Hertford has a wonderful history of morphing from one thing to another, following its conception in 1282, having been dissolved and reformed on a number of occasions. The college now offers a progressive climate that actively encourages applications from bright students who attend schools with no history of supplying Oxbridge. It has an high percentage of admissions from state schools and was in the first wave of Oxford colleges to accept women and now has an equal balance. The college educates 188 postgraduates along with 409 undergraduates in an environment where petty bureaucracy has long since been dispensed with. Some traditions are enthusiastically maintained with a Sunday Formal Hall ...view middle of the document...
Tyndale was martyred for his Protestantism, as was Alexander Briant for his Catholicism.
More recent graduates seem to have been drawn to the safer careers of lawyers, scientists and business leaders although some fancied a little more excitement and became spies.
Constantly under threat until Victorian times
Hart Hall (Herthalle) was one of several small halls situated by Hammer Hall Lane (now New College Lane ‚Äì New did not exist at the time), which included Hammer Hall, Black Hall, Shield Hall, Cat Hall and Arthur Hall. These small institutions were vulnerable to take-overs, mergers with each other and neglect by various owners. The head of house at one was often head at another.
In 1308 Walter de Stapledon purchased Hart Hall and Arthur Hall with the intention to create a college but found the sites unsuitable and moved his scholars to a new site in Turl Street founding Stapleton College, later to become Exeter College. Exeter retained significant control over Hart Hall which limited development. At one time Protestant Exeter viewed Hart as a subversive Catholic thorn in its side with several members migrating to the smaller institution.
In 1379 Hart Hall and Black Hall were rented by the fledgling New College to accommodate scholars while their college was being built. The original warden of New and his successor where also head of house at Hart. Evidence suggests that the brightest scholars were encouraged to study at New.
Eventually all the minor halls became merged to Hart Hall, which was the only one to boast a library.
The hall became Hertford College in 1740 but because of funding problems was taken over as Magdalen Hall (Not related to the college of the same name), only to revert back to Hertfordshire College as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1874, when super rich financier Sir Thomas Baring came to the rescue.
Philosopher Thomas Hobbes constructed his influential work on society, ‚ÄòLeviathan‚Äô, on site during the Magdalen Hall period and an inscribed copy can be found in the Old Library. Literature and the arts are still strongly represented and the college has been known to have a poet in residence, who offers writing workshops.
Benefactor Baring was a conservative man with a two fold mission: firstly he wanted to make Hertford much more secure and put an end to a history of uncertainty, and secondly he wanted a return to the old university ways -‚Äì to make a stand against the Victorian liberalisation of an Oxford that welcomed dissenters and Catholics. Unfortunately for Baring the fellows of Hertford, led by Principal Henry Boyd were hardcore liberal reformists fully embracing the new ideals.
The architect invited to help redefine the status of Hertford, was Thomas Jackson. This would prove to be a tricky balancing act as he not only inherited a collection of half-finished projects of varying styles, he also had to reconcile the differences between benefactor and principal. Jackson had a proven track record in both...