St Catharine's College, Cambridge

From Academic Kids

Template:Oxbridge College Infobox St Catharine's College is one of the colleges that make up the University of Cambridge.

Most Cambridge students refer to it by the nickname "Catz". Catz has a reputation for being a very easy-going college, and has been described as 'sporting rather than sporty'. The College has always generously contributed to the Cambridge team in the University boat race, providing three of the eight in both 2003 and 2004. Academically it tends to come in the middle of the Tompkins Table, which ranks the colleges by the class of degrees obtained by their undergraduates. The proportion of students from state schools is relatively high for Cambridge, though still only a small majority.

There is a long-running but good-natured feud with Queens' College which apparently derives from Queens' disapproval of Catz having built its court in front of Queens', turning Cambridge's former High Street into a back alley. In the 1960s St. Catharine's built a modern block of flats named St Chad's near the University Library, in which the rooms are octagonal to resemble the Catharine wheel on the college crest. Second year students reside in St. Chad's while the First and Third years are at the main college site.

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St. Catharine's College, as seen from Trumpington Street, showing the open court.


Robert Wodelarke, Provost of King's College, had begun preparations for the founding of a new college as early as 1459 when he bought tenements on which the new college could be built. The preparation cost him a great deal of his private fortune (he was suspected of diverting King's College funds), and he was forced to scale down the scale of the foundation to only three Fellows. He stipulated that they must study theology and philosophy only.

Wodelarke may have chosen the name in homage to the mother of King Henry VI who was called Catharine, although it is more likely that it was named as part of the Renaissance cult of St. Catharine, who was a patron saint of learning. At any rate, the college was ready for habitation and formally founded on St. Catharine's day (November 25) 1473. There are six Saints Catharine, but the college was named for Saint Catharine of Alexandria. It was initially known as Katharine Hall.

The initial foundation was not well-provided for. Wodelarke was principally interested in the welfare of Fellows and the College had no undergraduates at all for many years. However, by 1550 there was an increasing number of junior students and the focus of the College changed to that of teaching undergraduates. A rapid growth made it necessary to expand the college and short-lived additions were made in 1622. By 1630 the College began to demolish its existing buildings which were decaying, and started work on the current buildings. The three-sided court, which is unique among colleges in Cambridge (Catharine's sister college - Worcester - has a three-sided quad, which may well be the same thing), was built over the period 1675 to 1757, Proposals for a final range of buildings to complete the fourth side of the court were made on many occasions up to the 20th century.

In 1637 the College came into possession of the George Inn (later the Bull Inn) on Trumpington Street. Behind this Inn was a stables which was already famous for the practice of its manager, Thomas Hobson, not to allow a hirer to take any horse other than the one longest in the stable, leading to the expression "Hobson's choice" meaning no choice at all.

The college was granted new statutes in 1860 and adopted its current name. In 1880, a movement to merge the college with King's College began. The two colleges were adjacent and it seemed a solution to King's need for more rooms and St. Catharine's need for a more substantial financial basis. However, the Master (Charles Kirkby Robinson) was opposed and St. Catharine's eventually refused.

A history of the college was written by W.H.S. Jones in 1936.

Famous Alumni

Colleges of the University of Cambridge Arms of the University

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


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