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Keys, top hats and banners: A porter's life

Porters have played an important role in the College for many years, and this exhibition celebrates their changing roles and responsibilities since the mid-19th century.

Great Gate

The front of the College looking down St. John's Street to Bridge Street, with the tower of old All Saints Church casting a shadow across the street. A porter in a stove-pipe hat stands in front of the gate. The photo is undated but it is most likely from the period between 1855 and 1863, when the railing replaced the former wall on the south-east street frontage and St John’s Lane was stopped and the old infirmary building demolished. (SJPH/1/3)

Great gate 1855

John William Young

John William Young, Chapel Clerk & Porter, was guaranteed on a retirement a pension of 23s*. a week on 30 May 1919 after 47 years’ service to the College College records indicate that the roles of Chapel Clerk and Porter were occasionally combined or an individual would move from the Chapel to the Porters’ Lodge over the course of their career with the College. (SJPH/1/12) *this would be roughly £25 a week today

John William Youngs, 1919

Junior Dean's register

Junior Dean's register, 1832, In the 19th century there were still two Deans responsible for discipline within the College. The Junior Dean administered the disciplinary regulations for 2nd –years and freshmen. These rules and regulations related to Chapel attendance, punctuality, dress and other issues of daily life. They were enforced by fines, which the Porters collected. The Junior Dean was also responsible for outlining the duties of the Senior & Junior Porters at the Front Gate. (DS3/8)

Junior Dean's register, 1832

Address books

Page from Porters' Address books for College members and servants, 1887-1950. The volume is open to Cecil Beaton’s first year in College in 1922. (His name is listed under freshmen) Some College servants are listed in the back of the volumes. (SJAR/3/1/8)

Address books, 1887-1950 (1)

Coronation Week & Vacation Duty

Duty sheet issued by Head Porter, GC Bowles, listing responsibilities for the week of George VI’s coronation on 12 May 1937; subjects covered include raising the flag, opening the gates and locking up. The sheet lists those responsible for each task, some are initialled. (SJAR/3/1/2/9)

Coronation Week & Vacation Duty, 1936-1937

Porters’ Instructions

Porters’ Instructions, 1931-1946. Two volumes, containing typescript-pastedown and manuscript instructions and references for porters, organised alphabetically: subjects include academic dress, bed-makers' reports, days for hoisting the flag, social conduct, gramophones, tips and top hats. Volume 1 contains instructions and references for porters based at the Front Gate Lodge and Volume 2 contains instructions Forecourt Lodge. (SJAR/3/1/2/10/1-2)

Air Raid precautions

Papers concerning preparations for war-time emergencies during WWI and WWII outlining duties and responsibilities in the event of an attack by hostile aircraft, 1915-1945 (SJAR/3/1/2/11)


A collection of College keys, c.1850-1940, with letters of explanation indicating which door or gate they should open. It has always been the Porters’ responsibility to maintain and distribute keys within the College. (SJEP/5/1)