The College takes shape

  • First undergraduates admitted, numbering 75
  • Sheppard Flats – the first building on site – completed, which provides college facilities until 1964, with dining in a neighbouring portacabin
  • Building of North Court and central buildings commences
  • Foundation stone laid by Lord Tedder (a College trustee)
  • Joint Fellows-students committee created
  • Bitter controversy over a chapel: Francis Crick resigns Fellowship
  • Boat Club founded
  • Socratic Society founded by D. McCormack Smyth
  • ‘Lady guests’ (but not wives) permitted at High Table
  • General de Gaulle gifts the tapestry ‘Etoile de Paris’

The College was not immune from divisive argument, there was the question of the place of religion in a ‘scientific age’. Historically, the universities had been the seminaries of the church, and chapel attendance was still compulsory until the Second World War. Some Fellows were deeply hostile to a proposal to build a chapel, and Francis Crick, the discoverer of DNA, resigned his Fellowship in protest. His letter to Winston Churchill explaining himself is one of the most bizarre ever sent by a great scientist to a great statesman: Crick opined that a College brothel might be more worthwhile than a chapel. The outcome of the controversy was that a chapel was built in the grounds but is not an official part of the College. A preposition saved the day: it was agreed there would be a chapel at Churchill, but not of Churchill.

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