New Quadrangle

New Quadrangle did not take on its present appearance until 1911; indeed considerable effort was required for Brasenose to acquire the land on which it was built. When the Radcliffe Camera was erected in the eighteenth century Brasenose was only one of many owners who gave up property in the area. The College received £3,769 from the Radcliffe Trustees in exchange and some £2,327 of this was used to acquire property on the High Street, more than half of it from Magdalen College. It is evident that the ultimate intention was a High Street front, and the College was to consider plans for extensions for nearly a century. These ranged from modest plans for a new upper storey to Old Quad to a complete remodelling of all the colleges adjacent to Radcliffe Square.

In the meantime accommodation was needed. Beyond the Chapel quadrangle lay the Kitchen, the privies, the Fellows’ Garden and a collection of tenements and back premises. It was here that the first of two ugly staircases was built in about 1740, more or less in the middle of what is now New Quad. When more space was required in 1810 the Fellows reluctantly sacrificed their garden and built the second of the unsightly and utilitarian staircases, later generally referred to as the 'barracks'. It combined with the 1740s building, the brewhouse built in 1826, and a latrine block on the site of the present Staircase XVIII, to form 'Back Quadrangle'.

The main stumbling block in achieving a front on the High Street was money. The only extensive building work to this end in the eighteenth century was a new Lodging for the Principal, into which he moved at Michaelmas 1771 with his wife and household. It was not a new building, but adapted from existing property in which wide-ranging work was carried out. A photograph taken in 1887 before its demolition shows a three storey house, plus attics, with five window bays. The bills for the work mention at least sixteen rooms, including two parlours and two dining rooms. There were two staircases (one with pilasters, arches and 'cupelo over') and substantial domestic accommodation.

It was the late nineteenth century before the College finally took the plunge and embarked on the building of New Quad. Staircases IX-XI were built between 1880 and 1886, an extension to the kitchens with an undergraduate library above being part of the project. The High Street Tower, Staircase XIII and a new Principals’ house on the corner nearest to the University Church were constructed between 1887 and 1889, and there then followed a twenty year period during which the College had only half a High Street front: the financial situation did not allow the risk of further building. Finally Broadgates, Amsterdam and Staircase XII were built between 1909 and 1911 as part of the Quatercentenary celebrations. New Quad was designed by the architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, known for his work at Hertford College and the Oxford University Examination Schools.


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