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The Buttery: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2018

This door will be well-known to students and alumni who've passed through it as a step on their way to formal Hall just next door - and they're walking in the footsteps of a long line of students, going back nearly 300 years, who've done exactly the same thing.

The door to the ButteryThe Oxford English Dictionary defines a Buttery as ‘a storeroom for provisions, especially ale and other alcoholic drinks; a pantry, a larder’, as well as ‘at certain universities, esp. Oxford and Cambridge: a place on university premises where students may buy food, drink, and other provisions’. The first literary reference to a buttery door is found in a text from all the way back in 1423, but our own is slightly more recent.

Originally, this was where the butler issued bread, butter, and beer for meals, and there were understandably strict rules concerning who was allowed to enter the room.

After the Hall fire in 1720 the damage to the roof meant that the Buttery had to be completely refurbished. In stepped the man of the moment, a canon named John Hammond, who paid for this refurbishment in 1722, and made it into a place where people could come to relax. Safe to say his efforts to re-establish a place for students to buy alcohol did not go unnoticed - their obvious appreciation is evident in the sizeable memorial to John over the fireplace.

These days, this is still where many students buy drinks to take into Hall to have during dinner, and, continuing a tradition dating back to the 1700s, many students and alumni will undoubtedly have fond memories of evenings spent whiling away the hours in here whilst putting off an essay or problem sheet.