Durham University Records

Scope and Content

The collection records the administration of England's third oldest higher education institution through its various transformations. In its early years in nineteenth century Durham, it was a small, mainly theological institution, in terms of government and teaching. It then burgeoned into an increasingly secular, collegiate and federal university in both Durham and Newcastle with other affiliated institutions in the north east and beyond, offering an ever wider range of arts and sciences courses in the early and mid twentieth century. By the early twenty-first century, it is a major teaching and research institution in Durham and latterly also Stockton-on-Tees, after the separation off of the independent Newcastle University in 1963. The university is now engaged in providing high-quality teaching and learning, advanced research and partnership with business, regional and community partnerships and initiatives, and services for conferences, events and visitor accommodation.

Much of the material derives from the central running of the university, being minutes of its governing bodies and their committees, financial records of its administration and the files of the chief officers carrying out that administration. As well as the overall running of the institution, a lot of the records revolve around its constituent and particularly student members, their admission, fees, work, exams, behaviour and recreational activities. These records come also from the academic departments of the university, its colleges, and student bodies, though for none of these is the collecton comprehensive. Much material remains still with its originating body within the university.

What is also absent here is any great quantity of records for the university in Newcastle, either for the two affiliated colleges there of Armstrong and Medicine before 1937 or the combined division of Kings College thence to 1963. Nor is there much about the administration of its other affiliated colleges, Codrington in Barbados and Fourah Bay in Sierra Leone, beyond the records of their students' admission, examination and graduation. Nor is there a great deal in the way of personal papers of either the university's senior or junior members.

Though records do date from the university's foundation in 1832, there are relatively few records predating the 1937 reorganisation, much having apparently been sent for paper salvage during the 2nd World War. However, the date range does extend well back before the university's foundation into the sixteenth century for deeds of properties subsequently held by the university or the colleges.

Administrative / Biographical History

A university in Durham had been mooted under Henry VIII and a more serious, but still fruitless, attempt to establish one was made in 1657 with letters patent being issued and a provost and fellows actually being nominated. However, it was not until 1832 that the efforts of William van Mildert, last prince bishop of Durham, and the Durham dean and chapter led to the passing through Parliament of an Act to enable the Dean and Chapter of Durham to appropriate part of the property of their church to the establishment of a University in connection therewith. Temporary accommodation was provided in the house known as Archdeacon's Inn on Palace Green and the first students came into residence in 1833. On 1 June 1837 a royal charter was issued recognising and confirming the constitution of the university. Seven days later the first Durham degrees were conferred under the authority of this charter. An Order of the Queen in Council of 8 August 1837 appropriated Durham Castle, previously the bishop's palace, to the uses of the university. One of the objectives of the founders was to establish in the North of England an Institution which should secure to its inhabitants the advantage of a sound yet not expensive academical education.

The new university in 1832 was collegiate, although initially there was only one college, now University College and, since 1837, based in Durham Castle. In 1846 this was followed by Hatfield Hall, where expenses were reduced 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. Unattached, later known as non-collegiate, students were first admitted in 1871. They themselves established a St. Cuthbert's Society in 1888. In 1947 St. Cuthbert's Society became the recognised designation of the non-collegiate students. Its current relationship with Council was adopted in 1948. 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. Two private halls, St. Chad's and St. John's, founded in 1904 and 1909 respectively, took the style and title of an independent college within the university in 1919.

Women have been admitted to Durham since the 1890s. In 1895 Senate petitioned the Crown for a supplementary charter enabling degrees to be conferred on women and in the Michaelmas Term, 1896, the first four women students matriculated, all of them members of St. Hild's College. In 1899 a women's hostel was set up at first 33 Claypath, and then in 1901 Abbey House on Palace Green. By a resolution of the Council of the Durham Colleges in 1919, the women's hostel became known as St. Mary's College and was provided with a purpose-built site in 1947. It was the last single-sex college in the university, first admitting men in 2005. 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, with its own principal. It 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 neat Durham in 1808, became a licensed hall of residence of the university in 1968.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the numbers of students in Durham itself remained small. The university's original endowment was insufficient to maintain the country's first university course for engineers instituted in 1837 and, with the exception of mathematics, science also declined. Student numbers in related institutions in Newcastle soon exceeded those in Durham. In 1852, the Medical School in Newcastle, established in 1834, became "the Newcastle upon Tyne College of Medicine in connection with the University of Durham" and the University began to award medical qualifications. A College of Physical Science in Newcastle upon Tyne was founded in 1871, under the aegis of the university. This became the College of Science in 1884 and then Armstrong College in 1904. It offered a wide range of pure and applied science as well as a growing number of arts courses.

The original constitution of the University, which placed its government under the control of the dean and chapter of Durham, was modified in 1908 to create a federal institution. This provided an organisation at university level functioning equally in Durham and Newcastle and wholly responsible for examining and granting degrees. The students, however, were members of the university by virtue of their membership of its largely autonomous, constituent parts in Durham and in Newcastle. A royal commission of 1935 led to further constitutional changes which took effect in 1937. Under the new arrangements the Durham Colleges continued as the Durham Division, but in Newcastle the College of Medicine and Armstrong College, with its associated King Edward VII School of Art (founded in 1837 as the Newcastle School of Art which became part of the College of Science in 1888), were merged to form a unified Newcastle Division named King's College. Two full-time appointments were established to lead the two Divisions, the warden of the Durham Colleges and the rector of King's College, who served alternately as vice-chancellor and pro-vice-chancellor of the university until the Act of 1963.

After the Second World War, both divisions expanded rapidly and the federal organisation was soon rendered out of date. The various governing bodies within the university concluded that there should be a separate University of Newcastle. The Universities of Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne Act of 1963 provided for the establishment of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with the former Durham Colleges continuing as the University of Durham, rebranded as Durham University in 2005. Pure science teaching within Durham had been re-established in 1924 at the same time as the department of Education was opened. Both developments were the result of collaboration between the Durham Colleges and Durham County Council and for many years were in large part funded by a special rate levied by the latter. The original range of pure science departments was extended after 1945 and applied science and engineering were introduced in 1960 and 1965 respectively. Large scale development in the social sciences came after 1960 and the range of arts departments was also expanded in the 1960s. The present academic departments at Durham are organised into four schools, including the Business School, and twenty-four other boards of studies, all contained within the three faculties of Arts, Science and Social Sciences.

University College, Stockton on Tees, opened to students in October 1992 offering joint qualifications of the universities of Durham and of Teesside. It was established in partnership with the university of Teesside and the Teesside Development Corporation. In 1994 the Privy Council approved its status as a residential and teaching college of the University of Durham. Since 1996, by agreement between the two universities, the students have been studying for university of Durham degrees. In 2001 John Snow College and George Stephenson College were established at Stockton. In recognition of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and the tenth anniversary of the Stockton campus, Her Majesty gave permission for the university to change its title from University of Durham, Stockton Campus to Queen's Campus.

Official titles:

1832-1908 The Warden, Masters and Scholars of the University of Durham

1908-1963 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Durham; (in Durham) the Council of the Durham Colleges in the University of Durham

1963-2005 The University of Durham

2005-date Durham University


The material was originally arranged (c.1990) by accession in 4 main groupings: Central Administration, University Library records, College records and records of university associations, societies, common rooms and clubs. Sorting of this material and new accessions into the present classification was begun in April 2004 after consultation between M.M.N. Stansfield, M.S. McCollum and E.R. Rainey.

As at October 2007, the main subdivisions are:

A Foundation and Statutes

B Central Committees

C Central Administration and Officers

D Faculties and Departments

E Support Services

F Colleges

G Associations and Societies

H King's College

J Stockton/Queen's Campus

K Publications

Access Information

Open for consultation except as specified in the descriptions of individual sections.

Acquisition Information

Deposited at various times by the university's central administration, and other parts and members of the university, since 1902, and especially since 2002. Other material was originally deposited at various times with the university's Palaeography and Department department from 1970 and subsequently transferred to Durham University Library in 1992.

Other Finding Aids

Various inventories or summaries of accessions were produced prior to 2002, which were expanded as necessary and converted to EAD by 2006, with subsequent accessions also catalogued in EAD. Each subdivision has a separate catalogue, which can be accessed online via the Summary guide

Separated Material

- Durham Cathedral Library has correspondence between Bishop Van Mildert and Warden Charles Thorp.

- Durham County Record Office holds the archives of the College of St. Hild & St. Bede (successor to the two teacher training colleges of Hild and Bede) (E/HB); also occasional items of the university's Book Club (1883-1917) (D/X94/99) and Railway Society (c.1959-1988) (D/DURS) .

- Birmingham University Library, Church Missionary Society archive (XCMS) has records of Fourah Bay College before its affiliation to Durham in 1876 when it was run by the Society and connected to the C.M.S. college at Islington.

- Balliol College Library, Oxford, has the papers of Henry Jenkyns (1795-1878), canon of Durham Cathedral from 1839, foundation professor of Greek 1833-1839 and professor of Divinity 1839-1864, which contain much on the foundation and early years of the university.

- Newcastle University has the records of Armstrong College and the College of Medicine and their successor King's College, except that practice and attendance registers and accounts for the College of Medicine 1870-1940 are at Tyne and Wear Archives (E/UNI). Newcastle also holds the papers of Charles I.C. Bosanquet 1924-1972 and Lord Eustace Percy 1911-1952.

- Durham University websites dating back to 1998 are available at http://www.archive.org/web/web.php.

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.

Appraisal Information

Some accessions are appraised on site before transfer, others are appraised when received at Palace Green. Clean duplicates at least are generally removed.

Custodial History

The records have been held within the offices that created them. Almost none of the records have been away from the university, though one or two have been retrieved from local booksellers.


Continuous further accruals are anticipated. In April 2004, a retention schedule and other records management procedures were developed for the university's records to facilitate the regular transfer of records from the university's departments and offices to the archive. This draft retention schedule was developed further on the appointment of the first university records manager in August 2006.

Related Material

- Thorp Correspondence (papers of Charles Thorp, 1783-1862, first warden);

- Old University MSS (which include notes on lectures given in the university in the 19th century and some papers of early members of the university );

- Additional MSS (these include various recollections of the university and particular departments within it, along with correspondence of: Charles T. Whitley, 1808-1895, the first reader in natural philosophy and mathematices, (Add Ms 834); Samuel Smith, 1766-1841, canon of Durham at the time of the university's establishment, (Add Ms 836); Temple Chevallier, 1794-1873, the first professor of mathematics, (Add Ms 837); and F.A. Paneth, 1887-1958, professor of chemistry, (Add Ms 780));

- Jevons Papers (papers of F.B. Jevons, 1858-1936, master of Hatfield College and vice-chancellor; the contents of this collection, however, are entirely scholar's working papers, not related directly to university affairs);

- Duff Papers (Sir James Fitzjames Duff, 1898-1970, vice-chancellor);

- Abbott Papers (Claude Collett Abbott, 1889-1971, professor of English 1932-1954, DUJ editor, mainly his own literary and personal papers);

- Karl Britton Papers (Karl William Britton, 1909-1983, professor of Philosophy at King's/Newcastle 1951-1975, mainly his own scholarly papers);

- Foster Papers, Albums and Slides (Ian John Charles Foster 1908-1978, library staff 1946, keeper of Oriental Books 1950-1973)

- Durham Castle Buildings Archive;

- Durham University Music Exercises (compositions submitted for music degrees);

- Durham University Observatory Records;

- Durham University Department of Archaeology Photographic Deposit;

- Durham University Department of Geology Lantern Slide Collection;

- Durham University Library Miscellaneous Albums & Photographs;

- Durham Cathedral Muniments;

- Mawson Papers (firm of Durham lawyers who acted for the university).

- Durham University Extension Scheme 1880-1895 papers of the fourth Earl Grey are in GRE/B174 file 15.

Various serial publications are also invaluable adjuncts to the archive in providing information about the members, regulations, life and events of the university:

Durham University Calendar (produced annually) is available (since 1833) at the Palace Green Library and (since 1843) at the Main Library;

full runs of the Durham University Journal (1876-1995) are available at both Palace Green Library and the Main Library;

a full run of the Durham University Gazette (1898-1939 and 1953-1986) is available at Palace Green with the Main Library holding the new series (1953-1986).

In addition, the printed local collection at Palace Green has various prospectuses, reports, accounts, newsletters, and journals produced by colleges, departments and clubs and societies within the university.


J.T. Fowler, Durham University (1904) (Fowler's own copy of this, interleaved, with corrections and additions, is DUL ASC Add Ms 199);

C.E. Whiting, The University of Durham 1832-1932 (1932);

C.E. Whiting ed., The University of Durham 1937 (Durham 1937);

A.J. Heesom, The Founding of the University of Durham (Durham Cathedral Lecture, 1982: Durham, 1982);

A.J. Heesom, Who Thought of the Idea of the University of Durham?, Durham County Local History Society Bulletin (December 1982), p.10-20;

I.E. Graham, The University, in Durham County and City with Teesside, ed. J.C. Dewdney (Durham 1970), p.497-507;

E. M. Bettenson, The University of Newcastle upon Tyne A Historical Introduction 1834-1971 (Newcastle upon Tyne 1971);

N. McCord, Newcastle University: Past, Present and Future (2006);

N. Watson, The Durham Difference: the story of Durham University (2007).