Founded 1882 in memory of George Augustus Selwyn.
Paid for by subscription.
Sister College – Keble College Oxford.
Men and Women – Undergraduates 400 Postgraduates 200.
For a college with modest financial endowments, Selwyn punches way above its weight in the Cambridge academic performance tables, recently achieving top spot. The foundation started life in 1882 as a Public Hostel of the University, a Christian initiative in memory of the Rt Revd George Augustus Selwyn, the first Bishop of New Zealand, and was paid for by subscription. Formal approval as a Cambridge College came in 1958.
The Revd Selwyn, a former student at St John’s, was a larger than life character who made a huge impression on the Victorians with his powerful personality and dedication. He embodied all the qualities they admired, being described as a pure and heroic example of the highest type of Englishman. A committee was set up after his death in 1878 to explore ways in which he could be remembered and celebrated.
Help for poorer students
The founding committee were clear about the Christian nature of the college but had ambitions beyond being just a theological institution. They would gladly educate future clergy but considered it vital to attract scholars who would carve a fruitful life outside the church. Revd Selwyn had always been alarmed at the high cost of an Oxbridge education and felt efforts should be made to help poorer students. The committee was determined to make Selwyn College as affordable as possible.
The college occupies a spacious site, well beyond the river, to the west of the city centre (about 12 minutes to walk). These six acres were originally farmland owned by Corpus Christi. Once considered remote, it now f...
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...brick and placed on top of modern cloisters, overlooking a well-kept lawn. The Cripps foundation has donated funds to several Cambridge colleges to provide modern study bedrooms.
Departure from retro-Gothic to modern classical
Ann’s Court, designed by Poiphyrious Associates, was completed in 2005 and is just north of the Old Court, named after principal donor Ann Dobson. There is a deliberate departure away from the neighbouring Gothic in favour of a very modern classical expression stripped of all unnecessary decoration. The simplicity is delightful except for a few large expanses of windowless walls, which are a little brutal. The elegant administration block is raised by round arches allowing a walkway under the building referencing cloisters of a previous age. This is seen as the first phase of an ambitious plan that will take a further twenty years to complete.