Former Liberal Anglican Theological College (1933–1975)

Foxcombe Hall, Boar’s Hill

Ripon Hall
Foxcombe/Ripon Hall on Boars Hill

Ripon Hall was first established at Ripon in 1898 by the diocesan bishop, William Boyd Carpenter, as a hostel for theological students. His vision for theological training was that ‘ordinands had to take on board the new need of society to seek scientific and ethical foundations for all knowledge, and recognise the truth that lay outside the boundaries of Christendom’. After amalgamation with Lightfoot Hall, Birmingham, it formed the Ripon Clergy College. The first Principal, appointed in 1906 and the most dominant figure in the history of the college for decades thereafter, was Henry Major. He struggled to promote the ideal of a liberal, modernising theological college in the face of anti-liberal views among the governors and in the diocese.

Space for reflection was provided by the closure of the college for the duration of the First World War, and Major concluded that a university location would provide a more nurturing environment for the ‘scientific and open-minded treatment of theological questions’. In 1919 the college removed to Oxford to a property in Parks Road, where the New Bodleian now stands, changed its name to Ripon Hall, and adopted the motto Nisi Dominus.

By 1929 circumstances required relocation. Foxcombe Hall on Boar’s Hill had been greatly enlarged and developed by the eighth Earl of Berkeley between 1897 and 1916 when it was his home. Striking features were the tower and the Italian garden, as well as the magnificent views. Here the new Ripon Hall opened in 1933.

In 1975 in response to the (national) decline in numbers of ordinands, Ripon Hall was merged with the theological college at Cuddesdon. This had been founded by Bishop Wilberforce in 1854 as a mainstream Anglican college, ‘free from party and sectarian disputes’. The merged college is now known as Ripon College Cuddesdon. Foxcombe Hall was the south-east regional headquarters of the Open University from 1976 to early 2017.

Source: Mark Chapman (ed.), Ambassadors of Christ, (2004), especially the essay on Ripon Hall by Michael Brierley

Ripon Hall


The plaque was unveiled at the former Ripon Hall, Foxcombe Hall, Boar’s Hill on 27 May 2004 as part of the college’s 150th Anniversary celebrations by the Very Revd Robert Jeffery, recently Sub-Dean of Christ Church and previously Dean of Worcester.

Ripon Hall plaque


Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


liberal Anglican 
theological college
was housed here

Ripon College Cuddesdon

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


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