Merton College ★☆☆
The oldest college at Oxford has great architectural heritage and JRR Tolkein memories
Merton College is the oldest at Oxford, established in 1264.
It has matriculated Nobel laureates and other luminaries like the American poet TS Elliott, William Harvey (the early 17C physician who first described the circulation of blood), and Sir Thomas Bodley (who established Oxford's famed Bodlien Library in 1602).
JRR Tolkien served as the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature from 1945–59.
Merton is also the college where a team translated the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation for the new King James Version of the Bible in 1604–08.
The Mob Quadrangle retains oldest parts of the college, the Treasury, built in the 1280s along the north and east sides. The quire of Merton Chapel also dates to the 1280s.
Merton's library's odd collections include Chaucer's astrolabe.
Merton remains a significant college. In 2003, Mertonian Tony Leggett shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for "pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids," and in 1994, two decades after studying here, Sir Andrew Wiles (b. 1953) proved the 350-year-old Fermat’s Last Theorem, making him arguably the world's most famous living mathematician (and securing him a spot to return as a professor).
Merton College offers 50-minute tours of the College and Old Library from July to September at 2pm and 3pm daily.
Space is limited, so try to book ahead.
Tours cost £5, and include the college admission fee (so, technially, they cost £2).