St John's College, Durham

St John's College is a college of the University of Durham, United Kingdom. It is one of only two 'Recognised Colleges' of the University, the other being St Chad's. This means that it is financially and constitutionally independent of the University and has a greater degree of administrative independence than the other, 'Maintained', colleges. However, in order to maintain its status as a Recognised college, the University Council must approve the appointment of its Principal and be notified of changes to its constitution.

St John's is Durham's second smallest college, and comprises John's Hall for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying any University course and Cranmer Hall (named after Thomas Cranmer and with its own master or Warden), an Anglican theological college in the open evangelical tradition. The Methodist Wesley Study Centre, named after John Wesley, is also based within Cranmer Hall, despite not technically being part of the college.

The college is renowned for its Chapel Choir, which has flourished in recent years thanks to the college's commitment to supporting a generous number of Choral Scholarships. Another distinctive feature of St. John's College is its bar, which was created from the cellars of Linton House.


Formed from a number of Georgian houses on the Bailey between Durham Cathedral and the River Wear, the college's setting is spectacular. The main house is Haughton House. The houses which make up Cranmer Hall were once owned by the Bowes-Lyon family (the late Queen Mother's family). The majority of the college buildings are grade II listed, with parts of 3 and 4 South Bailey grade II* listed. Linton House, no 1 South Bailey, is Grade 1 listed and has much earlier origins. Before coming into the possession of St John's, it was the main property of St. Chad's College. The frontage seen today was added to an existing timber framed building after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

No 2 South Bailey has distinctive circular 'blind' windows which were revealed during a re-rendering in the 1980s, and enabled Martin Roberts, then Durham City's Conservation Officer, to date the building very precisely to the late 17th century.

The illogically interconnected nature of many of the college buildings regularly results in visitors becoming quite lost. The similarly bizarre nature of college stairways, one of which surprises the unwary by disappearing into a solid wall, adds an element of Escher to the architecture.

The college chapel, dedicated to St Mary, and known as St Mary the Less, is of Norman origin and was rebuilt in the 1840s, and was re-ordered at the turn of the 21st century. It became the college chapel in 1919, before which it had been the parish church of the South Bailey. It is still a chapel of ease in the parish of St Oswald.


Founded as a Church of England theological college in 1909, it became a full constituent college of the University in 1919. In 1958 it was divided into the theological college Cranmer Hall, and the non-theological John's Hall. The Halls have always held to a broadly evangelical tradition.

St John's was the first Church of England Theological College to have both a lay person and a woman as Principal, Dr Ruth Etchells.

Student life

Despite its size, St. John's has merits that the other larger colleges do not; for instance its sense of community. Owing to its small population, it is not surprising that Johnians tend to know one another regardless of year, course, or accommodation (all first years and the majority of finalists live in college, with the second years required to find their own accommodation), and this bond contributes to College life immensely. The John's Hall freshers week is different from many other colleges in the way that relationships form more quickly due to the freshers' population being only between 90 to 150. Elected Freshers Reps are generally well known throughout college, with the strongest personalities, thereby giving new Johnians more opportunities for one-on-one interaction, providing a more solid foundation in their first few weeks than in the larger colleges.

St. John's performs well in a number of sports such as Cross Country Running, Mixed Lacrosse, Rowing, Hockey, Rugby, Table Tennis and Women's Basketball among others. St John's College Boat Club was founded in 1910 and operates out of two boathouses on the River Wear. It is also renowned for its contribution to university theatre, with the Bailey Theatre Company producing successful versions of Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis in the Epiphany term of 2009 and Arthur Miller's The Crucible in the Michaelmas term of 2008, as well as the annual Summer Shakespeare. This involves an outdoor performance on Library Lawn. 2008's performance of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus won the Durham Student Theatre Award for Best Play.

List of Principals
  • 1909-1911 Rev Sidney Nowell Rostron
  • 1911-1919 Rev Prof Dawson Dawson-Walker
  • 1919-1945 Rev Canon Charles Steel Wallis
  • 1945-1954 Rt Rev Ronald Ralph Williams
  • 1954-1955 Rev Dr G.J. Cumming (acting)
  • 1954-1970 Rev Dr Jim P. Hickinbotham
  • 1970-1978 Rev John C.P. Cockerton
  • 1978-1988 Miss D. Ruth Etchells
  • 1988-1992 Dr A.C. Thiselton
  • 1992-1999 Rev David V. Day
  • 1999-2008 Rt Rev Stephen W. Sykes
  • 2008-Date Rev Professor David Wilkinson
Notable alumni
  • Richard Adams, pioneer of fair trade and founder of Traidcraft
  • The Rt. Rev James Harold Bell, Bishop of Knaresborough
  • Alastair Cook - English cricket player
  • The Rt. Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield
  • Professor Douglas Davies, theologian
  • The Rt. Rev Christopher Paul Edmondson - Bishop of Bolton
  • The Rt. Rev. Michael Frederick Gear, former Suffragan Bishop of Doncaster
  • Rt Revd John Gladwin, former Bishop of Chelmsford
  • Gavin Hewitt - Special Correspondent for BBC News
  • The Rt. Rev Robert Paterson, Bishop of Sodor and Man
  • Nick Ramsay AM, Conservative Assembly Member for Monmouth and Shadow Finance Minister
  • The Rt. Rev John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln
  • The Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Seagrave Pearson, Anglican Bishop of Lancaster
  • Jack Plumley, Sir Herbert Thompson Professor of Egyptology, Cambridge
  • Rt Revd Michael Turnbull, Bishop of Durham (1994–2003)
  • The Reverend Richard Turnbull, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
  • The Rt Rev. Richard Blackburn, Bishop of Warrington
  • The Very Reverend Justin Welby, Dean of Liverpool
  • James Rutherford - Baritone


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