OXFORD PLATE

It would not serve any useful purpose to give a list of all the well known pieces of plate in the custody of the colleges. Some important books have been written on this subject for advanced collectors and those specially interested in ecclesiastical and college plate. It may serve the purpose of the " home connoisseur " to refer to a few well known examples as typical of the beautiful things of olden time which may be found in the plate chests of the college halls. There is something very interesting in the origin of the old colleges, and in the study of the relics they possess we can often discover a connecting link between the present-day and former times. The college of All Souls possesses some beautiful plate, notably a delightful silver-gilt crystal salt, which belonged to the founder of the college. It was Archbishop Chichele who had to do with the French wars of the period of Henry V who founded a Chantry in which prayers could be said for the repose of the souls of all those who fell in the French Wars. To-day we raise monuments and memorials in honour of the " glorious dead " who have died in the recent Great War, in which they were called to give their lives for their country. Then it was otherwise, and the Chantry eventually became known as All Souls' College, and in the possession of that great institution remains this ancient salt, and other less known examples of ecclesiastical plate and vessels used in the feast. Among the stores of plate at Magdalen is a remarkable piece known as the Founder's cup. That also commemorates the foundation of the college, and of its dedication, for the cup is fashioned after the manner of common pictorial representations of Mary Magdalen. There is much ancient plate at Corpus Christi College including a pyx of rare beauty. There are also some very rare and fine spoons the latter once being in use on the monks' table. They were engraved with the arms of Bishop Oldham. There is also the fine salt cellar given by Bishop Fox (see Chapter XX). There is some exceptionally good old plate at Jesus College, one of the most notable objects being a remark-able silver-gilt bowl holding no less than ten gallons. At many of the other colleges there are similar objects of considerable interest, for instance, New College has in its audit room many treasures, including ancient plate and jewels. Oxford as a city and University town is rich in its treasures of antiquity. The Ashmolian Museum is well known, and there may be seen many fine examples of early plate, but although not actually a piece of plate probably the greatest historic interest in that collection is the famous jewel of the Saxon King Alfred, the beautiful relic found many years ago in the Isle of Athelney.