Greyfriars, Oxford

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Greyfriars, situated on the Iffley Road in East Oxford, was one of the smallest constituent Halls of the University of Oxford in England. Its previous status as a Permanent Private Hall (or PPH) referred to the fact that it was governed by an outside institution (the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, a Franciscan Order), rather than by its fellows as is a College.

Greyfriars had undoubtedly one of the most distinctive buildings in Oxford; it is the only flint-stone Norman-style building in the city, and its green spire is notably visible along the Iffley Road and from the University's famous sports ground.



The original Greyfriars church and friary was founded by the Franciscans in 1224, but was suppressed during the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The Friars had a long and esteemed history in Oxford, listing many famous alumni, including the English Statesman, Robert Grosseteste, also a theologian and Bishop of Lincoln, who became head of Greyfriars, Master of the School of Oxford from 1208, and the first Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Some time later, the Capuchin branch of the Order established a friary, known as St Anselm's, which was recognised by the University as a House of Studies in 1910. In 1919, the Friars moved to the current site on the Iffley Road – first naming it Grosseteste House after the first Head of the original Greyfriars – and on completion of the present building in 1930, the name of Greyfriars was adopted once more. The status of Permanent Private Hall was conferred upon Greyfriars by the University in 1957 and surrendered in 2008.

In 2007 Greyfriars celebrated 50 years of its PPH status, with considerable flourish, and an unusually high number of first-class undergraduate grades marked the year.

Controversy and closure

In March 2007, the Order announced without prior discussion to the Fellows or students its intention to withdraw from its ministry as a Permanent Private Hall of the University, for financial and personnel reasons and because the University appeared to be insisting on a more collegiate model for the Permanent Private Halls which, it was argued, would have made it untenable for the Friars, given their declining numbers of suitable personnel.

In July 2007, the University of Oxford published its Review of the Permanent Private Halls associated with the University of Oxford.[1] The Review expressed clear concerns about the viability of Greyfriars as a going concern within the University. In particular, it expressed concern about the way in which fellows were appointed, and library support was described as "clearly inadequate" (p. 14).

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