The history of Trinity
Trinity College was founded by Sir Thomas Pope in 1555. A devout catholic with no surviving children, Thomas Pope saw the Foundation of an Oxford college as a means of ensuring that he and his family would always be remembered in the prayers and masses of its members. He came from a family of small landowners in Oxfordshire, trained as a lawyer, and rose rapidly to prominence under Henry VIII. As Treasurer of the Court of Augmentations he handled the estates of the monasteries dissolved at the Reformation, and amassed a considerable personal fortune. Pope was a discreet and trusted privy counsellor of Mary Tudor, and it was from Mary and Philip that he received Letters Patent and royal approval for his new foundation. Pope died in 1559. Although his religious ideals were never fully realised - Elizabeth I had succeeded her sister and England returned to the Protestant faith - nonetheless the memory of his name, like his college, has endured the fluctuating fortunes of over 400 years. His wife, Lady Elizabeth Pope, was a particularly influential figure in Trinity's early years. Pope's foundation was for a President, twelve Fellows and twelve scholars, all supported by the income from his generous endowment of lands, and for up to twenty undergraduates. The Fellows, all men, were required to take Holy Orders and remain unmarried. The College Statutes set out rules for a simple monastic life of religious observance and study. The Garden was an informal grove of trees, mainly elms, amongst which the members of the College could walk and meditate.
No new buildings were erected in 1555, for Thomas Pope had purchased the site and buildings of an earlier monastic foundation, Durham College, which from 1286 until the Reformation provided a place of study in Oxford for a small number of monks from the Benedictine Cathedral Church at Durham. Its buildings comprised a single quadrangle which provided hall, chapel, library and rooms. The only surviving Durham College building is Trinity's Old Library, which was completed in 1421. The name Trinity is thought to echo the original dedication of Durham College: to the Trinity, the Virgin and St Cuthbert.
The first great President in Trinity's history was Ralph Kettell (President 1599-1643). In 1618 he undertook the building of a cellar beneath the medieval refectory of Durham College. When this resulted in its collapse, he took on the building of the present Hall. The early seventeenth century was a time of much political and religious unrest in Oxford, but Kettell was remarkably successful in preserving a spirit of unity within the College. Apart from its gothic windows, the Hall retains none of its original character. The ceiling and panelling are eighteenth-century, but the decoration dates from the late 1980s. The coats of arms above the panelling are those of Benefactors of the College and the oriel window contains Swiss glass of the sixteenth century which was put in in 1877.
Restoration Trinity and President Bathurst
The Civil War in England brought almost complete disruption to the University. Trinity's silver was loaned to Charles I to be minted into coin to pay the army; the undergraduates and Fellows were dispersed, and a puritan President was imposed on the College. By the time of the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Trinity's fortunes were very low. But in 1664 the Fellows elected Ralph Bathurst to the Presidency, and a time of great expansion began. Bathurst was quick to understand the needs of the newly flourishing aristocracy in England,and sought first to provide suitably luxurious accommodation. In 1668 a two storey building (part of today's Garden Quadrangle) was completed with panelled rooms and accommodation for servants, to a design by Sir Christopher Wren, who was a personal friend of Bathurst's. The second side of the Quadrangle was completed in the 1680s. The College garden at this time became highly formal, with a maze, a stately avenue of lime trees, and complex patterns of paths, obelisks and sculpted yews.
University Reform and College Expansion
The latter part of the nineteenth century saw widescale reform within the University, and this led to a large expansion in student numbers. Trinity saw many internal changes in its administration, and responded to the needs of the growing student body by the creation of the Front Quadrangle. The open and spacious aspect of this quadrangle, unique in Oxford, is owed to the imaginative plans of the Victorian architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson. The building that bears his name was built to house undergraduates in 1883-5, and at the same time the cottages, seventeenth-century private houses but almost completely reconstructed in the 1960s, were also brought into College.
Trinity saw many significant changes in the last century, and many of these are reflected in the more modern buildings of the College.
The undergraduate Library was built in 1928 as a memorial to the 155 members of Trinity who died in the First World War. The years following the Second World War were another period of great expansion of student numbers within the
University, and Trinity's Cumberbatch building was completed in 1966 to provide increased accommodation. Women were admitted to Trinity College in 1979.