Magdalen Hall originally grew up in the early sixteenth century next door to Magdalen College, on the site of what is now St. Swithun’s Quad. In the early 1820s it moved to a site on Catte Street opposite the Bodleian Library, and in 1874 it was refounded as Hertford College, which name it still bears today.
Before you contact us with an enquiry, especially about a former undergraduate, please check first whether it relates to Magdalen College or Magdalen Hall. Despite the close similarity in our names, we were in fact separate institutions (see below).
If, therefore, your enquiry relates to a former member of Magdalen Hall, you should write to the Archivist of Hertford College, Dr Lucy Rutherford, at email@example.com. Due to a fire at the Hall, almost no archives of Magdalen Hall relating to its members survive from before the 1820s.
Magdalen College and Magdalen Hall – a brief history
The first Magdalen Hall was founded by William Waynflete ten years before Magdalen College, and was sited in the High Street. This foundation was suppressed when with Magdalen College was founded in 1458. For deeds relating to this institution see Misc. 372 (1448), Misc. 407/1–2 (1450), Misc. 436 (1454) and Misc. 208 (1455).
A second institution of the same name developed out of the grammar school in the sixteenth century. The buildings occupied part of the College site, fronting onto the Gravel Walk which led into the College, and forming part of the Grammar Hall complex of buildings, which were extended in 1518. The site was separated from Magdalen College by a wall. This Magdalen Hall was one of the many halls of residence that grew up in Oxford, originally in this case for boarding pupils of the grammar school. Later it became an academic institution in its own right. The earliest Principals were Fellows of Magdalen, and the Hall was treated as a type of charitable institution, paying a low rent of 40 shillings. The Hall flourished and at one time had 300 members, far more than the College. Its Principal, Fellows and members were quite separate from those of Magdalen College by 1694, when a dispute arose as to whether Magdalen College had the right to appoint the Principal. The College lost the case and it was decided that the Chancellor of the University had the right of appointment, and that the low quit-rent should be perpetuated.
As Magdalen College expanded it began to covet increasingly the site that was occupied by Magdalen Hall, and in order to regain control President Routh planned to move Magdalen Hall to another site. To this end he managed to acquire from the Crown a grant of the land and buildings in Catte Street escheated from Hertford College; these were transferred to Magdalen Hall by Act of Parliament in 1816. Magdalen College bore all the expenses of the removal of Magdalen Hall to the new site, including the provision of new buildings. The removal took place in 1822, two years after a fire destroyed most of the Magdalen Hall buildings on the High Street site. The College was then able to expand westwards, although it was not until 1879 that plans were adopted for St Swithuns quadrangle, which now occupies the former site of Magdalen Hall. Magdalen Hall merged in 1874 with the revived Hart Hall to form Hertford College.
The archives of Magdalen College do not contain any records of members of Magdalen Hall: these records probably perished in the 1820 fire. There are, however, a number of documents which record transactions or disputes between the two foundations. Hertford College holds records of Magdalen Hall from 1847 until the merger of 1874, and the names of earlier members can be obtained from Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses.
There are concise accounts of Magdalen Hall and Hertford College in Christopher Hibbert and Edward Hibbert, eds, The Encyclopaedia of Oxford (London: Macmillan, 1988). For published engravings of Magdalen Hall see Williams, Oxonia Depicta, plate lxiv and Loggan, Oxonia Illustrata; also H. M. Petter, The Oxford Almanacks (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974). The relationship between Magdalen Hall and Magdalen College is also explored in L. W. B. Brockliss (ed.), Magdalen College Oxford: A History (Oxford, 2008).