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Keble College, Oxford – A Visitor’s Guide

Keble College, Oxford – A Visitor’s Guide

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Planning a trip to Keble College, Oxford? Here’s what you need to know before you visit one of Oxford’s most esteemed colleges.

It’s official, Keble College will knock your socks off – and we’re not just saying that because we’ve got an alumni within our troops. Promise. 

The Victorian-Gothic masterpiece is often left out of many Oxford tourist lists and we can’t for the life of us figure out why. The college even holds the record of being longest in Oxford, as well as the most stunning. 

Ready to explore?

Why Visit Keble College, Oxford? 

Keble College Oxford

Because it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and you’ll be left standing with your mouth open murmuring ‘wow’ for at least a good three minutes, maybe four.

Dramatics aside, we’ve even heard rumours that the Harry Potter crew wanted to film the first film in Keble College but the college refused because they didn’t want to take down the paintings. 

Even though we can’t fully fact-check this rumour for you, you should without a doubt visit Keble to see it for yourself.

Take a Peek at Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World 

Holman Hunt Light of the World Keble College

When visiting the college, make sure you take a peep a Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World painting. It’s Keble’s prized possession.

The process of The Light of the World started when Hunt was in his twenties, but wasn’t completed until years later. He wanted it to be perfect, and wanted to perfect the dawn, but felt he couldn’t do that until he travelled to Bethlehem where he finally saw the perfect sunrise. 

Although we weren’t there for that sunrise, we know it must have been pretty perfect for him to create what he did. 

The picture has two lights shown, the lantern is the light of conscience and the light around the head is the light of salvation. The door is there to represent the human soul, which is impossible to be opened from the outside. Wow. Wow. Wow. 

The door doesn’t have a handle and has never been opened, Christ is standing and asking for permission to enter. The writing in the image is taken from Revelation 3: 

‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and opens the door I will come to in to him and will sup with him and he with me.’

It’s a pretty breathtaking piece by anyone’s standards and one you’re going to want to take some time to admire. The detail, the energy, the feel of it. 

All visitors to the Keble College chapel can easily see the masterpiece in the side chapel, just before the choir stalls. 

See the Biggest Dining Hall in Oxford 

Keble Hall

Yes, you read that right! The biggest dining hall in Oxford. First opened in 1878, the gorgeous gothic Keble College dining hall offers meals for up to 300 people… we don’t think we even know 300 people so this is a hard one to get our heads round. 

Think long wooden benches surrounded by magical portraits of iconic people from Kebel’s past. It’s practically the Great Dining Hall from Harry Potter.

Want to have a private dinner? Well, that’s possible, too. Even though private isn’t quite the word we’d choose for 300 people. 

Enjoy the Sunken Quad 

Keble College Sunken Quad

The college grounds are pretty epic too. Precise borders framing a traditional lawn quad (Keble actually has three quads, but we’re talking about the Liddon Quad, which is the main one) makes for a special spot of both living and relaxing. 

Until recently, it was thought that the sunken Liddon Quad was a deliberate feature by William Butterfield, the ground’s architect. 

Turns out that the land on which Keble was built was formerly a quarry and Butterfield had to heave plenty of earth into the college to raise the surrounding paths. He left the rest of the quad at its original level to save on costs – quite fortuitous really as the end result is pretty spectacular. 

Keble College’s History 

Keble Oxford College

Keble College opened its doors in 1870 – so is one of the more recent Oxford colleges.

Founded by John Keble (an English-Anglican poet/priest), the college’s first purpose was to create an Oxford education available to “gentlemen wishing to live economically”.

Essentially, it was founded on the message that it wanted to create and attempt to broaden the social depth of the students as the college was mostly Anglican.

John Keble was also a leading member of the Oxford Movement whose aim was to stress the Catholic nature of the Church of England. As a consequence, during its early years, the college’s teaching predominantly focused on theology, and it was only until after the Second World War that it added science courses to its roster.

Keble College Architecture 

Keble College Chapel Oxford1

Keble College wanted to be different, it was founded on difference, and it even physically looks different. From polychromatic brickwork by architect William Butterfield, it was there to mark a change and determine itself unlike any of its predecessors.

The college design was Butterfield’s masterpiece, the different colour bricks, stonework, and encaustic tiles are arranged in such a lively yet professional way.

As mentioned, the college was distinctive for breaking the rules and being different. Not only was that true in its appearance, but also breaking away from Oxbridge many traditions, one of them being the arrangement of rooms along corridors rather than having them swirl around a staircase.

Oxford’s Friendliest College or An Ugly Eyesore?

Keble College Chapel Oxford1

Right, back to the history. The college admits students through a full range of subjects for just about any career you could think of. It was only in 1979 that the college began to admit women, and in 1994 the college admitted its first female Warden.

Throughout the years, Keble has earned itself a reputation for many things. Some say it’s Oxford’s “friendliest” college (strongly agree), yet it’s also been accused of being the “the ugliest building in the world” (strongly disagree).

One story even claims that whilst a French visitor walked by, they screamed out how beautiful the railway station was. 

Regardless of any different views of the college, what we can say for sure is that Keble is striking and has made a real name for itself in history.

Notable Alumni of Keble College 

The Alumni of Keble College are pretty hefty, there’s a lot of them and there’s some amazing ones. Interestingly, a lot of creatives, actors, writers and change makers. 

Leslie Banks 

Leslie Banks, English stage and screen actor was one of them (and we really love him). He’s now remembered for playing menacing characters in the 1930s and 1940s, but was also incredibly versatile and acted in more traditional plays. 

Frank Cottrell Boyce

Another creative and favourite of the Keble College Alumni is Frank Cottrell Boyce, a screenwriter and novelist who also dabbled in acting – he’s best known for his children’s fiction, especially the sequels to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. He even got married in Keble College! 

Ben Brown

Next up we’ve got Ben Brown, who we’re sure you’ve seen on your screens time and time again bringing you those big updates – he’s a news presenter for BBC news.

Currently, Ben is a presenter on BBC News at One, BBC Weekend News, BBC News Channel and BBC World News. 

Imran Khan

One of the most famous Keble College Alumni was in fact, the Pakistan Prime Minister. Imran Khan has truly lived an interesting life. Pakistani politician, former cricketer who served as the 22nd prime minister of Pakistan until April 2022. 

He’s also the chairman (and founder) of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insad (PTI) – one of the biggest political parties in the country, as well as being ranked the world’s most influential muslims. And it all began at Keble College! 

How to Visit Keble College 

Keble College Oxford

Surely you’ve got enough reasons to visit one of Oxford’s best colleges now?

The public can visit Keble college free of charge everyday from 2pm to 5pm. It’s important to contact the porters before your visit, as the college sometimes has private events and could be closed. 

Also note that visitors can’t bring any animals into the college (bar assistance animals).  

Keble College Accommodation

If you’re keen to relive your uni years, you can even stay at Keble College. The real deal of all Oxford experiences would be staying at one of the Oxford Colleges. 

They offer a variety of different bedrooms, each very unique. Breakfast is included in your room rate AND served in the epic dining hall…. Imagine having your eggs in the best dining room in Oxford.

Map of Keble College, Oxford