Richard Appleton (academic)

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Old Court of Selwyn College, Cambridge with the Hall on the right

Richard Appleton MA (17 February 1849 – 1 March 1909) was an English scholar, clergyman of the Church of England, and the fourth Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, 1907 – 1909. He was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and a parish priest before moving to Selwyn.[1]

Early Life[edit]

Appleton was born in Liverpool, the son of another Revd Richard Appleton and grandson, on his mother's side, of Canon John Patrick Eden, Rector of Sedgefield, Durham. Appleton was from a background that was increasingly rare in producing Cambridge undergraduates in Victorian times; his father was not well off, a clergyman with a large family, and scholarships got him through Christ's Hospital and Trinity College. At Trinity, he was Sixth Wrangler and won the Chancellor's Medal. He was awarded a second class degree in the Classical tripos.


He was elected a Fellow of Trinity College when he graduated, but he did not undertake major research work. Instead, he was a lecturer in Mathematics, Theology and Hebrew in the days before teaching was expected to be specialised. He was Dean of Trinity College, 1884-91 and Tutor, 1885-94.

He was ordained a priest in 1878 and Appleton went to become warden of Trinity College Mission and vicar of St George's Church, Camberwell, 1894-1903. He was then vicar of St Mary's Church, Ware, Hertfordshire and Rural Dean, 1904-7.

Appleton had limited previous connection with Selwyn College when he was chosen as its Master, but he became an influential master of the college through various construction projects he oversaw. The college had been founded around 1880 to counter some of the effects of the "Revolution of the Dons" that occurred in the 1860s.[citation needed] The university was opened up to people of any religion and none, so the college was to be a haven for Anglicans. Every Master of Selwyn College was a clergyman up until 1983. As a clergyman and Master of Selwyn, Appleton was something of a throwback to the old pattern of Cambridge academic life prior to the "Revolution of the Dons".


After serving as Master of Selwyn College for just two years, he died from influenza. His body is buried in the Ascension Parish Burial Ground, Cambridge. A memorial brass is in the ante-chapel of Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge.[2]

Appleton left a permanent memorial of his mastership in raising the funds to build the southern range of buildings in the Old Court, including the College Hall, and Combination room. His initials and rebus of an apple and a tun, are carved on the front of the Hall stairway.[3]

External links[edit]


  • APPLETON, Rev. Richard, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 6 March 2013
  • "Richard Appleton (APLN867R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
Alexander Kirkpatrick
Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
John Owen Farquhar Murray