What’s in the Archive?

The Archive is based in the College Library, The Maitland Robinson Library.

NEW ARCHIVE EXHIBITION in the Maitland Robinson Library, Oct 2019-Mar 2020: Sir Lionel Whitby - War Hero, Medical Pioneer and Master (featuring highlights from a recent gift of personal papers of the eminent pathologist and haematologist and commanding officer of the Army Blood Transfusion Service, "the greatest surgical advance" of WW2).

An additional display, for Black History Month, October 2020, celebrates Downing's early Black Cantabs (profiling some of the College's early students dating back to 1917). All welcome - please contact the College Archivist, Jenny Ulph, if you would like to arrange a visit.

It records the history of Downing College from its first inception through its eventual foundation in 1800 to the very recent past.

The collections include:

  • pre and post-foundation records of the Downing family and estates, dating back to the 16th century
  • administrative and governance records of Downing College
  • drawings, plans, maps and photographs relating to the building and development of the College
  • records and photographs relating to former students, student bodies and organisations
  • papers of Fellows and old members.

A limited amount of the archive catalogue (open collections only) is available to search via the University's online archive catalogue, Janus.

Personal papers (DCPP/) available to search via Janus include:

ANN: Francis Annesley (Master, 1800-1812) papers (16 letters, 1804–1808)
BIR: William Lloyd Birkbeck (Master, 1885-1888) papers (8 items, 1844–1866)
COX: Papers of Dr R. Gordon Cox, academic (1 box, 1932–1995)
FISH: Papers of William Webster Fisher, Professor of Medicine (3 files, 1785–1860)
FRE: Papers of William Frere (Master, 1812-1836) (4 boxes, 1800–1899)
HAR: Papers of Sir Busick Harwood, Professor of Medicine (c. 1 box 1785-(1992))
HEND: Papers of William Otto Henderson, economic historian (7 boxes, 1868–1993)
HOL: David Holbrook's Edgell Rickword collection (c1 box, 1920–1999)
LEA: Collection of letters of Frank Raymond Leavis, literary critic (c.600 letters, 1934-1978)
MAI: Papers of Frederic William Maitland, Professor of Law (6 boxes, 1885–1920)
MAS: Harold A. Mason papers (4 boxes, 1935–1993)
OW: Letters from Sir Isambard Owen about Cambridge life, 1868-71 (5 letters)
RIC: Papers of Sir Herbert Richmond, Master and naval historian (8 boxes, 1908–1946)
SEA: Papers of Lewis Charles Bernard Seaman (10 boxes, 1777–1986)
SEW: Papers of Sir Albert Charles Seward, Master and botanist (file, 1879–1934)
SHA: Patrick Shallard research papers (11 files, 1938–1982)
WHE: Papers of George Wherry, surgeon and alpine climber (1 box, 1829–1929)
WHI: Papers of Sir Lionel Ernest Howard Whitby, Master and haematologist (4 files, 1918–1964)

A detailed history of the foundation of the College and its architectural history is available, and a full timeline is here.

Published books:

There have also been several books published on the history of the College:

  • Stanley French, The history of Downing College, Cambridge (Downing College Association, 1978) Download a PDF copy here
  • Stanley French, Aspects of Downing History (Downing College Association, 1982)
  • Stanley French, Aspects of Downing History Vol. II (Downing College Association, 1989)
  • Tim Rawle, A Classical Adventure: The Architectural History of Downing College, Cambridge (Oxbridge Portfolio, 2018)
  • Cinzia Maria Sicca, Committed to Classicism: The building of Downing College Cambridge (Downing College, 1987)
  • H.W. Pettit Stevens, Downing College (London: F.E. Robinson, 1899).

Archive material online

The Archivist publishes a series of articles containing material from the Archive, starting with documents and photographs from the time of the First World War.

A thirty-minute film showing scenes around Downing and Cambridge around 1930, filmed by a Downing student, is now available online.

Additional items from the archive – in particular photographs and items relating to significant anniversaries – are featured on the Downing College Archives Facebook page.

How can I access the Archive?

Access to the Archive in person is strictly by appointment only. The Archive is open to researchers on three days per week (generally Monday, Wednesday and Friday), but access may be limited during term time and, in particular, during the exam period.  

Archive Access Policy.

The College Archivist can provide guidance and handlists of relevant, open records to visiting researchers as required.

The Archivist is happy to answer enquiries about the Archive made by post, phone or email:

College Archivist: Jenny Ulph
Downing College, Cambridge, CB2 1DQ
Tel: 01223 762905