St John's College, Nottingham

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St John's College, Nottingham
Grove medium.JPG
Type Theological college
Active1863 (1863)–2019 (2019)
Religious affiliation
Church of England
Academic affiliation
University of Durham

52°55′47″N1°14′36″W / 52.9296°N 1.2432°W / 52.9296; -1.2432 Coordinates: 52°55′47″N1°14′36″W / 52.9296°N 1.2432°W / 52.9296; -1.2432

St John's College, Nottingham, founded as the London College of Divinity, was an Anglican and interdenominational theological college situated in Bramcote, Nottingham, England. The college stood in the open evangelical tradition and stated that its mission is "to inspire creative Christian learning marked by evangelical conviction, theological excellence and Spirit-filled life, that all who train with us might be equipped for mission in a world of change". [1] [2]


St John's trained students for ministries in the Church of England and other denominations, independent students from a range of Christian contexts, and students for children's and youth ministries through its Midlands centre for the Institute for Children, Youth and Mission (MCYM). It offered a diversity of full-time, part-time, blended and distance learning courses, including specialist modules in pastoral care and counselling and church administration. Academic awards were validated by Durham University and Gloucester University, and it also offered its own flexible, self-accredited Certificate in Christian Studies, which could be taken at variable speeds on a module-by-module basis. [3]


The college was established as the London College of Divinity in 1863. It was founded by the Reverend Alfred Peache and his sister, Kezia, who had inherited their businessman father's fortune in 1857. The college was established to provide an evangelical theological education to ordinands who could not go to university. The Reverend Thomas Boultbee was appointed as the first principal and a college council and governing body was formed, with Lord Shaftesbury chosen to be its president. The first premises were near Kilburn High Road Station and the first student, Francis Browne, a lieutenant in the Merchant Navy, was welcomed on 23 November 1863.

These early premises had been called St John's Hall because they had previously been occupied by the St John's Foundation School for the Sons of Poor Clergy, which itself had started life in St John's Wood before moving to Kilburn. The 'St John's' name stuck as an informal title for the college— not least because Boultbee was a graduate of St John's College, Cambridge, and intended that the new institution he now led should attain academic standards comparable to those of his alma mater. Although the St John associated with St John's Wood is John the Baptist, Boultbee was clear that the St John of his fledgling 'St John's College' was John the Evangelist, author of the Fourth Gospel. In 1866 the college moved to Highbury, which was its home for nearly 80 years.

As the Second World War approached, the college was flourishing under the leadership of T. W. Gilbert. In May 1942, however, faculty, staff and students were evacuated to Wadhurst School in Sussex as the Highbury buildings had been damaged by air-raids and were requisitioned by the National Fire Service.

Following the sudden death of Gilbert, Donald Coggan became principal in 1944. During this time, a new site in Northwood, London, was bought for the college to replace the war-ruined buildings which now contained just three students. For the 10 years that Coggan was principal, the college was based in one of the houses at Harrow School for one year, and then at Ford Manor in Lingfield, Surrey from 1946-1957. [4]

It was under Coggan's successor, Prebendary Hugh Jordan, that discussion of a move away from London began. Jordan believed that the college's future lay outside of the capital city and nearer to a university, and he learnt that a site was available in Nottingham, whose university's theological department was growing in reputation. In 1970, Michael Green, who succeeded Jordan as principal, oversaw the move from London to the college's current location in Bramcote, Nottingham. This move meant that the formal name 'London College of Divinity' was not longer applicable, and 'St John's' became the legal title of the institution.

From 1970 St John's developed and diversified its ministry under the successive leadership of Green, Robin Nixon, Colin Buchanan, Anthony Thiselton, John Goldingay, Christina Baxter, David Hilborn and Sally Nash. It was a pioneer of distance learning programmes in theology, and made new theological thinking and research accessible to a wide audience through its A5-sized Grove Booklet series (now published through an independent company and also available online). [5] In the 1990s it ran the earliest forms of what would become known as context-based training in the Church of England, and latterly provided part-time pathways alongside more traditional forms of full-time residential training. In 2014 the college announced that it would be placing greater emphasis on contextual and part-time routes for licensed ministry and independent students, while maintaining and developing its ongoing provision of children's and youth ministry education, blended learning and distance learning. In February 2017 it gained planning permission for the redevelopment of its site and the modernisation of its main academic facilities. In late 2019 the college announced that delivery of its youth ministry programmes would be moving to a new location in central Leicester, and that its Distance Learning provision would be taken forward in collaboration with Queen's College, Birmingham. These changes coincided with the inauguration of a new hub of the Anglican-based St Mellitus College in central Nottingham.

In December 2019, the college closed due to financial constraints that impacted upon its long term viability. [6]

Notable staff

List of principals


Notable alumni

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  1. Vision and Values - St John's School of Mission, Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  2. St John's, Nottingham prospectus.
  3. Study Archived 2016-09-03 at the Wayback Machine St John's School of Mission
  4. Davies, G C B (1963). Men for the Ministry: the History of London College of Divinity. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 100.
  5. "Grove Books - books to stimulate and equip the Christian community".
  6. St John’s College to close after 156 years
  7. Marchant, G. J. C. "Robin Ernest Nixon" (PDF). Churchman. Church Society. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  8. "Christina Ann BAXTER". People of Today. Debrett's. Retrieved 16 May 2015.[ permanent dead link ]
  9. "Revd Dr David Hilborn - CV" (PDF). St John's School of Mission, Nottingham. Retrieved 16 May 2015.