Christ's College, Cambridge

Colleges of the University of Cambridge
Christ's College

First Court, Christ's College
Founders William Byngham (1437);
King Henry VI (1448);
Lady Margaret Beaufort (1505)
Named after Jesus Christ
Established 1437,
Refounded 1505
Previously named God's House (1437–1505)
Master Jane Stapleton
Undergraduates 450[1]
Graduates 170[1]
Sister colleges Wadham College, Oxford
Branford College, Yale
Adams House, Harvard[2]
Location St Andrew's Street (map)

Arms of Christ's College, being the arms of the foundress Lady Margaret Beaufort: Royal arms of England a bordure componée azure and argent
Motto: Souvent me Souvient
(Old French, "I often remember")
College website
JCR website
MCR website
Boat Club website

Christ's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college includes the Master, the Fellows of the College, and about 450 undergraduate and 170 graduate students.[1] The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort in 1505, its royal charter granted on 1 May of that year, and was the twelfth of the Cambridge colleges to be founded in its current form. It was originally established as God's House in 1437. The college is renowned for educating some of Cambridge's most famous alumni, including Charles Darwin and John Milton.

Within Cambridge, Christ's has a reputation for strong academic performance and tutorial support. It has averaged 1st place on the Tompkins Table from 1980–2006 and third place from 2006 to 2013.

As of 2013, it had an endowment of £138 million, making it one of the wealthier colleges in Cambridge.[3]


Lady Margaret Beaufort, Christ's College Library

Christ's College was originally founded by William Byngham in 1437 as God's House, on land which was soon after sold to enable the enlargement of King's College.[4] Byngham obtained the first royal licence for God's House in July 1439.[5] Originally, the college was founded to provide for the lack of grammar-school masters in England at the time,[6] and the college has been described as "the first secondary-school training college on record".[7] The original site of Godshouse was surrendered in 1443 to King's College, and currently about three quarters of King's College Chapel stands on the original site of God's House.[8]

After the original royal licence of 1439, three more licenses, two in 1442 and one in 1446, were granted before in 1448 God's House received the charter upon which the college was in fact founded.[9] In this charter, King Henry VI was named as the founder, and in the same year the college moved to its current site.[10]

In 1505, the college was endowed by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, and was given the name Christ's College, perhaps at the suggestion of her confessor, the Bishop John Fisher.[11] The expansion in the population of the college in the seventeenth century led to the building, in the 1640s, of the Fellow's Building in what is now Second Court.[11]


The chapel, with a viewing window from the Master's Lodge
The Great Gate on St Andrew's Street.

The original 15th/16th century college buildings now form part of First Court, including the chapel, Master's Lodge and Great Gate tower. The gate itself is disproportionate: the bottom has been cut off to accommodate a rise in street level, which can also be seen in the steps leading down to the foot of L staircase in the gate tower. The college hall, originally built at the very start of the 16th century, was restored in 1875–1879 by George Gilbert Scott the younger. The lawn of First Court is famously round, and a wisteria sprawls up the front of the Master's lodge.

Second Court is fully built up on only three sides, one of which is formed by the 1640s Fellows' Building. The fourth side backs onto the Master's garden.

The Stevenson Building in Third Court was designed by J. J. Stevenson in the 1880s and was extended in 1905 as part of the College's Quadcentenary. In 1947 Professor Albert Richardson designed a new cupola for the Stevenson building, and a second building, the neo-Georgian Chancellor's Building (W staircase, now known as The Blyth Building), completed in 1950. Third Court's Memorial Building (Y staircase), a twin of the Chancellor's building, also by Richardson, was completed in 1953 at a cost of £80,000.[12] Third Court is also noted for its display of irises in May and June, a gift to the college in 1946.[13]

The controversial tiered concrete New Court (often dubbed "the Typewriter") was designed in the Modernist style by Sir Denys Lasdun in 1966–70, and was described as "superb" in Lasdun's obituary in the Guardian.[14] Design critic Hugh Pearman comments "Lasdun had big trouble relating to the street at the overhanging rear".[15] It appears very distinctively in aerial photographs, forming part of the northern boundary of the college.

An assortment of neighbouring buildings have been absorbed into the college, of which the most notable is The Todd Building, previously Cambridge's County Hall.

Through an arch in the Fellows' Building is the Fellows' Garden. It includes two mulberry trees, of which the older was planted in 1608, the same year as Milton's birth. Both trees have toppled sideways, the younger tree in the Great Storm of 1987, and are now earthed up round the trunks, but continue to fruit every year.[16]

Swimming Pool

Christ's College is one of only 5 colleges in Oxford or Cambridge to have its own swimming pool. It is fed by water from Hobson's Conduit. Recently refurbished, it is now known as the 'Malcolm Bowie Bathing Pool', and is thought to be the oldest outdoor swimming pool in the UK, dating from the mid 17th century.[17] The other four swimming pools within colleges belong to Girton College (indoor pool), Corpus Christi College (outdoor pool), Emmanuel College (outdoor pool) and Clare Hall (indoor pool).

Plan of College

Christ's College, Cambridge, from above
Great Gate
First Court
Master's Lodge
Second Court
Fellows' Building
Third Court
Memorial Building
Stevenson Building
Blyth Building
Todd Building
Four Staircase
New Court (Yusuf Hamied Centre)
Fellows' Garden

Academic profile

With a deserved reputation even within Cambridge for the highest academic standards, Christ's came first in the Tompkins Table's twentieth anniversary aggregate table,[18] and between 2001 and 2007, it had a mean position of third.[19] Academic excellence continues at Christ's, with 91% of students in 2013 gaining a first class degree or an upper second (II.i). This is significantly higher than the University average of 70%.[20][21]

Christ's is noted for educating two of Cambridge's most famous alumni, the poet John Milton and the naturalist Charles Darwin, who, during the celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the University, were both placed at the foreground as two of the four most iconic individuals in the University's history.[22][23][24] The college has also educated Nobel Laureates including Martin Evans, James Meade and Alexander R. Todd, Baron Todd.[25][26] It is the University's 6th largest producer of Nobel Prize winners.

Some of the college's other famous alumni include comedians Sacha Baron Cohen, John Oliver and Andy Parsons, Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts, historian Simon Schama, theologian William Paley and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Student life

Christ's College Boat Club's boathouse on the River Cam

The Junior Combination Room (JCR), represents the undergraduate students. It organises social and welfare events, and negotiates on the students' behalf on important issues. The JCR has a standing committee and a common room for all the students. The JCR's counterpart, the Middle Combination Room (MCR) represents the graduate students of the College, and has its own bar. The MCR organises regular Graduate Halls. A Garden Party is held by both the JCR and the MCR every June in the Fellows' Garden. The Senior Combination Room (SCR) is composed solely of fellows of the College and holds two feasts each year.

Other societies in Christ's include:

May Ball

Christ's, like most other Cambridge Colleges, also hosts a biennial May Ball in the time after undergraduate examinations which is by students commonly known as May Week. A separate society called "Christ's College May Ball Committee" is set up every two years to organise and direct this event. In 2010, Two Door Cinema Club headlined the entertainment. The May Ball in June 2012 featured a Rio de Janeiro carnival theme. The previous May Ball, named "L'Esprit Nouveau", was held on 15 June 2010 and featured a 1920s Parisian theme.

The May Ball on Tuesday 17 June 2014 was hailed as one of the best May Balls of the year, coming close to perfection.[29] It was themed "The Emerald City".


The College Grace is normally said before any dinner held in the Formal Hall of the College. Though the student body rises for the recitation of the Grace, Christ's is one of the only Colleges in Cambridge where the students do not rise when the Fellows enter and leave the Dining Hall. This is said to be the result of a historical conflict between the Students and Fellows at Christ's, who were on opposite sides during the English Civil War.

Latin English
Exhiliarator omnium Christe

Sine quo nihil suave, nihil jucundum est:
Benedic, quaesumus,
cibo et potui servorum tuorum,
Quae jam ad alimoniam corporis apparavisti;
et concede ut istis muneribus tuis ad laudem tuam utamur
gratisque animis fruamur;
utque quemadmodum corpus nostrum
cibis corporalibus fovetur,
ita mens nostra spirituali verbi tui
nutrimento pascatur

Per te Dominum nostrum,


Christ, the gladdener of all,

Without whom nothing is sweet, nothing pleasant:
Bless, we beseech you,
the food and drink of your servants,
Which you have now provided for the nourishment of the body;
And grant that we may use these gifts of yours for your praise,
And enjoy them with grateful minds;
And that, just as our body
is nourished by bodily foods,
So our mind may feed
on the spiritual nourishment of your Word.

Through you, our Lord,


Notable people

Proctors of God's House

Masters of Christ's

Frank Kelly, Master of Christ's 2006–2016


Famous alumni

Name Birth Death Career
HRH Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid Al-Hussein 1936 Iraqi Prince
HRH Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein 1964 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
William Ames 1576 1633 Reformed Theologian
Thomas Baines 1622 1680 Physician, original Fellow of Royal Society
Richard Bancroft 1544 1610 Archbishop of Canterbury, Organiser of James I Bible
Jasmine Birtles 1962 British financial and business commentator, television presenter, author and journalist
Jagdish Chandra Bose 1858 1937 Indian physicist
C. Delisle Burns 1879 1942 Atheist and secularist writer and lecturer
Sir Anthony Caro 1924 2013 Sculptor
Sacha Baron Cohen 1971 Comedian
John Cook 1918 1984 Prolific Anglo-American composer and organist
Miles Corbet 1594/5 1662 Regicide
Frederick Cornwallis 1713 1783 Archbishop of Canterbury
John Cornwell 1940 British author and journalist
John James Cowperthwaite 1916 2006 Credited with policies allowing Hong Kong's economic boom in the 1960s
John Cridland 1961 Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry
Charles Darwin 1809 1882 British naturalist
Patrick Arthur Devlin, Baron Devlin 1905 1992 Jurist, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
Colin Dexter 1930 Novelist
Sir Martin Evans 1941 Biochemist, Nobel laureate in medicine
Dee Ferris 1973 British Painter
John Finch 1626 1682 Ambassador, original Fellow of Royal Society
Noel Gay 1898 1954 Composer
Edmund Grindal 1519 1583 Archbishop of Canterbury
Alfred Cort Haddon 1855 1940 Father of modern anthropology
Duncan Haldane 1951 Physicist, Nobel laureate in physics
Yusuf Hamied 1936 Chemist and industrialist
Natalie Haynes 1974 Writer and broadcaster and a former comedian.
John Healey 1960 British politician
Derry Irvine, Baron Irvine of Lairg 1940 Lord Chancellor
Phillip King 1934 Sculptor
David Knowles 1896 1974 Historian
David Konstant 1930 Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds
John Kotelawala 1897 1980 Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
John Leland c 1506 1552 Father of English history
Tony Lewis 1938 England and Glamorgan cricket captain; writer and broadcaster
Richard Luce 1936 Lord Chamberlain
Michael Lynch 1965 Founder of Autonomy Systems
Allama Mashriqi 1883 1963 Founder of the Khaksar Tehreek
Peter Mathieson 1959 Vice-Chancellor of University of Hong Kong
David Mellor 1949 British politician
Sir Walter Mildmay 1589 Founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Miles Millar c 1967 Hollywood screenwriter and producer
John Milton 1608 1674 English poet
Helen Mort 1985 Poet
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma 1900 1979 British Admiral of the Fleet and statesman
Thomas Nelson, Jr. 1738 1789 Governor of Virginia; signer of the American Declaration of Independence
Davidson Nicol 1924 1994 Sierra Leonean academic, diplomat, physician, and writer
John Oliver 1977 British Political Comedian
J. Robert Oppenheimer 1904 1967 American theoretical physicist and 'father of the atomic bomb'
Andy Parsons 1967 English comedian and writer
William Paley 1743 1805 English theologian and philosopher
John Peile 1838 1910 Philologist
William Perkins 1558 1602 Leading Puritan Theologian of the Elizabethan Era
Sir John Plumb 1911 2001 British historian
Thomas Plume 1630 1704 English clergyman, founder of the University's Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy
Roy Porter 1946 2002 British historian
Beilby Porteus 1731 1809 Bishop of Chester and Bishop of London, leading reformer and abolitionist
Peter Rawlinson, Baron Rawlinson of Ewell 1919 2006 Attorney General for England and Wales
Forrest Reid 1875 1948 Cambridge apostle, novelist, literary critic
Austin Robinson 1897 1993 British Economist and economic historian
Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham 1738 1786 British Foreign Secretary
David Say 1939 2006 Bishop of Rochester
Simon Schama 1945 British historian, author, and television presenter
Nicholas Serota 1946 Director of the Tate Gallery
Walter William Skeat 1835 1912 Philologist
Jan Smuts 1870 1950 Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal, and Commonwealth statesman
C. P. Snow, Baron Snow 1905 1980 British novelist and philosopher
F. Gordon A. Stone 1925 2011 British chemist
Szeming Sze 1908 1998 Chinese Diplomat, WHO co-founder
Nicholas Tarling 1931 Historian
Jeffrey Tate 1943 Conductor
Henry Teonge 1620 1690 Naval chaplain and diarist
Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull 1945 Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service
Richard Whiteley 1943 2005 British television presenter
Rowan Williams 1950 British theologian, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Christopher Zeeman 1925 2016 British mathematician



  1. 1 2 3 "Undergraduate Admissions: Christ's College". University of Cambridge website. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  2. "Fellows' Guide to Christ's College". Christ's College. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  3. "Christ's College Accounts". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  4. Lloyd, A.H. The Early History of Christ's College. p. 13.
  5. Lloyd, A.H. The Early History of Christ's College. p. 24.
  6. Lloyd, A.H. The Early History of Christ's College. p. 37.
  7. Leach. The Schools of Medieval England. p. 257.
  8. Lloyd, A.H. The Early History of Christ's College. pp. 44–45.
  9. Lloyd, A.H. The Early History of Christ's College. p. 86.
  10. Lloyd, A.H. The Early History of Christ's College. p. 73.
  11. 1 2 "College History". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  12. Christ's College Magazine, Michaelmas 1953
  13. Christ's College Magazine no. 228, p 53, 2003
  14. "Architects pay tribute to Denys Lasdun". the Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  15. "The Legacy of Lasdun". Archived from the original on 5 March 2012.
  16. Christ's College Magazine no. 228, p 56, 2003
  17. "Malcolm Bowie Bathing Pool". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  18. "Christ's top of 20-year table of Cambridge colleges". The Independent. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  19. Retrieved 8 October 2015. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. "Supporting Applicants" (PDF). University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2014-09-13.
  21. "Christ's College Annual Magazine 2013". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  22. "Quentin Blake unveils Cambridge 800 panorama | University of Cambridge". 2009-09-28. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  23. University education (2009-01-18). "Cambridge University's 800th birthday celebrated with spectacular light show". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  24. "University's history writ large on screen | Cambridge City News, Cambridge Local News Stories & Latest Headlines". Cambridge News. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  25. "University of Cambridge Nobel Laureates". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  26. "Christ's College Distinguished Members". Christ's College. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  27. "Official Christ's College Website; Distinguished Alumni". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  28. "Rugby Varsity Match 1960: First Half Highlights.". YouTube. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  29. "Christ's May Ball 2014: Close to Perfection".
  30. Christ's College by John Peile (1900)


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