Colleges and libraries
Balliol is one of the colleges of Oxford University. It was founded by John de Balliol in 1263, has occupied the same site ever since and claims to be the oldest college in Oxford, and the world. Its attractive buildings are predominantly Victorian, however. Balliol's widow Dervorguilla of Galloway, established a permanent endowment and their son, John, was King of Scotland. Balliol has an impressive list of alumni, which includes writers, politicians and scientists. A few random examples: Boris Johnson, Robert Peston, Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene and William Beveridge.
Visitors can tour the grounds and some of the buildings, except when college events take place.
The John Rylands Library holds the special collections of the University of Manchester's library. The library was built by Enriqueta Rylands, the widow of wealthy industrialist John Rylands, who died in 1888. It is a fantastic neo-Gothic building, designed by Basil Champneys (with help from Mrs Rylands) and opened to the public in 1900. One of its first acquisitions was the 40,000 volume Spencer Collection, which includes about 3,000 early printed books - including a Gutenberg Bible. The library has undergone various refurbishments. Although a research library, it is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Manchester.
King's College was founded by King Henry VI in 1441, the year after he founded Eton College, originally a sister college which sent scholars on to King's. It is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge and parts are open to the public. The highlight is undoubtedly the chapel, begun by Henry VI but finished by Henry VIII in 1544. The ceiling, windows and carving are breathtaking. It is also famous for the annual Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols, introduced by Eric Milner-White in 1919 and now broadcast all over the world.
Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which have the exclusive right to call students to the Bar. The education and training of advocates lies at the heart of the Inn, but it is also a professional society with a worldwide membership. The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, to give it its full name, is based on the site of the headquarters of the medieval Knights Templar. Though very little survives from this period - and the area was also extensively bombed in the 1940s - walking through Middle Temple is like walking through history, with links to Magna Carta and the exploration of the New World. Visits inside the Elizabethan Great Hall can be arranged in advance - most of the buildings contain barristers' chambers. Middle Temple is also responsible, with the Inner Temple, for the historic Temple Church.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded in 1682 by Charles II as a retirement home for soldiers. The architect was Christopher Wren. Today, it is home to about 300 veterans, who have served in the British Army all over the world over the last 60 years or so. Known as Chelsea Pensioners, they can be seen out and about in London in their distinctive red uniforms and three-cornered hats. Tours of the hospital can be arranged, and there is a museum. Particular highlights include the great hall and the Wren chapel. Among those buried on the site are ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis, in the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary, which opened in 2009. The Royal Hospital's extensive grounds are also the location for the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
St John's College was founded in 1555 by the Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company in London, Sir Thomas White, using the premises of St Bernard's College, itself founded in 1437 by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, for Cistercian monks studying at Oxford University. The Cistercian college was suppressed in 1536. St John's was the first Oxford college to be founded by a merchant. Alumni include Archbishop Laud, Jane Austen's father, A E Housman, Robert Graves, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The buildings date from the 15th century. The Chapel was originally consecrated in 1530. The Library dates from the 16th century and holds over 200 medieval manuscripts, 20,000 books printed before 1850, several Middle Eastern manuscripts dating back to the 14th century, 200 modern manuscripts, and important collections of papers and books owned by figures such as Robert Graves, A E Housman and Spike Milligan.
Parts of the college are open to the public at particular times. Check the college website for details.