St. Catharine's College was founded by Robert Woodlark in 1473, gaining its charter in 1475. The College began with a Master, two Fellows and an indeterminate number of Fellow Commoners, but no undergraduates. Fellows were not expected to teach, but to devote their time to study and prayer.
Woodlark endowed the College with land as his circumstances allowed and the College was also fortunate to receive gifts of land. Over the years the College has owned land in Adlingfleet and Askern, Yorkshire; Alconbury in Huntingdonshire; Barton, Cambridge, Coton, Guilden Morden, Over, Swavesey and Wendy in Cambridgeshire; Bruisyard, Suffolk; Gimmingham, Trunch, Setch [or Setchey] and West Winch in Norfolk; Fockerby, Lincolnshire; Norton, Northamptonshire; and Therfield in Hertfordshire. The College holds records relating to many of these areas.
The early College fronted onto what is now Queens' Lane, and consisted of a dining hall, library, chapel, Master's Lodge and accommodation for Fellows. It was not until the 1760s that the College changed its orientation to face Trumpington Street, as a result of the building that took place with the bequest of Mary Ramsden in 1754.
Further significant changes to the College site occurred in the 1960s when a project was embarked upon to redevelop the Northern part of the main site to create a new hall and undergraduate accommodation. Working together with King's College, the new development was completed in 1966. Although the development led to the demolition of the Senior Combination Room, the Gostlin Building, the Library staircase and part of the Bull Hotel, the College gained a new hall which could accommodate its growing numbers and a significant amount of student accommodation. The development saw the addition of a new Library and Junior Combination Room in 1986.
The archive consists principally of the administrative records of the College including governance records, Bursarial records, accounts, tutorial records and estate papers. Records of College clubs and societies, College members, and College publications also feature strongly. This is a historical collection and does not include modern administrative records.
Information about the history of the College is available in the following publications:
G.F. Browne, "St Catharine's College" (1902)
W.H.S. Jones, "A history of St Catharine's College", Cambridge (1936)
W.H.S. Jones, "The story of St Catharine's College, Cambridge" (1951)
E.E. Rich (ed.), "St Catharine's College, Cambridge: a volume of essays to commemorate the Quincentenary of the foundation of the College" (1973)
R. Edis and J.H. Baker, "The story of St Catharine's College Cambridge" (1997)
See http://www.caths.cam.ac.uk/home/?m=page&id=23 for a history of the College.