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About us

Our History

Durham has long been established as a centre for learning, a history reaching back over a thousand years. A formal 'college' first appeared in 1653 under the name 'New College', occupying Durham Cathedral and the Cathedral Precinct (behind the Cathedral itself), as the first college of a planned city-wide collegiate university. However, the college was not able to confer degrees (after petitioning from Oxford and Cambridge Universities) and only lasted until 1660, closing as a result of the re-establishment of the cathedral's chapter with the restoration of the monarchy. Even before this, however, Durhamites had a central role in the development of university education in England. Archdeacon William of Durham established the first Oxford college, named ‘Durham Hall’ (now University College, Oxford), followed by John de Balliol (a landowner from Barnard Castle), who established Oxford's second college, Balliol College. Their efforts were then later mirrored by the monks of the Durham Priory who established Durham College, Oxford (now a part of Trinity College, Oxford) in the late 13th century. A university in Durham itself, however, would have to wait, with the university as we know it established in 1832 when University College (situated in Durham Castle since 1837) was founded, making it England's third-oldest university by standard historical practice.

The society's history is shorter, though still interesting. Established in 1926 as The Durham Colleges Historical Society, it is one of the very oldest academic societies at the university. Until 1943, its leadership operated on a termly basis, with its first president, Edward Leslie Seager of Hatfield College (later the Archdeacon of Dorset) sitting for just the Easter term. Its members paid a 'terminal subscription of one shilling' to join the society which was centred around regular academic talks most often held in the Durham Union's debating hall or Bishop Cosin's Library. Much has changed beyond just the denomination of our member's subscriptions, however. The events offering has expanded to include an annual ball and conference. Our logo has returned to its most 'original' form, having been a 10th century Viking coin for the first two decades of this century. Nonetheless, much has remained the same, not least the society's overriding aim, as per the 1926 constitution:

'the encouragement of the study of subjects of historical interest and value.'

Meet The Executive Committee

Our Affiliations

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