St Cuthbert's Society, Durham

Colleges of the University of Durham
St Cuthbert's Society
Named after Cuthbert of Lindisfarne
Established 25 October 1888
Principal Elizabeth Archibald
Deputy Principal Sharon Richardson
Undergraduates 1047
Postgraduates 106
Motto Gratia gratiam parit
Motto in English Friendship begets friendship

Location of St Cuthbert's Society within DurhamCoordinates: 54°46′16″N 1°34′37″W / 54.771011°N 1.576816°W / 54.771011; -1.576816

St Cuthbert's Society, colloquially known as Cuths,[1] is a college of Durham University. It was founded in 1888 for students who were not attached to the existing colleges.[2] St Cuthbert's Society is a Bailey college, based on Durham's peninsula next to the River Wear, although it also has other accommodation elsewhere within the city.

St Cuthbert's retains its title of 'society', although its workings have changed since its formation.[3] Its foundation differed from that of Durham's other colleges in that it was established as a common room for, and by, its students. Other Societies followed: St Aidan's Society – now St Aidan's College, and the Graduate Society – now Ustinov College. It is still home to the highest proportion of local students of those at Durham-based colleges (although not if the two Stockton-based colleges are included),[4] and also traditionally houses a high proportion of mature students. It is the only collegiate body to offer undergraduates catered, self-catered, and part catered accommodation.[5]


View down South Bailey to Prebends Bridge including 12 South Bailey.

At its formation, the Society consisted largely of mature students, was non-residential and run by the students themselves. It elected a President and an Executive Committee to organise social events, sports teams and other clubs, manage the common room and other facilities largely (but not exclusively) provided by the University, and represent members' concerns to the academic authorities.[6] The University appointed a Junior Proctor and later a Censor who was employed by the University to oversee the Society's members.[7] Among the early Censors, Frank Byron Jevons and Percy John Heawood were both scholars of considerable note.[8]

The Society grew in size until the Second World War when numbers of students in the University dropped sharply and the Society was effectively in abeyance until 'refounded' in 1945 by veterans returning from combat who wished to complete their degrees. When the Society moved to the South Bailey in 1951, it began to offer accommodation to a small number of students and created the position of Principal to replace that of Censor. The first Principal, Clifford Leech, a distinguished academic and widely acknowledged expert on Jacobean literature, served for several years in this role before going on to become Professor of English at the University of Toronto. His portrait, by Thomas William Pattison (1894–1983), hangs in the college hall. The Principal is now responsible for managing all aspects of the Society. The Society includes a dedicated team of University staff, a junior common room, a senior room, an alumni association and a group of fellows.

Over the years the Society has expanded a great deal and now has a large body of accommodation on the Bailey as well as elsewhere in Durham. In 2006 'Brooks House' was built and this allowed all first year students to live-in for the first time, as well as a number of returners and postgraduate students.


The patron of the Society, St. Cuthbert, continues to be remembered annually, if somewhat incongruously for an ascetic, in The Feast, a traditional banquet held on or near St. Cuthbert's feast day of 20 March each year.

Another annual event is Cuths Day, a day of entertainment conducted on, off and in the River Wear, which curls around the foot of the bailey where the Society is based.

The surviving ‘Refounders’ of the Society hold a reunion weekend every September in college. The same weekend also hosts the Annual General Meeting of St Cuthbert's Association, the alumni organisation of the Society. In addition to this, the Founders of the Society are remembered at the annual Founders' Formal and past Presidents attend the President's Formal.

Although the Bailey colleges are generally considered to be more traditional,[9] St Cuthbert's Society generally employs a more informal approach; for example, unlike the other Bailey colleges its students no longer wear gowns except for congregation.

Shield of St Cuthbert

Coat of arms

The original seventh-century pectoral cross of St. Cuthbert was discovered when his grave was opened in 1827, and is now preserved in the cathedral treasury. The motto, gratia gratiam parit, appears in the Adagia of Erasmus, a collection of Greek and Latin adages, and can be loosely translated as ‘friendship begets friendship’ or ‘kindness begets kindness’. The full coat of arms includes an eider duck as the crest. This is because, while resident in the Farne Islands, St Cuthbert instituted special laws to protect these and other seabirds nesting there, creating what may have been the first bird protection laws anywhere in the world. Consequently, eider ducks have long been known as 'cuddy ducks' (Cuthbert's ducks) in the Pitmatic dialect as spoken in Northumberland.


Entrance to the Headquarters of the Society, 12 South Bailey

The headquarters of St Cuthbert's Society is situated in South Bailey and it is therefore a Bailey college, but the Society has accommodation elsewhere in Durham, at Parsons Field. This accommodation consists of four buildings, with one (Brooks House) including en-suite facilities, and the others (Refounders House, Parsons Field Court and Fonteyn Court) consisting of standard single rooms. Returning students typically live in Brooks House, with other buildings at Parsons Field being primarily for first year undergraduates.

By having catered, part catered and self-catered accommodation, St Cuthbert's Society offers a choice of meal packages to students.

Other facilities include a library, two common rooms, two bars, two gyms, two computer rooms, a conference room, and a music room.[10]

Student life

St Cuthbert's Society Boat Club Crest

The Society has a number of sports teams, including a rugby team and a boat club. It also has a photography society, a theatre company, a big band and a choir.[11]

Boat Club

Launched in the summer of 1893, five years after the foundation of the Society itself, the Boat Club offers training and facilities for rowers of all levels and commitment.

List of principals

Notable alumni


Arts and Literature


The Church

Commerce and Industry




  1. St Cuthbert's Society JCR
  2. History of St Cuthbert's Society
  3. Tudor, Henry, St. Cuthbert's Society, 1888-1988: The history of 'a modest but exciting institution in the University of Durham'. 1988.
  5. "St Cuthbert's Society : Catering - Durham University".
  6. Tudor, Henry, St. Cuthbert's Society, 1888-1988. 1988. Chap. 1. Origins and Early Years, p. 12.
  7. Tudor, Henry, St. Cuthbert's Society, 1888-1988. 1988. Chap. 1. Origins and Early Years, p. 11.
  8. Tudor, Henry, St. Cuthbert's Society, 1888-1988. 1988. Chap. 1. Origins and Early Years, p. 11-26.
  9. "Durham Student Slang Dictionary". Durham Uni Students.
  10. St Cuthbert's Society. St Cuthbert's Society JCR: Freshers' Handbook 09-10.
  11. Societies

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.