History

Balliol has existed as a community of scholars on its present Broad Street site without interruption since about 1263. By this token it claims to be the oldest college in Oxford, and in the English-speaking world.

In 1260 a dispute between John de Balliol and the Bishop of Durham erupted into violence and Henry III condemned Balliol’s behaviour. The Bishop had Balliol whipped, and imposed a penance on him of a substantial act of charity. This he did, by renting a property and creating a house of scholars, which was soon known by his name.

After John de Balliol’s death in 1269, his widow, Dervorguilla of Galloway, guaranteed the future of the ‘House of the Scholars of Balliol’ by establishing a permanent endowment and giving it Statutes in 1282 – so bringing into being Balliol College as we know it today. The College celebrated its 750th anniversary in 2013.

The College’s patron saint is St Catherine of Alexandria. The College arms, taken from the back of Dervorguilla’s seal, show a lion rampant for Galloway and an orle for Balliol.

You can read more about the College’s history by visiting Balliol College Archives and Manuscripts, and you can send an enquiry to the college Archivist here.

You may also be interested in these pages on the history of the Chapel and the history of the Library.