Founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, Lord Chancellor and Bishop of Rochester, it claims to be the oldest college in Oxford. The chapel was begun in 1290 replacing an earlier structure and was used as a parish church until 1891. The great tower was complete by 1450. It’s Mob quad houses the old library on the upper floor which is one of the earliest libraries in England. With a priceless collection of early printed books and manuscripts the collection runs to 70,000 volumes.
Saer de Harcourt, a supporter of Simon de Montfort, who led a rebellion against Henry III, was captured after the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and on his release was pardoned on condition he redeemed the value of his estates at seven times their annual value. As he already owed debts to moneylenders, he sold his Kibworth Harcourt estate to the Lord Chancellor of England, Walter de Merton, in 1270, for the sum of £400. The purchase document is stored in the archives of Merton College in Oxford. Walter added the estate to the growing number being used to support scholars in his new Merton College in Oxford. Later, he also acquired much of the land around Tur Langton, the neighbouring village.
Over the centuries, various buildings owned by Merton College have been sold but even today, much of the agricultural land around the village is still owned by Merton College and leased to local farmers.The Warden and Fellows of Merton College took over the patronage of the 13th century St. Wilfrid’s Church after 1780. Merton College Fellows were installed as Rectors for the following 150 years, until the formation of the Diocese of Leicester in 1926, when the Bishop became joint patron.
The Kibworth Improvement Team thank and acknowledge the Warden and Fellows of Merton College, Oxford for permission to use images on this website of the college and archived material.