– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

new year, new kitchen

2014 sees a complete refit of the kitchens under Balliol Hall. The kitchens serve hundreds of meals a day, and not only during term time but for staff and Fellows all year round and for conferences and outside catering much of the year as well. Balliol has very good food! but the kitchens badly needed updating. So for most of this year, all Balliol catering will be produced from a temporary kitchen in the Garden Quad. This necessary addition is in itself a bit of a blot on the landscape of Balliol’s green and pleasant pocket-handkerchief, so Balliol took inspiration from New College’s cunning disguise of its temporary kitchen (and dining facility) from last year, plus the lovely special collections features on the hoardings still up around the New Bod (OK, Weston Library) construction site, and has mounted a display of images and captions from Balliol’s history, drawn from last year’s 750th anniversary exhibition.

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First, an unusual view of the dorse of Dervorguilla de Balliol’s personal seal, rather than the more often seen face featuring her portrait. The side shown is the first known use of the Balliol shield as we know it today, the Galloway lion and the Balliol orle.

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Next come documents from the first century of Balliol history, a medieval donor portrait in stained glass from the chapel and an image from one of the manuscripts copied and decorated for the college’s 15th century Old Member and benefactor (particularly of the library!), William Grey, later Bishop of Ely.

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A good range of media is represented – works of art on paper, oil paintings, handwritten documents of various kinds on parchment and paper, coins, silver vessels, photographs, books… I hope the plague letter in the middle of the photo above is going to acquire a caption at some point – written in English by Thomas Sackville, first Baron Buckhurst and first earl of Dorset (c.1536–1608),
the Lord Treasurer and Chancellor of the University, and dated 29 August 1604, it warns the college, which has decamped to property it owns in Woodstock to escape an outbreak of plague in the city of Oxford, to keep within the boundaries of its own property and not to go anywhere near the royal court, which is also staying in Woodstock.

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There is a long break in the pictures for the rather interesting decades between 1892 and 1933, but perhaps the door in this blank space is symbolic – with WW1 commemorations beginning this year, we will be investigating the history of those decades from many angles and in a lot of detail elsewhere! (here on the blog for instance)

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So far the pictures extend to the 1980s – will images from the most recent 30 of Balliol’s 750 years appear around the next corner? stay tuned…

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