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St Edmund Hall, Oxford

Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford

St Edmund Hall

College name The Principal, Fellows and Scholars of St Edmund Hall in the University of Oxford
Latin name Aula Sancti Edmundi
Named after St Edmund of Abingdon
Established c. 1278[1]
Sister college Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
Principal Keith Gull
Undergraduates 421[2] (2011/2012)
Graduates 220
Location The High / Queen's Lane

St Edmund Hall, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre

Location of St Edmund Hall within central Oxford

Official website
Blazon Or, a cross patonce gules cantoned by four Cornish choughs proper.

St Edmund Hall (sometimes known as The Hall or affectionately as Teddy Hall) is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. The college has a claim to be "the oldest academical society for the education of undergraduates in any university" and is the last surviving medieval hall at the University.[3]

The college is located just off Queen's Lane, near the High Street, in central Oxford.


  • History 1
    • Colours 1.1
    • Coat of arms 1.2
  • Buildings 2
  • Student life 3
    • Sport 3.1
  • College graces 4
  • People associated with the college 5
    • Notable alumni 5.1
    • Other notable figures 5.2
    • Principals 5.3
  • Gallery 6
  • References 7
    • Further reading 7.1
  • External links 8


The church of St Peter-in-the-East — now the college library

Like the University of Oxford itself, the precise date of establishment of St Edmund Hall is not certain; it is usually estimated at 1236, before any other college was formally established. It is named after St Edmund of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, the first known Oxford Master of Arts and the first Oxford-educated Archbishop of Canterbury, who lived and taught on the college site. The name St Edmund Hall (Aula Sancti Edmundi) first appears in a 1317 rental agreement.[4]

St Edmund Hall began life as one of Oxford's ancient Aularian houses, the medieval halls that laid the foundation of the University, preceding the creation of the first colleges. As the only surviving medieval hall, its members are known as "Aularians". St Edmund Hall acquired the status of a college in 1957, though retaining the historical moniker of "Hall".

The college has a history of independent thought, which brought it into frequent conflict with both Church and State. During the late 14th and early 15th centuries it was a bastion of John Wycliffe's supporters, for which college principal William Taylor was ultimately burnt at the stake, and principal Peter Payne fled the country. In the late 17th century, St Edmund Hall incurred the wrath of the Crown for fostering non-jurors, men who remained loyal to the Scottish House of Stuart and who refused to take the oath to the German House of Hanover, whom they regarded as having usurped the British throne.[5]


There is an element of confusion regarding the Hall's official college colours which seems to have arisen due to a discrepancy between "official college wear", often thought to be claret and cream, and "sporting wear". Maroon and gold are believed to be the official college colours [6] and most of the college's sporting wear is in maroon and gold, leading many to believe that these are in fact the college colours. Confusion may also be caused because the college's coat of arms has a yellow/gold field.

Coat of arms

Coat of Arms sculpture above the entrance to the Porters' Lodge.

The college coat of arms depicts a red cross patonce against a yellow/gold field surrounded by four Cornish Choughs and is blazoned "Or, a cross patonce gules cantoned by four Cornish choughs proper". The choughs are often mistakenly depicted with white wings.

In the image shown, the college coat of arms is found above the following Latin dedication "sanctus edmundus huius aulae lux", or "St Edmund, light of this Hall".

It is a very common practice within the university to use chronograms for dedications when transcribed into Latin, they are written in such a way that an important date, usually that of a foundation or the dedication itself, is embedded in the text. This is usually achieved by choosing certain letters in the text which correspond to Roman numerals which when added, often disregarding the usual subtractive notation, amount to the required date. These numerals are then indicated by being rendered in a larger size than that of the surrounding letters.

In the above dedication, the text is rendered as

sanCtVs edMVndVs hVIVs aVLae LVX

and, in this case, adding the numerals naively gives:

C + V + M + V + V + V + I + V + V + L + L + V + X = 1246

which is a popular, if conservative, estimate for the establishment of the Hall, but is in fact the date of the canonisation of St Edmund of Abingdon.


St Edmund Hall is based on a small central site on the north side of the High Street.

The front quadrangle is bordered by the porters' lodge, the Old Dining Hall (1659), the college bar and buttery (containing a mid-15th-century fireplace), the chapel with the Old Library above (late 17th century), and accommodation for students and fellows. In the centre of the quadrangle is a medieval well. Passages from the quadrangle give access to modern accommodation blocks and dining hall to the east, and the college library (the deconsecrated church of St Peter-in-the-East, 12th century; the crypt remains consecrated) and gardens (St Peter's churchyard) to the north. The garden contains a seated bronze figure depicting St Edmund as an impoverished student.

The college also owns annexes at Norham Gardens, on Dawson Street, and on Iffley Road. The College recently completed an Aularian-supported programme of restoration to the façade of the front quad and Queen's Lane frontage.

Student life

As of 2013, the college had about 400 undergraduate and 200 graduate students.[7] There are student bodies run by committee for both undergraduates and postgraduates: the Junior Common Room (JCR) and Middle Common Room (MCR). Both the JCR and MCR organise regular events, including a programme of activities for Freshers' week, dinners and movie nights.

Students at St Edmund Hall participate in many extra-curricular activities, including creative writing workshops run by Lucy Newlyn, English Fellow.[8] The College held its first Hall Writers' Forum in 2013, 'A Celebration of Writing at the Hall', at which many alumni, who are now professional writers (including journalists, comedians, academics, poets and novelists) spoke or participated in discussions about creative writing.[9]

In 2012, Chris Watson (a professional tenor) was appointed as Director of Music and has introduced a series of lunchtime concerts at the college.[10] Together with the 2 organ scholars, he also directs the Hall's active choir, which includes 8 choral scholars.

St Edmund Hall has a lively drama society, the John Oldham Society, which took a production to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012[11] and worked in Cameroon in 2013 on a community drama project.[12]

The College also runs an annual journalism competition for Oxford students, in memory of alumnus Philip Geddes.[13]

Students can apply for a St Edmund Hall Masterclass Award,[14] which will support individuals or groups who have already reached a high level of achievement in an extra-curricular activity and are now seeking funding for additional coaching to develop and hone their skills. This may include, but is not exclusive to, the areas of writing, drama, music, art and sport.


The student body participates in a number of sports including, rugby, badminton, canoe polo team, sailing, men's and women's football, men's basketball and hockey. The college fields teams in a wide variety of other sports. The college maintains a proud record in men's Rugby in particular, having won more than half of the Cuppers tournaments entered. In 2014-15 college teams reached at least the semi-finals of Cuppers in six sports.

Rowing is another traditional sport at the College, through the St Edmund Hall Boat Club, with the men attaining Headship in the Summer Eights of 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964 and 1965, and the women achieving the same feat from 2006 to 2009 inclusive.[15]

College graces

The usual grace given before Formal Hall is:

Benedictus, Benedicat per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum
(May he who is Blessed bless [this food] through Jesus Christ Our Lord)

To which the assembly responds Amen. More extended (or sung) forms of the grace are sometimes given but this is rare.

People associated with the college

Notable alumni

Other notable figures




  1. ^ University of Oxford (2008) St Edmund Hall - Admissions Archived October 4, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Undergraduate numbers by college 2011-12". University of Oxford. 
  3. ^ Cowdrey (1988); p. 388, referencing A.B. Emden who in his 1927 (p. 236) work states: "...and St Edmund Hall now survives as the last lineal descendent of the oldest form of academical society designed for the residence of scholars studying in the Oxford Schools."
  4. ^ Emden (1927), p. 60
  5. ^ In both 1690 and 1692
  6. ^ On the college's official website, the 'College memorabilia' section quotes these colours
  7. ^ "About the College". 
  8. ^ College website:
  9. ^ College website:
  10. ^ College website:
  11. ^ College website:
  12. ^ College website:
  13. ^ Philip Geddes Memorial Fund website:
  14. ^ College website:
  15. ^ S.E.H. Men's Eights
  16. ^ "Visitor, Principal and Fellows". 

Further reading

  • Cowdrey, H.E.J. (1988) St Edmund Hall, Queen's Lane, In: Hibbert, C. (Ed.) The encyclopædia of Oxford, London : Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-39917-X, p. 388-391. Reproduced online by St Edmund Hall [accessed 1 June 2007]
  • Emden, A.B. (1927) An Oxford Hall in Medieval Times: being the Early History of St Edmund Hall, Oxford : Clarendon Press, Reprinted 1968
  • Kelly, J.N.D. (1989) St Edmund Hall: Almost Seven Hundred Years, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-951559-X
  • Salter, H.E. and Lobel, M.D. (eds) [1954] (1994) "St. Edmund Hall", In: Victoria County History: A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford, The Victoria History of the counties of England, Folkestone : Dawson for the University of London Institute of Historical Research, ISBN 0-7129-1064-6, p. 319-335.

External links

  • St Edmund Hall – official website
  • St Edmund Hall JCR website
  • St Edmund Hall MCR website
  • St Edmund Hall Alternative Prospectus website
  • Virtual tour of St Edmund Hall
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