Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Stamford Nose

Did Bishop Edward King have anything to do with an Oxford College getting its nose back?

First, the esoteric background. ‘Brasenose’ may simply be named after its mediaeval door knocker. What may be the original ‘metal nose’ may have been taken by a group of fourteenth century breakaway students to Lincolnshire; just as some students from a college in the village of Merton established Merton College, Oxford so these students from Brasenose College, Oxford established Brasenose College, Stamford. The new college did not survive, but the name did, and a house called Brasenose in Stamford did have a grand mediaeval door knocker until 1890 when Brasenose College, Oxford bought it (the whole house) and claimed or reclaimed the ‘Stamford Nose’ which is in the College’s Hall today.

Secondly, one scrap of information. The Rector of Scartho (on the edge of Grimsby) trawls the internet for memorabilia of Bishop Edward King, and this week he gave me the final part of a letter (it is torn off at the fold) because he knew I’d appreciate having something, however slight, in King’s almost illegible hand; I’m touched and grateful. What looks like another Victorian hand (belonging to the vandal who tore the letter?) notes that it was sent by King in 1888 to Mrs Johnson of Brasenose, Stamford. It appears to read "... prefer the quiet Dinner Party which you propose on the 20th. I must return to Lincoln as soon as I conveniently can after the Service. With many thanks for your kindness. Bless you. Yours truly, E. Lincoln".

So, on the one hand, King was Bishop of Lincoln and thus also Visitor of Brasenose College, and he had only left the University himself three years earlier on becoming Bishop. On the other, here he is on cordial terms with someone at Brasenose, Stamford two years before the College bought the house. I’m asking the College archivist who it was who sold the house to the College, and I’d be fascinated whether or not the archivist knows of any role which King might have played in at least introducing the idea.

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