Frederick Attenborough

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Frederick Attenborough
Frederick Levi Attenborough

(1887-04-04)4 April 1887
Died20 March 1973(1973-03-20) (aged 85)
Wandsworth, London, England
Years active1913–1960s
Mary Clegg
(m. 1922; died 1961)
ChildrenRichard Attenborough (d. 2014)
David Attenborough
John Attenborough (d. 2012)

Frederick Levi Attenborough (4 April 1887 – 20 March 1973) was a British academic and principal of University College, Leicester.


He was the son of Mary (née Saxton) and Frederick August Attenborough of Stapleford, Nottinghamshire.[1] His parents were devout Methodists.[2] He was educated at schools in Long Eaton. He became a teacher at the Long Eaton Higher Elementary School in 1913. This school was founded by Samuel Clegg, the headmaster, in 1910. He married the headmaster's daughter, Mary Clegg, in 1922. In 1915 he went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge as a Foundation Scholar and Choral Exhibitioner, and gained a first class degree in the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos. From 1918 to 1920 he was a research student, and a fellow from 1920 to 1925. From 1925 to 1932 he was principal of the Borough Road Training College (became the West London Institute of Higher Education in 1976) in Isleworth.

Attenborough was principal of University College, Leicester from 1932 to 1951, and lived with his family on campus in College House (which now houses part of the University's Mathematics department).

During the Second World War, the Attenboroughs took in two Kindertransport Jewish refugee children, a pair of sisters, Irene Goldschmitt (married name) and Helga Waldmann (married name)[3] who lived with them in College House. One of them encouraged his son David's fascination with the natural world by giving him a piece of amber.[4]

Attenborough was an accomplished photographer. "The Leaves of Southwell" by Nikolaus Pevsner [5] was published in 1945 with photographs by Attenborough of the carvings in the Chapter House of Southwell Minster.

The University of Leicester, with the Attenborough building in the centre

Under Attenborough's guidance, the University College grew in size and reputation and eventually became the University of Leicester, receiving its Royal Charter in 1957.

The university's Attenborough Building, which includes an 18-storey tower and is the tallest building on the campus, was named in his honour. The building was opened in 1970. Attenborough was by this stage quite frail, so the building was opened on his behalf by his youngest son John.

Attenborough died in Wandsworth on 20 March 1973.[6]


He was married to Mary Clegg, of New Sawley, from 1922 until her death in 1961.[7] They had three children:


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Attenborough, Frederick Levi (1887–1973), historian and college administrator : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Retrieved 2014-09-20.
  3. ^ I came alone, The Book Guild, ed. by Bertha Leverton and Shmuel Lowensohn, p.22-23)
  4. ^ BBC documentary The Amber Time Machine, BBC 2004
  5. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1945). The Leaves of Southwell. London: King Penguin.
  6. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 11 September 2020.

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