Founded in 1868, Keble was the first Oxford college to be built of brick rather than stone; the first to be built by public ... More
Founded in 1868, Keble was the first Oxford college to be built of brick rather than stone; the first to be built by public subscription rather than by a wealthy benefactor; and the first to be built with corridors instead of rooms leading off staircases. Keble's red, yellow and blue brickwork provokes a variety of reactions, and certainly makes this college stand out from the others. Inside, the chapel walls are decorated with Venetian mosaics, and to assure their authenticity, craftsmen and an oven were imported from Venice so that the work could be carried out on site.
Keble was once derided as an example of Victorian architecture at its worst, but opinions change and it is now seen as a major example, and certainly the best in Oxford, of a Gothic Revival building.Its architect William Butterfield was a master of the use of brick, a rarely used material in a city dominated by stone, but cost could have been a factor in this since it was one of the most poorly endowed colleges in the University, a fact which contrasts oddly with its size (it has the biggest hall in the University). Built very much as a memorial to John Keble, one of the leading lights in the Oxford Movement in the mid 19th century, and with a strong High Anglican flavour, it now takes its place as one of the biggest, in terms of membership, University bodies. JBP
Whilst Keble College may frequently be referred to as 'the ugly college' of Oxford University, I think it's merits are often terribly overlooked. Admittedly it may be the only red bricked college and that in itself has made it the target of much abuse but few realize that at the expense of the classic stone Keble has gained something that many of the other colleges lack - individuality. Keble is a very new college in the grand scheme of Oxford and due to lack of funding at it's construction was severely curtailed from the original vision. The brickwork is made up of not only red but also blue and white bricks, a fact that was the basis for the 'destroy Keble' secret society. The society relied upon members covertly removing bricks from the buildings in the hope that one day nothing but the foundations would remain. If a potential activist removed a red brick then they were allowed to become a member, if it was a white brick then they entered higher up in the social ladder and if they managed to detach a blue brick then they were automatically promoted to chair. As you will notice on touring Keble this is all due to the frequency of the colours in the brickwork. The other notable detail about keble is the chapel; this houses the 'light of the world' painting which whilst i don't know the full details is a much valued artwork. Keble is a college that has been extended over the decades, and has in some ways suffered and benefitted from it. The 1960s addition can be seen as somewhat of an eye-sore but it has provided the so-called 'spaceship' bar that is (in)famous throughout the university. If I have so far failed to convince you that Keble is worth a visit then mentioning the much coverted hall and quads can do little to rectify this. It may not be the most attractive college in Oxford but it definitely has the most character.
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