Sunday, August 18, 2013

Old Frith's Series postcard of Wadham College at Oxford

The hard-to-read white lettering across the bottom states: "Oxford, Wadham College, (Founded 1613)."

Wadham College, which was actually established in 1610, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, which has been instructing students since at least 1096, if not earlier.1

Wadham is the 19th oldest of the 38 constituent colleges of Oxford. Here are some other facts about the college, culled from various web sources:

  • Master mason William Arnold was the college's architect.
  • Architect Sir Christopher Michael Wren (1632-1723) attended Wadham College.
  • Under the original statutes, women were forbidden from entering the college, with the exception of a laundress who was to be of "such age, condition, and reputation as to be above suspicion." In 1974, the Wadham statutes were altered to allow the admission of women as full members of the college at all levels. It was one of the first Oxford colleges to make that change.
  • The Wadham College Library has one of the world's most significant collections of Persian history and literature.
  • The Wadham community has long been a strong supporter of gay rights and, in 2011, became the first Oxford college to raise the rainbow flag.

For some more regarding the significance of the architecture of Wadham, we can turn to "The Charm of Oxford" by Joseph Wells, first published in 1920:

"The buildings of Wadham College have been pronounced by some good judges to be the most beautiful in Oxford. This is not, however, the usual opinion, nor is it my own, though, perhaps, it might be accepted if modified into the statement that Wadham is the most complete and perfect example of the ordinary type of college. However that may be, there are three points as to these buildings which are indisputable, and which are also most interesting to any lover of English architecture. They are:
  • (1) Wadham is less altered than any other college in Oxford.
  • (2) It is the finest illustration of the fact that the Gothic style survived in Oxford when it was being rapidly superseded elsewhere.
  • (3) No building in Oxford (very few buildings anywhere) owe their effect so completely to their simplicity and their absence of adornment."

Of course, such praise for Wadham should be tempered with the knowledge that the author, Mr. Wells, was the warden of Wadham College at the time of publication.

Finally, this postcard is part of the Frith's Series. I wrote about one of their cards featuring Kingsgate back in August 2012.

1. Also in 1096, Frenchman Walter Sans Avoir — who might or might not have been known at Walter the Penniless and served as one of the leaders of the First Crusade, which resulted in the horrific slayings of thousands of Central European Jews in what some have retroactively deemed "the first Holocaust" — was killed when he was, per some historical sources, hit by seven arrows in a battle against the forces of Kilij Arslan, the Seljuq Sultan of Rûm. Read more at Medieval Tymes.

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