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Durham University News



Hatfield College building gets £1million facelift and new name after 159 years

(3 May 2005)

One of Durham University’s most famous colleges is to have one of its historic buildings renamed in honour of the founding Principal,159 years after it was opened as the first ever purpose-built student residence in the country.

Hatfield College, which is the second oldest college in Durham, was founded as Bishop Hatfield’s Hall in 1846 just 14 years after University College was first established in Durham Castle in 1832.

Since its foundation 173 years ago the University has always continued to develop and expand to meet the changing needs of its students and teachers. One of the very first developments came with the opening of Hatfield’s Hall initially welcoming 21 students of Theology and Arts.

Soon after it was established, a new building was needed to accommodate the growing number of students attracted to Hatfield Hall. The building, which has been traditionally and affectionately known simply as “A & B Stairs”, has recently had a £1million refurbishment to bring its accommodation up to prestige standards. It is to be renamed Melville Building after the first Principal, the Reverend David Melville who held the post from1846-1851.

The renaming ceremony will be carried out by author Josceline Dimbleby, a great great granddaughter of the founder, who discovered her family connections with Hatfield while researching family history for her book “A Profound Secret” about David Melville’s daughter May and her daughter Amy.

This book is part biography and part detective story, as the author seeks to uncover the truth of the mysteriously tragic life of her great-grandmother, May Gaskell, and her relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones.

The author was unaware of her great great grandfather’s links with the College and was amazed to discover the extent of the records about Melville’s association with Hatfield. She was even more impressed by the magnificent portrait which still hangs in the main dining room.

Josceline Dimbleby will formally name the Melville Building on at 5.30 p.m. on Friday 6th May followed by a reception in the College Chapel. She will ceremonially cut a ribbon across one of the famous Hatfield doorways which have framed thousands of student photographs over the years.

The present Master of Hatfield College, Professor Tim Burt, who is also the University’s Dean of Colleges and Student Support Services, said the generations of Hatfield students had reason to be grateful to David Melville’s visionary concept of a unique collegiate system which was subsequently copied elsewhere. “His design provided purpose-built, furnished study bedrooms and common dining facilities at a time when it was not fashionable and which was very much at odds with the University’s senior officers and ruling body of the day,” said Professor Burt.

Melville, who was a tutor at the Castle, determined to create a brand new concept of student living and learning which would both meet the increasing demand for places and at the same time provide access to a university education for people of limited means. His dream became a reality and the collegiate system now embraces 15 colleges in Durham and Stockton and another is currently being built.By comparison the original Hatfield buildings were purchased in 1843 for £4,250 while the new college at Howlands Farm is costing £35.5 million. The refurbishment of the 28 bedrooms in the Melville Building makes them the highest grade (Four Diamonds) rooms available throughout the University for out-of-term letting.


MEDIA FILM/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY : Media representatives are welcome to attend the official renaming ceremony at Melville Hall, North Bailey, Durham at 5.30 p.m. on FRIDAY 6th May 2005.

Notes to Editors :

    Hatfield College is situated in the heart of the city, in the shadow of the great Norman Cathedral, and on the banks of the River Wear. It is a few hundred yards from all the facilities and amenities that Durham has to offer. Car parking is available free of charge on site.
    The buildings of Hatfield College, which are completely self-contained, range in age from those of the 17th Century to a large modern block completed in 1968. Accommodation in these buildings can be offered for numbers up to 260, in 35 doubles and 190 single rooms, each with its own wash-hand basin. Larger parties can be catered for in conjunction with a neighbouring College.
    The College's early Georgian dining hall is suitable for normal conference activities, as well as social and formal functions such as large parties, dinner dances and formal balls, for which in can be booked separately.
    The College has many amenities which include the elegant Melville Room, suitable for presentations and receptions, the comfortable Senior Common Room and private dining room, a Chapel, a Music Room, Television Room, Games Room and modern launderette. Small common rooms are available for seminars and group study.
    The elegant private dining room can host parties of up to 22 people. It is also available for other small functions. Hatfield is also a popular venue for weddings.
    Hatfield is well accustomed to hosting Conferences, Summer Schools and Meetings of all kinds, large or small, national or international. In addition to its own facilities, Hatfield College can offer access to other nearby University facilities including lecture rooms (complete with modern audio and visual aids) with seating for up to 600, halls suitable for exhibitions and a 200 seat theatre.
    For student use in term time the Melville Hall bedrooms offer twin occupancy and by using top quality beds similar to those used in the four and five star hotel market they can be zipped together to make king-size doubles. All rooms are en-suite.
    The University of Durham has a well established and growing reputation for the provision of conference facilities in colleges at both the Durham Campus and Queen’s Campus in Stockton. There are over 4,000 bed spaces available with over 500 en-suite rooms.

For further information contact : Professor Tim Burt, Master of Hatfield College and Dean of Colleges and Student Support Services. Tel 0191 334 6129

Media enquiries to : Tom Fennelly, Public Relations Office, University of Durham. Tel 0191 334 6078 e-mail :

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