Magdalen College

Magdalen College (pronounced “maudlin”) was founded in 1458 by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester. It was one of the largest and wealthiest Colleges in Oxford, supporting many Fellows and scholars, as well as a chapel choir. Its buildings and gardens are among the finest of any College in Oxford. Famous alumni include Cardinal Wolsey, Joseph Addison, Edward Gibbon, Oscar Wilde, and Dudley Moore.

The archives contain financial documents from the 1480s onwards, many title deeds, going back to the early 1100s, and estate papers (including maps) relating to the College’s properties, which stretched from Wiltshire up to Lincolnshire.  Some of our title deeds relating to properties in Oxford, Hampshire and Sussex have have been published (see below). The College has a large collection of architectural drawings relating to its buildings (see below for a published catalogue). There are very few records relating to old members before the 20th century. However, there are two important published series of biographical registers compiled in the 19th century by J. R. Bloxam and W. D. Macray. The Archives include several important collections of personal papers from former Presidents, Fellows, and old members.

Magdalen College should not be confused with Magdalen Hall. Magdalen Hall, which was founded in the early sixteenth century, was situated alongside Magdalen College for many years, but was a totally separate institution. In the 1820s, Magdalen Hall moved to a new home, opposite the Bodleian Library, on a site occupied by the recently-defunct Hertford College, and then, in 1874, following a major benefaction, Magdalen Hall was refounded as a new incarnation of Hertford College, which name it holds to the present day. All records, therefore, relating to Magdalen Hall are kept at Hertford College. See this webpage for more information about the archives of Hertford College, and how to obtain access to them.


Archivist: Dr Richard Allen

Opening hours: Mondays to Fridays, 9:30-12:30 and 14:00-16:30 (by appointment only).

Address: Magdalen College, Oxford OX1 4AU

Phone:    01865-276088



Further Reading:

L. W. B. Brockliss (ed.), Magdalen College Oxford: A History (Oxford, 2008).

David Roberts (ed.), Hidden Magdalen  (Oxford, 2008).

A major biographical register of Magdalen's Choristers, Clerks, Chaplains, Organists, Masters of Magdalen College School, and Demies up to the 1850s is provided in:

J. R. Bloxam, A Register of the Presidents, Fellows, Demies, Instructors in Grammar and in Music, Chaplains, Clerks, Choristers, and Other Members of Saint Mary Magdalen College in the University of Oxford, 8 vols. (Oxford, 1853–85).

Magdalen’s other great biographical register, which contains material on our Fellows to the early 20th century, is:

W. D. Macray, A Register of the Members of St. Mary Magdalen College, Oxford from the Foundation of the College: New Series, 8 vols. (Oxford, 1894–1915).

Between 1911 and 1997 eight editions of biographical registers of living Old Members of the College have been published

Aspects of the architecture of Magdalen College are discussed in:

Christine Ferdinand, An Accidental Masterpiece: Magdalen College’s New Building and the People Who Built it (Oxford, 2010).

Roger White and Robin Darwall-Smith, The Architectural Drawings of Magdalen College Oxford: A Catalogue (Oxford, 2001).

Editions and calendars of some of our title deeds can be found at:

H. E. Salter, Cartulary of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist (3 vols, OHS lxvi & lxviii–lxix, 1914–16).

W.D. Macray, Calendar of Charters and Documents relating to Selborne and its Priory  (2 vols, Hampshire Record Society, 1891 and 1894).

L. F. Salzman, The Chartulary of the Priory of St. Peter at Sele (Cambridge, 1923).

The history of Magdalen College Boat Club is discussed in:

Mark Blandford-Baker, Upon the Elysian Stream: 150 Years of Magdalen College Boat Club, Oxford (Oxford, 2008).