Higher education postcard: Collingwood College, Durham

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’s postbag takes us to Durham’s first mixed-sex college

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

Once upon a time, local newspapers were easy to read (they were printed on paper, so no pop-ups, distracting videos, nor clickbait headlines) and had real news. Even if irrelevant to most of the readership.

In evidence of which I supply this, from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, Monday 27 September 1971:

Let’s take a look at Collingwood College.

Durham is a collegiate university, and in the early 1960s it was expanding. Decisions were taken to create new colleges: Grey, Van Mildert, Trevelyan and Collingwood.

Collingwood was to be built on the grounds of Oswald House, a former manor house dating to 1800. This was decided in 1962, but arguments within the university meant that building did not start until 1971, with the college set to open in 1972. As anyone who has ever been involved in a large building project will know, this is an uncomfortably tight timescale, and so it proved. Collingwood was not ready, and the first students to enrol at the college were actually accommodated at Van Mildert College, which had opened in 1965.

Collingwood was the first college of Durham University to admit both men and women including, as the college’s own website notes, mixed-sex corridors. One can only imagine the shock to the system which this must have represented.

The college was named after Sir Edward Collingwood, sailor, mathematician, scientist and chair of the council at Durham University. Collingwood was the great-grand-nephew of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, who was second-in-command to Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar. Edward joined the Royal Navy, serving, by arrangement, as a midshipman on HMS Collingwood. But shortly before the battle of Jutland he fell down an open hatch, breaking his wrist and being invalided out of the navy.

The college’s buildings got a good write-up in a 12 February 1976 Country Life feature:

The latest [Durham University] College, Collingwood … is probably also the best. Skilfully tailored to preserve a woodland site, it comprises two residential wings in another brown brick pivoting from a hall and common rooms block. It ingeniously uses a fall in levels to key in linking corridors from which stairs ascend and descend to comfortably sized groups of study bedrooms.

One response to “Higher education postcard: Collingwood College, Durham

  1. Whilst it is great to see Collingwood College receiving such well-deserved recognition, I feel I should point out an error in the Coventry Evening Telegraph piece reproduced. The founding Master/Principal was Peter Bayley, not Peter Hayley. It’s not clear whether this is a typing error or a misreading of a written source.

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