The Archive Collections

Christ's College was founded in 1505. Since then its policy has been to collect and preserve material pertaining to all aspects of its history, whether legal, financial, or administrative. A relatively small archive relates to its predecessor institution called God's House (1437), though the overwhelming bulk of surviving documents naturally has accumulated since the College was re-founded under its new name in 1505. Much of the surviving material relates to land and other properties situated in and around Cambridge and in East Anglia, the Midlands, and further afield, acquired by donation or purchase over the centuries, and is rich in medieval and early modern documents. The Admission Books survive from 1622 and record the entry of two of the College's most famous alumni, John Milton (1625) and Charles Darwin (1828). An almost complete set of Accounts, a rich source of College history, survives from 1530.

old library books

The College's archive materials fall into two main categories:

  1.  materials located not in the library but in various locations around College, though principally in the Muniment Room above the College's Great Gate. Material in the Muniment Room is the responsibility of the Honorary Keeper of the Archives. A listing of the contents of the Muniment Room can be found here. Please note, however, that this listing is currently (as of April 2020) incomplete and under revision.
  2. a separate collection, known as the "Fellows' Papers", stored in the Lower Old Library. It is important to note that, although this collection is called the "Fellows' Papers", it contains much more than material concerning former College Fellows. The current catalogue of Fellows' Papers, describing these holdings at collection level (and sometimes at item level), is available for download here. Material in the Fellows' Papers collection is the responsibility of the College Librarian.

Requests to view either category of archival materials should be sent to archives@christs.cam.ac.uk or to the College Librarian, John Wagstaff (telephone: 01223 334950; email: djw210@cam.ac.uk); or to Assistant Librarian Dr Amy Bowles (telephone: 01223 334927; email: ab2126@cam.ac.uk)

Major collections of personal papers among the Fellows' Papers include:

  • Charles Stuart Calverley (1831-84), poet
  • Charles Darwin (1809-82), naturalist. (Note however, that in respect of manuscript items Christ's College Library possesses only a limited amount of material, principally some 150 letters from Darwin to his cousin, William Darwin Fox (1805-1880); much more manuscript material relating to Darwin can be found at Cambridge University Library, and through the Darwin Online database.)
  • Donald H.W. Dickson (1924-), scientist
  • Brian Westerdale Downs (1893-1984), linguist
  • Douglas Rayner Hartree (1897-1958), mathematical physicist
  • Henry More (1614-87), theologian
  • William Henry Denham Rouse (1863-1950), classical scholar
  • Charles Lesingham Smith (1806-78), mathematician
  • David Stanbury (1933-97), teacher and naturalist
  • Alexander Robertus Todd, Lord Todd of Trumpington (1907-97), chemist, Nobel Laureate

Biographical information about many of these figures can be found in the online New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Further information about archival repositories

Information about many of the College's archival holdings is gradually being entered into ArchivesSpace, the new (from 2020) Archives Management System for the University of Cambridge. The previous archives catalogue, Janus, is no longer supported and will soon be retired; in fact, Janus never contained  a great deal of information either about Christ's College's archival holdings or about its Fellows' Papers Collection.

Christ's College Archives' "ARCHON code" is 1849. ARCHON codes are unique numbers used to identify archival collection locations within the UK, and key global repositories holding collections relating to British history. They are assigned by the UK National Archives. Christ's College Library also has its own ARCHON code; it is 267.

Christ's College Archives are not currently accessible via JISC's Archives Hub; but researchers looking for further information about UK archive repositories in general may well find it useful to consult that site. Click here for a link to basic information about Archives Hub.