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, 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.[1]

St John's College
University of Durham
Haughton House, North Bailey, Durham.jpg
St Johns, Durham.svg
Coordinates54°46′19″N 1°34′33″W / 54.7718825°N 1.5757305°W / 54.7718825; -1.5757305Coordinates: 54°46′19″N 1°34′33″W / 54.7718825°N 1.5757305°W / 54.7718825; -1.5757305
MottoFides nostra victoria
Motto in EnglishOur faith is our victory
NamesakeSt John the Evangelist
WardenPhilip Plyming
PrincipalDavid Wilkinson
Senior tutorRebecca Bouveng
MascotOlav III
St John's College, Durham is located in Durham, England
St John's College, Durham
Location in Durham, England

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 college's chapel choir has flourished in recent years due to the college's commitment to supporting choral scholarships.


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 Cranmer Hall theological college and the non-theological John's Hall. The halls have always held to a broadly evangelical tradition.

In 1973 St John's became the first Durham undergraduate male college to admit female students, though Cranmer Hall had been admitting women ordinands since 1966.[2]

St John's was the first Church of England theological college to have both a lay person and a woman as principal (Ruth Etchells).[3]

The college has an advowson (a right to appoint clergy to a parish) over four benefices: Chester-le-Street and Stranton in the Diocese of Durham and jointly with other avowees the benefices of Doddington with Benwick and Wimblington, and St Mark with St Paul, Darlington. Previously, the patron had complete power to appoint the new priest, however that power is now exercised jointly with the local bishop and parish.


Entrance to Haughton House
Cranmer Hall, South Bailey, Durham

The college is formed from a number of Georgian houses on the Bailey between Durham Cathedral and the River Wear. The main house is Haughton House, named after Haughton Castle, the seat of the family of William Donaldson Cruddas who were early benefactors of the college and other Christian churches and charities in the north east of England.[4][5] The houses which make up Cranmer Hall were once owned by the Bowes-Lyon family (the late Queen Elizabeth's family). The majority of the college buildings are grade II listed, with parts of 3 and 4 South Bailey grade II* listed.[6] Before coming into the possession of St John's, Linton House, no 1 South Bailey, was the main property of St. Chad's College. It is said[who?] to have much earlier origins, with the frontage seen today added to an existing timber framed building after the Restoration of the Monarchy.[citation needed]

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

The illogically interconnected nature of many of the college buildings regularly results in visitors becoming lost. The similarly unusual nature of college stairways, one of which disappears 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 re-ordered at the turn of the 21st century. It became the college chapel in 1919,[7] 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.[8] The chapel is also used by the local Greek Orthodox congregation.

Student lifeEdit

Owing to its small population, 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). Elected Freshers Reps are generally well known throughout college 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 participates in a number of sports such as cross country running, mixed lacrosse, rowing, men's football, badminton, hockey and rugby among others. St John's College Boat Club was founded in 1910 and operates out of two boathouses on the River Wear. The college's theatre company, Bailey Theatre Company, is ratified by Durham Student Theatre and is open to any member of the university. Their 2019 performance of Alan Ayckbourn's "Family Circles", produced in collaboration with St. Chad's, featured a cast and production team formed entirely from first-year students. Other performances include Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis in the Epiphany term of 2009 and Arthur Miller's The Crucible in the Michaelmas term of 2008. The company also puts on an annual Shakespeare performance after university examinations in the summer. This traditionally involves an outdoor performance on Library Lawn, though the college's newly refurbished amphitheatre was used in 2019. In 2008, the society's performance of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus won the Durham Student Theatre Award for Best Play.[citation needed]

John's Music Society, founded in 2012, is the governing body for music within college. It regularly puts on large-scale concerts and helps students set up new musical ensembles as well as organising socials and concert trips for its members. The society is also responsible for organising popular open mic nights and the annual JMS BBQ.

Senior college figuresEdit

List of principalsEdit

List of wardensEdit

Notable alumniEdit

John's HallEdit

Cranmer HallEdit




  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Rev Canon John Cockerton – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 20 January 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  3. ^ Tallentire, Mark. "Tributes to college principal Dr Ruth Etchells". Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Guardian from London, on February 20, 1895 · Page 7". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  5. ^ "St John's College Record" (PDF). 2010 Edition, page 9. Retrieved 26 May 2014.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "English Heritage list". Archived from the original on 21 June 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  7. ^ Mackay and Taylor. "The Parish of St Mary-the-less". Durham University. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  8. ^ "Parish Finder". A Church Near You. Church of England. Archived from the original on 19 October 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  9. ^ "Church News". The Times. 9 October 1969.
  10. ^ a b "University News". The Times. 1 October 1992.
  11. ^ "SPCK " David Day". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  12. ^ "The Right Reverend Stephen Sykes – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Church News". The Times. 18 February 2006.
  14. ^ "Cockerton". Crockford's Clerical Directory (online ed.). Church House Publishing. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Ecclesiastical News: Church Appointments". The Times. 8 April 1960.
  16. ^ Townley, Peter (28 May 2009). "The Right Rev Ian Cundy". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Church of England Bishops: John Pritchard". Lay Anglicana. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Cranmer Consolidation". News. Durham University. 28 May 2004. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Church News". The Times. 13 September 1996.
  20. ^ "New Warden of Cranmer Hall takes up her post". News. Durham University. 20 January 2005. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  21. ^ "New leaders at town churches". East Lothian Courier. 5 May 2011. Archived from the original on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  22. ^ "College post for Rev Mark". Northern Echo. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Revd Dr Philip Plyming appointed Warden of Cranmer Hall". St John's College. Durham University. 21 December 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Professor DJ Davies – Durham University".
  25. ^ "Centenary for college where ideas were born". Durham Advertiser. Archived from the original on 18 February 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  26. ^ Bingham, John (7 November 2012). "Justin Welby to be new Archbishop of Canterbury – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph.

Further readingEdit

  • Craig, Amabel. (2009) Fides Nostra Victoria: A Portrait of St John's College, Durham, Third Millennium Publishing
  • Yates, T.E. (2001) A College Remembered (second edition). Spennymoor, County Durham: MacDonald Press Ltd.

External linksEdit