Durham University Records: Foundation and Statutes

Scope and Content

Documents concerning the foundation and legal status of Durham University, including charters, grants of arms, statutes and acts of parliament. Also included are documents concerning the celebrations of the university's various anniversaries or jubilees in 1937, 1982 and 2007.

Administrative / Biographical History

Durham University's foundation date of 1832 is the date of the Act of Parliament that set up the university and transferred property from Durham Dean and Chapter to the new body. This body was formally incorporated and permitted to grant degrees by the charter of 1837. Supplementary charters in 1895 and 1897 enabled it to grant degrees to women and revoke degrees respectively. Subsequent acts of 1864, 1908, 1935 and 1963 variously restructured the university, with the last creating the independent University of Newcastle. The regulation of the university concomitant on these acts was implemented by a series of statutes. Arms were granted in 1843.

Celebrating the university's anniversary has become an increasingly important opportunity for promotion and new initiatives. There was some discussion as to when the 50th anniversary should fall with 1882 eventually being settled on as the 1832 Act was decided as marking the university's foundation. Other options had included the Dean and Chapter's 1831 Act, the admission of the first students in 1833 or the 1837 charter. In fact, for the centenary it was decided to celebrate the charter in 1937 rather than the act in 1932 as it was felt it would not be right to be seen celebrating in the parlous economic conditions prevalent in 1932. Subsequent anniversaries have continued to celebrate, ever more extensively in 1982 and 2007, the act as the start point.


Arranged into the present classification in April 2004 after consultation between M.M.N. Stansfield, M.S. McCollum and E.R. Rainey.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the University Library from the university's central administration at various times since the 1950s.


Part of : Durham University Records

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available at online catalogue.

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

Most have always been held by the university, though the 1895 and 1897 supplementary charters were away from Durham for a number of decades.

Related Material

Most grants of arms to individual colleges are still held in the colleges themselves, often on prominent public display in entrances or common rooms.


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;