Regent's Park College, Oxford

Alternate uses: Regent's Park (disambiguation)

Regent's Park College is a Permanent Private Hall in the University of Oxford.


Origins in London

Regent's Park College has its origins in the days when those who were not Anglicans were not able to become members of Oxford and Cambridge, the only universities that then existed in England. The London Baptist Education Society was founded in 1752. In 1810, the Society became a collegiate institution, opening a Baptist College in Stepney, and in 1856 it moved to The Regent's Park in London, whence the name derives. As early as 1841 Regent's Park College was affiliated to the University of London and its students were able to read for university degrees in the Arts and Law, as well as training for Christian ministry. In 1901 the college became an official Divinity School of the University of London.

The move to Oxford

In 1927, the college moved to Oxford and in 1957 became a Permanent Private Hall of the University. From 1958 to 1972, Regent's underwent dramatic change under the leadership of its eleventh Principal, Gwynne Henton Davies (see Distinguished Old Members below). During this period the college once again started to accept non-ministerial undergraduates and new buildings were erected to accommodate them.

At the end of Trinity Term 2008 Greyfriars, Oxford will cease to function as a Permanent Private Hall and its current students will be transferred to Regent's Park.

Regent's Park today

Student experience

Regent's Park College is known for its friendly atmosphere and strong sense of community. Its Christian roots continue to inform its character, and while it still trains men and women for ordained ministry in Baptist churches, the college is thoroughly open and ecumenical in outlook. The college imposes no religious test or obligations on those who are not preparing for ordination, but offers students the opportunity, if they so wish, to explore and develop a 'Christian mind' about the world and academic learning, especially through the activities of its Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture.

It is, on the other hand, quite possible to enjoy a wholly secular university experience at Regent's Park if a student so wishes. The proportion of Christians among undergraduate and postgraduate students may be slightly more than in most other colleges, but is definitely less than in the other Permanent Private Halls. Interestingly, there are very few Baptists among the non-ministerial student body. A slight majority of the Fellows are ordained ministers (though not all Baptist) and others are lay Christians, but this is only to be expected given that most of the Fellowships are in Theology. Most of the non-Theology teaching (except English), and quite a lot of Theology teaching, takes place outside the College with Fellows of different colleges.

Many students from other colleges receive their tuition at Regent's, especially those taking options such as Process Theology, in which Regent's has a speciality. Regent's offers the Oxford experience such as it exists in few other colleges today. For a start, it is small; further, most students, as well as several members of staff, live on site, many of them in rooms surrounding the beautiful main quad.

Because the college is so small the proportion of JCR members who take part in rowing is likely to be greater than at larger colleges, even if those colleges have several crews. Despite the limited pool of talent from which rowers must be selected, crews are able compete equally against other colleges. The college has had rowers who have represented the University and Great Britain. The college does not perform as well in soccer, but has a better track record in netball.

Subjects offered

The college admits students to read for undergraduate degrees in Theology; Philosophy and Theology; English Language and Literature; Jurisprudence; Geography; Modern History; Literae Humaniores; Music; Modern Languages (combinations with German); Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; Psychology, Philosophy, and Physiology; Classical Archaeology and Ancient History; Human Sciences; and Modern History and Politics; and for graduate degrees in Theology; Women's Studies; English Language and Literature; Philosophy; and Ecclesiastical History.


The main college buildings, incorporating the hall, library, chapel, and Junior Common Room, as well as a large proportion of student accommodation, are neo-classical, dating from the early twentieth century. The college also owns 17th- and 18th-century houses as well as more recent developments, and is usually able to accommodate all undergraduates and a proportion of graduate students, including couples and families, which is rare for an Oxbridge college today. The Senior Tutor's house is the oldest domestic building on St Giles', dating to around 1600 and Grade II* listed. Next to it stands the Principal's Lodgings, which date from the late 18th century and are Grade II listed. When heads of houses and bursars made a tour of all the JCRs in Oxford they agreed that Regent's Park's wood-panelled common room, recently refurbished in the college colours, was one of the finest in the university. The main quad is particularly beautiful during the Trinity term, when the north wall is covered in red ivy.


The main library at Regent's Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is well stocked in theology, philosophy, English, and law (including a complete set of All England Law Reports). Other subjects covered include history, geography, politics, and economics. Members of the college also have access to the Bodleian Library and the various faculty libraries. Theologians from throughout the university from time to time have cause to visit the Regent's Park library in order to consult numerous non-British publications that have not been acquired by the Bodleian. Regent's also houses the Angus Library, which contains more than 70,000 items relating to the life and history of Baptists in Britain and the wider scene. The Library unites the original collection of historical materials gathered by Principal Joseph Angus in the nineteenth century with the libraries of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Baptist Historical Society, and the archives of the Baptist Missionary Society. It offers printed books, pamphlets, church minute books, manuscript letters and journals from the late sixteenth century to the present century. It contains the largest collection of Baptist periodicals anywhere. Finally, Regent's is home to the David Nicholls Memorial Library. The Nicholls Library contains around 4,000 volumes, especially in the areas of Caribbean studies, political philosophy, and political theology, including rare works that scholars come from around the world to consult.


Regent's Study Guides are a series of books which are characterised by the concern of the College to integrate careful theological thinking with the practice of pastoral care and service in society. Covering areas of biblical study, Christian doctrine and spirituality, the Guides relate their subject to current affairs, the arts, science, and a Christian life-style for the present age.

New Road Baptist Church

Regent's Park has close links with New Road Baptist Church, Bonn Square, one of the oldest Baptist churches in the world, with a history going back more than three hundred and fifty years. It is in this church that the Principal and Fellows are usually formally installed, and some of those fellows who are Baptist ministers regularly worship and preach there. The organ scholar of the college is organist and director of music at the church.



The principal ceremonial occasion in the college year is the Service of Valediction, which takes place on the afternoon of the last day of Full Term in Trinity (always a Saturday). The most important part of the ceremony is the signing of the register by members of the Junior and Middle Common Rooms whose periods of study have come to an end. This is different from the practice at other colleges that maintain a register (now a minority of colleges), where the signing takes place at the beginning of a student's course. Two Fellows (usually the Dean and the Bursar) take turns to introduce the candidates, in order of academic status (undergraduates, graduates, ordinands, visiting students), and then alphabetically, naming their previous educational establishments, mentioning distinguishing features of their time at the college, and suggesting their future destinations. The Principal supervises the signing of the name while the next candidate is announced. There are also hymns, prayers, and readings from the Bible, and the Principal reads his annual report. The ceremony is followed by a tea party in the main quadrangle. For many, if not most, members, the college Valediction is a more important event than the university degree ceremony. For both the ceremony and the party, doctors wear scarlet robes, masters and bachelors wear gowns and hoods, and undergraduates wear gowns, all with lounge suit or equivalent. The academic dress of universities other than Oxford may be, and often is, worn.

The College Grace

O God Our Creator and Our Redeemer,
For the community life of this college,
For this meal, and for all Your Gifts of Love and Peace (or Grace),
We give You thanks,
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

In order to preserve a certain element of spontaneity, the Principal does not decide whether he will say Peace or Grace until the moment before he utters the chosen word. Regent's Park is almost unique in not having a Grace in Latin.

In the early days of the college at Oxford there was a Latin grace which was thought to be composed by Dr Aubrey Argyle:

Agimus Tibi gratias, Omnipotens Deus, pro his et universis donis Tuis quae de Tua largitate sumus sumturi,
Per Jesum Christum, Dominum Nostrum. Amen.

At one late Michaelmas hall, in about 1965, there was a reading of the Christmas story from the Latin Vulgate.

Conduct in Hall

Not only is there no Latin grace, but it is strictly forbidden for any member of College to speak in Latin in Hall and in the old days offenders were thrown into a bath of cold water. It has also traditionally been the case that there is no Loyal Toast at college dinners. Around the turn of the millennium the Dean (then the Reverend Dr Jane Shaw) remonstrated with guests from a different college in order to prevent the Toast being proposed.

However, Regent's is paradoxically more traditional than perhaps any other college in that Grace is said at every meal, with students and dons alike standing behind their chairs until it has been said. Meals are then served by waiter service, again, something that most other colleges have discontinued except at formal hall.

Thomas Helwys

The college's main hall, used for dining as well for examinations and ceremonies, is called the Helwys Hall in commemoration of the witness of Thomas Helwys (c.1550-c.1616). It is also known, without apparent irony, as Hell Hall.

William Carey

One of the more unusual items of furniture housed in Regent's Park is the couch on which William Carey died at Serampore on 9 June 1834, speaking his last words, "Dr Duff! You have been speaking about Dr Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr Carey - speak about Dr Carey's God." The couch is still in use and is distinguished only by a small plaque announcing that it was the place of Dr Carey's death.

The College Tortoise

The Corpus Christi College Tortoise Fair is one of Oxford's most quintessentially Oxonian traditions. Once a year in late May, the beautiful college gardens play host to the Tortoise Race, which involves the tortoises being placed in the middle of a circle of lettuce leaves, with the first tortoise to reach the edge of the circle being declared the winner.

Regent's Park College's tortoise, named Emmanuelle and now aged around 90, was for many years the fastest tortoise in Oxford and was celebrated as such in the national media, even appearing on Blue Peter. She was eventually overtaken, but another Regent's Park tortoise, named Fred, was given to the college by an undergraduate whose parents' garden could no longer accommodate him after re-landscaping. In Trinity Term 2002 Fred won by a long head from the St John's College tortoise! However, under interesting circumstances Fred had to leave the college after his antics with Emmanuelle!

Emmanuelle was originally named Emmanuel, "God with us", which was more appropriate to the college's religious affiliation, but less appropriate to her sex: tortoises are very difficult to identify as male or female and it was not until a veterinary surgeon came to the college to train for ministry that the error was identified and the name changed.

The Senior Tutor also had a tortoise who lived in his garden and sometimes visited Fred and Emmanuelle in the main quad. Unfortunately this tortoise died after going missing for a year between Trinity 2005 and Trinity 2006.

The current College 'Tortoise Keeper', a highly esteemed position, is English undergraduate Samuel Evans.

College Slang

  • A subterranean complex comprising a laundry and bathrooms is affectionately called Sheol.
  • First year undergraduates are known as "monarchs". This is presumed (without apparent evidence) to be a reference to George III, the monarch during the Regency of Prince George, after whom was named The Regent's Park in London, which in turn gave its name to the college. "Monarch duties" are the tasks carried out by "monarchs" to ensure the smooth running of the Junior Common Room.
  • An informal forum for college geographers, known as the 27/11 Society, has been in operation since 1994.

Senior Common Room


Professorial Research Fellow and Principal Emeritus

  • The Reverend Paul Fiddes MA DPhil DD (Oxon) (Professor of Systematic Theology in the University of Oxford): Professorial Research Fellow: Principal Emeritus


  • Pamela Sue Anderson MA MLitt DPhil (Oxon) (Reader in Philosophy in the University of Oxford): Tutor in Philosophy, Women's Advisor
  • The Reverend Timothy Bradshaw MA (Oxon) BTh PhD (Nottingham): Tutor in Christian Doctrine, Senior Tutor, Admissions Tutor
  • John H Y Briggs MA (Cantab) FSA FRHistS (Honorary Professor of History, and former Pro-Vice-Chancellor, in the University of Birmingham): Senior Research Fellow in Church History, Director of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage
  • David Harper MA status (Oxon) BSc (Warwick): Bursar
  • The Reverend Larry J Kreitzer MA status (Oxon) MDiv (USA) MTh PhD (London): Tutor in New Testament, Dean of Degrees, Tutor for Graduates
  • Professor Wiard Popkes BD DrTheol: European Baptist Fellow in New Testament
  • P Julian Thompson MA DPhil (Oxon): Tutor in English Language and Literature
  • The Reverend Barrington R White MA DPhil (Oxon) FRHistS: Principal Emeritus
  • The Reverend Nicholas J Wood BA (Manchester) MA (London) MA status DPhil (Oxon): Tutor in Religion and Culture, Dean, Director of the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, Director of MTh Programmes


Distinguished Old Members

Further information

  • Robert E. Cooper, From Stepney to St Giles': the Story of Regent's Park College, 1810-1960 (London: Carey Kingsgate Press, 1960) (148 pages, illustrated)


External links

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