The Champneys Buildings

Basil Champneys was Newnham’s architect from 1873 to 1913. During that period, the College grew from the original building “Newnham Hall” to a total of six major buildings, plus the Laboratory and the Yates Thompson Library.

All buildings designed by Champneys are in the so-called “Queen Anne” style, with lots of red brick, white-painted sash windows, curly pedimented gables, steep roofs and curving bay windows.

In “A Room of One’s Own”, Virginia Woolf describes how:

The gardens […] lay before me in the spring twilight, wild and open, and in the long grass, sprinkled and carelessly flung, were daffodils and bluebells, not orderly perhaps at the best of times, and now wind-blown and waving as they tugged at their roots. The windows of the building, curved like ships’ windows among generous waves of red brick, changed from lemon to silver under the flight of the quick spring clouds.

Newnham College was in the unusual and fortunate position to have had a College architect, Basil Champneys, from the first building on the site in 1875 – ‘Newnham Hall’, now known as Old Hall – to the completion of Peile Hall in 1910. Subsequent distinguished architects have relished the chance to respond to Champney’s designs. A number of the buildings, both Victorian and modern, are now Grade II* and Grade II Listed.

Champneys’ work established the precedent for high quality buildings with positive relationships with their landscape context and set the scene for the character of the College today.