from Sir Christopher Wren to Rosamund Pike. 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 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 from the Passion of Christ below their Old Testament prefigurations . 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.

Ante Chapel

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.

Europe's first 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.