Mark Tallentire delves into a history featuring training women for the ministry and the origins of Traidcraft.

A UNIVERSITY college which trained the UK’s first women clergy and was the birthplace of the Fairtrade movement is celebrating its 100th birthday.

Despite being Durham University’s smallest college, St John’s has produced a string of famous alumni and a series of high-profile events is planned to mark its centenary, including a lecture by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Richard Adams, the former St John’s student who pioneered the Fairtrade movement, will also return to Durham to speak at a formal dinner.

The Rev David Wilkinson, the college principal, said: “Although St John’s is a small college, the significant social, spiritual and academic achievements of its staff and students have made a huge impact over the past 100 years.”

Dr Wilkinson added: “St John’s is not simply about its beautiful location and buildings, it is a living history of men and women who discovered the excitement of learning, community, creativity and faith.”

Founded primarily as a theological college in October 1909, St John’s, situated on South Bailey in the shadow of Durham Cathedral, has trained Anglican and Methodist clergy.

In 1966, it became the first Anglican theological college to train men and women together.

Previously, women were only allowed by appointment as visitors for afternoon tea.

The college’s Fairtrade shop, the Just World Shop, is probably the oldest in the world.

Mr Adams studied social theory and administration at Durham in the late 1960s before founding Tearcraft and Traidcraft.

He said: “It was at John’s that I realised that to comfort the afflicted you need to afflict the comfortable.

“Creating that space, free from pressure about achieving, where ideas could flow and naturally lead to action, remains the greatest gift any college can give its students.”

Other famous names to have studied at the college are the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt and Matthew Youdale, England cricketer Alastair Cook, Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Miller, authors Michael Palmer and Catherine Wilcox, actors Oliver Birch and Alexander Hogg, Dean of Lichfield Adrian Drober and Archbishop of Kaduna, Nigeria, Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

St John’s College’s centenary celebrations begin on Friday, February 20, with a public concert in Durham Cathedral, entitled Faith is Our Victory. The Durham University Music Society, the college’s chapel choir, alumni choir and Camerata will perform.

Doors open at 6.45pm and the concert begins at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12 and £8 for concessions. They are available on the door or by calling 0191-334-3862.

For more information on the events planned, see

Events include: Tonight: Faith is Our Victory concert: Celebrating 100 years of St John’s College in cathedral, 7.30pm, tickets at door £12; concessions £8. Includes college choir performing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Tippett’s Negro Spirituals; and selected pieces by college orchestra, Camerata and alumni soloists.

Tomorrow: Thanksgiving service, 2.30pm in cathedral. Preacher: Rev David Day.

Grand dinner, 7.30pm, pre-bookings only, and fireworks over the river Monday: Formal dinner in Leech Hall for current Johnians and guests.

Speaker is Dr Richard Adams.

Tuesday: Formal dinner in Leech Hall for current Johnians and guests.

Speaker is author Cathy Fox.

Wednesday: College communion, 7.30pm, for Ash Wednesday Friday: Borderlands Lecture, 6pm, with Dr Williams, followed by dinner.

Open to public, but book by emailing borderlands@durham.

A potted history of St John’s College:

1909 St John’s is founded, providing an opportunity for prospective ordinands in the Church of England to receive a University education outside Oxford or Cambridge.

Oct 1909 St John’s welcomes its first five students.

1913 St John’s expands from its original premises (a row of private houses along the Bailey) into purpose-built accommodation overlooking the river. The new building, Cruddas Haughton, housed more than 40 extra students.

1923 St John’s becomes a full constituent college of Durham University but even today remains independent both administratively and financially.

Oct 1958 A separate hall within St John’s, Cranmer Hall, is formed specifically for ministerial training. Cranmer Hall has been a recognised Anglican theological college ever since.

Many studying at John’s make the transition to Cranmer after their undergraduate studies.

1966 St John’s becomes the first Anglican theological training college to train women for ministry alongside men.

1976 The UK’s first fair trade shop is set up by a team of students. After using a top floor of the college for the sale of fairly traded goods, a city centre building is then rented, and stalls are run at students’ homes.

1980s A weekly fair trade stall is held at the Students’ Union in addition to the shop in St John’s.

1987 St John’s expands further with the opening of William Leech Hall, used for lectures and entertainment.

1988 The Wesley Study Centre is opened in Cranmer Hall for the training of Methodist ministers. 1994 St John’s opens student flats in St Margaret’s Garth, providing its second and third year students with accommodation.

1990s The fair trade shop is running daily with a 40-strong team of student volunteers, sponsoring children and making contributions to a number of charities.

2000 The fair trade shop is rebranded the Just World Shop, and today continues to sell fairly traded goods, providing a city-wide outlet and valuable support in the sponsorship of children in the developing world. Today Still one of Durham’s smallest colleges, St John’s is made up of approximately 350 undergraduate and 50 postgraduate students studying for degrees. A further 100 Church of England and Methodist trainee clergy study in Cranmer Hall.