As a college of Durham University, St Cuthbert's Society offers an unrivalled student experience steeped in history and tradition but forward looking.
The college had an interesting start to its life: In 1888, following University approval, St Cuthbert's Society was set up as a non-residential college for mature and local students who did not wish to reside in either Hatfield Hall or University College and instead preferred to lodge in houses within Durham City. In order to distinguish itself from residential colleges, it was given the title 'Society'. A member of University staff was appointed to oversee the running of the Society, referred to as a Censor, and the students were mature and traditionally from the local area who tended to have family responsibilities.
Initially, the Society did not have any space of its own, and was reported to have spent a great deal of time monopolising the chairs by the Union Society fire, much to the annoyance of other students. This came to a head in 1892 as the St Cuthbert’s Men were having difficulty finding a place to hold their meetings. After a collective letter to the Journal outlining their grievances, they were granted access to St Cuthbert’s Room in what was then titled University House, and is now Cosin’s Hall on Palace Green. It became home to the Society for over fifty years.
After the second world war, in 1946, the St Cuthbert's Society was "refounded" and the University appointed its first Principal, a member of academic staff, to manage the Society. In 1947 the Society was allocated a room on Owengate, beside the Castle, along with 30 Church Street to offer its members more space to meet, but with over 200 students as part of the Society it was still impossible to entertain everyone in the new premises.
It was not until 1951 that St Cuthbert's Society settled at 12 South Bailey, which is still the nucleus of the Society. During that year it contained the Principal’s Office, a JCR, the first ever SCR, and was also home to six students of the Society, whilst the rest of the students continued to live in houses in the local community. This was the first time that members of the Society had ever had accommodation on University premises, and it was in high demand. More accommodation was acquired on the Bailey over the next thirty years and more recently at Parson's Field on Old Elvet. It now comprises of approximately 1,300 students.
Throughout its history, St Cuthbert's Society has often been diagnosed with having an identity crisis: during its early years its members were keen to portray the Society as entirely independent from the University, and much debate was had over its status as it began to acquire more space and living quarters for its students. Today, St Cuthbert's Society's relationship with the University is formalised as that of a college, yet it still retains the independence of spirit founded by its predecessors, whislt offering its students all the advantages of being officially part of Durham University. In 2008 the University agreed to allow Cuth's to retain the title of 'Society' as a reflection of its heritage.
For a more detailed history of the buildings of the Society, please download the document below. Henry Tudor's classic history of the first 100 years of the Society is available for purchase here.
- History of the Buildings of St. Cuthbert's Society (last modified: 14 February 2019)