English Churches - Oxfordshire
An eye catching exterior and a beautiful altar front
College on Broad Street is one of the oldest of the Oxford Colleges.
Being in the centre of the city and opposite the Tourist Office, it is
always busy. The chapel was built in 1857 and is the third chapel
on the site. It was designed by William Butterfield, who also designed
Keeble College. On entering the college, it is in the right hand corner
of the front quad and immediately recognisable by its bands of deep red
and pale beige stone. The design wasn’t popular and caused a lot of
controversy when complete. There was even a serious offer to pay for it
to be demolished and rebuilt. The college rejected it as a waste of
The inside is almost boring in comparison and much of Butterfield’s work has been replaced. The small antechapel contains a few memorials from the earlier chapel. A splendid wood screen separates it from the chapel. Above is the organ
Walls are pale cream plaster, covering the original bands of coloured stone, although these can still be seen in the window surrounds. There is wood panelling round the bottom of the walls. The ceiling is plaster - cream in the nave and pale grey in the chancel - with wood ribs across. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The floor is black and white tiles.
The most unusual silver gilt altar font is possibly the most impressive bit of the chapel and dates from 1927.
The stained glass in the east window is C16th and one of the few bits of the earlier chapel to survive, although it has been reset. At the centre is the Crucifixion. It is in marked contrast to the rest of the stained glass windows which were designed by Butterfield.
The outside of the chapel is probably a bit like marmite - you either love it or hate it. The interior is safe but a bit bland. There are other college chapels that are better.
The college is open daily from 10-5 and there is a charge of £3 to enter Balliol College and includes a short guide book with a map. This allows you to wander freely around the college grounds and go into the Hall. Don’t miss this. It is wonderful and could almost double for a set in a Harry Potter film. The Buttery is open for light refreshments from midday. There are pictures of Balliol College here.
The nearest post code is OX1 3BJ and the grid reference is SP 513065.
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