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Tom Gate: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Sunday, December 23, 2018

Tom GateDOOR 23
Step into Christ Church through this gate and you're stepping through 500 years of history. Tom Gate is the main entrance to the college - students, staff and visitors to the Cathedral enter through what is, as far as we know, still the original gate, in place ever since the college was founded in the 1520s.

The gate in Tom Tower is thought still be the original, dating from the founding of the college by Cardinal Wolsey in the 16th century – there are no records of it ever being replaced, which makes this door one of our oldest, getting on for 500 years old!

Wolsey was determined to have an impressive entrance to his college, and although Tom Tower, designed by Christopher Wren, was not finished until 1682, the original gateway wasn’t half bad either. By the time of Wolsey’s death in 1530, the gateway was two storeys high, flanked by turrets decorated with emblems including Wolsey’s coat of arms. And this is where our doorway comes in – huge doors made of oak, with the northerly one including a smaller wicket gate.

The gates would have been locked every night when Great Tom finished peeling 101 times – one for each of the original Students, plus once more for the additional Student added by bequest in 1663 – that marked every evening’s curfew. This was at 9:05pm, because in some respects Christ Church still adheres to ‘Oxford time’, 5 minutes behind GMT. These days students are free to come and go as they please even after the supposed curfew, but originally this would have been slightly more of a challenge, as the keys for the gate were held only by the Dean and the Porter – so good luck trying to get back into college after hours…