Mob Quad is a four-sided group of buildings from the 13th and 14th centuries in Merton College, Oxford
Merton College, Oxford
Merton College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its foundation can be traced back to the 1260s when Walter de Merton, chancellor to Henry III and later to Edward I, first drew up statutes for an independent academic community and established endowments to...
surrounding a small lawn. It is often claimed to be the oldest quadrangle
In architecture, a quadrangle is a space or courtyard, usually rectangular in plan, the sides of which are entirely or mainly occupied by parts of a large building. The word is probably most closely associated with college or university campus architecture, but quadrangles may be found in other...
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...
, but Merton's own Front Quad was certainly enclosed earlier and the same form was probably developed independently elsewhere. The claim is also disputed by Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Corpus Christi College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It is notable as the only college founded by Cambridge townspeople: it was established in 1352 by the Guilds of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary...
which claims that its own Old Court is the oldest structure of its type in either Oxford or Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...
. The pattern has since been copied at many other colleges and universities worldwide.
It was built in three distinct phases. The oldest part is the college's Treasury or Muniment Room
A Muniment or Muniment of Title is a legal term for a document, or other evidence, that indicates ownership of an asset. The word is derived from munimentum, the Latin word for a defensive fortification...
that stands above and behind the arch in the north east corner. The roof of this part is strikingly steep and is made of stone in order to protect it (and its contents) from fire. The steep pitch of the roof is necessary to support the weight of the stone. The present roof was restored with new Purbeck stone
Purbeck Marble is a fossiliferous limestone quarried in the Isle of Purbeck, a peninsula in south-east Dorset, England.It is one of many kinds of Purbeck Limestone, deposited in the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous periods....
in 1966. The upper floor has always been used to store the college muniments, the ground floor was probably the original bursary
A bursary is strictly an office for a bursar and his or her staff in a school or college.In modern English usage, the term has become synonymous with "bursary award", a monetary award made by an institution to an individual or a group to assist the development of their education.According to The...
. It is not known exactly when the building was completed, but there are references to it in the college accounts for 1288 and 1291. The fact that the Muniment Room was built above a vaulted arch suggests that the range of buildings to the south was either planned at the time of the original design or replaced an existing building.
This range to the south of the Muniment Room (the East side) was complete by about 1310–1320. The matching North side is probably slightly earlier and apparently stands on the site of the former church of St John, which was no longer needed once the new chapel was complete. Evidence shows from the college accounts shows that the old church was being used as rooms by 1308, and it is possible that parts of its structure were incorporated into the new building.
These buildings were designed, and are still used, as accommodation for members of the college. They consist of three storeys of rooms, the third being built in the steeply-pitched attics. The rooms are arranged in sets on either side of central wooden staircases. The walls are thick and faced in rag-finished Cotswold stone
Cotswold stone is a yellow oolitic limestone quarried in many places in the Cotswold Hills in the south midlands of England. When weathered, the colour of buildings made or faced with this stone is often described as 'honey' or 'golden'....
. There are no chimney
A chimney is a structure for venting hot flue gases or smoke from a boiler, stove, furnace or fireplace to the outside atmosphere. Chimneys are typically vertical, or as near as possible to vertical, to ensure that the gases flow smoothly, drawing air into the combustion in what is known as the...
s: they had not been invented when the buildings were first completed, and although all the rooms had fireplaces and chimneys by about 1600, they have been removed in modern times as the coal fireplaces have been replaced with electric heating.
The south and west ranges which complete the quadrangle were built in 1373–1378. They were built to provide more accommodation (on the ground floor) and to house the expanding college library
Merton College Library
Merton College Library is one of the earliest libraries in England and the oldest library in the world in continuous daily use . The library is housed in several parts of the college, and houses a priceless collection of early printed books and more than 300 medieval manuscripts...
(on the upper floor). The old part of the library is still there, and, still expanding, it also now occupies most of the ground floor as well (and other parts of the college). The large dormer windows were added as part of Warden Savile's
Sir Henry Savile
Sir Henry Savile was an English scholar, Warden of Merton College, Oxford, and Provost of Eton.-Life:He was the son of Henry Savile of Bradley, near Halifax in Yorkshire, England, a member of an old county family, the Saviles of Methley, and of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Ramsden.He was...
rebuilding work which began in 1589.
The origin of the name "Mob Quad" is obscure. On older plans and accounts the quad is called variously Little Quadrangle, Old Quadrangle, Bachelors' Quadrangle (that is, B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...
Fellows), Postmasters' Quadrangle, and Undergraduates' Quadrangle (at least after the construction of Fellows' Quadrangle). The word "mob", derived from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...
mobile vulgus (the fickle crowd) does not appear in English until the late 17th century, and was not commonly used for Mob Quad until the end of the 18th century. It was possibly originally a humorous description of the occupants.
The lawn is a 20th-century addition.