'The oddest name in Oxford'
The name of the College has always fascinated visitors to Oxford. There have been several interpretations of it, including the suggestion that it is derived from ‘brasen huis' (brewhouse). The most likely explanation is that it refers to a ‘brazen' (brass or bronze) door knocker in the shape of a nose.
The 1330s saw the migration of rebellious students from Oxford to Stamford in Lincolnshire, and one of those involved was ‘Philippus le maniciple ate Bresnose’. In due course the rebellion was suppressed, the king ordering the students to return to Oxford.
In 1890 a house in Stamford was offered for sale. It had been known as ‘Brasenose’ since at least the seventeenth century and had an ancient door knocker, dated to the twelfth century. Brasenose College purchased the house for the sake of that door knocker, which was brought to Oxford and now hangs over the high table in Hall. The College historians of the 1890s were convinced that the fourteenth century students of Brasenose Hall took the knocker from which they derived their name to Stamford, and that it had been restored to its rightful home at last.
Noses have been used as symbols for Brasenose College throughout its history. More than one has been placed over the main door and they can be found in the glass in Hall. The Archives have a carved nose once attached to the College Eight, a nose tie pin of the 1870s, and one of the nose pipes smoked by Brasenose undergraduates in the years before the First World War (we also have the oversized version displayed in the tobacconist’s window).