English Churches - Oxfordshire

Balliol College Chapel, Oxford

An eye catching exterior and a beautiful altar front

Balliol 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 money.

Balliol College Chapel

Balliol College Chapel

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 

Balliol College Chapel

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. 

Balliol College Chapel   Balliol College Chapel

To the left of the altar is a delightful miniature monument to Benjamin Jowett, who was a C19th Master of Balliol.

Balliol College Chapel 

The most unusual silver gilt altar font is possibly the most impressive bit of the chapel and dates from 1927. 

Balliol College Chapel

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.

Balliol College Chapel

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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