Hatfield College, Durham

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Hatfield College
University of Durham
Hatfield College, Durham.jpg
Hatfield College.svg
Coordinates54°46′28″N 1°34′27″W / 54.7744°N 1.5741°W / 54.7744; -1.5741Coordinates: 54°46′28″N 1°34′27″W / 54.7744°N 1.5741°W / 54.7744; -1.5741
MottoVel Primus Vel Cum Primis
Motto in English"Either the first or with the first" (colloquialised in College as "be the best you can be")
Established1846 (1846)
Named forThomas Hatfield
MasterAnn MacLarnon (2017-)
Undergraduates1010 (2017/18)[1]
Postgraduates260 (2017/18)[1]
Senior tutorAnthony Bash
Hatfield College, Durham is located in Durham, England
Hatfield College, Durham
Location in Durham, England

Hatfield College is a college of Durham University in England. Founded in 1846 by David Melville,[2] it was the second college to be associated with the university, after University College (founded 1832). The college was originally called Bishop Hatfield's Hall, and is named after Thomas Hatfield, Prince-Bishop of Durham from 1345 to 1381. The college's founder pioneered the idea of catered residences for students which would later evolve to the now common practice of student residences.

Hatfield College occupies a large site above the River Wear on North Bailey and close to Durham Cathedral on the World Heritage Site peninsula. The buildings are an eclectic blend of 17th-century halls, early Victorian buildings and major additions during the last century. A £5 million refurbishment to the Jevons building, including the bar and student accommodation, was unveiled in October 2018.[3]

The current Master of the college is Ann MacLarnon, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University.[4] She replaced Tim Burt in September 2017.


Main court

The oldest part of the college site is what is today the dining room, which probably dates back to the 17th century.[5] In the 18th century the building became a coaching inn, The Red Lion - a stopping point for coaches travelling between London and Edinburgh. During this time it was also used to host concerts, likely featuring the work of composers like Charles Avison and John Garth.[6] In 1845 the Red Lion building was put up for sale, allowing it to become the first component of Hatfield College the following year.[7]

Hatfield College was established in 1846 as the second college of the university. The establishment of the college as a furnished and catered residence with fees set in advance was then a revolutionary idea, but later became general practice at student residences. This idea originated from the young founding Master, David Melville, who believed that the poor should be able to afford college residence and higher education. Three principles of the model were that rooms would be furnished and let out to students with shared servants, meals would be provided and eaten in the college hall, and college battels (bills) were set in advance.[8] This system made Hatfield a more economical choice when compared to University College, ensuring that student numbers at Hatfield built up steadily.[9] Melville's model was introduced to the wider university after an endorsement from the Royal Commission of 1862.[9] It was later introduced at Keble College, Oxford and eventually worldwide.

Although not established as a theological college, in the first 50 years the majority of college members were theology students and staff. Senior staff members and the Principal (who was always a clergyman until 1897) were clerics. Student numbers rose to over 100, and in the 1890s the college purchased Bailey House and the Rectory to accommodate its students.[10] As the end of the century drew closer the balance of undergraduate students rapidly shifted away from theology. In 1900, there were 49 arts students who had matriculated within the previous 3 years, and 20 in theology.[11] By 1904 just 9 theology undergraduates are recorded, compared to 57 in arts.[11]


View behind the tennis courts
Bow Lane, which separates Hatfield College from St. Chad's College, and leads to Kingsgate Bridge

The inter-war period saw a decline in college fortunes. In the first two decades of the 20th century Hatfield experienced a sharp fall in numbers. This was caused initially by the decision to isolate science courses at the campus in Newcastle, an increased tendency to train priests at specialised colleges, poor finances, and finally the outbreak of the First World War.[12] For 15 years after 1897, total students in residence numbered above 100.[12] This had fallen to 69 in 1916, 2 in 1917, and to 3 in 1918.[12] After the war finished there was a temporary leap to more than 60 undergraduates, but by 1923 there were just 14 men on the college books.[12] In 1924 a new science department was established in Durham, and this, along with the active recruiting efforts of new Master Arthur Robinson, saw a steady increase in student numbers.[13] Within five years of Robinson's appointment they had quintupled from the low of 1923.[13]

In spite of this improvement the economic crisis of the 1920s led to uncertainty for Hatfield: it had more students than University College but lacked the facilities, especially kitchens, to accommodate them. University College, meanwhile, faced the deterioration of its buildings and low student numbers. To address this, the two colleges amalgamated under the guidance of Angus Macfarlane-Grieve, and all meals were taken together in the Great Hall of University College.[10] Unhappy with the amalgamation, some Hatfielders underlined their separate identity in trivial ways: for example, insisting on using a different door to enter the Castle dining hall than the University College students, and, in contrast to the University College contingent - turning to face the High Table during grace.[14]


After the war, 20 years of co-operation with University College came to an end, and Hatfield students could finally return to their college. By now Hatfield was again faced with accommodating an increased number of students, as the war had created a growing backlog. More buildings were constructed and refurbished. The Pace building, described by Pevsner as 'friendly', with a 'nice rhythm of windows towards the river', was finished in 1950.[15] Kitchen Block and Gatehouse Block followed in 1955 and 1962 respectively. Dunham Court was completed with the development of the modernist style Jevons building - named after Frank Jevons, the first lay Master of the college.[16] Moreover, accommodation was acquired away from the main site and the Senior Common Room was established. In 1962 it was decided that a brass plaque should be fixed to the college gates identifying the establishment as Hatfield College.[17] Just 24 hours after installation a group of students from a rival Bailey college were caught trying to remove the plaque as a sporting trophy.[18]

In 1963 the college received its first taste of student protest, when a 'militant minority group of young gentlemen united under the banner of International Socialism'.[19] Around the same time students voted to boycott formal dinners after a row with the Master over whether or not jeans counted as formal wear.[20] Reforms were subsequently introduced. Joint standing committees, composed equally of staff and students, were set up to 'deliberate almost every conceivable topic' and the undergraduate Senior Man was allowed to take part in meetings of the College's Governing Body.[19] By 1971 a 'liberal and balanced' Governing Body had been achieved: consisting of 4 college tutors, 4 elected tutors, 4 delegates from the Junior Common Room, and a representative from the Hatfield Association alumni group.[21] Writing in the same year, then Master Thomas Whitworth was able to boast of warding off the 'mischievous opportunism' of student 'exhibitionists'.[22]


A, B and C stairs

The leadership of James Barber (1980-1996) was a period of significant change. Student numbers rose significantly, increasing to over 650 by the time he finished his tenure in office.[10] Living out became compulsory for students for at least part of their career, and many of the existing buildings were either rebuilt or refurbished to make room for students: The Rectory was remodeled, C & D Stairs were refurbished, the Main Hall was repaired, and Jevons' was redecorated.[10] A Middle Common Room for the postgraduate community was added in Kitchen Stairs. In 1981, it was decided the Formal Ball would be renamed 'The Lion in Winter', which it has been called ever since.[23] More comically, 'C Scales', a goldfish, was elected as a member of the JCR in 1982 and put forward as a potential Durham Student Union President.[23] In 1984, the JCR was sued by representatives of the band Mud after a student ruined four speakers by pouring beer into an amplifier during a performance at a college ball.[24]

Hatfield also became co-educational, which at the time was only 'grudgingly accepted' by the college.[10] In 1985 talk of going mixed was stimulated by the low numbers of applicants selecting Hatfield as their preference, and a recent decline in academic standards - with the college finishing bottom of the results table the previous year.[25] Despite threats of hooliganism, the Senior Common Room decided in May of that year to push forward with plans to go mixed.[26] In March 1987 a student referendum was held on the issue, with 79.2% voting for the college to remain men only.[27] The Senate decided that, despite the referendum result, the college would in fact go mixed the following year.[27] The first female Senior Man held the post in 1992.[10] Her election win, by a single vote, prompted some students to declare a week of mourning and walk around the college wearing black arm bands.[27]


The college chapel was conceived in 1851 and built by 1854, funded by donations by alumni and a loan of £150 from the university.[10] It was designed by then chaplain to Bishop Cosin's Hall, James Turner (also a trained architect), and contains two head sculptures of William Van Mildert and Warden Thorp. Decorative furnishings were later added and the first organ was installed in 1882. Commemorative wooden panels marking the First World War dead and a book of remembrance for them, along with a lectern, were added gradually and were primarily funded by alumni and the Hatfield Association. The chapel houses a Harrison & Harrison organ, which is used to accompany services and for recitals. In 2001 it was refurbished at the cost of £65,000.[10]

Attendance at chapel services was compulsory for 80 years after the foundation of the chapel until the onset of World War II ended the compulsory attendance to Cathedral services. Since then the chapel constitutes an 'important but minority interest' in the college.[10]

Services are led by the college chaplain, currently Anthony Bash. The College Chapel Choir is led by a student choral director, supported by an organ scholar and deputy organ scholar. The Chapel Choir consists mainly of students who support regular worship in the chapel, but also sing at churches and cathedrals throughout the country and undertake annual tours both at home and abroad.[28]

College traditions[edit]


Device used in the early years of the college

From its foundation, the college used as its arms the personal shield of Thomas Hatfield (Azure, a chevron or, between three lions rampant argent).[29] This was accompanied with the Latin motto “Vel Primus Vel Cum Primis”, which literally means "Either First or With the First",[30] though is now loosely interpreted by the college as "Be the Best you can Be".[31]

In 1954, the college was informed that the use of Bishop Hatfield's shield without registration with the College of Arms was inappropriate,[32][30] and it sought a grant of its own from the College of Arms. The new arms were based on Hatfield's shield, but with an ermine border added to difference the college's arms from the bishop's, resulting in an overall shield blazoned Azure a Chevron Or between three Lions rampant Argent a Bordure Ermine. The grant also included the motto "Vel Primus Vel Cum Primis", and a crest described as Out of an ancient crown Or a panache of five ostrich feathers ermine charged with a chevron sable.[33]

Academic dress[edit]

Similar to most Bailey Colleges the wearing of the undergraduate academic gown is required to formal events. The wearing of the gown is at the discretion of the Master of the college and at present is worn at Matriculation, in chapel and at formal meals held in the hall twice per week.


Benedicte Deus, qui pascis nos a iuventute nostra et praebes cibum omni carni, reple gaudio et laetitia corda nostra, ut nos, quod satis est habentes, abundemus in omne opus bonum. Per Jesum Christum, Dominum Nostrum, cui tecum et Spiritu Sancto, sit omnis honor, laus et imperium in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

This can be translated as: Blessed God, who feedest us from our youth, and providest food for all flesh, fill our hearts with joy and gladness, that we, having enough to satisfy us, may abound in every good work, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and praise and power for all ages. Amen.

The grace was widely used in the fourth century and is based on earlier Hebrew prayers. It was translated from the Greek and adopted by Oriel College, Oxford. Presumably influenced by Henry Jenkyns, who was a Fellow of Oriel, Hatfield adopted this grace practically verbatim. Since 1846 the grace has been read at all formal meals in College which occur once a week, or twice in Michaelmas Term.

Student body[edit]

As of the 2017/18 academic year, Hatfield College has a population of 1,339 students.[1] There are 1,007 full-time undergraduates and 3 part-time undergraduates.[1] Postgraduate figures include 55 students on full-time postgraduate research programs and 111 studying for full-time postgraduate taught programs, plus a further 94 part-time postgraduate students (research and taught) as well as 69 distance learning students.[1] Student numbers have grown significantly since the 2003/04 academic year, when the college comprised a total of 779 students.[34]


Formals take place twice a week on a Tuesday and Friday in Michaelmas Term, reducing to Fridays only for the rest of the academic year. There are a number of traditions at Formals. Students are required to wear their full academic dress including gowns for formal dinners except when it is a black or white tie event. A High Table consisting of members of the SCR and guests is present at every formal, with the Master's entrance and "bowing out" signifying the official opening and closing of the formal meal.

Unique to Hatfield is the tradition of 'spooning', in which students bang spoons on the edge of the table or on silverware for several minutes before the formal starts.[35] The act immediately ceases when the High Table walks in.[35]

Common Rooms[edit]

The student body is divided into three "common rooms". The Junior Common Room (JCR) is for undergraduates in the college. The JCR annually elects an Executive Committee consisting of ten members including an impartial Chair. The Executive Committee ensures the successful running of the JCR, in conjunction with the College Officers.[36] Unlike other colleges, Hatfield exclusively retains "Senior Man" as its title for the head of the JCR, having rejected a motion to move to "JCR President" in May 2014[37] and a motion to allow the incumbent to choose between "Senior Man", "Senior Woman" or "Senior Student" in January 2016.[38]

The Middle Common Room (MCR) is the organisation for Postgraduate students which also have an elected organising committee. Postgraduate accommodation is located at James Barber House.[39] College Officers, fellows and tutors are members of the Senior Common Room (SCR).[40] Each Common Room acts as a separate body for its members, although collaboration between them is common, and it is possible to be a member of these organisations simultaneously.


Hatfield tends to be one of the more popular colleges for applications. For the 2015/2016 entry cycle 1,375 applicants selected the college as their preference.[41] This made it the 5th most popular overall, behind University College, Josephine Butler College, Collingwood College, and St Mary's College.[41] 336 accepted applicants ultimately enrolled.[42] Compared to most other colleges, Hatfield receives a somewhat higher percentage of gap year applicants who choose to defer entry, with 7.8% of applicants in the 2015/2016 cycle choosing to defer, against a university average of 3.8%.[41] Figures for the two previous admissions cycles were 6.3%[43] and 6.4%[44] respectively. Overall, figures for 2016 entry show that of all offer-holding applicants who selected Hatfield as their college preference, 78% were successful in gaining a place at the college.[45]

On campus the college has a longstanding reputation for being 'rah',[46][47] with one mocking student article calling it a 'moneyed, upper-class college equivalent of Millwall FC' and holding Hatfield responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes about the wider university.[48] Admissions statistics do show it to be disproportionately popular with applicants from independent schools, typically enrolling a significantly higher percentage than other colleges. For the 2015/2016 cycle, 65.8% of applicants were privately educated - against a university total of 36.1%[49] - with 34.2% applying to Hatfield from state schools.[49] By comparison, the College of St Hild and St Bede was the second most popular with independent school applicants at 54.5%, with all other colleges receiving less than half of their applications from independent schools.[49] Hatfield's total represents a slight decrease from the previous application cycle, in which 67.6% of applicants were from independent schools.[50]

College officers and fellows[edit]


The current master is Ann MacLarnon, having assumed the role in September 2017.

List of past Masters


Hatfield College Council awards honorary fellowships on the advice of the Master to alumni and people who have a close association with Hatfield. On receipt of the fellowship the fellow automatically becomes an honorary member of the SCR and receives the same benefits. As of 2012, honorary fellows numbered 24 in total, notably including former university Chancellor Bill Bryson.[57]

Other staff affiliated to the college include 8 Junior Research Fellows[58] and 10 Senior Research Fellows.[59] Current Senior Fellows include, amongst others, Douglas Davies and Geoffrey Scarre.[60] The college also occasionally hosts visiting academics, normally for one term, as part of the fellowship scheme offered by the University's Institute of Advanced Study.[61] Brian Belcher[62] and William Forde Thompson[63] are recent IAS fellows connected to Hatfield.

Sports and societies[edit]

Hatfield College Boat Club[edit]

Hatfield College Boat Club
Image showing the rowing club's blade colours
LocationHatfield College Boathouse
Home waterRiver Wear
Founded1846 (1846)

Hatfield College Boat Club (HCBC) is the boat club of Hatfield College at Durham University. The club was started in 1846, shortly after the founding of the college, making it one of the oldest student clubs in Durham.[64] There is a Novice Development programme for absolute beginners.[65] It also trains coxes and has a dedicated Coxes Captain.[65]

Notable former members of the club include Alice Freeman, Louisa Reeve, and Simon Barr.

Other sports and societies[edit]

Hatfield College participates in most sports in the university and has become known for prowess in rugby in particular, with the college coming to be regarded as a nursery for British rugby - so much so that Dr Thomas Whitworth (Master, 1957-79), a known rugby enthusiast, was often accused of bias in the selection and treatment of rugby-playing students.[10] In intercollegiate rugby Hatfield become the dominant club in the decades following the war, with Hatfield conceding the colleges cup just once in a 14 year period up to 1971.[66] Marcus Rose, Will Carling, and Will Greenwood are the most notable former undergraduates. Jeremy Campbell-Lamerton, Andy Mullins, and Ben Woods also went on to make international appearances.

In cricket, Andrew Strauss, winning captain during the 2009 Ashes, former Worcestershire captain Tim Curtis, ex-Middlesex batsman Nick Compton, and fast bowler Typhoon Tyson, the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World for 1955, were all students of the college.

Hatfield also has its own theatre group, the Lion Theatre Company, which performs in Durham University's Assembly Rooms theatre located opposite the college gates, and a music society organising various ensembles. Students also produce the termly college magazine, The Hatfielder. It has SHAPED, which is a personal development program.[67]

Notable alumni[edit]

Hatfield alumni are active through organisations and events, such as the Hatfield association, which now has a membership of more than 4,000 graduates.[68] Former students of the college have included sportsmen, churchmen, military officers, politicians, diplomats, writers, scientists, academics, and notable people from the world of arts and entertainment.

The sporting alumni of Hatfield College may be the most famous, among them former England rugby union captain Will Carling,[69] 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood,[70] and former England cricket team captain Andrew Strauss.[71] Fast bowler Frank Tyson and top order batsman Nick Compton and Tim Curtis are three other cricketing former students who made test match appearances for England.[69][72][73] In rowing, Simon Barr, Alice Freeman, Angus Groom, Louisa Reeve, and Emily Taylor all achieved success at international level. Athletes Jon Solly and Mark Hudspith medalled at the 1986 Commonwealth Games and 1994 Commonwealth Games respectively.[69]

Politicians and activists who have attended the college include Robert Buckland,[74] the current Solicitor General for England and Wales, Edward Timpson,[75] the former MP for Crewe and Nantwich, and Labour Party life peer Baron Carter of Coles.[76] Dominic Carman, a Liberal Democrat, became known for his campaigning against the British National Party. From earlier generations of students, theology graduate Claude Hinscliff, a noted suffragist, conducted the funeral service for Emily Davison; and Clifford Nelson Fyle, who completed an English degree in 1960, was an academic and politician known for contributing the lyrics to the Sierra Leone National Anthem. More recently, Jolyon Maugham – a 1995 law graduate[77] – has entered the public eye for challenging the legality of Brexit.

Hatfielders in the military include Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, and one of his successors in the same role – General Mark Carleton-Smith.[78][79] The late Air Marshall Peter Walker and retired Rear Admiral Matthew Parr were also Hatfield undergraduates, in addition to Major-General Peter Grant Peterkin, who would go on to be appointed Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons.[80][81][82] Michael Warrender, the 3rd Baron Bruntisfield, was a Major in the Irish Guards before embarking on a business career. Tracy Philipps, once a soldier amid numerous other activities in an action-packed life, won the Military Cross during the First World War for his endeavours in the East African Campaign.

At least 5 alumni have held ambassadorial level posts in the Foreign Office. They include: Kim Darroch, the current British Ambassador to the United States; former High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton; former High Commissioner to Bangladesh David Carter; Bruce Bucknell, a former British Ambassador to Belarus; and William Quantrill, who served as High Commissioner to Cameroon.[83][84][85][86][87] Peter Waterworth, an ex-Senior Man, was Governor of Montserrat from 2007-2011.[88]

In the media there are names such as broadcaster Jeremy Vine,[89] presenters Mark Durden-Smith and Jonny Gould,[90][91] and Science Editor of BBC News David Shukman.[89] The writers Peter Watson and Alexander Frater were both Hatfield students,[92][93] as was the poet and memoirist Thomas Blackburn, the fashion journalist Colin McDowell, singer-songwriter Jake Thackray, and comedian Ed Gamble.[94][95][89][96] Elsewhere, the landowner Delaval Astley, the 23rd Baron Hastings, has dabbled in acting, playing Cameron Fraser in The Archers for a number of years.

In academia, the particle physicist Nigel Glover, the glaciologist David Vaughan, the classicist R. M. Errington and British Antarctic Survey geologist Joanne Johnson are all former students at the college.[97][98][99][100] The late sociologist Ian Taylor combined his studies with campaigning against Apartheid while a Hatfield undergraduate.[101] Business alumni include fund manager Richard Pease and the founder of the Eden Project, Tim Smit.[102][103] David Arkless, once head of CDI Corporation and now Chairman of End Human Trafficking Now, was an arts student at Hatfield.[104]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas Anthony Whitworth (1971). Yellow Sandstone and Mellow Brick: An Account of Hatfield College. Hatfield.
  • W.A. Moyes (1996). Hatfield 1846–1996: A history of Hatfield College in the University of Durham. Hatfield College Trust.
  • W.A. Moyes (2004). Class of 1846. Hatfield Trust.
  • Hatfield Students (1945–1947). The Hatfield Magazine. Hatfield.
  • Hatfield Association (1947). The Hatfield Record.

External links[edit]