Building the Great Hall

The Great Hall was designed by Edmund Thomas Blacket in 1854. Blacket was originally the Colonial Architect, but when he accepted the Senate’s commission to design the University buildings, he resigned his government post and set up in private practice. Blacket proposed that the University be built in the style of what he called Tudor Perpendicular Gothic - on the scale of the London Guildhall, the Banqueting House at Hampton Court Palace and Westminster Hall. Construction on the buildings began in 1854.

During 1855 the walls of the Great Hall were completed to a height of 21 feet (Report of Senate, 1855, p. 158). By the end of 1856, work had commenced on the whole of the eastern front – the Great Hall was 135 feet, by 45 feet, by 71 feet high. (Report of Senate, 1856, p. 87-88)

For details of the official opening of the Great Hall in July 1859, click here

The University Archives holds the personal papers of Edmund Thomas Blacket.


Externally the Great Hall is crenellated with a corner turret to the north east. The eastern gable has central stained glass window with carved tracery, as does the western facade. The stained glass symbolises Oxford and Cambridge. The central finial of the eastern gable was originally surmounted by a carved Angel of Knowledge which was removed in 1874.