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Encyclopedia > Downing College
Downing College, Cambridge
Full name Downing College
Motto Quaerere Verum
Seek the truth
Named after Sir George Downing
Previous names -
Established 1800
Sister College Lincoln College
Master Prof. Barry Everitt
Location Regent Street (http://www.cam.ac.uk/map/v3/drawmap.cgi?mp=main;xx=2048;yy=1157;mt=c;ms=150;ma=90;tl=Downing%20College)
Undergraduates 409
Graduates 292
Homepage (http://www.dow.cam.ac.uk/) Boatclub (http://dcbc.dow.cam.ac.uk/)
The Maitland Robinson Library at Downing College

Downing College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.


The college was founded in 1800 under the will of Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet with the wealth left by his grandfather, Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet, who served both Cromwell and Charles II and built No. 10 Downing Street (a door formerly from Number 10 is in use in the college). He died in 1749, and as he had no direct issue (he was legally separated from his wife), the family fortune was left to his cousin, Sir Jacob Downing, if he died without heir, to three cousins in succession. If they all died without issue, the estates were to be used to found a college at Cambridge called Downing.

The Founder died in 1749 and Sir Jacob in 1764. As the other named heirs had also died, the college should have come into existence then but Sir Jacob's widow, Margaret, refused to give up the estates and the various relatives who were Sir George's legal heirs had to take costly and prolonged action in the Court of Chancery to compel her to do so. She died in 1778 but her second husband and the son of her sister continued to resist the heirs-at-laws' action until 1800 when the Court decided in favour of Sir George's will and George III granted Downing a Royal Charter.

The architect William Wilkins was tasked by the trustees of the Downing estate, who included the Master of Clare College and St John's College and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to design the plan for the college. Wilkins, a disciple of the neo-classical architectural style, designed the first wholly campus-based college plan in the world based on a magnificent entrance on Downing Street reaching back to form the largest quadrangle in Cambridge, extending to Lensfield Road. But this was not to be.

The estate was much reduced by the suit in Chancery, and the grand plans failed. Much of the north side of what was then the "Pembroke Leys" was sold to the University and is now home to scientific buildings, ("The Downing Site"). In fact, only limited East and West ranges were initially built, with the plans for a library and chapel on the south face of the college shelved.

Downing College Chapel, built in the 1950s

The third side of the square was only completed in the 1950s with the building of the college chapel. Where the fourth side would have been is now a large paddock (known simply as "The Paddock"), with many trees.

The college is renowned for its strong Legal and Medical tradition, the former subject being built up by the late Professor Clive Parry, his pupil and successor John Hopkins (now an emeritus fellow) and the current Director of Studies in Law and Senior Tutor, Graham Virgo. Legal notables who have been honorary fellows of the college include the late Sir John Smith, the pre-eminent criminal lawyer of his generation, the first solicitor to become a Judge of the High Court, Sir Lawrence Collins and Sir Robert Jennings, former President of the International Court of Justice.

Downing students remain prominent in the University world; in the past few years Cambridge Union Presidents, Blues captains, Law and Economic Society Presidents and more have hailed from the college.

The college is also strong in the sports field, with its rugby team resident in the upper echelons of Division 1. The boat club is successful too, with the Women's first boat gaining Headship of the river in the 2004 Lent Bumps.

Famous Alumni

External links

  • Downing College Website (http://www.dow.cam.ac.uk)
  • Downing JCR (Junior Combination Room) Website (http://www.downingjcr.co.uk)
  • Downing MCR (Middle Combination Room) Website (http://www.downingmcr.co.uk)

Colleges of the University of Cambridge

Christ's | Churchill | Clare | Clare Hall | Corpus Christi | Darwin | Downing | Emmanuel | Fitzwilliam | Girton | Gonville and Caius | Homerton | Hughes Hall | Jesus | King's | Lucy Cavendish | Magdalene | New Hall | Newnham | Pembroke | Peterhouse | Queens' | Robinson | St Catharine's | St Edmund's | St John's | Selwyn | Sidney Sussex | Trinity | Trinity Hall | Wolfson

  Results from FactBites:
About Downing College (321 words)
Downing offers a friendly atmosphere, a good mixture of undergraduates and graduates, and an outstanding base from which to carry out your studies.
Downing is committed to excellence and we aim for the highest standards of academic attainment, teaching, pastoral support, accommodation, and facilities for social and cultural activities.
Downing was founded in 1800: it is both the newest of the ‘old’ Colleges and the oldest of the ‘new’.
Sir George Downing - LoveToKnow 1911 (750 words)
Pepys, who characterizedhis conduct asodious though useful to the king, calls him a "perfidious rogue," and remarks that "all the world took notice of him for a most ungrateful villain for his pains." 3 On the ist of July 1663 he was created a baronet.
Downing Street, London, is named after him, while Downing College, Cambridge, derived its name from his grandson, the 3rd baronet.
Downing was undoubtedly a man of great political and diplomatic ability, but his talents were rarely employed for the advantage of his country and his character was marked by all the mean vices, treachery, avarice, servility and ingratitude.
  More results at FactBites »



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