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69741: Oxford Examination Schools

physical object
posted on 2023-12-07, 12:38 authored by Oxford At War Project Team

The historic Grade II listed Examination Schools is located on the main High Street in Oxford and was built by Thomas Jackson between 1876 and 1882. Its primary and original purpose was for the holding of University examinations as the number of exams had begun to increase as Oxford moved away from a reliance on oral exams more towards the current written format. It stands out on the High Street as one of the larger and more grandiose buildings with its Jacobean style and has also been the site of many public lectures and historic debates in its grand, large lecture rooms. During the Great War the number of undergraduate students in residence in Oxford fell sharply and examinations were not held regularly so the building was established and maintained as the 3rd Southern General military hospital, a territorial-force hospital. Although arrangements had been put in place by the War Office to use the Examination Schools two years before the war started, it appears it came as quite a shock to the Clerk of the Schools who quickly had to prepare for the imminent change in the use of the building. The hospital was officially opened on 16 August 1914 with a ceremony attended by the Bishop of Oxford and there were ten different branches in Oxford spread around the city and within some of the colleges. The large writing schools upstairs and numerous rooms on the ground floor held 346 beds which included 94 beds for orthopaedic cases and 25 nerve cases. In the quad, cabins were erected as additional temporary structures. The Schools was able to house 336 officers and 1,210 personnel from other ranks. A declaration from the Government on display in the building acknowledges the gratitude of the nation for the loan of the building and at the end of the war the University was given some funds to restore the building so examinations could be held again. In the basement area some of the storage rooms for the Schools were converted to an operating theatre and resuscitation rooms and the signs above the doors are still visible today. A rather grisly lead-lined bath lurks in the corner of one of the storage rooms used to cleanse the bodies of some of those unfortunate casualties of the war. There are several portraits around the building of Oxford individuals who were connected to the Great War; the portrait of Lord Curzon in the North School (Chancellor of the University) who drew the Curzon line to mark the border of Poland after the war; the portrait of Emperor Wilhelm II (granted an honorary doctorate by Oxford in 1907) in the South School which was removed during the War and stored in the basement until it was rehung in 1957; and Viscount Grey in room 7 (Chancellor of the University) who was Foreign Secretary in the War and noted for the remark that 'the lamps are going out all over Europe....'. For further information contact james.tibbert@admin.ox.ac.uk (This story and material was shared at the Oxford at War 1914-1918 Roadshow on 12 Nov 2016)

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James Tibbert

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Oxford Examination Schools

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CC BY-SA James Tibbert

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