'It was helpful to have the red of the rugby posts to set off Merton College and the ice-covered tree branches.' J J Marshall
Merton College was founded for lay ecclesiastics in 1264 by Walter de Merton - a wealthy man who was Chancellor of England in 1260 and Bishop of Rochester in 1274. Between 1294 and 1366 Merton was credited with producing no less than six out of seven Archbishops of Canterbury. Although University College and Balliol College preceded it, Merton College was the first college to house its students (previously students were scattered in lodgings across the city) and thereafter, residential colleges became the model for all universities.
Merton enjoyed great wealth, but scope for expansion was restricted by the city wall on its south side, Merton Street on its north side, and the sale of land in 1515 on its west side, for the site of Corpus Christi College. Space had to be used carefully, and today different buildings interconnect, giving the college a special atmosphere.
Merton College reveals little of itself in Merton Street except for its Chapel, but there is a fine view from Christ Church Meadow and ‘Deadman’s Walk’, the path which runs alongside the city wall, so called because it was the route taken by Jewish funeral processions from St Aldates, to their burial ground in what is now the Botanic Gardens.