Downing College Archive

What’s in the Archive?

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

The Archive 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 former members.


Catalogues or overviews of some collections are available to search online via ArchiveSearch (the successor to Janus and new Cambridge-wide archives portal). These include:

  • Personal papers of notable Masters, Fellows and alumni
  • Pre-1920 Governance records, including pre-foundation papers
  • Selected administrative records, including Downing family estate papers

Browse the Downing College archive collections on ArchiveSearch

Please contact the College Archivist for further information and details of catalogues not yet available to search online.

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)
  • Gwyn Bevan, John Hicks and Peter Thomson, Downing and the Two World Wars (Downing College Association, 2010) Download a PDF copy here
  • H.W. Pettit Stevens, Downing College (London: F.E. Robinson, 1899).

Archive material online

The Archivist has published a series of articles on different aspects of the history of the College and its members.

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. 

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