Downing College

I feel that I should know Downing better than I do. I don’t ever remember setting foot in it as an undergraduate – too far from the centre, its main entrance set back unobtrusively off Regent Street, its campus private, its focus on medicine, law and engineering. But the fellows employed William Wilkins, then a young fellow of Caius, full of the fire of his recent study and explorations of Greece and Asia Minor; and the quality of Downing’s detailing is much more crisp and correct, more learned in an interesting way, than his later work on University College and the National Gallery:-


8 thoughts on “Downing College

  1. joan says:

    My daughter recently played the trumpet to accompany a student production of the Tempest in Downing College. I was surprised on googling it to see just how fancy it is. It is, it seems, a relatively new build – designed by Francis Terry in 2010.

    • The Howard Building is by Quinlan Terry, close to the entrance gates, which is 1983-6 – an effective piece of real neo-classicism in the spirit of Wilkins – and Howard Court and its theatre which I see was, indeed, only opened in 2009, done jointly with his son Francis.

  2. Simon Wartnaby says:

    Interesting to compare his work at Downing with that of his remodelling of The Grange, Northington in Hampshire for Henry Drummond and done at the same time.

  3. My memories of Downing are very different. F.R. Leavis had just been sacked by the faculty and gave a weekly lecture in his rooms in Downing to which anyone could go. We sat on the floor, at his feet, as he ranted about the faculty and any poetry he didn’t admire, while this lovely old woman came round and gave us mugs of tea and biscuits.

    It was only after a term that I asked who she was – it turned out, to my great embarrassnent, that she was Queenie Leavis, the great Jane Austen scholar! The shame of it !

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