Downing College, Cambridge

Colleges of the University of Cambridge

Downing College

A Bird's Eye View of Downing College
Founder Sir George Downing
Established 1800
Admittance Men and women
Master Prof. Barry Everitt FRS
Undergraduates 403
Graduates 252
Sister college Lincoln College, Oxford
Location Regent Street, Cambridge (map)
Downing College heraldic shield
Quaerere Verum
(Latin, "Seek the truth")
College website
Boat Club website

Downing College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college was founded in 1800 and currently has around 650 students.



Upon the death of Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet in 1749, the wealth left by his grandfather, Sir George Downing, who served both Cromwell and Charles II and built 10 Downing Street (a door formerly from Number 10 is in use in the college), was applied by his will. Under this will, as he had no direct issue (he was legally separated from his wife), the family fortune was left to his cousin, Sir Jacob Downing, and if he died without heir, to three cousins in succession. If they all died without issue, the estates were to be used to found a college at Cambridge called Downing.

Sir Jacob died in 1764, and as the other named heirs had also died, the college should have come into existence then, but Sir Jacob's widow, Margaret, refused to give up the estates and the various relatives who were Sir George's legal heirs had to take costly and prolonged action in the Court of Chancery to compel her to do so. She died in 1778 but her second husband and the son of her sister continued to resist the heirs-at-law's action until 1800 when the Court decided in favour of Sir George's will and George III granted Downing a Royal Charter, marking the official foundation of the college.

The architect William Wilkins was commissioned by the trustees of the Downing estate, who included the Master of Clare College and St John's College and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to design the plan for the college. Wilkins, a disciple of the neo-classical architectural style, designed the first wholly campus-based college plan in the world based on a magnificent entrance on Downing Street reaching back to form the largest quadrangle in Cambridge, extending to Lensfield Road. But this was not to be.

The estate was much reduced by the suit in Chancery, and the grand plans failed. Much of the north side of what was then the "Pembroke Leys" was sold to the University and is now home to scientific buildings ("The Downing Site"). In fact, only limited East and West ranges were initially built, with the plans for a library and chapel on the south face of the college shelved.

Downing College Chapel, built in 1951

The third side of the square was only completed in 1951 with the building of the college chapel. Where the fourth side would have been is now a large paddock (known simply as "The Paddock"), with many trees. Though not fully enclosed, the court formed before the Downing College is perhaps largest in Cambridge or Oxford (a title contested with Trinity College's Great Court). An urban legend amongst Cambridge students claims that Trinity pays an undisclosed sum to the college annually with the condition that it will never build the fourth side of the square, so that Trinity may maintain the distinction of having the largest enclosed court of all colleges of Cambridge.[citation needed]

The college is renowned for its strong Legal and Medical tradition, the former subject being built up by the late Professor Clive Parry, his pupil and successor John Hopkins (now an emeritus fellow) and the current Director of Studies in Law and Senior Tutor, Graham Virgo. Legal notables who have been honorary fellows of the college include the late Sir John Smith, the pre-eminent criminal lawyer of his generation, the first solicitor to be appointed to the Court of Appeal and House of Lords, Lord Collins of Mapesbury and Sir Robert Jennings, former President of the International Court of Justice. Downing has one of the biggest intakes in Law for undergraduate study. Although the College law society is named after Robert Rolfe, 1st Baron Cranwoth, it is fabled that there exists a more secretive law society named the Three Kings. However, since identities of members have never been disclosed, this is doubted.

Downing students remain prominent in the University world; in the past few years Cambridge Union Presidents, Blues captains, Law and Economic Society Presidents and more have hailed from the college. It is also a politically active college, but rather with politically active members and alumni occupying different parts of the British political spectrum, from the militant left to the extreme right (Nick Griffin, the leader of BNP, went to Downing). In this sense, it is quite different from other colleges, as the student body of many of the politically active colleges tend to incline toward one party or another.

The college is also strong in the sports field, with its men's football team currently league champions (2008/9) and their rugby team resident in the upper echelons of Division 1. The newly re-established women's rugby team won cuppers in 2007. The boat club is successful too, with the Women's first boat gaining Lents Headship of the river in the 1994 Lent Bumps, and most recently in 2011. The men's first boat has held the headship several times in the 1980' and 1990's (for example in 1994 to 1996) while gaining the Mays headship in 1996, on each occasion recognising the tradition of "burning the boat" (using an old wooden 8 oared boat, while the rowers of the winning boat jump the flames. They both currently hold positions at or near the top in both University bumps races [Lents and Mays]. Downing College also has an active Ultimate scene with a strong presence in intercollegiate events as well as producing a high number of university-level players.[1]

Masters of Downing

East Range, Downing College, November 2006

The Masters of Downing College include:

Notable alumni


See also Category:Fellows of Downing College, Cambridge

  • Barry Everitt, Master, Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience
  • Peter Duffett-Smith, Vice Master and Senior Fellow, Reader in Experimental Radio Physics
  • Peter Evans, Tutor, Principal Investigator, Babraham Institute
  • Richard Stibbs, President, Praelector, Fellows' Steward and Secretary to the Governing Body, University Senior Computer Officer
  • Paul Millett, Collins Fellow and Tutor for Admissions, University Senior Lecturer in Classics
  • Bill Adams, Professorial Fellow in the Geography of Conservation and Development
  • Bill Clyne, Professorial Fellow in the Mechanics of Materials
  • Cathy Phillips, R J Owens Fellow in English
  • Graham Virgo, Senior Tutor, Professorial Fellow in English Private Law
  • John McCombie, Tutor, Reader in Applied Economics (Department of Land Economy)
  • David Wales, Professorial Fellow in Chemical Physics
  • Trevor Robbins, Professorial Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Sarah Bray, Professorial Fellow in Developmental Biology
  • Stafford Withington, Professorial Fellow in Analytical Physics
  • Chris Haniff, Professorial Fellow in Physics
  • Nick Coleman, Verjee Fellow, Group Leader, Medical Research Council Cancer Cell Unit
  • Adam Ledgeway, Tutor, University Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
  • Ian James, Tutor for Graduates, University Lecturer in French
  • Susan Lintott, Senior Bursar
  • Zoe Barber, University Senior Lecturer in Materials Science
  • Sophia Demoulini, Fellow in Mathematics
  • Ian Roberts, Professorial Fellow in Linguistics
  • Michael Bravo, University Senior Lecturer at the Scott Polar Research Institute
  • David Pratt, Archivist and Keeper of Art and Artefacts, Fellow in History
  • David Feldman, Professorial Fellow in English Law (Rouse Ball)
  • Liping Xu, University Lecturer in Turbomachinery
  • Paul Barker, University Lecturer in Chemistry
  • Guy Williams, Tutor for Admissions (Science), Senior Research Associate, Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre
  • Marcus Tomalin, Fellow Librarian, Tutor and Assistant Tutor for Admissions, University Research Associate in Engineering
  • Jay Stock, Tutor, University Lecturer in Human Evolution and Development
  • Natalia Mora-Sitja, Tutor, University Lecturer in Economic History
  • Kathy Liddell, Herchel Smith University Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law
  • Bill O'Neill, Reader in Laser Engineering
  • Amy Goymour, University Lecturer and Hopkins Parry Fellow in Law
  • Adriana Pesci, Senior Treasurer of the Amalgamation Club, Darley Fellow in Mathematics
  • Amy Milton, University Lecturer in Experimental Psychology
  • Brigitte Steger, University Lecturer in Japanese Studies
  • Jonathan Trevor, University Lecturer in Human Resources & Organisations
  • Ken McNamara, Dean, University Lecturer in Earth Sciences
  • Dick Taplin, Junior Bursar
  • Jie Li, University Lecturer in Fluid Dynamics
  • Subha Mukherji, Fellow in English
  • Adam Ramadan, Fellow in Geography
  • Keith Eyeons, Chaplain and Fellow in Theology
  • Rob Harle, Fellow in Computer Science
  • Tim Burton, Fellow in Pharmacology
  • Jamie Alcock, Fellow in Economics
  • Jimena Berni, Henslow Research Fellow in Zoology
  • Marta Correia, Fellow in Biological Sciences
  • Paul Linden, Professorial Fellow in Fluid Dynamics
  • Alicia Hinarejos, University Lecturer in EU Law
  • Gabrielle Bennett, Development Director
  • Joe Webster, Graham Robertson Research Fellow in Anthropology

External links


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bowler, Peter J., ed. (2004), "Lankester, Sir (Edwin) Ray (1847–1929)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press,, retrieved 2009-05-15 

Coordinates: 52°12′02″N 0°07′26″E / 52.200623°N 0.123842°E / 52.200623; 0.123842

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