The college was founded in 1876 by Canon Edward King and a group of associates, as a theological college intended for graduates of Oxford and Cambridge intending to undertake mission work abroad or ministerial work at home. King was Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at the time, and subsequently became Bishop of Lincoln. His vision of pastoral work undertaken in the spirit of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England known as the Oxford Movement, remains fundamental to the ethos of the college.
The college was initially situated in Parks Road on the site of what is now the Weston Library. In 1920 it moved to Norham Gardens in North Oxford, and since 1980 it has occupied the former home of the Society of St John the Evangelist, the ‘Cowley Fathers’ in East Oxford.
The college has had a formal relationship with the University of Oxford since 1970, presenting candidates for matriculation and examination for theological qualifications and contributing to the teaching and research activities of the Faculty of Theology and Religion.
Since 2014 the college has been a Theological Education Institution validated by the University of Durham, offering the Common Award at all levels to resident ordinand students and more widely to part-time and full-time students through the Edward King Centre and the Institute of Sacred Music.
The House motto is ‘Video caelos apertos’ (‘I see the heavens opened’), St Stephen’s words from Acts 7:56.