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Visiting Campion Hall, Oxford: Cotswold-style stone solidity and even impenetrability

Updated on October 10, 2014
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Doorway on Brewer Street, Oxford – Campion Hall (1935-7),
Doorway on Brewer Street, Oxford – Campion Hall (1935-7), | Source
Campion Hall, Oxford, from Brewer Street
Campion Hall, Oxford, from Brewer Street | Source

The work of Sir Edwin Lutyens

As a constituent institution of Oxford University, England, Campion Hall is known officially within the University as a Permanent Private Hall, along with a number of in some ways similar institutions. Campion Hall, however, is the only one of these which is run by the Jesuit Order (1).

Founded in 1896, Campion Hall occupies a building in Brewer Street, Oxford which dates from 1935-1936. The architect responsible was the renowned Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944)(2). The style of the building seems to combine the neo-Romanesque with traditional, Cotswold house design. The rounded arching — for example — seen at the main entrance — is redolent of an ancient, Byzantine church building, while the outer walls and stonework are reminiscent of a Cotswold mansion. Campion Hall does to some extent incorporate an existing building known as Micklem Hall. Interestingly, Sir Edwin Lutyens was known as an architect who specialized in designing English country houses. At Campion Hall, the entirety gives me a sense of an English country mansion converted into a monastery, where the idea of a barrier between clergy and the common people is seemingly stressed.

With a strongly enclosed sense, the Hall contrasts greatly with some Colleges, not only in its size but also in the highly secluded nature of its architecture: Colleges as varied as Christ Church, Keble and Mansfield are open and airy in their design and lay-out; however, it is as if Campion Hall has an unspoken notice outside its building which says: 'Keep out!' (To some extent, the entrance of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, seems to give a similar sense as at Campion Hall.)

Unlike at some Oxford Colleges, it is unclear how proactively the Hall authorities promote visits from members of the public. I myself was able to see the exterior of the building from Brewer Street, but did not enter it. The central court of the Hall and the Chapel are thus seen by relatively few visitors to Oxford.

The head of the Hall is known as the Master. The Hall is named for Edmond Campion (1540-1581), a Jesuit executed for treason in the reign of Elizabeth I (3).

Campion Hall is among the smallest of the constituent institutions of the University.

March 12, 2014

(1) More formally the Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1540. Most of the Oxford Colleges are affiliated with one or other of the Protestant churches, particularly the Anglican church, although some have chapels used by United Reformed, Unitarian or — as is the case with Campion Hall — Roman Catholic adherents; some Colleges do not have chapels. The religious affiliation of some Colleges has become far less emphatic than at their founding; Campion Hall, however, retains a very strong sense of clerical identity.

(2) Other works by Architect Lutyens include: the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London; the Presidential Residence (former Viceroy's House), New Delhi; the India Gate, New Delhi; Castle Drogo, Devon; Old City Hall Cenotaph, Toronto, and many others.

(3) This was in a period when the Pope had called for the overthrow of Elizabeth I.

Some sourcing: wikipedia

Map location of Oxford, in Oxfordshire.
Map location of Oxford, in Oxfordshire. | Source

Also worth seeing: In Oxford itself, included among the numerous visitor sites are: the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College; the Bodleian Library; Oxford Castle; the Ashmolean Museum; Christ Church; Magdalen College Tower and Magdalen Deer Park; the University's Botanic Gardens; the Radcliffe Camera; the Sheldonian Theatre; Keble College Chapel; Carfax Tower; the many spires and towers of church and College buildings which cause Oxford to be called 'the City of Dreaming Spires'; and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Oxford: 77 kilometres. Oxford links by rail to London Paddington Station. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to contact the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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