Durham University Records: Colleges

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Only two of the university's colleges, University (also known as Castle) and St John's, have transferred anything like a substantial archive. Their records reflect all aspects of the colleges' life from minutes of its governing bodies and other committees, to registers and files of its students, administrative and financial papers of its officers such as the master/principal and bursar (including covering maintenane of their buildings), also minutes, accounts, photographs and ephemera of the running of their dining halls and chapels, of their common rooms (senior, middle and junior), and of their student sports clubs and societies, with also on occasion papers of some of their senior and/or junior members. In addition, there are considerable collections of deeds for the properties which became the colleges of St Chad's and Hild Bede which take the history of these significant sites in the city of Durham back into the sixteenth century. The deeds for St Chad's also cover its advowsons held elsewhere, especially in Liverpool. Various items are also held for the following colleges: Grey, Hatfield, Josephine Butler, Neville's Cross, St Aidan's, St Cuthbert's, St Mary's, Trevelyan, Ustinov, and Van Mildert. In addition, there files for an unrealised attempt to establish a college on the Howlands Farm site in the mid 1990s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Durham University has always been meant to be a collegiate university, but initially there was only one college, University College, which came to be based in Durham Castle, the former bishop's residence, from 1837. It was joined in 1846 by Hatfield Hall, which was intended to provide a more economical experience for students by providing all meals in common at a fixed charge and by letting the rooms furnished. A Cosin's Hall lasted only from 1851 to 1864 when it was effectively absorbed by University College. Thereafter the collegiate community expanded variously and by no means consistently.

Unattached, later known as non-collegiate, students, first admitted in 1871, established themselves as a St. Cuthbert's Society in 1888 which became the recognised designation for non-collegiate students in 1947. Bede College, established independently as a diocesan teacher training college for men in 1839, took university degree students from 1892. In 1975 it was merged with its women's counterpart, St. Hild's College, which had been founded independently in 1858 and connected with the University in 1896, to become the university college of St Hild and St Bede. Two private halls, St. Chad's and St. John's, founded in 1904 and 1909 respectively, took the style and title of independent colleges within the university in 1919.

The university's first women students in Durham matriculated in 1896, all of them members of St. Hild's College. In 1899 a women's hostel was set up which, by a resolution of the Council of the Durham Colleges in 1919, became known as St. Mary's College. Women students residing at home had first been admitted in 1895 and in 1947 this body of women students became known as St. Aidan's Society, which became St. Aidan's College in 1961. The remaining colleges, Grey (1959), Van Mildert (1966), Trevelyan (1967), Collingwood (1972), John Snow and George Stephenson (both Stockton, 2001), and Josephine Butler (2006), bear witness with the Graduate Society (1965, Ustinov College from 2002), to the post-war expansion of the university. In addition, Neville's Cross College, founded by the county council in 1921 as a teacher training college for women, became a licensed hall of residence of the university in 1924. So some of its students studied university courses until it was merged with the Durham Technical College in 1977 to become the wholly independent New College. Finally, Ushaw College, a Roman Catholic theological college established near Durham in 1808, became a licensed hall of residence of the university in 1968.


College records are arranged as follows:

A Foundation

B Governance

C Administration

D Academic

E Clubs, Sports, Associations

F Photographs

G Publications and Ephemera

H Deposited/donated collections

I Artefacts

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation, with exceptions as noted, especially on student files closed under the Data Protection Act for 80 years.

Acquisition Information

University College's archive has been transferred at various times since the 1950s; almost all the rest have come in since 2002.


Part of : Durham University Records

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

Always held in the colleges, except for occasional items donated by usually college alumni

Related Material

The bulk of the archive of Hild Bede College and especially its antecedents of the separate colleges of St Hild and St Bede, is held at Durham County Record Office, as is also the archive of the former Neville's Cross College, subsequently incorporated into the now New College. Otherwise, most colleges still retain their records themselves.

Records of the restoration work on Durham Castle in the 1920s and 1930s are held as a separate archive in Durham University Library ASC.