St Catharine's College, Cambridge

"Katharine Hall" redirects here. For the American racing cyclist, see Katie Hall (cyclist).
Colleges of the University of Cambridge
St Catharine’s College
Full name The College or Hall of Saint Catharine the Virgin in the University of Cambridge
Name in Latin Aula sancte Katerine virginis infra Universitatem Cantabrigie
Founder Robert Woodlark, Provost of King's College
Named after Catherine of Alexandria
Established 1473
Previously named Katharine Hall (1473-1860)
Master Sir Mark Welland FRS FREng
Undergraduates 436
Graduates 165
Sister college Worcester College, Oxford
Location Trumpington Street (map)
"For the wheel! (unofficial)"
College website
JCR website
MCR website
Boat Club website

St Catharine’s College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1473 as Katharine Hall, it adopted its current name in 1860. The college is nicknamed "Catz". The college is located in the historic city-centre of Cambridge, and lies just south of King's College and across the street from Corpus Christi College. The college is notable for its open court (rather than closed quadrangle) that faces towards Trumpington Street.

St Catharine’s is unique in being the only Oxbridge college founded by the serving head of another college.[1] The college community is moderately sized, consisting of approximately 70 fellows, 150 graduate students, and 410 undergraduates.[2] As of 2013, the college's endowment stood at £48.3 million, placing the college 18th richest of the University's colleges.[3]



Historical plan of St Catharine's College

Robert Woodlark, Provost of King’s College, had begun preparations for the founding of a new college as early as 1459 when he bought tenements on which the new college could be built. The preparation cost him a great deal of his private fortune (he was suspected of diverting King’s College funds), and he was forced to scale down the foundation to only three Fellows. He stipulated that they must study theology and philosophy only. The college was established as "Katharine Hall" in 1473. The college received its Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1475 from King Edward IV. Woodlark may have chosen the name in homage to the mother of King Henry VI who was called Catharine, although it is more likely that it was named as part of the Renaissance cult of St Catharine, who was a patron saint of learning. At any rate, the college was ready for habitation and formally founded on St Catharine’s day (November 25) 1473. There are six Saints Catharine, but the college was named for Saint Catharine of Alexandria.[4]

St Catharine’s, as seen from Trumpington Street

The initial foundation was not well-provided for. Woodlark was principally interested in the welfare of fellows and the college had no undergraduates at all for many years. By 1550, however, there was an increasing number of junior students and the focus of the college changed to that of teaching undergraduates.

Expansion and modern day

As the college entered the 17th century, it was still one of the smallest colleges in Cambridge. However, a series of prudent Masters and generous benefactors were to change the fortunes of the college and expand its size. Rapid growth in the fellowship and undergraduate population made it necessary to expand the college, and short-lived additions were made in 1622. By 1630 the college began to demolish its existing buildings which were decaying, and started work a new court. In 1637 the college came into possession of the George Inn (later the Bull Inn) on Trumpington Street. Behind this Inn was a stables which was already famous for the practice of its manager, Thomas Hobson, not to allow a hirer to take any horse other than the one longest in the stable, leading to the expression “Hobson's choice”, meaning "take it or leave it".

Chapel at the college

The period of 1675 to 1757 saw the redevelopment of the college's site into a large three-sided court, one of only four at Oxbridge colleges; the others are at Jesus and Downing at Cambridge and Worcester, St Catharine’s sister college, at Oxford. Proposals for a range of buildings to complete the fourth side of the court have been made on many occasions.[5]

The college was granted new statutes in 1860 and adopted its current name. In 1880, a movement to merge the college with King’s College began. The two colleges were adjacent and it seemed a solution to King’s need for more rooms and St Catharine’s need for a more substantial financial basis. However, the Master (Charles Kirkby Robinson) was opposed and St Catharine’s eventually refused.

In 1966 a major rebuilding project took place under the Mastership of Professor E. E. Rich. This saw the creation of a new larger hall, new kitchens and an accommodation block shared between St Catharine's and King's College. Pressure on accommodation continued to grow, and in 1981 further accommodation was built at St. Chad's on Grange Road, with further rooms added there in 1998. In 2013 the College completed the building of a new lecture theatre, college bar and JCR.[4]

In 1979, the membership of the college was broadened to welcome female students, and in 2006 the first woman was appointed as Master of the college, Dame Jean Thomas.

A history of the college was written by W.H.S. Jones in 1936.[6]

In 2015, St Catharine's became the first college in Cambridge to implement a gender-neutral dress code for formal hall.[7]

Academic reputation

The college boathouse

The academic reputations of colleges within Cambridge are hotly disputed and often difficult to determine. Historically, St Catharine's position has been unexceptional and in the controversial annual league table of colleges placed towards the middle. In 2014 its position slipped to 21st,[8] but rose to 13th in 2015 with over 25% of students gaining a First. The college had been placed at the top of the Tompkins Table, which ranks the colleges by the class of degrees obtained by their undergraduates, for the first time in 2005. Between 1997 and 2010, the college averaged 9th of the 29 colleges.

Student life

The college maintains a friendly rivalry with Queens’ College after the construction of the main court of St Catharine's College on Cambridge’s former High Street relegated one side of Queens' College into a back alley. A more modern rivalry with Robinson College resulted from the construction in the 1970s of a modern block of flats named St Chad’s (in which the rooms are octagonal to resemble the wheel on the college crest) by the University Library.

The college is known for its reputation in hockey and racquet sports, in part due to its facilities for these sports including grass tennis courts and an astroturf hockey pitch. St Catharine's College Boat Club, the college boat club, hosts the Cardinals Regatta each year, in which teams compete along a short course in fancy dress with an emphasis on bribery to secure victory. The college's Boat Club is moderately strong, with both Men's and Women's 1st boats generally residing in the middle of the 1st division of the May Bumps races.

The college hosts several other notable societies. The Shirley Society is the college literary society, the oldest in Cambridge, it regularly hosts significant figures from the arts world throughout the academic year. The college-based girls' choir is the first of its kind in a UK university and is composed of girls aged 8–14 from local schools.

Notable alumni

Name Birth Death Career
John Addenbrooke 1680 1719 Founder of Addenbrooke's Hospital
David Armand 1977 Actor, comedian & writer
Herbert Rowse Armstrong 1870 1922 Only English solicitor to be hanged for murder
Richard Ayoade 1977 Performer
Harivansh Rai Bachchan 1907 2003 20th century Indian poet
Nathaniel Bacon 1640 1676 Revolutionary in Virginia
Jonathan Bate 1958 Shakespeare scholar and Provost of Worcester College, Oxford
John Bayliss 1919 1978 Poet
Peter Boizot 1929 Founder of Pizza Express
Gp. Cpt. Leslie Bonnet 1902 1985 RAF officer, writer and originator of the Welsh Harlequin Duck
John Bradford 1510 1555 Martyr of the English reformation
Anil Kumar Gain 1919 1978 Indian mathematician and statistician, FRS
Sir Kenneth Bradshaw 1922 2007 Clerk of the House of Commons
Howard Brenton 1942 Playwright
Adam Buddle 1662 1715 After whom the Buddleia is named
Henry William Bunbury 1750 1811 Caricaturist
Francis Cammaerts DSO Leading member of the French Special Operations Executive
Martin Crimp 1956 Playwright
John Cutts 1661 1707 MP and army commander
Donald Davie 1922 1995 Poet
John Bacchus Dykes 1823 1876 Victorian hymn-writer
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed 1905 1977 Fifth President of India
Richard Finn Regent of Blackfriars, Oxford
Leo Genn 1905 1978 Actor
Brian Gibson 1944 2004 Movie Director
Maurice Glasman 1961 Political scientist and Labour peer
Charles Wycliffe Goodwin 1817 1878 Egyptologist, bible scholar and judge of the British Supreme Court for China and Japan
Lilian Greenwood 1966 British Labour Party politician
Sir Peter Hall 1930 Theatre and opera director, founder of the RSC
Rebecca Hall 1982 Film and stage actress
Leslie Halliwell 1929 1989 Film reviewer
David Harding Hedge fund manager and founder for Winton Capital Management
Roger Harrabin 1955 Journalist and reporter
Joanne Harris 1964 Author
Sir Peter Hirsch 1925 Materials scientist
Sir Robert Howe 1893 1981 Last British Governor-General of the Sudan
Rupert Jeffcoat 1970 Organist Coventry Cathedral
Roger Knight 1946 Cricketer
Emyr Jones Parry 1947 United Nations diplomat
Paul King Director, The Mighty Boosh, Bunny and the Bull
Malcolm Lowry 1909 1957 Writer - Author of Under the Volcano, number 11 on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th century).[9]
Sir Ian McKellen 1939 Actor
Roy MacLaren 1934 Canadian diplomat, politician and author
Nevil Maskelyne 1732 1811 Astronomer Royal; developed the Lunar distance model for measuring latitude
Ian Meakins 1956 Chief Executive of Wolseley plc
Michael Morris 1936 Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons
George Nash 1989 Rowing World Champion and Olympic Medalist
Sir Foley Newns 1909 1998 Colonial administrator
Ben Miller 1966 Writer, Actor and Comedian
Geoffrey Pattie 1936 Former Minister of State for Information and Technology
Jeremy Paxman 1950 Television journalist
Sam Pickering 1941 Professor of English at the University of Connecticut
Steve Punt 1962 Comedian
Tunku Abdul Rahman 1903 1990 First Prime Minister of Malaysia
John Ray 1627 1705 Naturalist
Sir Thomas Roberts 1658 1706 MP
Thomas Sherlock 1678 1761 Theologian
James Shirley 1596 1666 Elizabethan poet and playwright
Arun Singh Former Defence Minister of India
Donald Soper 1903 1998 Methodist minister and campaigner
John Strype 1643 1737 Historian
Noel Thompson Television journalist
Tim Waterstone 1939 Bookseller
Peter Wothers Chemist
William Wotton 1666 1727 Historian
Hannah Yelland 1976 Film & stage actress
Terence Young 1915 1994 British film director - Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball

See also


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Coordinates: 52°12′10.80″N 0°7′0.84″E / 52.2030000°N 0.1169000°E / 52.2030000; 0.1169000 (St Catharine’s College)

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