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Hatfield College History


Founded in 1846, Hatfield College is a residential college of the University of Durham. It is right in the city centre, nestling beneath Durham's magnificent World Heritage Cathedral. The College buildings are an interesting blend of Georgian coaching inn, early Victorian room sets and major additions during the last century.

Accommodation is available for 400 students on site and nearby, about one third live in lodgings in the city. In vacations, there is an important bed and breakfast and conference trade.

Central to the College is its Dining Hall - among the oldest parts of Hatfield. This historic building had a seventeenth century pedigree and an eighteenth century reputation as a fine coaching inn (The Red Lyon) with dancing, dining and gaming rooms (all still in use for other purposes) and kitchens with stabling which used to be on front of what is now C Stairs.

When Hatfield was founded in 1846, David Melville - the first in a long line of principals and masters - set it up as a model college. This was a revolutionary development in residential higher education. For the first time, student rooms were let furnished, all meals were taken in Hall, expenses were fixed, reasonable and known in advance. Cared for and guided by College Officers. Most of this is now considered general practice. However, it many years before it became an accepted model throughout the world.

50 years later, after some initial uncertainties, Hatfield had developed into a well known, predominantly theological establishment under Archibald Robertson, later an eminent bishop. Frank Jevons - the first lay Master - steered Hatfield into the new century during his long period of service. The First World War had a major impact on the College, as on everything else.

At the centenary of its foundation, Hatfield had changed its emphasis to science and education but reached a low ebb until the end of the Second World War. However, Eric Birley played a key role in the revival of the College and was responsible for many modern aspects of administration and organization including the establishment of a tutorial system and provision of facilities for a Senior Common Room.By 2007, the admission of women – agonized under James Barber and grudgingly accepted are now a welcome fact. The features of the present time are, under Tim Burt, vastly greater student numbers, a wider range of study courses, and increasingly good academic results. Hatfield spirit and rich legacy of College traditions – present from earlier days – is alive and well. There are some things money can’t buy!

The material on this website draws heavily on the invaluable work of the College Archivist Arthur Moyes and, in particular, his books 'Hatfield 1846-1996' and 'Be the Best You Can Be' published by The Hatfield Trust in 1996 and 2007 respectively.