Exeter College
Exeter College Quad.jpg
Exeter College
Exeter College Oxford Coat Of Arms (Motto).svg
Arms: Argent, two bends nebuly sable (arms of Stapledon) within a bordure of the last charged with eight pairs of keys, addorsed and interlaced in the rings, the wards upwards, or.
LocationTurl Street, Oxford OX1 3DP
Coordinates51°45′14″N 1°15′22″W / 51.753871°N 1.256046°W / 51.753871; -1.256046Coordinates: 51°45′14″N 1°15′22″W / 51.753871°N 1.256046°W / 51.753871; -1.256046
Full nameThe Rector and Scholars of Exeter College in the University of Oxford
Latin nameCollegium Exoniense
MottoLatin: Floreat Exon (Let Exeter Flourish)
Established1314; 709 years ago (1314)
Named forWalter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter
Previous namesStapeldon Hall
Sister collegeEmmanuel College, Cambridge
RectorSir Richard Trainor
Undergraduates346[1] (2019/2020)
Visiting students26
Endowment£74.5 million (2018)[2]
Boat clubExeter College Boat Club
Exeter College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
Exeter College, Oxford
Location in Oxford city centre

Exeter College (in full: The Rector and Scholars of Exeter College in the University of Oxford) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford[3] in England and the fourth-oldest college of the university.

The college is located on Turl Street, where it was founded in 1314 by Devon-born Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, as a school to educate clergymen. At its foundation Exeter was popular with the sons of the Devonshire gentry, though has since become associated with a much broader range of notable alumni, including Raymond Raikes, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, Richard Burton, Roger Bannister, Alan Bennett, and Philip Pullman.


Exeter College's Broad Street frontage
Exeter College's Broad Street frontage

Still situated in its original location in Turl Street, Exeter College was founded in 1314 by Walter de Stapledon of Devon, Bishop of Exeter and later treasurer to Edward II, as a school to educate clergy. During its first century, it was known as Stapeldon Hall and was significantly smaller, with just twelve to fourteen students. The college grew significantly from the 15th century onward, and began offering rooms to its students. The college motto is "Floreat Exon.", meaning "Let Exeter Flourish".[citation needed]

In the 16th century, donations from Sir William Petre, assumed to be an Exeter graduate, whose daughter Dorothy Wadham (1534–1618) was a co-founder with her husband Nicholas Wadham (1531–1609) of Wadham College, created the eight Petrean Fellowships, and further contributions from his son John Petre, 1st Baron Petre (1549–1613) helped to expand and transform the college.[citation needed]

Sir John Acland (died 1620), a Devonshire gentleman, donated £800, which largely financed the building of a new dining hall, and also established two scholarships for poor students, the first to be created at the college.[4] In a clever move by the bursar to fill the new buildings as they were completed, a significant number of noble Roman Catholic students were invited to enrol and take classes at the enlarged college; however, they were not allowed to matriculate. As a result, over time, Exeter College became one of the leading colleges in the university.[citation needed]

In the 18th century the college experienced declining popularity, as did all of Oxford's other colleges. University reforms in the 1850s helped to end this period of stagnation.[citation needed]

Women at Exeter

For over six centuries after its founding, women were not permitted to study at Exeter, but in 1979 it joined many other men's colleges in admitting its first female students.[5] In 1993, Exeter College became the first of the former all-male colleges to elect a woman, Marilyn Butler, as its rector. When Butler's tenure expired in October 2004, the college elected another woman—Frances Cairncross, former senior editor of The Economist—as rector.[citation needed]

In 2014, the author J. K. Rowling was elected an honorary fellow of the college.[6]

Adelphi Wine Club

Formed in the 1850s, the Adelphi Wine Club is reputed to be one of the oldest three wine clubs in Oxford. The club draws its membership from undergraduates studying at Exeter College. It has been forcibly closed down by college authorities several times throughout its tumultuous existence and is currently believed to be dormant. The club was renowned for its extravagant dinners, and for excessive gambling after each meeting. One black ball was sufficient to exclude an undergraduate from membership. Beginning in 1923, the college forbade any student holding an exhibition or scholarship to join the club.[7]

Notable members include Sir Martin Le Quesne,[8] and J.P.V.D. Balsdon.[7]


Exeter College Chapel
Exeter College Chapel

Exeter College is the basis for the fictional Jordan College in Philip Pullman's novel trilogy His Dark Materials. The 2007 film version of the first novel, The Golden Compass (originally Northern Lights), used the college for location filming.[9] The final episode of Inspector Morse, based on the novel The Remorseful Day, was filmed in the college chapel and Front Quadrangle, where Morse has a heart attack.[citation needed]

Front Quadrangle

The Front Quadrangle sits on roughly the site of the medieval college, although of the earliest buildings, only Palmer's Tower in the north-eastern corner remains. Constructed in 1432, the tower, which was once the primary entrance to the college, now houses various offices and lodgings for fellows, and at its base is a memorial to members who were killed in the Second World War. The quadrangle is dominated by the chapel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and constructed in 1854–1860, which was heavily inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. On the opposite side stands the hall, constructed in 1618, notable for its vaulted ceilings and numerous fine portraits, underneath which is the college bar. Building work over the following century resulted in the quadrangle taking on its current appearance in 1710.[citation needed] The Front Quadrangle also houses the Junior, Middle and Senior Common Rooms, as well as lodgings for fellows and undergraduates.[citation needed]

Margary quadrangle

The Margary quadrangle was completed in 1964 with the construction of the Thomas Wood building to commemorate the 650th anniversary of the college and named for Ivan Margary, who paid for its restoration.[10] The quadrangle also incorporates the rector's lodgings, designed by Gilbert Scott and constructed in 1864, and staircases nine, ten and eleven, also erected during the 19th century.[citation needed]

Fellows' Garden

The Fellows' Garden, looking toward Radcliffe Square
The Fellows' Garden, looking toward Radcliffe Square

A passageway from the Front Quadrangle leads through to the college's Fellows' Garden, in which stands the library, designed by Gilbert Scott in the 13th-century style. The area is also bounded on the left hand side by Convocation House, the Divinity School and the Bodleian Library, and on the right by Brasenose Lane. The Mound, situated at the end of the Garden, offers views over Radcliffe Square, including All Souls College and the Radcliffe Camera.[citation needed]

Cohen Quad

In 2007–2008, the college purchased the main site of Ruskin College on Walton Street for £7 million. The buildings were redeveloped to designs by Alison Brooks Architects to provide a range of student bedrooms, teaching rooms, and study space. In 2017 Cohen Quad was formally opened, named for the parents of Sir Ronald Cohen.[11] The premises represent the college's largest physical expansion since the 14th century.[citation needed] The Cohen Quad won an RIBA South Award as well as Regional Building of the Year.[12]

Student life

Dining hall
Dining hall

As one of the smaller Oxford colleges, Exeter has a reputation for having a close-knit student body. First-year undergraduates are housed on the college's Turl Street site, and there is dedicated graduate accommodation for the college on Iffley Road.[citation needed]

As the university's fourth oldest college, a certain emphasis is placed on tradition, especially during special occasions such as the annual Burns Night, a dinner in honour of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, when a traditional meal of haggis is served. The college's ties with Williams College in the United States, as well as the generally international composition of the MCR, makes the annual Thanksgiving dinner a popular occasion.[13][14]


Exeter has a mixed-voice choir, made up of 24 singers, which is administered, conducted and accompanied solely by the Organ Scholars. It is the only college in either Oxford or Cambridge where a choir, run entirely by the Organ Scholar, sings three services a week, and has been heard recently on a number of broadcasts for BBC Radio 4's The Daily Service. The college offers Choral and Parry–Wood Organ Scholarships, and former Organ Scholars include Robert Sharpe (Director of Music, York Minster), Christopher Herrick (International Concert Organist and former Organist, Westminster Abbey), and David Trendell (Director of Music, King's College London), as well as Directors of Music at Rugby, Charterhouse, Sherborne, and Latymer Upper Schools.[15]


See also: Exeter College Boat Club

Exeter Recreation Ground buildings
Exeter Recreation Ground buildings

Exeter students compete at a university level on the varsity teams and the college itself fields several teams on an intra-university college level, particularly in rowing, rugby, hockey, netball and cricket.[citation needed]

In March 2014 Exeter College Association Football Club defeated St Catherine's College 2–1 in the final of the Cuppers tournament to lift the trophy for the first time in over 40 years.[16]

In December 2010 Exeter College Hockey Club won the men's intra-university premier division and competed on 8 March 2011 in the college Varsity Match against St Catharine's College, Cambridge at Southgate Hockey Club, London.[citation needed]

People associated with Exeter

Former students

Main article: List of alumni of Exeter College, Oxford

Amongst Exeter's alumni are many writers, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Martin Amis and Philip Pullman; Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes; the actors Richard Burton and Imogen Stubbs; Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, John Kufuor, the former President of Ghana and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, former president of Peru.

Academics and tutors

See also: Category:Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford and List of Honorary Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford


Main article: List of Rectors of Exeter College, Oxford


  1. ^ "Student statistics". University of Oxford. 2019. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Exeter College : Annual Report and Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). ox.ac.uk. p. 25. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Exeter College | University of Oxford". www.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  4. ^ Acland, Anne. A Devon Family: The Story of the Aclands. London and Chichester: Phillimore, 1981, p.4
  5. ^ "College History" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk.
  7. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Filming locations for His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass". IMDb locations page. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
  10. ^ "Ivan D Margary" (PDF). rh7.org. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Exeter College holds formal opening of Cohen Quad". Exeter College, Oxford. 20 March 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  12. ^ "RIBA South Award winners". www.architecture.com. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk.
  14. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk.
  15. ^ "Past Organists and Organ Scholars". Exeter College, Oxford. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  16. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk. 10 March 2014.