On the Day of Ascension, or Holy Thursday, the Fellows of New College, after their grave and wonted Manner, early in the Morning used to walk to Bartholomew’s; where they entered the Chapel (being ready decked and adorned with the seasonable Fruits of the Year) and being seated, the Chaplain of this Place used more anciently to read a Psalm and Chapter allotted for the Day. This ended, the Fellows sung an Hymn or Anthem of 5 or 6 Parts, then the second Lesson was read; after which, another Hymn sung, or else a Collect for the Day, consisting of as many Parts.– Then they went up to the Altar, where stood a Vessel decked with Tuttyes, and therein offered a Piece of Silver, to be divided among the poor Men. The Chapel Service or Ceremonies ended, they walked in Procession to a Well, called Stockwell, at the Upper-end of the Grove adjoining (which, with the Way from the Chapel thereto, used anciently to be strewed with Flowers;) where being fixt, after an Epistle and Gospel, as was sometimes used, they in the open Place, like the ancient Druids, echoed and warbled out from the shady Arbours harmonious Melody, consisting of several Parts, then most in Fasion.– But for several Times, about 24 Years ago,they commonly sung an Oriana, or else one of Mr. J. Welby’s Songs of 5 Parts, beginning thus, “Hard by a Chrystal Fountain, &c.” which done, each Man departed home.
The Bartholomew's Chapel referred to here stands at Bartlemas, a tiny cluster of ancient buildings lying off the Cowley Road, midway between Oxford and Cowley village (as it was). On Ascension Day morning this year, it was to this spot that the Choir repaired, early enough in the morning to be a surprise to some clerks, but bright enough to elicit enthusiasm for the novelty of it all. We duly sang a short office in the exquisite chapel (with the East window bursting with morning light), and made our procession to the Well, at the top of the Oriel playing field. We were looking rather for a Spring, and in the wet season you could indeed find some water seeping out of the ground, if not bubbling. Little sign of it however on our bright if blowy Ascension Day morning. Unperturbed, we sang 'Now is the month of maying', a jollier number than Morley's calculated 'Hard by the crystal fountain'. The procession was led by pipe and fiddle, and we strewed the route with flowers as tradition demanded. Plenty of curious onlookers turned out to witness this spectacle: curious and genial. A champagne breakfast concluded the proceedings, this a strictly 21st-century tradition.