Selwyn College is a 19th-century contribution to
the collegiate system of the University. (fn. 1) It was
founded to preserve the memory of one of the great
ecclesiastical figures of the century, George Augustus
Selwyn, the pioneer Bishop of New Zealand, who
was afterwards Bishop of Lichfield, and to maintain
that type of Anglican culture which was felt by many
to be endangered by the passing of the University
Tests Act of 1871. The funds for the foundation
were raised by public subscription. Bishop Selwyn
died on 11 April 1878. Immediately after his
funeral at Lichfield, a committee was formed to
promote a memorial to him, and a public meeting
at Westminster on 18 July adopted the proposal of
the committee to establish in Cambridge a College
which should bear his name. On 10 March 1879 the
committee decided the form of the constitution of
the future College, which was modelled on Keble
College, Oxford, of which Bishop Selwyn had been
a great promoter, and appointed a provisional
council and the first Master, the Honourable Arthur
Temple Lyttelton of Trinity College. The committee and the council raised a sum of about
£30,000; and the task of establishing the College
was committed to the Master and council.
Six acres of freehold land in Grange Road was
bought by the council from Corpus Christi College
on 3 November 1879 for £6,050, and building began
on this site shortly afterwards. The front range of
the present buildings, the present kitchens, and a
temporary hall and chapel, behind and parallel to the
front range were erected at a cost of some £18,000.
A stone with a commemorative inscription was
laid beside the gate by the Earl of Powis on 1 June
The council next proceeded to obtain a royal
charter for the College, reproducing exactly the
terms of the charter of Keble College. It was sealed
on 13 September 1882. The Master and council were
constituted a body corporate with privileges in
regard to the Statutes of Mortmain and Charitable
Uses. Regulations were provided for their procedure
and for the government of the College. In this
respect the charter gave large powers to the Master,
subject to such statutes as he and the council might
make with the consent of the Visitor, who was the
Archbishop of Canterbury. The charter declared
that the College was 'founded and constituted with
the especial object and intent of providing persons
desirous of academic education and willing to live
economically with a College wherein sober living
and high culture of the mind may be combined with
Christian training based upon the principles of the
Church of England'.
The provisions of the charter sufficed for the
needs of the College during its first 30 years. At the
end of that formative period the Master and council
exercised their powers to make statutes. By these the
status and duties of the College officers, and other
details of the internal economy of the College were
defined, and fellowships, hitherto lacking, were
established. These statutes were sealed on 4 October
1913. They were superseded on 1 August 1926 by a
new set which gave effect to the recommendations
of the Statutory Commissioners of 1923, and in other
respects expanded and altered them.
The charter did not incorporate the College in the
University. Incorporation therefore remained to be
settled by the Senate. The members of the already
existing Cavendish College were under the recently
formed Non-collegiate Students Board, and this
determined the immediate status of Selwyn men.
On the other hand, the provisions for private hostels
made by the old statute de Hospitiis offered a pattern
for the corporate recognition by the University of
a more permanent kind of academic society. After
much discussion, on 1 June 1882, the Senate passed
a grace which established the new status of public
hostels, to which new institutions for academical
education in the University were admissible. An
institution of this status was required to satisfy the
University that provision had been made for its
government and permanence and that its buildings
were suitable for their purpose. If any of the conditions of its recognition were violated the recognition could be withdrawn. It was to be called a
'hostel' in all University documents in which the
word 'college' would be used of the existing colleges.
Its principal did not rank as the head of a house, and
was not eligible for the office of Vice-Chancellor.
It did not nominate proctors. All its undergraduates
were to reside within its walls. Its students were to
have the same privileges and obligations as though
they were members of the existing colleges.
The Master was installed and the College opened
for its first term on 10 October 1882. Next day the
Master petitioned the Council of the Senate for the
recognition of the College as a public hostel, and
this was granted on 8 February 1883. Selwyn retained the status of a public hostel until the University statutes of 1 October 1926 came into force.
These statutes provided for the existence in the
University of a class of corporate institutions known
as 'Approved Foundations', and expressly placed
Selwyn College in this class. The statutes ordain
that any provision in any statute or ordinance affecting all colleges shall be applicable as if the term
'college' included any 'approved foundation', with
the exception of the chapters concerning the ViceChancellor, the proctors, and certain obligations of
the colleges in respect of reserved fellowships and
contributions for University purposes. Selwyn had
already been named as a 'college' in the schedule to
the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Act,
1923. The restriction of the liberty of the College to
place its undergraduates in lodgings which, though
in a mitigated form, applied to the College in its
new status, was entirely removed on 30 May 1936.
The architect, Sir Arthur Blomfield, had planned
a complete set of buildings of red brick and stone in
a Tudor Gothic style forming a single court. It was
to contain 120 sets of rooms, but when the College
was opened only 64 of these, in the western range, had
been built, and in the absence of a Master's Lodge
a number of them had to be used to accommodate
the Master. In the first year the College had 28
students, and in the second it was only possible to
house 23 more. In 1883 the building of the Master's
Lodge increased the number of sets available, but
more were urgently needed and in 1884 staircases
C and D were built on the north side of the court.
In 1889 this side was completed by the addition of
staircases E and F. The foundation stone of the
chapel was laid on 15 June 1893 in the last term of
A. T. Lyttelton's Mastership, and the building was
dedicated on 17 October 1895 under the succeeding
master, J. R. Selwyn, second son of Bishop Selwyn.
No further additions were made until 1909, when the
fourth Master, Richard Appleton, carried through
the building of the hall during his short Mastership.
This was designed by Messrs. Grayson and Ould in
an Elizabethan style and panelled through the initiative of A. C. Benson with fine 18th-century panelling
principally from the former English church at
Rotterdam in memory of Archbishop Benson. The
building incorporated Blomfield's kitchen building
on the south side of the court. The old temporary
hall was pulled down, but the old chapel, which had
become a temporary library, remained until in 1930,
under the sixth Master, G. E. Newsom, the permanent library was built as a war memorial, to the
design of T. H. Lyon. The enclosure of the court on
the eastern side by permanent railings and a wall,
and the conversion of a wing of the very large
Master's Lodge into a staircase, have since been
carried out by the same architect.
The Master, who must always be a clerk in holy
orders, is elected and appointed by the council. He
presides at meetings of the council, and his consent,
when present, is necessary, with certain exceptions,
to all acts of the council. The council consists of
16 members, of whom 5, the Bishop of Ely, the
Dean of Lichfield, the Provost of Eton, and the
Regius Professors of Divinity of Cambridge and
Oxford Universities, are ex officio members, and the
remaining 11 are co-opted. The majority of these
are now fellows of the College. There are not less
than five fellows, and such number of scholars as the
Master and Fellows shall from time to time determine. The fellows are elected by the Master and
council on the nomination of the Master and
Fellows. A fellow must, on election, be a member of
the Church of England or of some church in communion with it, and must remain so.
Subject to the authority of the Master and council,
and of the Master, as defined in the charter, the
internal administration is in the hands of an administrative body consisting of the Master and certain of the fellows. Other fellows and College officers
may be summoned to meetings of the administrative
body. The scholars are elected by the administrative body. The bursar is appointed by the Master and
council; the tutors, dean, lecturers, and other officers
are appointed by the Master and council on the
nomination of the Master.
The library contains over 15,000 volumes. It has
few manuscripts but some interesting and valuable
early printed books and first editions. These came
principally from valuable collections bequeathed by
William Cooke and Edward Balme-Wheatley-Balme.
During its short life the College has accumulated
few endowments. The funds originally subscribed
were used up in providing the site and buildings and
in the expenses of the earliest years. Benefactors
have since endowed some ten scholarships and
exhibitions, sundry prizes, and dividends, considerably smaller than in the older colleges, for the
fellowships. The College has three advowsons,
Wonersh (Surr.), Old Cleeve (Som.), and Longstowe. Since 1945 the resources of the College have
been directed to modernizing the buildings, completing the interior of the chapel in accordance with
Blomfield's plan, and acquiring five houses near the
College to serve as additional staircases.
Masters of Selwyn College (fn. 2)
The Hon. Arthur Temple Lyttelton: 10 Oct.
1882, resigned 1893, died 1903.
John Richardson Selwyn: 16 June 1893, died
Alexander Francis Kirkpatrick: 25 Apr. 1898,
resigned 1907, died 1941.
Richard Appleton: 24 Apr. 1907, died 1909.
John Owen Farquhar Murray: 29 May 1909,
retired 1928, died 1945.
George Ernest Newsom: 8 Oct. 1928, died 1934.
George Armitage Chase: 8 Oct. 1934, resigned
William Telfer: 16 Jan. 1947, retired 1956.
William Owen Chadwick: 1 Oct. 1956. (fn. 3)