Christ's College, Cambridge

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Christ's College
University of Cambridge
Christ's College First Court, Cambridge, UK - Diliff.jpg
First Court, Christ's College
Christ's College, Cambridge arms.svg
Arms of Christ's College, being the arms of the founder Lady Margaret Beaufort
Arms: Royal arms of England a bordure componée azure and argent
Scarf colours: brown, with two equally-spaced narrow white stripes
Location St Andrew's Street (map)
Coordinates 52°12′23″N0°07′21″E / 52.2063°N 0.1224°E / 52.2063; 0.1224
AbbreviationCHR [1]
MottoSouvent me Souvient (Old French)
Motto in EnglishI often remember / Remember me often [2]
Established1437;587 years ago (1437)
(refounded 1505)
Named after Jesus Christ
Previous names God's House (1437–1505)
Sister colleges
Master Simon McDonald
Undergraduates459 (2022-23)
Postgraduates265 (2022-23)
Endowment £107m (2019) [4]
Visitor Chancellors of the University ex officio [5]
Boat club
Cambridge centre map.png
Red pog.svg
Location in Central Cambridge
Location map Cambridge.png
Red pog.svg
Location in Cambridge

Christ's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. [6] The college includes the Master, the Fellows of the College, and about 450 undergraduate and 250 graduate students. [7] The college was founded by William Byngham in 1437 as God's House. In 1505, the college was granted a new royal charter, was given a substantial endowment by Lady Margaret Beaufort, and changed its name to Christ's College, becoming the twelfth of the Cambridge colleges to be founded in its current form. Alumni of the college include some of Cambridge University's most famous members, including Charles Darwin and John Milton.


The current Master is Lord McDonald of Salford. [8]


Lady Margaret Beaufort, Christ's College Library Lady Margaret Christ's College Library.jpg
Lady Margaret Beaufort, Christ's College Library

Christ's College was founded by William Byngham in 1437 as God's House, [9] on land which was soon after sold to enable the enlargement of King's College. [10] Byngham obtained the first royal licence for God's House in July 1439. [11] The college was founded to provide for the lack of grammar-school masters in England at the time, [12] and the college has been described as "the first secondary-school training college on record". [13] 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. [14]

After the original royal licence of 1439, three more licences, 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. [15] In this charter, King Henry VI was named as the founder, and in the same year the college moved to its current site. [16]

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. [17] The expansion in the population of the college in the seventeenth century led to the building, in the 1640s, of the Fellows' Building in what is now Second Court. [17]


The chapel, with a viewing window from the Master's Lodge Christ's College Chapel, Cambridge, UK - Diliff.jpg
The chapel, with a viewing window from the Master's Lodge
The Great Gate of Christ's College Christ's College Cambridge Great Gate.jpg
The Great Gate of Christ's College

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 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. [18] Third Court is also noted for its display of irises in May and June, a gift to the college in 1946. [19]

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. [20] Design critic Hugh Pearman comments "Lasdun had big trouble relating to the street at the overhanging rear". [21] 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. [22]

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. [23]

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. [24] 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

ChristsCollege Overhead.jpg
Christ's College, Cambridge, from above in 2009
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, [25] and between 2001 and 2007, it had a mean position of third. [26] 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%. [27] [28]

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. [29] [30] [31] The college has also educated Nobel Laureates including Martin Evans, James Meade, Alexander R. Todd, Baron Todd and Duncan Haldane. [32] [33] It is the University's 6th largest producer of Nobel Prize winners.[ citation needed ]

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

Student life

Christ's College Boat Club's boathouse on the River Cam Cambridge boathouses - Christ's.jpg
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.

The Acting Chaplain of the college is Michael Dormandy.

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. The 2010 May Ball, named "L'Esprit Nouveau", was held on 15 June 2010 and featured a 1920s Parisian theme, Two Door Cinema Club headlined the entertainment. The May Ball in June 2012 featured a Rio de Janeiro carnival theme. Other previous themes include Le Reve in 2002, Silhouette in 2004, Elysium in 2006 and 'The Jasmine Ball' in 2008.

The May Ball on Tuesday 17 June 2014 was hailed as one of the best May Balls of the year, coming close to perfection. [36] It was themed "The Emerald City".

The May Ball on Tuesday 14 June 2016 was themed as Biophilia. [37] In 2018 the theme was A Night's Tale. [38] While the 2020 Ball was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the May Ball returned in 2022, themed as Mythos.

The 2024 May Ball will be held on 18 June 2024, themed after the William Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. [39]


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. The words of the Grace are as follows:

Exhilarator 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

Notable alumni

Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid Al-Hussein1936Jordanian Prince
Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein 1964 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
William Ames 15761633Reformed Theologian
Thomas Baines 16221680Physician, original Fellow of Royal Society
Richard Bancroft 15441610Archbishop of Canterbury, Organiser of James I Bible
Jasmine Birtles 1962British financial and business commentator, television presenter, author and journalist
Jagdish Chandra Bose 18581937Indian physicist
C. Delisle Burns 18791942Atheist and secularist writer and lecturer
Brian Cantor 1948Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford and previously Vice-Chancellor of the University of York
Sir Anthony Caro 19242013Sculptor
Randolph Carter 18741932Explorer
Sacha Baron Cohen 1971Comedian
John Cook 19181984Prolific Anglo-American composer and organist
Miles Corbet 1594/51662Regicide
Frederick Cornwallis 17131783 Archbishop of Canterbury
John Cornwell 1940British author and journalist
John James Cowperthwaite 19162006Credited with policies allowing Hong Kong's economic boom in the 1960s
John Cridland 1961Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry
Charles Darwin 18091882British naturalist
Patrick Arthur Devlin, Baron Devlin 19051992Jurist, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
Colin Dexter 19302017Novelist
Jill Duff 1972 Bishop of Lancaster
George Dwyer 19081987Archbishop of Birmingham; Council Father of the Second Vatican Council
James Chuter Ede 18821965 Home Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons
Sir Martin Evans 1941 Biochemist, Nobel laureate in medicine
Dee Ferris 1973British Painter
John Finch 16261682Ambassador, original Fellow of Royal Society
Noel Gay 18981954Composer
Nina Gold 1964BAFTA-winning casting director
Edmund Grindal 15191583 Archbishop of Canterbury
Alfred Cort Haddon 18551940Father of modern anthropology
Duncan Haldane 1951Physicist, Nobel laureate in physics
Yusuf Hamied 1936Chemist and industrialist
Natalie Haynes 1974Writer and broadcaster and a former comedian.
John Healey 1960British politician
Derry Irvine, Baron Irvine of Lairg 1940Lord Chancellor
Phillip King 19342021Sculptor
David Knowles 18961974Historian
David Konstant 1930 Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds
John Kotelawala 18971980 Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
John Leland c 15061552Father of English history
Tony Lewis 1938England and Glamorgan cricket captain; writer and broadcaster
Michael Liebreich 1963Clean energy expert, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Richard Luce 1936Lord Chamberlain
Michael Lynch 1965Founder of Autonomy Systems
Edward Petronell Manby 18641929Medical Officer to the Ministry of Health
Allama Mashriqi 18831963Founder of the Khaksar Tehreek
Sir Peter Mathieson 1959Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh
David Mellor 1949British politician
Sir Walter Mildmay 1589Founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Miles Millar c 1967Hollywood screenwriter and producer
John Milton 16081674English poet
Helen Mort 1985Poet
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma 19001979British Admiral of the Fleet and statesman
Thomas Nelson, Jr. 17381789Governor of Virginia; signer of the American Declaration of Independence
Davidson Nicol 19241994Sierra Leonean academic, diplomat, physician, and writer
John Oliver 1977British political comedian
J. Robert Oppenheimer 19041967American theoretical physicist and 'father of the atomic bomb'
Andy Parsons 1967English comedian and writer
William Paley 17431805English theologian and philosopher
Steve Palmer 1968Professional football player
John Peile 18381910Philologist
William Perkins 15581602Leading Puritan Theologian of the Elizabethan Era
Sir John Plumb 19112001British historian
Thomas Plume 16301704English clergyman, founder of the University's Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy
Roy Porter 19462002British historian
Beilby Porteus 17311809 Bishop of Chester and Bishop of London, leading reformer and abolitionist
Maheshi Ramasamy Physician and lecturer
Peter Rawlinson, Baron Rawlinson of Ewell 19192006 Attorney General for England and Wales
Forrest Reid 18751948Cambridge apostle, novelist, literary critic
Austin Robinson 18971993British Economist and economic historian
Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham 17381786British Foreign Secretary
David Say 19392006Bishop of Rochester
Simon Schama 1945British historian, author, and television presenter
Sir Nicholas Serota 1946Director of the Tate Gallery
Walter William Skeat 18351912Philologist
Jan Smuts 18701950 Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal, and Commonwealth statesman
C. P. Snow, Baron Snow19051980British novelist and philosopher
John Soothill 19252004Paediatric immunologist
F. Gordon A. Stone 19252011British chemist
Szeming Sze 19081998Chinese Diplomat, WHO co-founder
Nicholas Tarling 19312017Historian
Sir Jeffrey Tate 19432017Conductor
John Tayloe III 17701828Plantation owner, horse breeder and American politician. Imported Diomed to the United States
Henry Teonge 16201690Naval chaplain and diarist
Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull 1945 Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service
Edward Whitehead Reid 18831930Aviator
Richard Whiteley 19432005British television presenter
Rowan Williams 1950British theologian, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Sir Christopher Zeeman 19252016British mathematician

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