A NEW 150-seat auditorium named in honour of the poet TS Eliot has been completed at Oxf-ord University’s Merton College.
The £5m multi-function lecture theatre is one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by the college, which is preparing for its 750th anniversary in 2014.
Impressionist Rory Bremner will be among the guests at a special music recital at the theatre on June 24. The theatre has been built on a former garden site between existing buildings.
In addition to providing the college with a much-needed new building for lectures and musical recitals, it will also help Merton enhance its conference facilities, with the college keen to develop its conference business like other colleges out of term time.
Merton can claim to be one of Oxford’s three oldest colleges, standing between Merton Street and Christ Church Meadow, in one of Oxford’s most impressive settings.
But constraints of space have become an increasing problem.
College bursars complained that while the college came near the top of most Oxford league tables, it was “at the absolute bottom of the league table for conference income”.
The college has also completed three seminar rooms alongside the auditorium, which will have a foyer suitable for holding receptions.
Light fittings in the foyer pick out the shape of a constellation visible on the night of September 14, 1264, the day the college was founded.
Domestic bursar Douglas Bamber said the college was delighted with the development, adding: “The theatre offers a superb purpose-built facility equip-ped for lectures, conferences and music.
“We have used what had been an old garden, that had become fairly derelict.”
He said that there would be entrances to the new auditorium from both the college and Rose Lane.
The college launched an appeal to help fund the scheme, with extra revenue from the theatre expected to help cover the cost.
The auditorium was designed by architects Ridge and Partners, whose previous projects include the 350-seat theatre at Radley College, near Abingdon.
A bust of TS Eliot will also be displayed in the foyer.
The American-born poet and playwright was awarded a scholarship to Merton in 1914.
There were so many American students at Merton at the time that the Junior Common Room proposed a motion “that this society abhors the Americanisation of Oxford”, defeated after Eliot reminded the students how much they owed American culture.
He did not, however, settle, and left after a year.
The completion of the Merton lecture theatre comes soon after the opening of a new £2.1m auditorium at its near neighbour Corpus Christi College.