Christ Church History

Old Members and Friends interested in the history of Christ Church can read a short introductory piece by Judith Curthoys, Archivist. 

If you would like to order one of Judith’s books, The Stones of Christ Church, or The Cardinal’s College, at a special Member price of £25 plus postage please email development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

The Stones of Christ Church

Christ Church, Oxford's largest and arguably grandest college, has awed visitors ever since its foundation by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525: one seventeenth-century visitor said 'it is more like some fine castle, or great palace than a College'. The already impressive site was further enhanced during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by ever more imposing structures, and building has continued up to the present day, sometimes following fashion, sometimes leading the way with new architectural styles.

The Stones of Christ Church tells the fascinating story of the college's buildings throughout its five centuries, and of those who brought them into being, from the three great 'builder deans', John Fell, Henry Aldrich and Henry Liddell, to the humble slaters, joiners, bricklayers and stonemasons, and the materials that they worked with. The resulting buildings - Tom Tower, Peckwater Quad, Meadow Buildings and many more - are among the most iconic sights of Oxford today.

The Cardinal’s College: Christ Church, Chapter and Verse

Christ Church, founded by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, and arguably the grandest college in the University of Oxford, has been the subject of only one previous history. Now Judith Curthoys, the college archivist, presents a new and fascinating account of this unique institution - a joint foundation of college and cathedral with its own peculiar constitution.

Despite having been described as like cream ('rich, thick and full of clots'), Christ Church has never been just a refuge for the elite, and over the centuries it has produced a dazzling list of famous and learned men and (since 1980) women. We learn of its traditions and its eccentricities: from its early emphasis on prayer and discipline to the intricacies of its early plumbing; and from its strong associations with music, architecture and art to its battles (both ancient and modern) with student drunkenness.

We learn too of the sometimes extraordinary power and influence of the Dean, the college's head, and at times of the reigning monarch too - Charles I even made it his headquarters during the Civil War. Above all, we see not an ivory tower, but a great institution that has survived all the vicissitudes of English history; adapting to, and often influencing, the constant tide of social, political, academic and ecclesiastical change.