Christ's College, Cambridge

Updated: 2015-02-04T07:26Z
Colleges of the University of Cambridge

Christ's College

First Court
FoundersWilliam Byngham (1437);
Lady Margaret Beaufort (1505)
Named afterJesus Christ
Refounded 1505
Previously namedGod's House (1437–1505)
MasterFrank Kelly
Sister collegesWadham College, Oxford
Branford College, Yale
Adams House, Harvard
Pforzheimer House, Harvard
LocationSt Andrew's Street (map)
Christ's College heraldic shield
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, officially comprising the Master and Fellows of the College as well as about 600 students.[1] The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort in 1505, its royal charter granted on May 1 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 eighth place from 2006 to 2013.

As of 2013, it had an endowment of £138 million, making it one of the wealthier colleges in Cambridge.[2]


The college grew from God's House, an institution founded in 1437 by William Byngham on land now occupied by King's College Chapel. It received its first royal licence in 1446. It moved to its present site in 1448 when it received its second royal licence. It was renamed Christ's College and received its present charter in 1505 when it was endowed and expanded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, and her confidant St. John Fisher.[3] Along with Jesus, King's, Trinity and St John's colleges, it has also provided several of the well known members of the Cambridge Apostles, an intellectual secret society.


The chapel
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.[4] Third Court is also noted for its display of irises in May and June, a gift to the college in 1946.[5]

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.[6] Design critic Hugh Pearman comments "Lasdun had big trouble relating to the street at the overhanging rear".[7] 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.[8]

Swimming Pool

Christ's College is one of only 5 colleges in Oxford or Cambridge to have its own swimming pool. Recently refurbished, it is now known as the 'Malcolm Bowie Bathing Pool', and is thought to be the oldest outdoor swimming pool in Europe (dated from the mid 17th century).[9] 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).


ChristsCollege Overhead.jpgGreat GateFirst CourtChapelMaster's LodgeHallLibrarySecond CourtFellows' BuildingThird CourtMemorial BuildingStevenson BuildingBlyth BuildingTodd BuildingFour StaircaseNew Court (Lasdun Building)Fellows' Garden
Christ's College, Cambridge, from above
1 white, red rounded rectangle.svgGreat Gate
2 white, blue rounded rectangle.svgFirst Court
3 white, red rounded rectangle.svgChapel
4 white, red rounded rectangle.svgMaster's Lodge
5 white, red rounded rectangle.svgHall
6 white, red rounded rectangle.svgLibrary
7 white, blue rounded rectangle.svgSecond Court
8 white, red rounded rectangle.svgFellows' Building
9 white, blue rounded rectangle.svgThird Court
10 white, red rounded rectangle.svgMemorial Building
11 white, red rounded rectangle.svgStevenson Building
12 white, red rounded rectangle.svgBlyth Building
13 white, red rounded rectangle.svgTodd Building
14 white, red rounded rectangle.svgFour Staircase
15 white, blue rounded rectangle.svgNew Court (Lasdun Building)
16 white, green rounded rectangle.svgFellows' Garden

Academic profile

With a deserved reputation even within Cambridge for the highest academic standards, Christ's averaged top place in the Tompkins Table from 1980–2006 and third place from 2006 to 2013.[10] 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%.[11][12]

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.[13][14][15] The college has also educated Nobel Laureates including Martin Evans, James Meade and Alexander R. Todd, Baron Todd. It is the University's 6th largest producer of Nobel Prize winners (out of 29 colleges).

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.

Medical and Biological Sciences

Christ's has an extremely strong track record in Medical and Biological sciences among Cambridge colleges. In 2014, the college was ranked 1st out of the 25 colleges that offer the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos.[16]Szeming Sze read medicine at Christ's, and later co-founded the World Health Organisation.

Christ's College has also produced alumni and fellows in biological sciences that have gone on to become heads of various research institutions. These have included: Hugh Pelham, Director of the Medical Research Council MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology;[17] Daniel St. Johnston, Chairman of the Gurdon Institute;[18] Jim Smith, Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR);[19] Richard Treisman, Director of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) London Research Institute;[20]Simon Tavaré, Director of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Research Institute[21] and Peter Lachmann, Founding President of The Academy of Medical Sciences.[22]

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:

  • The Marguerites Club, one of the oldest surviving College societies, reformed in 1899 by Gilbert Jessop the then captain of CUCC. It is believed to have originally formed some ten years earlier, but was soon disbanded. Originally the society was confined to captains and secretaries or those with colours in three sports. Nowadays it is also known as a drinking society,as well as a club recognising sporting excellence. The name originated from the club's original blazer, which was navy blue in colour with the Foundress's 'rebus' or badge, signifying her name, embroidered on the pocket.
  • Christ's College Boat Club, the oldest college sports club still active, having been founded in 1830. Like other Cambridge Colleges, Christ's has its own boathouse on the banks of the Cam.
  • Christ's College Rugby Football Club, founded in 1875 by Alfred Cort Haddon,[23] who is considered the father of modern anthropology. In the 1960 Varsity Match, eight of the starting Cambridge team were students at Christ's and all of the side's points were scored by Christ's players.[24] The CCRFC is nicknamed "The Brown Rings" after the brown and white hoops featured on the match kit.
  • Christ's College Association Football Club, which prides itself on having won the inter-collegiate Cuppers competition more times than any other.
  • Christ's Films, which uses the theatre to screen new films weekly
  • Christ's Amateur Dramatic Society
  • Christ's College Medical Society
  • Christ's Politics Society
  • Christ's College Music Society, founded 1710.
  • Christ's College Chapel Choir.

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 17th June 2014 was hailed as one of the best May Balls of the year, coming close to perfection.[25] 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.

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, the current Master of Christ's


Famous alumni

HRH Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid Al-Hussein1936Iraqi Prince
HRH Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein1964Iraqi Prince
William Ames15761633Reformed Theologian
Richard Bancroft15441610Archbishop of Canterbury, Organiser of James I Bible
Jasmine Birtles1962British financial and business commentator, television presenter, author and journalist
Jagdish Chandra Bose18581937Indian physicist
C. Delisle Burns18791942Atheist and secularist writer and lecturer
Sir Anthony Caro19242013Sculptor
Sacha Baron Cohen1971Comedian
John Cook19181984Prolific Anglo-American composer and organist
Frederick Cornwallis17131783Archbishop of Canterbury
John Cornwell1940British author and journalist
John James Cowperthwaite19162006Credited with policies allowing Hong Kong's economic boom in the 1960s
John Cridland1961Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry
Charles Darwin18091882British naturalist
Patrick Arthur Devlin, Baron Devlin19051992Jurist, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
Colin Dexter1930Novelist
Sir Martin Evans1941Biochemist, Nobel laureate in medicine
Noel Gay18981954Composer
Edmund Grindal15191583Archbishop of Canterbury
Alfred Cort Haddon18551940Father of modern anthropology
Yusuf Hamied1936Chemist and industrialist
John Healey1960British politician
Derry Irvine, Baron Irvine of Lairg1940Lord Chancellor
Phillip King1934Sculptor
David Knowles18961974Historian
David Konstant1930Bishop of Leeds
Sir John Kotelawala18971980Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
John Lelandc 15061552Father of English history
Tony Lewis1938England and Glamorgan cricket captain
Richard Luce1936Lord Chamberlain
Michael Lynch1965Founder of Autonomy Systems
Allama Mashriqi18831963Founder of the Khaksar Tehreek
David Mellor1949British politician
Sir Walter Mildmay1589Founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Miles Millarc 1967Hollywood screenwriter and producer
John Milton16081674English poet
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma19001979British Admiral of the Fleet and statesman
Thomas Nelson, Jr.17381789Governor of Virginia; signer of the American Declaration of Independence
John Oliver1977British Political Comedian
J. Robert Oppenheimer19041967American theoretical physicist and 'father of the atomic bomb'
Andy Parsons1967English comedian and writer
William Paley17431805English theologian and philosopher
John Peile18381910Philologist
William Perkins15581602Leading Puritan Theologian of the Elizabethan Era
Sir John Plumb19112001British historian
Thomas Plume16301704English clergyman, founder of the University's Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy
Roy Porter19462002British historian
Beilby Porteus17311809Bishop of Chester and Bishop of London, leading reformer and abolitionist
Peter Rawlinson, Baron Rawlinson of Ewell19192006Attorney General for England and Wales
Forrest Reid18751948Cambridge apostle, novelist, literary critic
Austin Robinson18971993British Economist and economic historian
Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham17381786British Foreign Secretary
David Say19392006Bishop of Rochester
Simon Schama1945British historian, author, and television presenter
Nicholas Serota1946Director of the Tate Gallery
Walter William Skeat18351912Philologist
Jan Smuts18701950Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal, and Commonwealth statesman
C. P. Snow, Baron Snow19051980British novelist and philosopher
F. Gordon A. Stone19252011British chemist
Szeming Sze19081998Chinese Diplomat, WHO co-founder
Nicholas Tarling1931Historian
Jeffrey Tate1943Conductor
Henry Teonge16201690Naval chaplain and diarist
Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull1945Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service
Richard Whiteley19432005British television presenter
Rowan Williams1950British theologian, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Christopher Zeeman1925British mathematician



  1. ^ a b c"Undergraduate Admissions: Christ's College". University of Cambridge website. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  2. ^"Christ's College Accounts". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  3. ^"College History". Christ's College, Cambridge. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2008. 
  4. ^Christ's College Magazine, Michaelmas 1953
  5. ^Christ's College Magazine no. 228, p 53, 2003
  6. ^"Architects pay tribute to Denys Lasdun". the Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  7. ^"The Legacy of Lasdun". [dead link]
  8. ^Christ's College Magazine no. 228, p 56, 2003
  9. ^"Malcolm Bowie Bathing Pool". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  10. ^"Christ's top of 20-year table of Cambridge colleges". The Independent. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  11. ^"Supporting Applicants". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2014-09-13. 
  12. ^"Christ's College Annual Magazine 2013". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  13. ^"Quentin Blake unveils Cambridge 800 panorama | University of Cambridge". 2009-09-28. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  14. ^University education (2009-01-18). "Cambridge University's 800th birthday celebrated with spectacular light show". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  15. ^"University's history writ large on screen | Cambridge City News, Cambridge Local News Stories & Latest Headlines". Cambridge News. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  16. ^"Christ's College Annual Magazine 2014". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  17. ^"Contacts of the LMB". MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  18. ^St. Johnston Group Homepage[dead link]
  19. ^Director's Welcome – NIMR[dead link]
  20. ^Director's Foreword of LRI[dead link]
  21. ^"Director's foreword". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  22. ^"Professor Sir Peter Lachmann at the Academy of Medical Sciences". Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  23. ^"Official Christ's College Website; Distinguished Alumni". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  24. ^"Rugby Varsity Match 1960: First Half Highlights.". YouTube. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  25. ^"Christ's May Ball 2014: Close to Perfection". 
  26. ^Christ's College by John Peile (1900)


  • Lloyd, A. H. (2010). The Early History of Christ's College, Cambridge: Derived from Contemporary Documents. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1108008976.  (account of the history of God's House, originally published in 1934)

John Peile, Biographical History of the Members of God's House and Christ's College.

External links

Coordinates: 52°12′19″N0°07′20″E / 52.205398°N 0.122223°E / 52.205398; 0.122223

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