Ivy Ale festivities

IMG 9736On May 25th Brasenose College took part in a number of traditional 'Ascension Day' festivities. The Beating of the Bounds ceremony passed through Brasenose during the morning. The custom, observed in a few areas across England and Wales has probably been in existence for over a 1000 years, and originated in the need for church officials to walk around the boundaries of their parish. The boundaries of the parishes of the churches of St. Michael at the Northgate and St. Mary the Virgin (also known as the ‘University Church') pass through Brasenose College, and once a year groups from both churches, plus a throng of curious students and other wellwishers, visit and mark the boundary stones located on certain walls of college buildings by marking them with the year in chalk and beating them with willow sticks. This curious and unusual sight is not an everyday occurence at the College!

Secondly, late morning, Brasenose College students, tutors and staff are invited to enter Lincoln College (just next door) via a tiny connecting door between the two colleges, which leads from Brasenose's Old Quad directly into the Lincoln College kitchens and through to one of the open-air quads. Intriguingly, this door is only opened for ten minutes or so and it is the only time during the year that this door is unlocked, which adds a sense of mystery and discovery to this strange event. Brasenose members are served an (optional) small glass of ale in Lincoln College (as pictured), which is traditionally flavoured with ground ivy, handpicked by the Lincoln College staff in local woods, to discourage Brasenose students from taking liberties with the kind hospitality by requesting more than one drink! Opinions on the origin of this tradition vary, but the two most popular explanations are that, centuries ago, either a Brasenose student was pursued by a mob from the town and murdered because Lincoln students refused to open their gates to him, or that a Lincoln member killed a Brasenose man in a duel. Either way, Lincoln College's penitence is gratefully received by Brasenose students and staff. As usual, the festivities were well attended this year, not least due to the sunny weather, providing a brief distraction for our many students in the middle of exams.

The picture includes Law student Molly Beck (from Hills Road Sixth Form College), geographer Chloe Wall (from Blenheim Hill School), and English students Harriet Astbury (from Burgate School) and Emma Woodhouse (from Redborne School). Harriet and Emma might look particular care-free since they have already finished their final exams!

Second Year geographer Miles Overton commented: "Ascension Day celebrations are definitely some of the weirder things to happen at Brasenose, but it's unique traditions like those that make our College so special. Heading through a secret door in the back of Old Quad to neighbouring college Lincoln (who also happen to be our 'enemy') felt like going back hundreds of years. Drinking the ivy-laced ale in their sunny garden made for a great afternoon...Rest assured that things like Ascension Day are rare occurrences! Oxford is old and some of that age lingers in odd celebrations, but they're still loads of fun."

Although we have a small number of optional traditions and a long and fascinating history, Brasenose College is actually a modern, progressive institution with a vibrant and diverse undergraduate community. Read more about life at Brasenose College

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