Vanbrugh College was opened in October 1967 as part of the second stage of the University’s development although no formal ceremony took place to open the College. It is named after Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), the celebrated architect and dramatist, one of whose most famous achievements, Castle Howard, is ten miles to the north of York.
The College initially served residential accommodation that surrounded three sides of Vanbrugh Quad, with the Departments of History, History of Art, and at one time Mathematics, occupying the Nucleus Block.
With the redevelopment of Vanbrugh C Block as the new Languages and Linguistics Department, the quad was re-named Le Page Court, after the first Provost, Professor Bob Le Page, in 2008, as part of the 40th Anniversary celebrations held by Vanbrugh College. With the History Department taking over the top floor of A Block in 2012, Vanbrugh Le Page Court now hosts just 72 student study-bedrooms of its original 260, but still remains the most popular standard accommodation on site.
Fairfax House has become strongly associated with Vanbrugh College over the years and in 2007 the final ties of being an 'off-campus' property were severed. Although it retains its own House Committee, social areas and code, Fairfax House is now just as much a part of Vanbrugh College as any other residence.
These residences were formally opened in 2008 by Barbara Scott and Donald Barron in turn. In 2006 work had begun on the old Bleachfields site, an ancient bleaching field, where the University's family housing and the Wentworth Provost's House, had been previously located.
In the autumn of 2007 the first blocks were opened and it was clear by early January 2008, as the site was finished, that these new courts would set a precedent for University accommodation in years to come. Reflecting the architectural wooden cladding features of the original Bleachfields houses, the new residence blocks, surrounding the old oak tree and sympathetic planting, reflects the peace and quiet of a study retreat but also the community spirit that Vanbrugh College represents.
At the centre of the site is 'Higginson House', a services building with a small reception room, named after the second Provost, Dr Gerald Higginson.
In 2009 it was announced that Vanbrugh College would be taking over two accommodation blocks that previously belonged to Goodricke College. Commonly referred to as 'Vanbrugh over-the-water,' Eric Milner-White Court formally opened in late 2009 following some refurbishment of kitchens and the general area and is linked to Vanbrugh's main building by the Vanbrugh Bridge.
Originally addressed as '1, Bleachfields', The Warren, with its quirky but modern 1960s open plan features, was built by the founding Provost, Bob Le Page, to be the residence of Vanbrugh's Head of College. Successive Provosts lived in the house, with their families, until 2013 when the Vanbrugh staff took over the building, converting the top floor to college offices, but leaving the ground floor and garden much as it had always been, and available for students to use. Modifications have been made over time, including updating kitchen and bathroom facilities, but the heart of the house is that it remains the college home. In 2014, the house was officially renamed 'The Warren' after Allen Warren, who called the house his home for 24 years.
The link between the University of York and Sir John Vanbrugh might not initially be obvious, but those who know the history of the architect and playwright might be aware that in 1719 he married Henrietta Maria Yarburgh, of Heslington Hall, at St Lawrence Church in Heslington Village.
Thanks to Thomas Wright (Vanbrugh Tutor 2010-2013) for researching Vanbrugh College's history for these webpages.