Mansfield College, Oxford

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Mansfield College
Mansfield College Main Building and JCR with Library on the left.
Mansfield College Oxford Coat Of Arms.svg
Blazon: Gules an open book proper inscribed DEUS LOCUTUS EST NOBIS IN FILIO in letters sable bound argent edged and clasped or between three cross crosslets or.
Location Mansfield Road
Coordinates 51°45′27″N 1°15′10″W / 51.757428°N 1.252876°W / 51.757428; -1.252876Coordinates: 51°45′27″N 1°15′10″W / 51.757428°N 1.252876°W / 51.757428; -1.252876
Motto Deus locutus est nobis in filio ("God hath spoken unto us by [his] son", Hebrews 1:1–2)
Established 1838 as Spring Hill College
1886 as Mansfield College
Named for George and Elizabeth Mansfield
Sister college Homerton College, Cambridge
Principal Baroness Kennedy
Undergraduates 231[1] (February 2018)
Postgraduates 158
Boat club Boatclub
Mansfield College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
Mansfield College, Oxford
Location in Oxford city centre

Mansfield College, Oxford is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. As of February 2018,[1] the college comprises 231 undergraduates, 158 graduates, 34 visiting students and 67[2] fellows and academics.


The college was founded in 1838 as Spring Hill College, Birmingham, a college for Nonconformist students.[3] In the nineteenth century, although students from all religious denominations were legally entitled to attend universities, they were forbidden by statute from taking degrees unless they conformed to the Church of England.

Stained glass window in the college chapel, L-R Sir Henry Vane, Oliver Cromwell and John Hampden

In 1871, the Universities Tests Act abolished all religious tests for non-theological degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, London and Durham Universities.[4] For the first time the educational and social opportunities offered by Britain's premier institutions were open to all Nonconformists. The Prime Minister who enacted these reforms, William Ewart Gladstone, encouraged the creation of a Nonconformist college at Oxford.

Spring Hill College moved to Oxford in 1886 and was renamed Mansfield College after its greatest donors, George and Elizabeth Mansfield.

The magnificent Victorian buildings, designed by Basil Champneys, were completed in 1889.

Mansfield was the first Nonconformist college to open in Oxford. Initially the college accepted male students only, the first woman (Constance Coltman) being admitted to read for an external degree in 1913.

During World War II, over 40 members of staff from Government Code & Cypher School moved to the college to prepare the British codes and cyphers, whilst the GC&CS members at Bletchley Park worked to decipher the German enigma codes.[5]

In 1955, the college was granted the status of Permanent Private Hall within the University of Oxford and in 1995 a Royal Charter was awarded giving the institution full college status.

Like many of Oxford's colleges, Mansfield admitted its first mixed-sex cohort in 1979, having previously not accepted women to read for Oxford degrees.[6]

As of 2012, the college had an estimated financial endowment of £10 million.

Nonconformist roots[edit]

Since the college was first formally integrated into the University structure in 1955, its Nonconformist aspects have gradually diminished. Until 2007, the United Reformed Church (URC) sponsored a course at Mansfield for training ordinands. These students became fully matriculated members of the University and received degrees. Mansfield no longer trains URC ordinands.[7]

The Nonconformist history of the college is however still apparent in a few of its features. A portrait of Oliver Cromwell hangs in the Senior Common Room and portraits of the 1662 dissenters hang in the library and the corridors of the main college building, together with portraits of Viscount Saye and Sele, John Hampden, Thomas Jollie and Hugh Peters.

One place where the Nonconformist history of the institution is still very much apparent is in the college chapel. It is a non-consecrated space and contains a unique selection of stained glass windows and statues depicting leading figures from Nonconformist movements, including Cromwell, Sir Henry Vane and William Penn among many others. In 1940, whilst he was a lecturer at University College, future British Prime Minister Harold Wilson married Mary Baldwin in this chapel, although he was not a member of the college. Chapel services are still conducted in a Nonconformist tradition. Nevertheless, over the years attendance at chapel services has declined and the make-up of the general student body no longer reflects the Nonconformist religious origins of the college.

Because of its Nonconformist roots, the college still has many strong links with American schools. It has a long established tradition of accepting roughly 30 "Junior Year Abroad" students from the USA every year. These students come to study in Oxford for one academic year and have full access to its libraries and their designated tutors.


The main building of Mansfield College. The Department of Chemistry can be seen in the background.


The grounds of Mansfield College are located on Mansfield Road, near the centre of Oxford, and to the south of the Science Area. The grounds are near the University parks and the River Cherwell. The college shares a boundary wall with Wadham College.


The main building was designed by architect Basil Champneys, and built between 1887 and 1890. It houses the main college library, the law library and the theology library. It is also home to the college's Junior Common Room, Middle Common Room, and Senior Common Room. The main college building encloses three sides of the large quadrangle, which has a circular lawn. The college also has several other buildings, primarily used for student accommodation, which are opposite the main building.

The college is currently expanding student facilities and raised funds for a new building on the college grounds. The new Hands Building (known by students as 'Love Lane') has been designed by Rick Mather Architects. When giving planning permission, the City Planning Department praised the building for its use of renewable energy sources.[8] it incorporates 74 en-suite study bedrooms, seminar rooms and a 160-seat auditorium that will be used for lectures, as a cinema, moot court and performing arts space.[9]

Academic performance[edit]

Mansfield ranked 12th out of 30 in the 2011 Norrington Table,[10] after being 23rd in 2008[11] 28th in 2009[12] and 29th in 2010.[13] "[S]ince the number of degrees awarded per college are small, these rankings should be treated with caution."[14] Mansfield's academic performance, as reflected in the Norrington Table, is currently within the same 10% range as most of the other colleges.[14]

Student life[edit]

Mansfield College Boat Club and a number of other college organisations are popular amongst the students, achieving results at the level of, or competitive with, the larger colleges. Many of the sports teams are "combined" in partnership with Merton College.

As of the start of 2011, the 1st XI football team play in the JCR Premier League, the 1st XV rugby team in the JCR 3rd division and the 1st XI cricket team in the Premier Division. The netball team is currently in the 2nd division. Recently, the college has enjoyed significant sporting success: winning the 2010/11 JCR football Premier League, 2011 rugby Cuppers Bowl and achieving 4 consecutive promotions in college netball. The cricket team is also a dominant force in the JCR leagues, with numerous Cuppers and League titles in the past five years.

Like many of the constituent colleges of Oxford University, Mansfield holds a ball once every three years. The most recent ball took place on 27 February 2016, and was themed 'The Doors of Perception'.[15] The ball before that took place in Hilary 2013, and was themed 'Atlantis'. The ball prior to that took place on 7 November 2009 and was themed 'Circus of the Macabre'.

Mansfield College also hosts the unique 'Champagne and Chocolates', run twice in both Michaelmas and Hilary, which includes unlimited champagne and chocolate throughout the night, accompanied by jazz music and Black tie dress.

People associated with Mansfield[edit]

Academic staff and fellows[edit]

Albert Schweitzer, theologian and famous Bach expert was a special lecturer at Mansfield and often performed on the chapel organ. Rev. John Muddiman, G. B. Caird Fellow in New Testament Theology, and Michael Freeden, director of the Centre for Political Ideologies and founding editor of the Journal of Political Ideologies are two recently retired (now Emeritus) Fellows of the College. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the British astrophysicist known for first discovering radio pulsars, is currently[when?] a visiting professor.

Honorary fellows of the College include Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the USA, Shami Chakrabarti, Director of the civil rights group Liberty and Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, Will Hutton, prominent journalist and economist, Paddy Ashdown, diplomat and politician and Dame Maggie Smith, renowned actress.

List of Principals[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]


The retired porter Hugh Flint was the drummer for John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and appeared on their first two albums, the second of which featured Eric Clapton. He later formed the band McGuinness Flint.

College grace[edit]

In 2011, Mansfield College adopted two distinct pre-supper graces, one religious and one non-religious, in an effort to be inclusive to persons of different faiths, or none.[30]

  • Benedictus Benedicat

May the Blessed One Bless

  • Nullius boni possessio est iucunda sine socio

No good thing is worth having unless you have someone to share it with.

Prior to 2011, the college used the following, specifically Christian grace, adopted in 1953:[31]

Omnipotens Deus, clementissime Pater, omnis boni fons, in donis tuis gaudentes nomen tuum magnificamus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Almighty God, Father of mercies and fount of every good, in the enjoyment of thy gifts we bless thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.



  1. ^ a b "Student Numbers". University of Oxford. 
  2. ^ "Mansfield People". Mansfield College, Oxford. 
  3. ^ "Mansfield College Historical Background". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "Universities Tests Act 1871 s.3". 
  5. ^ "Our Story". 
  6. ^ Communication from Nicola Patrick, college librarian
  7. ^ "The last URC minister to qualify through Mansfield College". Archived from the original on 26 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  10. ^ "Oxford University Undergraduate Degree Classifications 2010/11". 
  11. ^ "2007 Norrington Table". Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. 
  12. ^ "2008 Norrington Table". Archived from the original on 5 February 2011. 
  13. ^ "Oxford University Undergraduate Degree Classifications 2009/10". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Ibid". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ 'FAIRBAIRN, Andrew Martin', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014; online edn, April 2014 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  17. ^ 'SELBIE, Rev. William Boothby', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014; online edn, April 2014 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  18. ^ 'MICKLEM, Rev. Nathaniel', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014; online edn, April 2014 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  19. ^ Kaye, Elaine (9 March 1994). "Obituary: The Rev Professor John Marsh". The Independent. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  20. ^ "Development board". Retrieved 14 September 2018. 
  21. ^ 'SYKES, Dr Donald Armstrong', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  22. ^ 'TREVELYAN, Dennis John', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  23. ^ 'MARQUAND, Prof. David (Ian)', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  24. ^ "Baroness Helena Kennedy QC elected next Principal of Mansfield College". Mansfield College. University of Oxford. 21 July 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  25. ^ "Principal". Mansfield College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  26. ^ "Helen Mountfield QC elected Principal of Mansfield College". University of Oxford. 19 January 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2018. 
  27. ^ Sheffield, University of. "Sarah Harkness - Council - Governance - The University of Sheffield". Archived from the original on 19 March 2017. 
  28. ^ "Sarah Harkness - NHS Improvement". 
  29. ^ "Adam von Trott Memorial Lecture at the Ambassador's Residence". 4 May 2007. 
  30. ^ Mansfield College Association AGM 2011 Minutes, §12,[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Reginald Adams (1992) The College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford: Perpetua Press ISBN 1-870882-06-7

External links[edit]