Merton College (in full: The House or College of Scholars of Merton in the University of Oxford) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its foundation can be traced back to the 1260s when Walter de Merton, chancellor to Henry III and later to Edward I, first drew up statutes for an independent academic community and established endowments to support it. The important feature of Walter's foundation was that this "college" was to be self-governing and the endowments were directly vested in the Warden and Fellows. By 1274 when Walter retired from royal service and made his final revisions to the college statutes, the community was consolidated at its present site in the south east corner of the city of Oxford, and a rapid programme of building commenced. The hall and the chapel and the rest of the front quad were complete before the end of the 13th century. Mob Quad, one of Merton's quadrangles, was constructed in the years from 1288-1378 and is claimed to be the oldest quadrangle in Oxford, while Merton College Library, located in Mob Quad and dating from 1373, is the oldest continuously functioning library for university academics and students in the world. Notable alumni and academics past and present include four Nobel Laureates and writer J. R. R. Tolkien who was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature from 1945 to 1959. Merton is one of the wealthiest colleges in Oxford and had a financial endowment of £212.8 million as of July 2014. Merton has a strong reputation for academic success, having regularly ranked first in the Norrington Table in recent years.
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