The College Statutes

The statutes were originally drawn up for the installation of the first Warden and Fellows on 9th June 1847. Robert Singleton spent hours laboriously copying out the statutes of Exeter College, Oxford, which were then adopted en bloc, with minor emendations. In the troubled years to come, the Statutes were to be at the centre of all the bitterest arguments. The two founders viewed the Statutes very differently. Singleton believed that they should be obeyed or – if they did not work – be emended; Sewell’s view was more relaxed: he insisted on elaborate Statutes, but disregarded them freely when it suited him. There was, in fact, far more of Singleton in the first Radley Statutes than of Sewell; the monastic ideal was there in perfection, but Sewell’s Arcadia was absent.

The Statutes defined the Constitution of the College, and laid down in detail the exact form of every procedure, administration and routine. The collegiate body was to consist of a Warden and (at the start) six fellows, who were jointly responsible for all administration and the disposal of surplus revenue. Under this system the Warden had no more influence than any of the fellows. There were also five non-resident Prior Fellows, ‘persons of eminence and weight in the country’, to act as advisors, and a Visitor. The Warden could be dismissed (for certain misdemeanours specified in great detail) by the Visitor on information from the Sub-Warden and Prior Fellows. A Fellow could be dismissed, as a last resort and after certain formalities, by the Warden and Sub-Warden. It should have been clear from the beginning that the Warden’s authority was too restricted and that conflict was bound to arise over the rights of the Fellows. The school nearly foundered several times in the first twenty to thirty years of its life because of dissension over the Statutes. Eventually, they were rescinded as legally binding, but the spirit behind many of them became embedded in the ethos of the school.The full document was to be read aloud, in Latin, twice a year during Chapel service: “a ritual bound to take an hour at the very least, during which time ‘the shadow of antiquity’ must have fallen rather darkly on the chapel.” (A.K.Boyd)

Some examples:

  • Caps and gowns to be worn
  • Respect to the Warden and Fellows – students must raise their caps to the Fellows, and everybody, including Fellows, to the Warden
  • No improper games – for example, cards. This includes Fellows
  • Dogs not to be kept without the Warden’s consent
  • Fellows not to be absent from meals
  • Smoking not allowed
  • Nor guns, nor horses
  • To rise at six
  • No food to be introduced privately either by the boys or the Fellows
  • No Ladies to sleep in the College except in the case of illness of boys
  • Silence in the dormitory