Jordan College was one of the twenty-three colleges that formed the University of Oxford.[1] This was Lyra Silvertongue's home until she left with Marisa Coulter, and she later returned to live here, despite studying at St. Sophia's College.[2] The grandest and the richest of the colleges, with the academic prestige to go with it, it was said to be possible to walk to Bristol in one direction and London in the other whilst never leaving Jordan College land.[3]


The college was adjacent to Brasenose College, an alley separating the two, and opposite St Michael's College on Turl Street, and near to Balliol College and Gabriel College on Broad Street.[4]

The college's buildings were grouped around three irregular quadrangles. The Library filled one side of the Melrose Quadrangle.[3] A corridor connected the Library to the Scholar's Common Room and the Hall, where the Scholars and Under-Scholars ate their meals. At the rear of the Hall was the Retiring Room of the Master and other privileged Scholars.[5]

The Library led out to the Library Gardens. The Yaxley Quadrangle, which also backed onto the Library Gardens, housed some of the oldest buildings in the college, including the Master's Lodging, and was where Lyra Silvertongue had her bedroom during her time at the college.[3]

Amongst the college's buildings were the Sheldon Building and the Chapel, which included the Oratory and led down to the crypts of esteemed deceased Scholars.[3] The rooms of George Papadimitriou were at the top of Pilgrims' Tower, the highest set in the College.[6]

The Lodge Tower overlooked Turl Street and contained the rooms of Malcolm Polstead when he was a scholar at Jordan; he was one of the few young enough to cope frequently with the stairs. Lyra Silvertongue was given a key to the roof of the Lodge Tower whilst a student at St Sophia's in return for checking the stone and lead for the elderly Porter. [2]


The earliest of the buildings were constructed in the Middle Ages, and the most recent in the mid-18th century. By the late 20th century, the college owned land throughout Brytain and those paying rent to it included dye-works, brick-kilns and atomcraft-works.[3]

By the late 20th century, the college was the leader in the field of experimental theology, unrivalled both in Europe and in New France.[3]


  • Master: The master oversaw the affairs of the college. The incumbent Master was an eldery man with a raven-dæmon.
  • Sub-Rector: The incumbent Sub-Rector was an old man who was nearly blind.[7]
  • Dean: The incumbent Dean was a skeptic.[7]
  • Bursar: The Bursar was in charge of the finances of the college.[3]
  • Librarian: The Librarian was in charge of the college library. The incumbent Librarian was Charles, a close friend of the Master.[7]


  • Chaplain: The incumbent chaplain was a friend of Lord Asriel.
  • Palmerian Professor: The incumbent professor was Trelawney.
  • Cassington Scholar: This post is usually given to a free-thinker whose function is to challenge the faith of the scholars.[8]
  • Enquirer:


  • Steward: The Steward was the head of the servants. The incumbent steward was Cawson.
  • Butler: The Butler reports only to the Steward. The incumbent butler was Wren.
  • Porter: The incumbent porter was a old man named Shuter.
  • Intercessor: The incumbent intercessor was Father Heyst.
  • Stonemasons: The Parslow family were employed by the college as stonemasons for five generations.

Behind the scenes

The location and layout of Jordan College in Lyra's world is analogous to the location of Exeter College,[9] Philip Pullman's alma mater. However, unlike the fictional college, Exeter College is not the oldest (it is the fourth oldest), richest, or most prestigious college of the University of Oxford.


Notes and references

  1. Arts and Drama — His Dark Materials — Dictionary, BBC Radio 4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lyra's Oxford
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Northern Lights, Chapter 3
  4. Lyra's Oxford, Map of Oxford
  5. Northern Lights, Chapter 1
  6. La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 17
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Northern Lights, Chapter 2
  8. Northern Lights, Chapter 21
  9. From Exeter to Jordan, Oxford Today, Volume 14, Number 3, 2002.