English Boy Choir Costumes: New College, Oxford

Figure 1.--This photograph of the choir was probably taken about 1980.


New College Oxford is actually over 600 years old. The College was founded in 1379, about 200 years after the University came into existence.


New College is one of the largest and best known colleges at Oxford, and undeniably one of the most beautiful. The front quadrangle, dining hall, chapel and cloisters were built within a few years of the College's foundation. This was the first time at Oxford time that an entire scheme had been built in this way, and it formed a model for later colleges. Over the centuries some reconstruction and much new building has taken place. In the 19th century there was a great expansion of rooms for undergraduate students, and in the 1960s a new building for graduate students was added to the main site. More recently, the original Morris Garages, which are within New College's perimeter, have been converted to provide attractive undergraduate accommodation. In 1995 a new residential building for graduates was opened on the Sports Ground site, 5 minutes walk from the main College.


Mew College now bosts of about 400 undergraduate and nearly 200 graduate students. Nearly half are women, and in terms of ethnic, social, and national background our students form a very diverse body. The College is noted for its open and friendly atmosphere, and undoubtedly its large and central site in Oxford contributes to this feeling.


New College is a self-governing community within Oxford University. The governing body consists of the Warden (the head of the College) and Fellows, with both undergraduate and graduate students represented on the governing body. Most Fellows of the College are both College Tutors and University Lecturers in the subjects which are taught here. Others are University Professors and Junior Research Fellows who do not all engage in tutorial teaching. They take part in the intellectual life of the College however, and their presence is particularly valuable for many of our graduate students.

Figure 2.--.

Intelectual Community

New College is, of course, first and foremost an intellectual and educational community. Most Fellows are engaged in academic research as well as teaching, and many of them are world experts in their subject. The College is a place in which staff and students alike engage in a lively exchange of ideas which encompasses a vast range of subjects. For all members of New College, the experience of discussion not only with specialists in one's own field but also with experts in very different disciplines is an exciting and enriching one.


The boys' Choir of New College Oxford has a worldwide reputation through its recordings (over 70 CDs in the catalogue) and concert tours (the USA, Australia, much of Europe and even Brazil). At the same time it is still recognisably what the founder of New College, William of Wykeham, envisaged in the fourteenth century: a choir of sixteen choristers and a dozen or so clerks whose duty was, and still is, to provide a sung liturgy in the grandest chapel to be built in Oxford.

The tradition of singing at New College goes back to 1379 when the College was founded. The sixteen boy choristers of the foundation have remained constant in number to this day. The adult singers are now drawn from the College (academical clerks) and from the city (lay clerks). The singing of daily choral evensong is the primary function of the Choir during University terms, and provides the raison d'Ítre for the Choir's continued existence into the 21st century. In addition to the Choir's reputation as one of the world's leading boys choirs, its work offers a first-class training to the young singers who pass through its ranks -- not only because of the quality of the training but also because of its association with one of the great universities of the world.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: August 24, 2000
Last updated: August 24, 2000