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Royal Charter, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge
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Fifty years a College

Fitzwilliam came into being as a College by Royal Charter in 1966, not as a new creation but after nearly a century of evolution. This year marks 50 years as an independent college in the University. 


A brief history of Fitzwilliam

Fitzwilliam originated in 1869 as an institution run by the Non-Collegiate Students Board of the University to provide an economical route into Cambridge. It received in turn the names of Fitzwilliam Hall and Fitzwilliam House, and its members continually strove to enhance its standing. Fitzwilliam moved to its current site in 1963, and in 1966 it was granted a Royal Charter and became an independent college.  

Fitzwilliam’s roots lie in University reforms in the nineteenth century. These reforms included the admission of undergraduates without their needing to become members of colleges, which were expensive - students had to buy their own furniture, for example.  

The reforms culminated in 1869 in the setting-up of the Non-Collegiate Students Board to oversee students without colleges and to regulate their teaching. The cost of being a ‘non-collegiate’ student at Cambridge was less than half that of being a member of a college, and at the same time access to the University was widened.

Advertisements were placed; one in the Birmingham Daily Post of 1869 reads:

‘Many parents who desire to give their sons the benefit of a University education, at moderate cost, will be glad to know that the University of Cambridge has made very liberal arrangements for the admission of non-collegiate students. Hitherto, students have been received only as members of some college at the University, but henceforth they will be allowed to keep terms by residing with their parents or in lodgings duly licensed, thus escaping the cost of collegiate residence. At the same time all the privileges of the University will be open to them.’

Eight students were admitted in Michaelmas 1869: six were new entrants to the University and two were migrants from colleges. At least six were mature students; two schoolmasters, a surgeon and a man who had lectured in Edinburgh and London.

All ‘non-collegiate’ students lived in lodgings, and Fitzwilliam Hall (later renamed Fitzwilliam House) - situated opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum on Trumpington Street - was where their social and some of their teaching needs were eventually met. While Fitzwilliam Hall was regarded by some as inferior to the colleges, its members continually strove to enhance its standing.

Student numbers grew; in 1874 there were nearly 100; in 1920 over 300.  But the process of changing its status from what was technically that of a University Department to a full College was slow. In 1944, the Non-Collegiate Students Board stated explicitly that a new and larger building was needed, and by 1960 land had been purchased by the University and an architect, Denys Lasdun, had been appointed.

Fitzwilliam College has charitable status, and is now a community of around 430 undergraduates, 320 postgraduates, 60 Fellows and over 100 staff. The Master is Professor Nicola Padfield.

The full story is told in Fitzwilliam: The First 150 Years of a Cambridge College, available from the College.

Fitzwilliam: 50 Years a College - the story from the 1950s to the granting of the Charter in 1966 can be downloaded here as a pdf.

To mark the College's 50th Anniversary, the Communications and Development Offices launched the #50FitzFacts social media campaign on Friday 20 May 2016.

A daily 'Fitz Fact' was posted on our Twitter account for 50 days until 9 July when the Golden Matriculants' 1966 Event and Dinner took place in College. Below you will find all 50 of the daily 'Fitz Facts'.

1. ​Friday 20 May 2016 tweet - Fitz began in 1869 as a non-collegiate institution providing Cam education to undergrads unable to afford college membership. #50FitzFacts

2.Saturday 21 May 2016 tweet - Fitzwilliam House, as it was then known, moved into new buildings on the present site in 1963. #50FitzFacts

3. Sunday 22 May 2016 tweet - Fitzwilliam House received its Royal Charter in 1966, becoming Fitzwilliam College. #50FitzFacts

4.Monday 23 May 2016 tweet - The College was built in the grounds of The Grove, a splendid Regency house which is itself now part of the College. #50FitzFacts. 

5. Tuesday 24 May 2016 tweet - The College’s first student residences and the distinctive Hall Building, designed by Sir Denys Lasdun, were completed in 1966. #50FitzFacts

6. Wednesday 25 May 2016 tweet - In 2009 @FitzwilliamColl gained accreditation from the UK’s Fairtrade Foundation as a Fairtrade College. #50FitzFacts​

7. ​Thursday 26 May 2016 tweet - The College’s Olisa Library contains 44,000 books, reference works, journals and resources. #50FitzFacts

8. Friday 27 May 2016 tweet - Nicola Padfield MA, Dip Crim, DES is the Master of Fitzwilliam. You can watch her welcome film here. #50FitzFacts

9. Saturday 28 May 2016 - Nick Drake recorded acoustic version of River Man (Made to Love Magic album) in his room at Fitz*. #50FitzFacts

​*Upon further investigation, it appears the song was actually recorded in his friend's Robert Kirby's room at Caius College. 

10. Sunday 29 May 2016 tweet - The College allotments founded in 2014 are open to all students & staff. #50FitzFacts

11. Monday 30 May 2016 tweet - The Fitz Sirens, founded over 20 years ago, are Cambridge's oldest all-female a capella group. #50FitzFacts

12. Tuesday 31 May 2016 tweet - @TheGoatPost is Fitz's termly mag written, edited & produced by students. #50FitzFacts

13. Wednesday 1 June 2016 tweet - Fitz runs annual essay competitions in Ancient World/Classics & Land Econ. #50FitzFacts

14. Thursday 2 June 2016 tweet - The College counts six @NobelPrize winners among its alumni. #50FitzFacts

15. Friday 3 June 2016 tweet - Outside 'N' staircase is a Ginkgo biloba, a primeval species 270 million years old. #50FitzFacts

16. Saturday 4 June 2016 tweet - A Bronze Age ditch, post hole and round house were found during archaeological evaluation of area where Library now stands. #50FitzFacts

17. Sunday 5 June 2016 tweet - Fitzwilliam College won University Challenge in 1973. #50FitzFacts

18. Monday 6 June 2016 tweet - College first admitted women in 1979: 37 undergrads and 2 grads. Two female Fellows were also elected that same year. #50FitzFacts

19. Tuesday 7 June 2016 tweet - The Buttery serves around 125,000 meals plus 8,000 Fairtrade teas and coffees every year! #50FitzFacts

20. Wednesday 8 June 2016 tweet - @Fitz_Bar now serves Billy-approved 50th Anniversary beer. Tried it yet? #50FitzFacts

21. Thursday 9 June 2016 tweet - There have been 11 Fitz Olympians. #Olympics2016 #50FitzFacts

22. Friday 10 June 2016 tweet - Fitz holds annual 1-day conference for sixth-formers to study Geography at university #50FitzFacts

23. Saturday 11 June 2016 tweet - His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain is College Patron. His parents H M King Juan Carlos & Queen Sofia are Honorary Fellows #50FitzFacts

24. Sunday 12 June 2016 tweet - Fitz holds annual Careers Fair for its students. 45 alumni attended in 2015 to chat about careers. #50FitzFacts

25. Monday 13 June 2016 tweet - Fitz's sports facilities include a multi-gym, squash courts, table tennis tables & badminton court. #50FitzFacts

26. Tuesday 14 June 2016 tweet - Fitz was joint winner of 2015 Schools & Unis FreeFrom Eating Out Award #50FitzFacts

27. Wednesday 15 June 2016 tweet - 'Optima' is the College's annual newsletter. This year's issue just out! #50FitzFacts

28. Thursday 16 June 2016 tweet - The Olisa Library tower is said to be the highest point in Cambridge. #50FitzFacts

29. Friday 17 June 2016 tweet - The College's motto is 'ex antiquis et novissimis optima' (the best of the old and the new). #50FitzFacts

30. Saturday 18 June 2016 tweet - Fitz has a range of accommodation both on its main site (408 rooms) & in nearby houses (167 rooms). #50FitzFacts

31. Sunday 19 June 2016 tweet - The College started running its own shadowing scheme last year. The 2016 Shadowing Scheme will take place from 29 Nov-1 Dec. #50FitzFacts

32. Monday 20 June 2016 tweet - The Auditorium has won RIBA and Concrete Soc Awards & BDA Award for Best Public Building in 2005. #50FitzFacts

33. Tuesday 21 June 2016 tweet - MacCormac Jamieson Prichard designed the College Chapel to suggest a floating ship. #50FitzFacts

34. Wednesday 22 June 2016 tweet - Dr Ken Platts, Engineering DoS, has won Brit Veterans Best All-Rounder title 5 times. Pic: D. Jones. #50FitzFacts

35. Thursday 23 June 2016 tweet - The Master has blog where she shares her experience of College life richness. #50FitzFacts

36. Friday 24 June 2016 tweet - @FitzJCR holds annual 'Fitz Off Week' competition to see which corridor can use least energy. #green #50FitzFacts

37. Saturday 25 June 2016 tweet - Fitz is one of small number of Cam colleges to have been photographed by @google for Street View. #50FitzFacts

38. Sunday 26 June 2016 tweet - College has enterprise society, Fitz Enterprise, set up in 2014. Read more about the Society. #50FitzFacts

39. Monday 27 June 2016 tweet - Fitz holds Winter Ball every two years. 'Suspect' will take place on 1 Dec. #50FitzFacts

40. Tuesday 28 June 2016 tweet - Actor James Norton @jginorton read Theology at Fitz, graduated with 1st class hon & won prize for Buddhism & Hinduism paper. #50FitzFacts

41. Wednesday 29 June 2016 tweet - Did you know you can apply for Fitz Credit Card that helps College every time you make a purchase? #50FitzFacts

42. Thursday 30 June 2016 tweet - Fitz offers a number of graduate scholarships, travel funding and maintenance bursaries each year. #50FitzFacts

43. Friday 1 July 2016 tweet - Commemoration of the 44 Fitz men who died in WW1 is by memorial Triptych, located in the Chapel. #50FitzFacts

44. Saturday 2 July 2016 tweet - The Olisa Library has 200 study spaces and is open 24/7 for College members. #50FitzFacts

45. Sunday 3 July 2016 tweet - Foundation Lecture is Fitz's major annual public lecture, often by distinguished alumni or Fellows. #50FitzFacts

46. Monday 4 July 2016 tweet - 1st Foundation Lecture, 'Antibiotics & Therapy in Perspective', was given in 1969 by Nobel Laureate & alum Sir Ernst Chain. #50FitzFacts

47. Tuesday 5 July 2016 tweet - Fitz mascot is a billygoat. Billy loves to play hide-&-seek. Where in College will we find him next? #50FitzFacts

48. Wednesday 6 July 2016 tweet - Fitz memorabilia inc. College Luberon, cava & Champagne can be bought here. #50FitzFacts

49. Thursday 7 July 2016 tweet - Fitz holds its own Societies Fair, usually on 1st Sunday of Freshers' Week. #50FitzFacts

50. Friday 8 July 2016 tweet - Each year 5 students received Tsuzuki Scholarships to spend a year in Japan. #50FitzFacts