6 . New College, Oxford: the mural tablet to Woodforde

James Woodforde's old college had no memorial to their former Fellow and Sub-warden (deputy head of college) until the Parson Woodforde Society stepped in.

This stone tablet was erected in the college's cloisters in 2013. Commissioned by the Society, a large part of the funding was thanks to a generous donation by the late Professor Norrie Everitt, a former member and keen 'frolicker'. The 2013 frolic was held at New College, when forty members and their guests were able to view the mural tablet for the first time.


New College, Oxford: James Woodforde's memorial of 2013 in the cloistersNew College, Oxford: Woodforde's memorial of 2013 in the cloisters [photo Alan Ovenden 2019]


The cloisters, consecrated in 1400, are open to visitors. The memorial is in a well-lit position against the east wall, almost under the square bell tower of 1403. It is placed close to the tablet commemorating the diarist's friend Dr Martin Wall.

The cloisters were not always a place of quiet reflection for the students. The college guide on sale at the porter's lodge tells us of more dramatic happenings in war and on the screen:

At the outbreak of the English Civil War [1642], the buildings were transformed once more when Oxford became the headquarters of the Royalist army. During the conflict, New College housed a major arsenal, and the Cloisters and Bell Tower were used to store ammunition.

More recently, perhaps the most famous use of the Cloisters was in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was beneath the 19th-century Evergreen Holm Oak, which dominates the green space, that Draco Malfoy was transfigured into a ferret.
[Elizabeth Evens, New College, Oxford: A guidebook and short history (New College, Oxford, 2016), p. 18]

New College's Woodforde archive

The college holds a large archive of papers, all individually catalogued, relating to the Revd James Woodforde, his career, the Woodforde family in general and the parish of Weston, Norfolk. These include a copy of the parson's will of 1795 and the inventory made of his goods and chattels following his death. His effects were valued at £437, with his debts noted as £250.

A total of 108 books and papers was acquired by the college in 1970 from Oliver Heighes Woodforde, of Knebworth, Herts. He was the son of Dr Robert Edmond Heighes Woodforde, who had lent the original manuscript diary of James Woodforde to John Beresford with a view to publication.

The Woodforde family had connections with New College and Winchester from 1675 until 1959. In that year Oliver Woodforde's brother the Revd Dr Christopher Woodforde resigned as Fellow and Chaplain of New College on becoming Dean of Wells in Somerset.

The year 1959 also saw the handing over by Christopher Woodforde of the manuscript diary to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where the set of notebooks and loose sheaves remains.