In 1655 John Jackson was appointed overseer to build the Chapel and Library at a salary of £1 per week, and the actual design of the Chapel has also been attributed to him. There are numerous statements of the expenditure incurred in building the Chapel, including a book of accounts in which the Bursar kept a detailed day by day record of each individual payment.

Plaster detail on the Chapels ceiling The foundation stone was laid in June 1656 and the foundations were finished in August. In March 1657 the 'Little Cloyster' was begun, which still remains as the entrance to the Chapel, and the lead for the roof of this was paid for in July. It seems that the main Chapel was not yet roofed completely, for during the winter 'certaine Laborers' were paid 'in the tyme of ye snow & frost . . . for carring ye snow out of ye chap:'. But the windows were in progress, and in December John Greenwood was paid for '867 Barrs of Iron for ye chapple viz: the windowes and Tracerie of ym'. The iron was brought from Birmingham via Banbury in two loads, and Nathaniel Brokesby, 'Schoolmaster of Birmingham', was sent two pairs of gloves, one with black fringes and one of white leather, for taking 'great paynes to procure those materialls for ye College'.

The College was able to save money by using materials from another of their Oxford properties, the Chapel of the former Augustinian College of St. Mary, now Frewin Hall. Payments like that 'for conveying ye window Jamas from ye old chap' show that the whole building was plundered, but the re-use of the roof is most famous. This open hammerbeam structure was moved to Brasenose and stored in sheds before being used to roof an entirely different Chapel, the dimensions of which it dictated. The account book shows numerous payments in connection with this in 1656: for building the sheds, for 'Takeing downe ye Roofe of the old chapple', and for removing and transporting the slates and roof. An extra 3/- was given for this last, 'the work being very dangerous'. The demolition work was evidently messy, for William Clark received £1 'for th’ use of his garden & spoyling of his fruit trees under ye old chapple wall when ye Roof and Walls were taken downe'.

Hammer-beam roof structure Hammer-beams above the plaster vaultIt is easy to assume that the trouble taken to transport a roof from the other side of the City implies a desire to preserve the roof, but this is a modern perception. Although the hammerbeams can still be seen in the roof space above the Chapel the roof was not completely reconstructed. The point of the reuse was to save money on timber. It is unlikely that there was ever any intention to leave the beams exposed, and on 5th Nov 1659 John Jackson received £20 'for his Modell of the Roofe of ye New chapple'. On Tuesday 14th June 1659 the plaster fan vault we now see was begun. A month later 'goodman Drew' received payment 'for turning of eleven Pendents for ye Roofe of the chapple at 9d a’piece'. The ceiling was painted by C.E. Kempe in the 1890s and has been much praised and much criticized. During debates about repainting in the 1970s the editor of The Brazen Nose expressed the opinion that 'anything as strange and curious as Arts and Craft aestheticism overlaid on seventeenth-century fake Gothic, which in turn disguises a genuine fifteenth-century hammer-beam roof is certainly worth keeping - if only for the sheer zaniness of it all'.

The internal fittings date mostly from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They include chandeliers presented in 1749, later given away to a parish church, converted to gas, returned to the College when the church went over to electricity, and finally converted back to candles. The organ case dates from 1892 and the organ from 1974.

The enormous portrait over the door and the paintings of hands on the north wall are of The Childe of Hale.

Famous Brasenose Names

More information on historical figures connected to Brasenose

College buildings

An architectural history of our buildings