The History of Rutherford College

(Image courtesy of University of Kent)

14th May 2021

By Elle Summers

My next port of call for this series takes me to Rutherford College. Now the building of the English and History Departments, and Eliot’s evil twin in terms of confusing freshers, this College’s history dates back to the beginning of the University. Being designed at the same time as Eliot College, and in the same fashion, despite being built slightly later and being officially open in 1966, Rutherford College unfortunately did not iron out any initial problems experienced by Eliot – thus leading to the same maze-like structure, aided by extensions added to the building over the years. Due to differences in the ground between the sites of these two Colleges, they do not perfectly mirror each other, so although you may think you’ve got the lay out of one sussed, the other may still remain a mystery to you!

The founding fathers of UKC felt it was important to create colleges rather than halls of residence, so every student and every member of academic staff became a part of the college family, meaning a lasting connection to the space could be created. It’s nice to reflect upon our place in UKC now and how we are connected to the generations that have come before us. However, once Rutherford officially opened, about half the members of Eliot College were invited to move over, somewhat undermining that initial desire for an everlasting connection!

(Image courtesy of University of Kent)

Eliot and Rutherford Colleges were built with the University’s skyline in mind, with both buildings effectively punctuating the hillside when one looks up from town, whilst having regard to the impact of the University on local visual amenities. It’s also intriguing to reflect on certain design ideas such as how in each college, the Dining Halls stand as impressive features, with vast windows lined up with the Cathedral’s Bell Harry Tower.

The first master of Rutherford College was James Cameron who had previously held the position of Chair of Philosophy in Leeds. Despite the College officially opening in the October of 1966, Cameron was unable to move in permanently straight away and so responsibility went to Bob Gibson and Chris Collard, two senior members of staff who in later years served in their own rights as Master of Rutherford.

(Image courtesy of University of Kent)

And so here lies a brief overview to the beginning of Rutherford College’s timeline at the University of Kent. It's safe to say that the accommodation side of the building gets mixed reviews now-a-days, with some enjoying the traditional feel and the value for money with it being one of the cheapest accommodations on site, whilst others dislike its prison-like feel and lack of social spaces in which to congregate of an evening. Yet one thing is for certain – without Eliot and Rutherford Colleges standing tall over our main campus area, UKC’s history could have been a completely different story, for between these sites lies the history, our history, for these two colleges are the beginning of our legacy.