College Archives

About the Archives


St John's College Archives contain records of the growth of the administration, benefactions, finances and property of the College since its foundation in 1511. They also include some deeds and financial records of earlier foundations annexed to it, namely the Hospital of St John the Evangelist Cambridge, the Hospital of St Mary at Ospringe, and the Priory of Higham, Kent, and of the Priory of Broomhall, Berks; and household accounts of the Foundress, Lady Margaret Beaufort, 1498-1509. Among the records of the Cambridge Hospital of St John is a thirteenth-century cartulary whose numerous deeds shed light on the people, property and occupations of Cambridge and the surrounding countryside.

These resources are available for use by the members, staff and students of St John’s, the wider academic community and the public. The Archives acquire, preserve and make accessible the records of the College, its members, staff and students.



The institutional records of St John’s College are among some of the richest in Cambridge. The main categories include:

  • Institutional archives of St John’s since 1511 including statutes, registers of membership, orders and minutes of its organs of government, accounts, records of its buildings, benefactions and the administration of property. These records are added to regularly.


  • Records and household accounts of Lady Margaret Beaufort the College’s foundress, and mother of King Henry VII.


  • Rich medieval archive of deeds account rolls inherited from the Hospital of St John the Evangelist which preceded the College on the same site.


Many of these records have a fascination far removed from the dryness of their titles.


A significant proportion of the College Archives are catalogued online.

Search the Archives catalogue

Please contact the Archivist if you can't find what you are looking for in the online catalogue.

Note that the Library's Special Collections also include archival collections of personal papers of Johnians.

Search across the Archives and Library Personal Papers collections


Off the Shelf


Off the shelf is a fascinating blog created during the process of cataloguing the collections at St John's.

The relocation the College’s entire archival collection of papers, books and maps to the School of Pythagoras Archive Centre in July 2014 provided us with an excellent opportunity to focus on unprocessed and undiscovered items within the collection.

Archival cataloguing is hugely important because it greatly facilitates access for researchers, by identifying and explaining the context and content of the material. The product of this work is an online catalogue, which is fully text searchable. Additionally, cataloguing work helps to ensure that the archive material lasts for future generations, by highlighting the need for vital preservation work.

Read the blog

The Story of Pythagoras

story of pythagoras

Built sometime between 1180 and 1200 C.E., the School of Pythagoras is the oldest extant secular building in Cambridge. Today it is home to the St. John’s College Archives Centre, yet this one-time medieval town-house bears both physical and textual traces of a rich and varied past.

Find out more about the School's long and fascinating history

Interesting Johnians

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From Nobel prizewinners and parliamentarians to porters and postmen, Interesting Johnians looks at those who have studied and worked at St John's.

Teaching & Learning


The Archivist provides inductions for undergraduate and postgraduate students, introducing them to the wealth of material available in the College Archives.

We welcome small group visits by students, members and staff from College (and University) departments, including general familiarisation visits for newly-inducted students and timetabled teaching sessions involving hands-on use of archive documents and rare books designed for specific course modules.

The Archives fully support the College teaching programme across the different Departments and Schools. Recent inductions have included students from Politics, Psychology & Sociology and History. The collections of historical material held in the Archives provide an invaluable teaching resource and College Tutors who think their students might benefit are encouraged to contact the Archivist.


PowerPoint presentation on using archives for dissertations.

Visiting & Contact

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All those wishing to consult material from the Archive should arrange an appointment in advance by contacting the Archivist, Dr Lynsey Darby, indicating the material they wish to consult. 

Members of the public as well as College members, students and staff are welcome to consult the collection. 

All readers will be required to show identification and complete a reader's form upon arrival. 

Opening times

Days on which the Archive is open are Wednesdays and Thursdays. Opening times are 9-4, sometimes with a break for lunch depending on staff availability. The Archive is closed on public holidays and the days between Christmas and New Year. Please check with the Archivist for further information.


For general enquiries about services or for enquiries regarding collections please contact the Archivist, by email or by telephoning 01223 338631.