College History

1852
1868
1884
1931
1934
1936
1952
1956
1960
1962
1963
1964
1968
1974
1982
1990
1993
2005
2012
2018

1852

Royal Commission proposes the creation of a category of Non-Collegiate Students as part of its recommendation to reform Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

1868

Delegacy for Unattached Students formed. First group of Unattached Students allowed to matriculate.

1884

Delegacy for Unattached Students renamed as Delegacy for Non-Collegiate Students.

1931

Delegacy for Non-Collegiate Students renamed St Catherine’s Society.

1934

University offers St Catherine’s Society a plot of land in St Aldate’s, south of Christ Church.

1936

New building opened, designed by Hubert Worthington.

1952

Alan Bullock, Fellow of New College, appointed Censor.

1956

Censor Bullock obtains agreement from the University to turn the Society into a fully residential college.

1960

Eight acres of Holywell Great Meadow acquired from Merton College. Arne Jacobsen appointed to design and furnish the College and design its gardens. Alan Bullock appointed first Master. HM The Queen laid foundation stone in Holywell Great Meadow.

1962

St Catherine’s College opened. Alan Bullock becomes Master.

1963

The College receives its Royal Charter of Incorporation and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh becomes Visitor.

1964

Ceremonial opening of the College by Harold Macmillan as Chancellor of the University.

1968

The Bernard Sunley Building opens.

1974

Women first admitted to the College.

1982

The Mary Sunley and Alan Bullock buildings open.

1990

The Cameron Mackintosh Foundation endows a Chair of Contemporary Theatre, establishing a visiting professorship at the University held with a Professional Fellowship at St Catherine’s College.

1993

St Catherine’s original buildings are grade listed.

2005

The Arumugam Building opens.

2012

The College celebrates its 50th anniversary.

2018

The College celebrates 150 years since its founding as the Delegacy for Unattached Students.

Although often viewed as one of the more modern colleges in Oxford, St Catherine’s can trace its roots back to 1868, when a ‘Delegacy for Unattached Students’ formed. This delegacy, created in response to the recommendation of a Royal Commission, enabled students to be members of the University without being a member of a college, thus avoiding the prohibitive costs of an Oxford college. Initially occupying just one room, with students living in affordable lodgings around Oxford, the Delegacy quickly banded together in quasi-collegiate fashion.

In 1884 the Delegacy was renamed as the Delegacy for Non-Collegiate Students, but lack of an identifying name for social and sporting purposes continued to frustrate students. In response to this problem, the Boat Club and other groups began using the name St Catharine’s (sic) Club, taken from a hall used for club meetings. The spelling later changed to St Catherine’s, and in 1931 the Delegacy was officially renamed the St Catherine’s Society.

In 1952, historian Alan Bullock became Censor (Head) of St Catherine’s Society, bringing with him strong leadership and a vision to develop further. In 1956, with the University considering plans for expansion, Bullock obtained approval to transform St Catherine’s Society into a fully residential college.

In 1960 almost eight acres of Holywell Great Meadow was acquired from Merton College and the College’s chosen architect, Arne Jacobsen of Denmark, began to implement his design. His modernist masterpiece was to become the most important 20th-century collegiate building in Oxford, and is now Grade I listed.

In 1962 St Catherine’s College opened its doors (while still under construction) with Alan Bullock as its first Master. The first undergraduates were admitted, and were quickly dubbed the ‘Dirty Thirty’ owing to the lack of running hot water. 1964 saw the ceremonial opening of the College by the then Chancellor of the University, Harold Macmillan, and ten years later in 1974, staying true to its forward-looking ethos, it became one of the first colleges to admit women.

For those wanting to find out more about the history of St Catherine’s College there is a dynamic and lively compilation available called St Catherine’s, Oxford: A Pen Portrait: a memorable tribute to St Catherine’s past and present.

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