AN OXFORD don who helped found a Durham University college has died aged 94.

Prof Peter Bayley was English fellow at University College, in Oxford, for 23 years, before he became the first master of Collingwood College in Durham in 1972. The new college was specifically founded as one open to both men and women.

In 1978 Prof Bayley then went further north, to become Professor and head of the English department at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

After retiring in 1985, he moved back to Woodstock, Oxfordshire, and lived there until he became ill in his twilight years.

Peter Charles Bayley was born on January 25, 1921, and became a pupil at the Crypt School, in Gloucester.

He came to read English at University College in 1940, thanks to the intervention of the then master, Sir William Beveridge.

Sir William made sure he was elected to a Sidgwick Exhibition – a great help, as Prof Bayley recalled his family would not have been able to afford to send him otherwise.

At the time, University College did not have an English Fellow, meaning undergraduates were sent over to Magdalen College to be taught by the Chronicles of Narnia author CS Lewis.

But after just a year at the college Mr Bayley was called up to serve in India. He later returned in 1946 to complete his degree, getting a first in 1947. He was then elected a junior research fellow, rising to a full fellowship in 1949 as University College’s first praelector in English.

He had many other posts, including junior dean, camerarius, domestic bursar, fellow in charge of fabric, keeper of the college buildings, senior tutor, tutor for admissions, librarian, and editor of the University College Record.

He also took a great interest in the college’s art collection and played a leading role in encouraging the commission of a portrait of Sir William Beveridge. He was proctor from 1957 to 1958.

Prof Bayley’s greatest love was the theatre and as an undergraduate he started a play-reading society, which became the Univ Players.

He was also a senior member Oxford University Dramatic Society and served on the Oxford Playhouse management committee. His scholarly work focused on the literature of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.

Peter Bayley divorced from his wife Patience in the late 1970s. They had three children, Nic, Ros and Clare.

He died on November 3 and had Alzheimer’s Disease. His funeral on Tuesday and was followed by a memorial service at the University College Chapel.