Oxford Inscriptions: Clarendon Press Institute

Clarendon Press Insttute inscription

This inscription over the doorway of the former Clarendon Press Institute in Walton Street bears the university crest and motto,
(the Lord is my Light), which appear on many buildings in the city.

Beneath it is the date 1891, and on the four corners (clockwise from top left) are the words:
SUM VIA, VERI[TAS], VITA [I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life]

In 1891 the Clarendon Press (on the opposite side of Walton Street to this institute) was the biggest employer in Oxford, with 540 members of staff. Horace Hart, Printer to the University and Controller of the Press from 1883 to 1915, proposed that there should be an institute to serve as a centre for relaxation and further education for the staff, and planned a reading room, library, gymnasium, and lessons in French, German, Greek, Latin, mathematics, and shorthand.

The building was designed by H. W. Moore and built by Castle in 1892/3 at a cost of £5,000.

The following extract is from Kelly’s Directory for 1899:

The Clarendon Press Institute, in Walton street, erected in 1893–4 by the Delegates of the University Press for the use of their workpeople, at a cost of £5,000, is a large structure of brick with freestone dressings, in the Elizabethan style, from designs by Mr. H. W. Moore, architect, and comprises a basement with two floors above; the basement contains a large room for the boys, with smaller rooms about 26 feet square at either end, as well as a bar, kitchen and dining room, caretaker’s apartments, cellarage, and the usual offices: on the first floor is the gymnasium, a spacious hall 33ft. by 50ft. holding about 800 persons, including the gallery; the hall is very completely fitted with gymnastic apparatus, and has a gallery on the north side, a room under it, and a stage, all of which can be shut off from the gymnasium and converted into separate apartments, on the north side for the use of the boys and on the south side for the girls, for whom also a private entrance is provided: on the same floor are reading and billiard rooms and on the floor above library and writing room, bath rooms and caretaker’s apartments, together with lumber and storage rooms; the building is also provided with lavatories and dressing rooms for the use of those availing themselves of the gymnasium: the whole of the building is lighted with gas and heated by hot water. In the rear of the building is a large open space, available as a lawn tennis court and skittle alley.

There is a very long article about the opening of the Institute by the Bishop of Oxford on 16 September 1893 in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 23 September 1893, p. 6, cols. 1–5). Further articles about the building appeared in the Oxford Chronicle of 15 October 1892 and 10 October 1893, and in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 15 October 1892 and 14 October 1893

Now known simply as the Clarendon Institute, it is occupied by the Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies.

Stephanie Jenkins