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Formal hall, or just ‘formal’, held every Tuesday and Thursday during term-time, is a long-standing college tradition. It’s a three-course meal held in the Great Hall to which academic dress is worn.


The JCR sit at Low Table (i.e. the majority of the tables in the Hall) and the SCR at High Table (the two or three rows of tables below the stained glass window). On Thursdays the MCR sit at Low Table with the JCR, but on Tuesdays we join the SCR on High Table, and in the SCR before and after formal.


Formal commences at 7.00 pm sharp, when High Table enters the Great Hall. While those at High Table enter, all those who are at Low Table stand. Following this, the College Grace is said, after which all members sit for the meal, served by College staff. Everyone is required to remain seated throughout the meal (go to the toilet beforehand!), which normally finishes by 8.00pm, after which postgraduates retire to the SCR, MCR, or Undercroft, depending on the occasion.


An in-depth guide to everything associated with formals is available here.

Rules and Traditions: The Basics

  • Stick to the dress code:  a smart dark suit and tie or bow tie for men, and a blouse & skirt or smart dress for ladies. Everybody must wear a gown (guests can borrow one from the MCR). You may be refused entry if you do not dress correctly.
  • Any wine you take in must be bought in Castle, from the Undercroft (water and squash will be provided on the tables).
  • Don’t be late: if you arrive after the doors to the Great Hall have been shut (at 7:00), you won’t be allowed in.
  • Turn your mobile phone off or to silent: texting is not permitted and you’ll be sconced if it rings noticeably.
  • Refrain from any photography during the meal.
  • Once the grace has been said, remain seated until the JCR Senior Student stands to bow out (on Thursdays/Low Table), or the Master or his substitute has stood to leave (on Tuesdays/High Table). This means whilst on High Table you do not stand when the Senior Student is bowing out.
  • It’s advisable to go to the toilet before dinner!
  • If you choose to have wine at formal bear your personal limits in mind - drunkenness at dinner is unacceptable!