Wednesday, December 2, 2015

HERALDRY: St Edmund Hall, Oxford

Arms of St Edmund (Teddy)
Hall, an Oxford College
Andrew Page wrote in to Oxford Today after reading my article about the coats of arms of the Oxford Colleges. He asked for more detail. I responded, and am posting my response should there be further questions.

The Oxford colleges are a web of intricacies. St Edmund "Hall" is not a hall but (since 1957) a College, just as St. Regent's "College" is not a college but a Hall. As they say in New York City – "Go figure!"

Also, St Edmund Hall has long been known more by its initials S.E.H. and by the nickname Teddy Hall than by its official name.

Blazon: Or a cross patonce gules cantoned by four Cornish choughs proper. (Note: The four birds are also referred to as sea-pies and oyster-catchers. The choughs should not have the white wings shown in Brooke-Little's 1951 review of the Oxford coats of arms.)

Authority: The arms do not appear to have been granted. They were rather "discovered" as the arms of St Edmund by a Benedictine monk-detective, Dom Wilfred Wallace.

Nominee of Arms: The coat of arms is attributed to the Founder of the Hall, (St.) Edmund Rich of Abingdon, the first Oxford-educated Archbishop of Canterbury (1210-1233). Below the college arms is found the Latin chronogram-dedication Sanctus edmundus huius aulae lux (St Edmund, light of this Hall). The text is rendered as sanCtVs edMVndVs hVIVs aVLae LVX. Adding the numerals (the capital letters) gives 1246, which is the date of the canonization of St Edmund.

Institutional History. St Edmund is considered to have founded the eponymous hall in 1236. It is  the only surviving medieval Aularian house, giving the name of "Aularians" to SEH members. It acquired the status of a college in 1957, though retaining the historical name "Hall". It is named after Edmund Rich, St. Edmund of Abington, Oxfordshire, the first known Oxford Master of Arts. The name St Edmund Hall (Aula Sancti Edmundi) first appears in a 1317 rental agreement.

Physical History. St Edmund Hall is on the north side of High Street ("the High"). The front quadrangle – in the middle of which is a medieval well – is bordered by the porters' lodge, the Old Dining Hall (1659), the college bar and buttery (with a mid-15th-century fireplace), a chapel, and an Old (late 17th century) Library above. The quadrangle includes some accommodations for students and fellows. Modern accommodation and a dining hall are to the east of the quadrangle, and the college library is in the deconsecrated 12th-century church of St Peter-in-the-East, including a crypt that is still consecrated. To the north is a garden with a seated bronze figure representing Edmund as an impoverished student. The college also owns annexes at Norham Gardens, on Dawson Street, and on Iffley Road.

Intellectual and Religious History. The college has a history of being independent of both Church and State. During the late 14th and early 15th centuries it was a bastion of John Wycliffe's supporters; college principal William Taylor was ultimately burned at the stake, and principal Peter Payne fled the country. In the late 17th century, St Edmund Hall incurred the Crown's anger for encouraging its members to remain loyal to the Scottish House of Stuart and who refused to take the oath to the German House of Hanover (i.e., they were non-jurors).

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