Restoration Trinity and President Bathurst

One member of Trinity who survived the difficulties of the Civil War years was Ralph Bathurst. A step-grandson of Ralph Kettell, and the fifth of thirteen brothers, of whom six were killed fighting on the royalist side, Bathurst was elected to a scholarship in 1637, and to a fellowship three years later. His first intention had been to study theology, but he instead became a medical doctor, a more useful and less controversial profession in such times.

Ralph Bathurst

Ralph Bathurst by Wilhelm Sonmans

In 1664 Ralph Bathurst was elected to the Presidency of Trinity. His 40-year headship was to be a time of great expansion and success for the College. Bathurst was quick to understand the needs of the newly flourishing aristocracy in England, and sought first to provide suitably luxurious accommodation to attract new members to his college. In 1668 a two storey building (part of today’s Garden Quadrangle) was built by Sir Christopher Wren, who was a personal friend of Bathurst’s and a fellow of Wadham College. The second side of the Quadrangle was completed in the 1680s.

Garden Quad drawn by Dawson Warren, circa 1801

Garden Quad drawn by Dawson Warren, circa 1801

Bathurst’s greatest ambition was to build a new Chapel. The original building, consecrated in 1610 for the monks of Durham College, was by now dilapidated and old-fashioned. It was not until the 1690s that Trinity was able to afford such an ambitious building project. Bathurst paid for the shell of the building, some £2,000, himself, and organised a masterly fund-raising campaign to finance the interior decoration. The new Chapel was consecrated in 1694, and it became a ‘must-see’ building for visitors to Oxford. In 1695 Tsar Peter the Great visited Oxford incognito, and Trinity’s chapel was the only college building on his itinerary, although he was recognised by the crowds, who prevented him from reaching his intended destination. For more information about the design and craftsmanship of this beautiful building, see Martin Kemp’s book on the Chapel.

Design for the Chapel, 1694

Design for the Chapel, 1694

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