Homerton College, Cambridge

Homerton College, Cambridge

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Homerton College is a constituent college
Colleges of the University of Cambridge
This is a list of the colleges within the University of Cambridge. These colleges are the primary source of accommodation for undergraduates and graduates at the University and at the undergraduate level have responsibility for admitting students and organising their tuition. They also provide...

 of the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...


With around 1,200 students, Homerton has more students than any other Cambridge college, although less than half of these live in the college. The college has a long and complex history dating back to the seventeenth century. The actual origins of the college have been variously listed as 1695, 1768, 1895, 1976 and 2001.

Homerton College was admitted as an "Approved Society" of the University in 1976. Until 2001 it admitted only Education Studies students, but has since broadened its intake to include most subjects. In 2010 Homerton gained its Royal Charter
Royal Charter
A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organizations such as cities or universities. Charters should be distinguished from warrants and...

 as a full College of the University.

The college has a wide range of thriving student clubs and societies, including a boat club
Homerton College Boat Club
Homerton College Boat Club is the rowing club for members of Homerton College, University of Cambridge...

, music society
Homerton College Music Society
Homerton College Music Society is the name of the collective of musical bands and ensembles within Homerton College, Cambridge. The society's official purpose is "to promote both the appreciation and the performance of all types of music in and beyond the College"...

, Geographical Society (HUGS — Homerton Undergraduate Geographical Society), weekly discussion group (The King's Head Society), and a resident drama society, HATS (Homerton Amateur Theatrical Society).

Early history

In 1850 Homerton Academy in London, a dissenting academy already having a history stretching back a century, was refounded by the Congregational Board of Education
Congregational Board of Education
The Congregational Board of Education was set up in 1843 "to promote popular education, partaking of a religious character and under no circumstances receiving aid from public money administered by Government." ....

 to concentrate on the study of education
Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction....

 itself. It did so by transferring its theological courses to New College London
New College London
New College London was founded as a Congregationalist college in 1850.-Predecessor institutions:...

, whose Congregationalist Principal was the Rev. John Harris DD
John Harris (college head)
John Harris , English Congregational minister, Christian essayist and author, became the first Principal of New College, St John’s Wood, London.-Early life:...

, and by extending and rebuilding the old mansion house and 1820s buildings of the academy at a cost of £10,000. The college reopened as the Training Institution of the Congregational Board of Education in April 1852, with Samuel Morley
Samuel Morley
Samuel Morley may refer to:*Samuel Morley , recipient of the Victoria Cross*Samuel Morley , British Member of Parliament and philanthropist*Sam Morley , full name Samuel Robertson Morley, American football player...

 as its Treasurer. Shortly afterwards, it began admitting women students, although then Principal Horobin ultimately called an end to mixed education in 1896, shortly after the move to Cambridge, and thereafter the college remained all-women for 80 years.

Towards the end of the century, the growth of industry had turned the village of Homerton into a manufacturing centre, lowering the quality of life of the students and leading to seven deaths between 1878 and 1885 from tuberculosis, smallpox and typhoid. Also, increasing numbers of students required more space.

In 1881 former students of Homerton College who were members of Glyn Cricket Club formed a football section to help keep their players fit during the winter months. The football section continued to grow over the ensuing years and is now Leyton Orient Football Club
Leyton Orient F.C.
Leyton Orient F.C. are an English professional football club in East London. They currently play in Football League One and are known to their fans as the O's.Leyton Orient have spent one season in the top flight of English football, in 1962–63...


Move to Cambridge

In 1894 the Congregational Board of Education were able to purchase the estate of Cavendish College, Cambridge (named after the then-Chancellor of the university) which had become available. It had been founded to allow poorer students to sit Cambridge tripos
The University of Cambridge, England, divides the different kinds of honours bachelor's degree by Tripos , plural Triposes. The word has an obscure etymology, but may be traced to the three-legged stool candidates once used to sit on when taking oral examinations...

 exams without the expense of joining a true Cambridge college, and was briefly recognised as a "Public Hostel" of the university in 1882, but a lack of money had brought the venture to an end.

All its estates and furniture were bought by the Congregational Board for £10,000; and their students and staff moved from the old Hackney premises into the vacant college buildings at Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

. Initially taking the name of Homerton New College at Cavendish College, it shortly became just Homerton College, Cambridge. John Charles Horobin became the first Principal, and his portrait still hangs in the college's Great Hall.

The first woman to head the College was Mary Miller Allen, who was responsible for Homerton's national reputation as a trainer of women teachers. Her successor in 1935 was Miss Alice Skillicorn, a former HMI, who took the College through World War Two, during which time it was bombed. Dame Beryl Paston Brown
Beryl Paston Brown
Dame Beryl Paston Brown, DBE was a British academic and educator.-Early years:Beryl Paston Brown was educated at Streatham Hill High School and Newnham College, Cambridge...

 was Principal in the 1960s — at a time when Homerton’s numbers doubled after the introduction of three-year training courses in 1960.

Closer association with the University

In December 1976, under the headship of Principal Alison Cheveley Shrubsole, Homerton was accepted as an Approved Society of the University of Cambridge following a 3-1 vote of the Regent House
Regent House
The Regent House is the name given to the official governing body of the University of Cambridge. It consists of most academic and academic-related staff of the University's colleges and departments, and currently has over 3000 members....

 in favour of its admittance. This had been under consideration since the days of Principal Horobin. The possibility of introducing a Cambridge Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree was even given as one of the reasons for the original move into Cambridge. It was after the shake-up and governmental criticisms of teacher training in the early 1970s that the University admitted Homerton, as now all of its students were doing four-year honours courses. For a few years before 1976, Homerton students had been able to take the Cambridge B.Ed. degree, but were technically enrolled as members of Newnham College to make this possible.

The expansion of Homerton to other disciplines took place in the 1990s with the admission of student nurses and postgraduate students in health studies and nursing. Dip HE, BA and MSc courses were offered for psychiatric, paediatric, learning disability and general nursing students as well as more experienced practitioners taking advanced post-registration programmes and undertaking research. However, by 2010 Anglia Ruskin University had acquired Homerton School of Health Studies from the college and all nurses educated in Cambridge did so at Ruskin.

In late 2000 the Regent House approved a proposal to "converge" Homerton with the rest of the University. Convergence involved the transfer of most of the college's teaching and research activity to the new University of Cambridge Faculty of Education and the diversification of the college into a wide range of Tripos subjects. In September 2001 Homerton admitted its first non-education Tripos students. At the same time the old B.Ed. degree was retired in favour of a three-year B.A. in Education, followed by a one-year Post Graduate Certificate of Education.

At the time of convergence it was envisaged that Homerton would move from the status of Approved Society to that of Approved Foundation or full College. In December 2008 Homerton's application to move to full College status was approved by the University Council. The change in status was completed with the grant of a Royal Charter on 11 March 2010.
From 2001, many new fellows were appointed in subjects other than education, and a postgraduate research community was established. By 2009 Education Tripos students comprised around 20% of the body of undergraduates at Homerton, with 80% of undergraduates following other Tripos courses.


On site accommodation for students is provided in four purpose-built accommodation buildings: East House, West House, South Court (the latest addition to the college, opened in 2007), and Harrison House. Harrison House exclusively houses graduate students and fellows, and was opened in November 2006. Other accommodation is provided in the ABC and D&E blocks, both part of the main college buildings, as well as in Queens Wing which also contains the Homerton Union of Students and both the Undergraduate and Graduate Common Rooms. Outside of university terms, the accommodation attracts extensive use for conference purposes.

Principals of Homerton College

Principal Tenure
John Charles Horobin 1894–1902
Mary Miller Allan 1903–1935
Alice Havergal Skillicorn 1935–1960
Dame Beryl Paston Brown
Beryl Paston Brown
Dame Beryl Paston Brown, DBE was a British academic and educator.-Early years:Beryl Paston Brown was educated at Streatham Hill High School and Newnham College, Cambridge...

Alison Cheveley Shrubsole 1971–1985
Alan George Bamford 1985–1991
Katharine Bridget Pretty 1991–Present

External links