Merton College 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 that 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, but apart from the chapel they have all been much altered since. To most visitors, the college and its buildings are synonymous, but the history of the college can be more deeply understood if one distinguishes the history of the academic community from that of the site and buildings that they have occupied for nearly 750 years. Merton is among the wealthier colleges, and as of 2006, had an estimated financial endowment of £142 million.