Deer Park

Before the seventeenth century the only College building to extend beyond Old Quad was the kitchen, the oldest building we have. It dates from the late fifteenth century, being the kitchen of Brasenose Hall, the educational institution from which Brasenose College was developed. It was on the ground to the south east of the kitchen that Principal Samuel Radcliffe envisaged a second quadrangle, leaving money in his will to provide a Chapel and 'a buildinge upon Pillars' to complete the two sides needed. He died in 1648, and his vision was complete by 1666.

The open cloister beneath the Library provided shelter from the weather for those taking exercise, and it was also the College’s burial ground. We have the names of fifty nine people buried there. However, in 1807, with a growing need for more accommodation the Cloisters were turned into college rooms at a cost of £582. In 1825 a writer to the Gentleman’s Magazine requested the magazine to print two epitaphs 'which were lately in the cloister or burying ground of Brasenose College, Oxford, but which, on its being converted into two or three gloomy chambers for the living instead of the dead, have lately been removed'. The rooms remained in use until 1971 (in later years partly as offices), after which they were turned into a graduate common room (known as the Hulme Common Room at Brasenose). It is possible that Sir John Soane, architect of the Bank of England, was involved in the design of these rooms.

In due course the second quadrangle envisaged by Principal Radcliffe was nicknamed the 'Deer Park'. This is usually seen as a sly dig at the glories of Magdalen, and C.C. Bradford (matriculated 1884) gave a date to this in the Brazen Nose in 1934. He claimed that in 1886 he was walking through 'Chapel Quad' with R.H Tilney (matriculated 1885), discussing a visit to Magdalen the previous day. When they saw a man preparing to put up a post and chain fence Mr. Bradford exclaimed, 'They are going to give us a deer-park', whereupon his companion replied, 'By Jove we’ll call it that'. However, this still leaves a question mark over the other, earlier, explanation of the name. In 1820 the Gentleman’s Magazine printed an account of a stag hunt in which the quarry was hunted from Blenheim Park to Oxford, where it 'proceeded up the High Street, as far as Brazenose College, when . . . the stag took refuge in the Chapel during divine service, where it was killed sans ceremonie by the eager hounds'.


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