450th Anniversary/
12 Objects

Welcome to 12 Objects – a 450th Anniversary digital exhibition series which brings to life the story of Jesus College through some of the objects in our collection.

Curated by a range of experts led by Helen Morag Fellow Professor Paulina Kewes and College Archivist Dr Robin Darwall-Smith, this series tells the stories of the people who have made the Jesus College community what it is today. Each month we reveal a new object, tell you about it’s history and hear from one of our expert curators.

You can watch all the published videos in this series on the Alumni YouTube channel here.

Object 1 - The First Two Charters of Jesus College

By Dr Norman Jones, former Senior Research Fellow and Elizabethan historian


The First Charter of Jesus College was granted by Elizabeth I on June 27 1571. it declared the incorporation of ‘Jhesus Colledge within ye City and University of Oxforth of Quene Elizabethes foundation.’

It named its first Principal, David Lewis, its eight fellows, and eight scholars.  The fellows were mostly Welsh lawyers; the scholars had nothing to do with Oxford and never matriculated.  It recognized Hugh Price as making the founding gift of £60 in annual rents (£15,000 in modern money) though it did not name him as founder. It declared the object of the foundation to be to fight against ‘heresies and impieties’ (i.e. Catholicism) and to produce scholars of ‘true Christian’ (i.e. Protestant) theology; and it mentioned nothing about serving the Welsh nation.

The £60 endowment was too small and very hard to collect, even though Price augmented the first gift with 60 Marks [about £15,700] cash and his books when he made his will. The committee appointed in the charter to write the foundation statutes did not do its job, either.  Consequently, Jesus had to be re-chartered in 1589.

Dr Norman Jones talks about the Charter in a new #Jesus450 film here.

Read a partial translation of the Charter here.

Object 2 - Charles I Watch (1630s)

By Dr Felicity Heal, Emeritus Fellow


This watch, likely made by the royal watchmaker Edward East in the 1630s, is one of the smallest treasures in the College’s collection. It is also one of the most mysterious.

Donated to College by our great 17th century Principal Leoline Jenkins, we don’t know for certain who owned it prior to him. However, it has long been conjectured that it was part of the possessions of Henrietta Maria, wife to Charles I. Was this one of the watch-loving King’s many timepieces? And what does it reveal about Leoline Jenkins?

Emeritus Fellow Dr Felicity Heal reveals what we know about this beautiful timepiece, and introduces us to another item from our collection with links to Charles I. Watch here.

Object 3 - The Red Book of Hergest

By Emeritus Fellow and Former Chair of Celtic, Professor Thomas Charles-Edwards


The Red Book of Hergest is one of College’s most precious treasures. It is the largest single Medieval manuscript collection of Welsh literature and history, containing both poetry and prose. In a new film, Emeritus Fellow and Former Chair of Celtic, Professor Thomas Charles-Edwards explores the history and scribal composition of the Red Book, its annotations by successive readers, and the story about how College came to own this unique literary object. With special thanks to Dr Andrew Dunning, Supernumerary Fellow in Book History, for the beautiful videography of The Red Book.

Watch here

Object 4 - Punch Bowl (1732), Sir Watkin Williams Wynn

By Professor Peter Davidson, Lecturer in English


The magnificent ten-gallon silver-gilt punch bowl was given to the College by the Welsh alumnus, magnate and politician, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1692-1749). The occasion of the presentation was the award of an honorary doctorate in 1732. The bowl weighs over 200 ounces (5.7 kg) and is by far the most substantial and memorable piece of college plate. It has not only served at table at the St David’s Day feast, but has apparently in emergency served the college Chapel as an improvised font.

Sir Watkin, like many other Oxonians in the first half of the eighteenth century was a Jacobite and a firm, if prudent, supporter of the restoration of the exiled Stuarts. So much so that to drink the health of ‘Sir Watkin Williams Wynn’ was a coded substitute for drinking the health of the Pretender. Thus, this fine piece of Georgian silver has a part to play as witness not only to the long and happy Welsh connections of the College, but to the dissident politics of eighteenth-century Oxford. Professor Peter Davidson explores the hidden political history of the punch bowl in a special 450th video here.

Object 5 - The Collected Works of James 1 (1616)

By College Librarian, Owen McKnight, Senior Research Fellow, Professor Sue Doran, and Helen Morag Fellow, Professor Paulina Kewes


Our edition of the Collected Works of James I is one of the highlights of the books housed in our 17th century Fellows’ Library. It houses 11,500 volumes, with the oldest book printed a century before the College’s foundation, and still older manuscripts deposited for safekeeping in the Bodleian. The personal libraries of five Principals are preserved in the Fellows’ Library, together with the printed ‘bookes in latine and greeke’ bequeathed by Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury.

College Librarian Owen McKnight, Senior Research Fellow, Professor Sue Doran, and Helen Morag Fellow, Professor Paulina Kewes, explore the Fellows’ Library and its treasures in a new film here, including copies of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s Life and Reign of Henry VIII, the Collected Works of James I, the First Folio of Ben Jonson, and the Second Folio of William Shakespeare.

Object 6 -T E Lawrence’s History Finals Thesis (1910)


Few dissertations have invited as much public interest, or as much scholarly discussion, as the dissertation written by Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888–1935)—the future ‘Lawrence of Arabia’—and submitted before his finals in 1910. This dissertation, entitled ‘The influence of the Crusades on European military architecture to the end of the twelfth century’, was the product of a remarkable research expedition undertaken by Lawrence in the summer of 1909. Read more here.

Dr Ayoush Lazikani, Lecturer in English at Jesus College, and Dr Hugh Doherty, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, explore the composition of T E Lawrence’s Finals thesis and what unique insights it gives us as to the interests, thoughts, and ambitions of the young Jesus undergraduate who would become ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in a film here.

Object 7 -Photograph of the Jesus College Cricket XI (1903)


Today, we reveal the 7th treasure in our #JC450 12 Objects series – this wonderful photograph of Jesus College’s Cricket XI (1903). The photo includes (back row, right) John Christopher Wilberforce Rock (1882-1946), the first black undergraduate to attend the College.

Object 8 - Harold Wilson’s banner in Chapel (c. 1977)

By Professor Patricia Clavin FBA, Professor Richard Bosworth, and College archivist Dr Robin Darwall-Smith


James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, PC, FRS, FSS (1916 -1995) attended Jesus College from 1934 – 1937, studying Modern History and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He went on to serve as Prime Minister twice, from 1964 -1970 and again from 1974 -1976. Following his second term as Prime Minister, Wilson was created a Knight of the Garter and awarded a banner (c. 1977) which was hung in St George’s Chapel Windsor. Following Wilson’s death, the banner came to College and is now displayed in our own Chapel.

Professor Patricia Clavin FBA, Professor Richard Bosworth, and our archivist Dr Robin Darwall-Smith discuss the banner, Wilson’s student essays, and his time at Jesus in a video here.

Object 9 - Flagstone commemorating admission of women (2014)

By Professor Yvonne Jones


The 9th treasure in our #JC450 12 Objects series is the flagstone commemorating the admission of women in 1974. Jesus was one of the first 5 Oxford Colleges to become co-ed and, on the 40th anniversary, a flagstone was installed at our Turl Street entrance.

Professor Yvonne Jones explains more about the College’s involvement in the co-ed movement in a film here.

Object 10 - Photograph of College Staff (1969)


It may be the Fellows or the students of an Oxbridge College which attract most attention, but no College could function without its non-academic staff working away in the background, whether they are cleaning rooms, cooking and serving food, or helping administer the different departments of the College. Staff members have an essential role in College life, but it is one that is easy to pass over. This object, therefore, aims to pay tribute to College members of staff in this anniversary year.

In 1969 a group photo was taken of all College members of staff. Surprisingly, perhaps, this appears to be the earliest such photo in our archives. There are some remarkable links, though, with earlier ages: one of the staff members photographed was Fred Reeley, who had first come to work at the College in 1900, became Head Porter, and carried on doing so for us until he finally retired in 1970, after seven decades’ service to Jesus. The photo also shows many women then working for the College – clear proof that Jesus was not a completely all-male establishment before the first women students arrived in 1974.

In a new film, College Archivist Dr. Robin Darwall-Smith, Head Chef Anand Dube and Catering Team Member Anne Gahungu discuss the 1969 photo, and talk about how their roles differ from their predecessors. Watch here.

Muriel Chapman’s Chemistry Notebooks (1920s-1930s)

By Professor Kylie Vincent


Muriel Chapman’s notebooks offer a wonderful journey into the history of Chemistry and women at Jesus College. Spattered with chemical spills, they record the work of a pioneering early female Chemist and one of the first women to graduate from Chemistry at the University of Oxford.

Muriel was born in 1894 as Muriel Holmes, into an academic family: during her childhood, her father was a scholar and later Theology lecturer at Jesus College. Muriel, herself, turned to science, completing a BSc from Royal Holloway College, London in 1916. She then returned to Oxford, and took up work as a Chemist in the Leoline Jenkins laboratories at Jesus College. Muriel’s beautiful notebooks and her few publications give us just a glimpse of the successes and challenges of a pioneering female Chemist of the last century.

To find out more about Muriel Chapman’s notebooks and her life and work here at Jesus, watch a new video featuring Fellow and Tutor in Chemistry, Professor Kylie Vincent here.