Founded 1438 as The College of All Souls of the Faithful Departed of Oxford by Henry Chiche Archbishop of Canterbury. Sister College – Trinity Hall Cambridge. Fellows only, Men and Women (by entrance exam or invitation).
Only the most brilliant scholars drawn from a pool of the most gifted are invited to All Souls to engage in a life advanced academic study. Traditionally the college has no undergraduates and is unusual in that all members become fellows and join the college’s governing body. Originally students had to be of legitimate birth and between the ages of 18 and 25. It was a requirement that they had studied at the university for at least three years as well as possessing an adequate command of grammar. All Souls did flirt with undergraduates in the early 17th century, but found them disruptive and abandoned the practice.
The college is situated in central Oxford on the north side of the High Street next to Radcliffe Square. Although a desirable location, it is restricted, resulting in a compact ground plan.
Henry Chiche, Archbishop of Canterbury and fellow of New College, founded All Souls in partnership with King Henry VI in 1438. Chiche provide the capital needed for construction and endowed it with several properties across the country. His wish was to promote learned clerics and encourage prayer for the dead of Oxford, who were killed in the ongoing French wars (1337–1453).
Medieval Front Quad
The layout and administration model was inspired by New College, Henry Chiche’s college. The Front, or Old Quadrangle still retains an original medieval appearance despite several modifications – the battlements at the front were added in 1510. The romantic four storey gate tower that faces the High Street was first used to s...
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...57. All of this came to an abrupt end in 1857 when the effects of the Royal Commission of Enquiry into the university, started to bite. From now on there would be no privilege of kin and further more only exceptionally talented students with a first class degree or a special university prize would be considered. Needless to say the academic level started to rise quickly. Today the college has around 77 fellows, 24 active retired fellows and 9 visiting fellows and is self funded by huge endowments. Women became eligible to become fellows in 1979.
All Souls boasts the fabulous once a century Mallard Ceremony (usually January 14th) that celebrates the exaggerated importance of a duck builders scared while laying the original foundations. Following a grand feast the fellows parade around the college led by the bearer of a pole with a carved mallard. The next is in 2101.