Merton College, the first fully self-governing college of the University of Oxford, was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, sometime Chancellor of England and later Bishop of Rochester. This community of scholars formed the model for all subsequent Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
Since then, the college has fostered generations of academic and cultural leaders in many fields and is a vibrant and diverse intellectual community of college fellows, students, staff and alumni.
Combine this with Merton’s historic architecture, beautiful gardens, delicious food, fine accommodation, and generous support for students and researchers, and you’ll discover Merton is an extraordinary place in which to learn and to teach.
At present, for example, Merton counts in its Governing Body and Emeritus Fellows eleven Fellows of the Royal Society and six Fellows of the British Academy.
Set in extensive gardens and grounds, it is home to Mob Quadrangle, the oldest quadrangle in the University, which was built in three phases: the Treasury c.1288-91; the north and east ranges and the Sacristy c.1304-11; and the Library on the south and west sides 1373-8.
Mob Library is the oldest continuously functioning library for university academics and students in the world. The library houses a priceless collection of early printed books and more than 300 medieval manuscripts. The Old Library is still regularly used by members of the college and is open to visitors by arrangement from July to September.
The Gatehouse dates from the early fifteenth century, when Henry V granted a royal ‘licence to crenellate’, which allowed the construction of the battlement tower above the present-day Lodge.
Merton Chapel, the college chapel, dates back to the end of the thirteenth century. What is now the quire of Merton Chapel was begun in the late 1280s as part of the Church of St Mary & St John. It was built to replace the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, which stood on the site now occupied by the north wing of Mob Quad. A great way to experience this stunning building is to attend a choral service, concert or recitals there.
The Choir of Merton College consists of 30 undergraduate and graduate students at Oxford University reading for degrees in several subjects. The choir’s primary duty is singing at regular services in the famous 13th century Chapel.
Merton is worthy of a visit as it’s quieter and hidden from the main thoroughfare.