Somerville College, Oxford

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Somerville College

Established: 1879

University: University of Oxford

Address: Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HD, UK

Telephone: +44 1865 270 600


Student Union/JCR website:

Graduate/MCR website: no

Admittance: Men and women



Somerville College is located on Woodstock Rd., just north of St Giles and is a ten minute walk from the city centre. It is bordered by Little Clarendon Street to the right side of the college and Walton Street, leading into the fashionable Jericho area behind. As such, the college is situated adjacent to a wide variety of restaurants and cocktail bars popular with students, such as G&Ds, a lovely ice cream bar, and also Cafe Rouge. On the opposite side to the college from Little Clarendon Street lies the Radcliffe Infirmary, a large medical sciences complex which is due to undergo redevelopment. It is very close to St Annes College, and is also opposite the Mathematical Institute, therefore it is easy for mathematicians to roll out of bed into the maths lectures.



The concrete Vaughan building is widely thought of as one of the ugliest structures in Oxford, but it is one of the largest single accomodation blocks in Somerville and houses up to 60 students, a Gym, the college darkroom, a JCR as well as an SCR meeting room and the lodgings of the Junior Deans. The building is named after Somerville's 6th Principal, Dame Janet Vaughan. Student rooms are of a generous size, and those on the northern side of the building are treated with a view of Somerville's expansive quadrangle while those on the southern side of Vaughan have a view of bustling Little Clarendon Street.


Built in the 1930s, the Darbishire building encompasses its own, small quadrangle and is one of the prettiest buildings in Somerville. It contains a large number of student rooms (c.50) which house undergraduates of the college. Darbishire also has a number of tutors' rooms and is connected directly to the college offices and central administrative building, House. Helen Darbishire was the 5th Principal of Somerville College and the accomodation block takes its name from her.


The Park building was originally named 'West' due to its location at the western end of the college site, but was renamed after Somerville's 8th Principal, Daphne Park, now Baroness of Monmouth. Park is a large, redbrick building and houses over 60 students, almost all of whom are undergraduates. Park also includes a large JCR (with widescreen TV and table football), a music room and a computer room.


Somerville's 1920s Penrose building has just undergone a refurbishment which included extensive renovation to the building's heating system and toilet/washroom facilities. Named after Dame Emily Penrose, Somerville's 3rd Principal, the building is home to mainly undergraduates, although there are one or two graduate students with huge rooms. In total, around 30 student rooms are located in the Penrose building.


Holtby is a small accomodation block and was built between Park and the college library after an extension to the library was constructed. It houses 10 undergraduate students whose rooms are situated directly above the library's extension.


Similar to Holtby, Hostel is home to 10 student rooms and is part of a building development between two existing college structures, in this case House and Darbishire. The Bursary is located on the ground floor while the first and second floors are devoted to student accomodation. The building stands where Somerville's stables once were.


Another of Somerville's concrete-clad accomodation blocks, Wolfson is situated at the westernmost end of the college site and is home to 30 undergraduates at the college, most of whom will be in their final year of study. Student rooms are relatively large and are graced with very large, single-pane square windows. Unfortunately this means that if a window is broken, it takes a long time to replace. The last breakage was not able to be repaired properly for two months. The Flora Anderson Hall is located on the ground floor of Wolfson and is used for college bops, meetings, and other events.

Margery Fry

Margery Fry is the only building in Somerville entirely devoted to graduate accomodation. It looks exactly the same as Vaughan, but is slightly smaller in overall size while its rooms are larger than Vaughan student rooms. The MCR is located on the ground floor. The website for the MCR can be found here.

Dorothy Hodgkin Quad

The least-visited part of Somerville is tucked away behind the Maitland building beside the Margaret Thatcher Conference Centre. 'DHQ', as it is known, is one of the newest buildings in the college and is reserved for undergraduates in their third or fourth year of study. The area is named after Dorothy Hodgkin, an alumnus of the college who discovered the vitamin B12 and was awarded a Nobel Prize. The building comprises modern "flats", which each have a kitchen and can house either 2 or 4 students.

Social Spaces

Somerville has two Common Rooms- one located in Vaughan and one in Park. Vaughan common room is mainly frequented by Freshers and is a popular post-bop drinking spot.

College Bar

The college bar was redcorated during the summer of 2007 and now also provides conference facilities and includes an over-head projection system. Students use this to watch televised sporting events while conference guests can use it for Powerpoint presentations. The bar is currently attempting to recoup financial losses, but remains steadily popular with students. The general consensus is that the bar could probably do better in terms of attracting students. As well as large sofas, barstools and other furniture, the bar is home to a pool table. A little known fact about the bar is that it was once used as a sewing room for students of the college. An area extending from the main bar and separated by glass doors contains seats and a large television set. It has been nicknamed 'The Bulge'. The bar is sometimes used for events such as small gigs and performance poetry readings.


The dining hall is considered one of Oxford's finest.

Library and Computing

Somerville's college library is widely renowned as one of the best college libraries in Oxford. This is usually attributed to the fact that Somerville was formerly a women's college. Because the University's Bodleian library restricted access to women until the mid part of the 20th Century, women's colleges had to provide extended library resources to its students who were not allowed to use the Bodleian. As such, Somerville's library is very large for a college library and houses over 120,000 books. Especially extensive are the English and History collections. As a design on the library's upper wall proclaims, the building was erected in 1903.

The library was extended in the mid 20th Century after its initial size of 60,000 volumes had been exceeded. The library constantly adds to its collections, purchasing around 2,000 new books every year.

The library is open 24 hours a day and almost every day of the year. It contains a number of computers.


The college has a male and female welfare officer and a small group of peer-supporters.


The atmosphere in Somerville is generally considered extremely friendly, liberal and laid back. The college is very active in university sports, but members are less interested in their JCR, with an average of 5-10% only of undergraduates attending meetings. The college makes a concerted effort not to pressurize its students and is conscientious of student welfare, especially with regards to academic work.


Somerville has some excellent facilities, most of which have recently been refurbished or improved. As well as the special areas listed below, the college also has laundry facilities in all its accomodation blocks, a magnetic card security system on all outside doors, a non-consecrated, non-denominational chapel and a vegetable garden.


Standards of cooking facilities vary by building. Park has excellent, large kitchens furnished with several fridges and ovens (however, there is still a unfavorable inhabitant to kitchen ratio). In Penrose each floor has a kitchen of a decent size with several fridges and an oven. In Vaughn there is a decent sized kitchen in the JCR that contains an oven and fridge. On top of this, there is a (very) small kitchen at each end of every corridor containing a single fridge, and either a grill with stoves on the top, or a microwave. All kitchens contain sinks.


The gym is situated on the ground floor of the Vaughan building and was also refurbished during the summer of 2007. It houses weights, a treadmill, rowing machines and other basic equipment. Students must take part in a short induction session before they are allowed to use the gym. In the academic year 2014-2015 a year's membership cost £80.


Recently resurrected in the depths of the Vaughan building lies the college darkroom. It is equipped by the University's Photography Society.

Park Music Room

Located on the ground floor of the Park building, adjacent to the laundry room, is a small music room. A number of instruments (including a battered drum kit and a grand piano) and a collection of sheet music is kept there.

Palmer Computer Room

Located on the first floor of Park is the Palmer Computer room which houses ten PCs and a large laser printer. It was renovated in 2008. Students must use their magnetic access card to enter the Palmer Computer Room.

Student-eye view


Somerville Map