7 months ago

This England

This England is the quarterly magazine for all who love our green and pleasant land and are unashamedly proud of their English roots. Published since 1968 the magazine has now become one of England’s best loved magazines and has a readership of over 115,000 people from around the world. As well as being popular in England it outsells all other British heritage magazines in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and is sent to readers in every country of the world. Published in Cheltenham, in the heart of picturesque Gloucestershire, the magazine is edited, printed and despatched direct from England. Subscribe today and celebrate all that is best about England and the English way of life.

The entrance to All

The entrance to All Souls’. Brasenose College, Oxford. PEARL BUCKNALL PEARL BUCKNALL Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. JOHN HUSBAND The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge rank alongside the military Academy of Sandhurst, the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), Eton College, the House of Lords and the Garter Ceremony as the epitome of British institutions, customs and elitism. These two universities have between them a host of decidedly unusual traditions that have persisted through the centuries. Oxford’s most mysterious Customs and Curiosities of Oxford and Cambridge college is All Souls’, which is closed to undergraduates and reserved exclusively for the crème de la crème of the university community. Its members are all fellows. Quite different from its august image and the presence of so many members of the academic elite is a custom called the Mallard Song, a strange little ditty that’s sung once a century (the next one is in 2101) at an even stranger ceremony held in the college. The fellows, all leading academics, are said to process around All Souls’ College carrying flaming torches. At the front of this odd procession is someone dressed as the “Lord Mallard”, carried in a chair, who is led by someone carrying a wooden duck tied to a pole (they used to use a dead duck). Apparently it dates back to the building of the college in 1437 when a giant mallard is said to have flown away from the college’s foundations. Over at Cambridge, Trinity College has its famous “Great Court Run”. It forms a central scene in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire directed by David Puttnam. Students try to run around the Great Court within the time it takes for the college clock to strike the hour of 12, including the preparatory chiming of the four quarters and the two sets of 12. The course is approximately 400 yards long. Depending upon how it is wound up, the clock takes between about 43 and 44½ seconds. It is traditional for athletically inclined members of Trinity to attempt the run every year at noon on the day of the Matriculation Dinner. It helps that the clock strikes each hour twice! Meanwhile back at Oxford there is the wonderful event called May Morning that takes place every year on 1st May. People gather at 6am on Magdalen Bridge to hear choristers sing madrigals at the top of Magdalen College Tower. Its origins are not clear, but scholars suggest it dates back to the building of the tower. It has remained the standard practice since the 17th century, when the carol “Hymnus Eucharisticus” was written at the college, thus preserving its enduring appeal. Over the years, Lincoln College and Brasenose College in Oxford have enjoyed a fierce rivalry. During an age-old town versus gown riot, an angry mob of city folk was chasing two students through the town: one from Lincoln, and one from Brasenose. Lincoln opened its doors to offer refuge to its own student but refused to help the Brasenose man, who was subsequently killed by the mob. At lunchtime on Ascension Day, an inter-connecting door between the two colleges is opened for five minutes. It is the only time that it is unlocked during the year, and Brasenose students are served a pint of The Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge. JOHN D. BELDOM Magdalen College and the River Cherwell in Oxford. KEN MARSHALL 28 THIS ENGLAND, Winter, 2017 2016

eer courtesy of Lincoln, as a form of apology for refusing to help their student in the past. Also on Ascension Day in Oxford at Lincoln College nine senior students go up to the roof of the front quad and hurl down hot pennies that were heated in the oven to children from local schools waiting below. In the past, the coins were red hot beforehand, and were supposed to be a lesson in discouraging greed. Thankfully these days children are allowed to pick up the pennies to boost their pocket money! Over at Cambridge the fellows of St. John’s College are the only people outside the Royal Family legally allowed to eat unmarked mute swans. Swan traps were originally built into the walls of the college alongside the river, but these are no longer used. The Crown (the British monarch) retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Companies, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the 15th century, and was extended to the college via ancient Royalist ties. Such is how some dons feast themselves! As for student drinking, “Pennying” is one of the most bizarre and carefully thought out drinking games on record. Invented at Oxford by both the dons and students during the 14th century, the aim of the game was to slip a penny into someone’s drink without their noticing. If you succeed, the person is said to have been “pennied” and has to down their drink in one. Once “pennied”, the pennier is asked what the date on the coin is. If they can’t answer correctly, they too have to down their drink. If you penny a drink that has already been pennied, you have to down the drink you pennied. A cunning way of getting a free drink! On the subject of free drinks, in the 1960s a law student, when revising for his final exams, discovered a statute that required the university to supply him, daily and free of charge, with two or three pints of ale in the months prior to his exams. The university governors acquiesced, and he was duly given two pints of beer a day. On the day of the exams, as he was about to enter the exam hall, he was stopped by the New Court, St. John’s College, Cambridge. JEFFERY WHITELAW invigilators and asked to write out a cheque for the cost of the beer, because he was not wearing a sword (a serious offence in the 15th century when the by-law was drafted). When it comes to exams, the two universities even have their own specialised vocabulary. At Oxford, your “battles” (Tudor-Stuart) were (and still are) your college bills; if you didn’t get to an exam you “ploughed” (1853) it; and academic “nudity” was the appearance in public without a cap or gown. At Cambridge, in Victorian times, a “brute” was one who had not matriculated and a “sophister” (1574) was an undergraduate in his second or third year. In both places a “whiffler” (c.1785) was one who examined candidates for degrees. And then for qualifications there is “sub fusc”. It is compulsory dress at certain events in Oxford, so if you ever see students walking around in long gowns, that’s sub fusc. It’s actually very complicated, as the dress varies quite a bit depending on what degree you are taking (i.e. BA, MA etc.), as well as whether you have a scholarship. The essentials are black suit, white shirt and white bow tie for men, and women must wear black skirt, black tie and white shirt, although as of 2012 at Oxford, men and women can wear either gender’s sub fusc. Gowns are of differing lengths with differing silk trims according to their status. “Commoners” for The Bodleian Library in Oxford whose main entrance (left) is known as the Tower of the Five Orders because it is ornamented with the columns of each of the five orders of classical architecture: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. ANDRIA MASSEY Right: The characteristic robe of a Doctor of Philosophy. THIS ENGLAND, Winter, 2017 2016 29

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