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Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion


1986 1986

'All the Welshmen abiding and studying in Oxford'

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'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall
this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I
trust shall never be put out'.
Certainly the hearts of Welshmen were elated when Elizabeth I
visited the university in 1566 and when Hugh Price, Treasurer
of St. David's Cathedral petitioned the Queen to set up another
college in the University. The letters patent of Elizabeth dated 27
June 1571 make clear the intention of the foundation:
to the Glory of God Almighty and Ominpotent, and for the
spread and maintenance of the Christian religion in its sincere
form, for the extension of good literature of every sort, for the
knowledge of languages, we have decreed that a College of
learning in the sciences, philosophy, humane pursuits, knowledge
of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages, to the ultimate
profession of Sacred Theology, to last for all time to come, be
created, founded, built, and established
It is a splendid summary of that extraordinary combination of litterae
humaniores of the classics and litterae sacrae of the Christian religion
so characteristic of the period. In both there was a return ad fontes.
Here was the start of Jesus College, a college which has been the
nurturing ground for generations of Welshmen over the centuries.
Towards the end of Elizabeth I's reign, George Owen of Henllys,
one of Wales's first historians, wrote:
'Since the time of Henry VII and Henry VIII the gentlemen
and people in Wales have greatly increased in learning and civility;
for now great numbers of youths are continually brought up and
maintained at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and in
other good schools in England where some prove to be learned
men some worthy labourers in the Lord's vineyard, many of
them have proved excellent in the Civil Laws, some in Physic, and
other laudable studies
At most there were some 3,000 students altogether at Oxford in the
thirteenth century; by 1438 'hardly one thousand remain'. Between
1520-1529 about 220 new students a year were accepted; between
1546-1552 about 120; 1580 some 445 and by 1630 some 530 new
students a year. (Though the town of Oxford had seen an occasional
bleak period, by the end of the sixteenth century it was witnessing a
period of renewed prosperity). There was a growing desire to send
boys to the university and that from among a wide social spectrum.
Humanists, reformers, men of affairs emphasised the need for
educated laymen. Married clergy recommended university education
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