What’s in the Archive?

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

There are currently three exhibitions in the Maitland Robinson Library: 300 Years of Giving (tracing the College’s history from the Founder’s will and its development since 1800 as a result of major legacies, gifts and appeals); a smaller display on the unusual circumstances which led to the Founder’s will in 1717; and Downing's early Black Cantabs (profiling some of the College's early students dating back to 1917 - research in support of the Black Cantabs Research Society). 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 relating to former students, student bodies and organisations
  • papers of Fellows and old members.

A limited amount of the archive catalogue is available to search via the University's online archive catalogue, Janus.

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, 2015)
  • 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.  

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