St John's College, Oxford

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St John Baptist College

St John's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel. The college is reputed to be the wealthiest in Oxford, with an estimated financial endowment of £304 million as of 2006,[1] and its undergraduate finals results regularly place it at or near the top of the University's Norrington Table, in which it currently ranks 4th.[2]



On 1 May 1555, Sir Thomas White, lately Lord Mayor of London, obtained a Royal Patent of Foundation to create an eleemosynary institution for the education of students within the University of Oxford. White, a Roman Catholic, originally intended St John's to provide a source of educated Roman Catholic clerics to support the Counter-Reformation under Queen Mary, and indeed Edmund Campion, the Roman Catholic martyr, studied here.

White acquired buildings on the east side of St Giles', north of Balliol and Trinity Colleges, which had belonged to the former College of St Bernard, a monastery and house of study of the Cistercian order that had been closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Initially the new St John's College was rather small and not well endowed financially. During the reign of Elizabeth I the fellows lectured in rhetoric, Greek, and dialectic, but not directly in theology. However, St John's initially had a strong focus on the creation of a proficient and educated priesthood.[3]

White was Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company, and established a number of educational foundations, including the Merchant Taylors' School. Although the College was closely linked to such institutions for many centuries, it became a more open society in the later 19th century. (Closed scholarships for students from the Merchant Taylors' School, however, persisted until the late 20th century.) The endowments which St John's was given at its foundation, and during the twenty or so years afterward, served it very well and in the second half of the nineteenth century it benefited, as ground landlord, from the suburban development of the city of Oxford and was unusual among Colleges for the size and extent of its property within the city.

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