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Archives of the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, 1855 - 2017

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/CUADC

Scope and Contents

The archive contains records of club governance and administration, including the first committee minute book from 1855, some financial and membership records, a significant quantity of material relating to productions and performances, and records relating to the wider activities of the club such as annual dinners and garden parties. There are notable gaps in the records, some of which for the period after August 1973 are filled in the archives of the ADC Theatre (see: UA/ADCT).


  • 1855 - 2017

Conditions Governing Access

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (

Biographical / Historical

The Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (CUADC), the oldest University dramatic society in Britain, was founded in 1855 by F.C. Burnand (the librettist, Sir Francis Cowley Burnand, 1836-1917). The club was successor to a series of short-lived University dramatic societies, including the Garrick Club.

The Club met and performed in the back room of the Hoop Inn on Jesus Lane. In the 1860s the CUADC leased additional rooms from the inn owner, William Ekin, and in 1882, the CUADC bought the freehold to the property using a mortgage of £3,500. The building was subsequently developed into the ADC Theatre over an extended period of time. In 1933 a fire destroyed much of the building but the theatre was quickly rebuilt to a design by Harold Tomlinson and W.P. Dyson, and reopened in 1935. Significant refurbishment to the building was carried out between 2004 and 2008. The present building on Park Street stands almost exactly on the site of the original coaching inn.

In its early years, CUADC was a predominantly a social club, akin to a private members’ club. Women were first admitted to the audience in 1861 for a performance of ‘Not a Bad Judge’, which was also attended by the Prince of Wales in his capacity as an honorary member. Unlike Oxford, male undergraduates at Cambridge were permitted to play female stage parts. Women were invited to appear in the 1935 May Week production of ‘The Servant of Two Masters’ but could not formally join the club until after 1945.

From 1960 onwards CUADC experienced growing financial difficulties and by 1972 matters had reached a crisis: the Club could not raise the funds necessary to repair the fabric of the building and replace equipment. Following a University Enquiry into the financial state of the ADC Theatre, it was agreed for the theatre to be leased to the University of Cambridge for 75 years from 1 August 1973. The University employs full-time staff to run the ADC Theatre, has responsibility for its maintenance, rates and for a defined range of recurrent expenditure. The theatre is still owned by CUADC but is run as the smallest department of the University. CUADC is one of the ADC Theatre’s resident companies.

CUADC produces a diverse range of productions each term, many of which are performed at the ADC Theatre or the Corpus Playroom as well as at other Cambridge venues, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and occasionally abroad as part of an organised tour. In addition to shows, the Club runs a programme of professional and student-run workshops for actors, directors and technicians, and a series of late-night experimental pieces known as One Night Stands.

Notable alumni of the CUADC include: F.C. Burnand; Rupert Brooke; Justin Brooke; Cecil Beaton; Michael Redgrave; Donald Beves; Julian Slade; Peter Hall; John Barton; Toby Robertson; Margaret Drabble; Eleanor Bron; Clive Swift; Germaine Greer; Ian McKellen; Derek Jacobi; Trevor Nunn; Miriam Margoyles; Emma Thompson; Sandi Toksvig; Eddie Redmayne.


25 linear metre(s)

Language of Materials


Former/Other Reference

MS Add.7675

Custodial History

The entire archive was rearranged and reclassified in 2020 resulting in the production of a new online catalogue. The archive was assigned a new classmark, UA/CUADC, under the University Archives classification.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The initial tranches of material were deposited on permanent loan at the University Library in 1966 and in 1975 in the Department of Archives and Manuscripts, and catalogued as MS Add.7675. Substantial material has been transferred to the University Library on an ad-hoc basis since the creation of this initial catalogue. Further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

See archives of the ADC Theatre (classmark: GBR/0265/UA/ADCT) for records relating to the period after 1 Aug. 1973, when the University assumed responsibility for the lease of the theatre for 75 years. See also the archive of the Footlights Dramatic Club (classmark: GBR/0265/UA/FOOT). Papers of the ADC committee, 1970-1989, and the ADC executive committee, 1982-2006 (classmark: UA FB 43, 43/1-9, box 140-4, and FB 43/A, 43/A/1-5, box 145-6 and 693-5). For a collection of ephemeral material, including programmes, flyers and termcards, see Cam Papers (classmark: GBR/0012/Cam, Cam/2 and J1381).


Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom