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Cambridge and Its Colleges


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The town of Cambridge is more ancient than the University, and the seeker after origins must turn first to Castle Hill which was, in all probability, the site of the Roman camp, Camboritum. On this site William the Conqueror built Cambridge Castle, and from here he directed the campaign against Here ward the Wake at Ely. Early in its history the town of Cambridge acquired a peculiar reputation for its fair-Stourbridge Fair. But it is with the foundation of various religious houses that the interest in the academic history of Cambridge begins. There was, for instance, the Augustinian Hospital of S. John, founded on a site not far from the bottom of Castle Hill, early in the twelfth century; a new priory was established at Barnwell about the same time; and the nunnery of S. Radegund stood on the site of Jesus College.

Exactly how and when students began to congregate at Cambridge it is impossible to say, but certainly there was a migration of students to the town in 1209, and it is hardly likely that Cambridge would have been chosen if certain schools had not already been in existence. By 1231 the students were a prominent feature of Cambridge life, for in that year King Henry III made a number of regulations for the punishment of "insolent clerks and scholars," and also for the prevention of excessive charges being made by townsmen for students' lodgings.

The medieval student, like his successors, was a turbulent character at times, and fierce " town and gown " riots are re •corded by the chroniclers. So long as the student lived in a hostel or in lodgings, it was difficult for the University to control him, and it was partly with a view to better discipline that the college system was devised. Hugh de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, made the first experiment by moving a number of secular scholars from the Hospital of S. John to two houses near S. Peter's Church in 1284. When he died, two years later, he left money which was used to build a hall, and so the nucleus of the first Cambridge College was formed.

Forty years later Clare College (originally University Hall) was founded, and this foundation was followed by several others in the course of the fourteenth century-Pembroke (1347), Gonville and Cains (1348), Trinity Hall (1350), and Corpus Christi (1352). Of these early colleges the best preserved architectural feature is the Old Court of Corpus, three sides of which remain intact. Changes, of course, have been made; the old hall has been converted into the college kitchen, and the Master's Lodging into students' rooms; but the fourteenth century rooms and staircases remain, and overlooking them is one of the finest Saxon towers in England-that of the Church of S. Bene't, which once served as a college chapel. One corner of the Old Court was for many years famous for its ghost, which is last said to have appeared in 1904 in the form of a man shrouded in white with a gash in his neck. A famous Master of Corpus was Matthew Parker, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury in Queen Elizabeth's reign. Another famous Corpus man of Elizabethan times was Christopher Marlowe, the dramatist. A panel was recently placed on the wall of the Old Court to commemorate his residence there.

In Peterhouse little of the original building remains but the Combination Room, which preserves part of the old fifteenth century parlour and is a beautiful example of collegiate architecture. One of the more modern windows of Peterhouse is associated with a famous anecdote. A bar is fixed across it, and when Thomas Gray, the poet, was living in Peterhouse in 1756 he wrote to London for a rope ladder, to be hung from the bar in case of fire. Two fellow-members of the college hoaxed Gray by a false alarm of fire, and in consequence Gray migrated across the road to Pembroke.

Pembroke was then a small college, and Gray dwelt happily there for many years. He was not the first poet to live there. Spenser came up to Pembroke in 1569, and an ancient mulberry tree in the college garden is still known as "Spenser's mulberry tree." Pembroke was the first college to have a chapel of its own, the foundress (Lady Mary de Valence, Countess of Pembroke) securing a licence for its building in 1355. More than 300 years later, however, another chapel was built at the expense of a Pembroke man-Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely. He entrusted the building to his nephew, Christopher, and the chapel of Pembroke is the earliest work of Sir Christopher Wren. William Pitt, described by his father as having " an ingenuous mind and docility of temper," entered Pembroke in 1773. Opposite his college stands the Pitt Press, a building which was erected to the statesman's memory in 1831. So much does it resemble a church in appearance that it was known for many generations as "the Freshmen's Church," the unsuspecting Freshman being advised to attend service there on his first Sunday. The building, designed for the University Press, which actively preserves the tradition of Cambridge printing handed down since 1521, is now the University Registry.

Gonville and Caius College is popularly known as a medical college, though it has many other claims to fame. Its medical tradition begins with Dr. Caius, royal physician in the reigns of Edward VI and Mary, who refounded what was originally Gonville Hall in 1557. New buildings were erected, and Caius planned a series of gates as symbols for the students of the enlarged college. The entrance gate was the Gate of Humility, an avenue of trees led to the Gate of Virtue, and beyond this was the Gate of Honour, leading to the schools (and later to the Senate House), where the student proceeded to his degree. This last gate, though now weather-worn, is one of the most beautiful pieces of Renaissance work in Cambridge. Another great Caius physician was William Harvey, who first expounded the discovery of the circulation of the blood three hundred years ago.

Clare College and Trinity Hall stand close together. Of the original Clare no part remains, but the college that was built between 1638 and 1715 has a remarkable individuality. It has been described as "more like a palace than a college." It is one of the series of colleges that looks on to "the Backs," and its bridge is one of the most beautiful on the Cam. Beyond the bridge is the new Memorial Building, the first college building to be erected on the other side of "the Backs." It was completed from designs by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott just before the celebration of the Scott anniversary of the foundation of the original college.

Of Trinity Hall one of the best features is its Elizabethan library, which remains as it was built, and with some of its books still chained. Trinity Hall is a college of great lawyers, from Stephen Gardiner, "the great instrument of Henry VIII," to Mr. Augustine Birrell.

In the fifteenth century there was founded the college with the most famous chapel in the world. The founder was the pious Henry VI, who in 1441 began to build a college on the grand scale. His plan was never completed. The chapel, indeed, was the only part of it which was built, and it was seventy years in building.

feet high and nearly 300 feet long, with a wonderful roof unsupported by a single column, King's College Chapel represents the final triumph of English Perpendicular Gothic and is one of the architectural wonders of the world. Wordsworth, in some famous lines has written of:

that branching roof
Self-poised, and scooped into ten thousand cells,
Where light and shade repose, where music dwells.

The stained glass windows are worthy of their setting and are the work of the early sixteenth century. The choir, separated from the ante-chapel by a screen of Renaissance woodwork, is still lit by candles on winter afternoons and forms a beautiful setting for the English liturgy. Between the chapel and the river is one of the broadest lawns in Cambridge, and from the bridge of King's the Backs may be seen at their very best.

Hidden away in a narrow lane is another fifteenth century foundation-Queens' College. Its name commemorates Queen Margaret, wife of Henry VI, and Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV. The first court of Queens' remains much as it was built, a square court built in brick with turrets at the corners and a massive entrance gateway. One of the turrets is still known as "Erasmus' Tower," for in it the great Renaissance scholar lived in the early years of the sixteenth century. The second court of Queens' is a cloistered court, and along the top of one of the cloisters is the beautiful gallery, eighty feet long, of the President's Lodge. Beyond this court is the river, and over the river is a curious wooden bridge of which the design is traditionally, but wrongly, attributed to Sir Isaac Newton.

Opposite the gateway of Queens' is St. Catharine's, founded in 1473. It consists of a single court of red brick and is remarkable for two features: the fourth wall of the court was never built; and the front of the college has become the back. Queens' Lane, in which the old gateway stands, was once one of the main arteries of the town, but has now given place to Trumpington Street, and to this street the open court of St. Catharine's is now displayed.

At the end of the fifteenth century the Priory of Radegund, dating from the early twelfth century, had fallen into decay, and a college was founded in its place by John Alcock, Bishop of Ely. It was given the name of Jesus College, and Jesus is the only college in Cambridge whose buildings retain the monastic plan. The beautiful Early English church used by the nuns of S. Radegund still serves as a college chapel, a great deal of restoration having been effected in 1846. The transepts and nave now contain some fine stained glass of the pre-Raphaelite period. Archbishop Cranmer was a Jesus man, and in later centuries two literary names stand out in the annals of the college, those pf Laurence Sterne and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

One of the greatest benefactresses to Cambridge in the period of the Renaissance was Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. It was she who founded the first Professorship of Divinity, and in 1505 she founded Christ's College, which absorbed an earlier religious foundation known as "God's House." Christ's College has a beautiful garden, and one tree, known as "Milton's Mulberry Tree," is especially famous. John Milton came up to Cambridge in 1625, and in "Lycidas" paid his tribute to his contemporary at Christ's, Edward King.

The other foundation of the Lady Margaret was St. John's College, built, like several other colleges, on the site of an earlier religious foundation. The Hospital of St. John had been established early in the twelfth century, but fell into decay and was closed in 1510. In the following year John Fisher and other executors of the Lady Margaret laid the foundations of a magnificent college. The first two courts are splendid examples of Tudor brickwork. The first has lost much of its original character owing to the demolition of the old chapel and master's lodge on the north side, but the second remains one of the finest in Cambridge and won high praise from Ruskin. In particular the Combination Room, which fills the upper floor of one side of the court, is perhaps the most beautiful room which Cambridge can show. Nearly 100 feet long, it has panelled walls and retains its original plaster ceiling. The third court contains the seventeenth century library and leads to the river, beyond which is the large group of Neo-Gothic buildings belonging to the early nineteenth century. Connecting the old and the new is the famous "Bridge of Sighs," with a roof over the top and tracery-work on each side. For some time St. John's was the largest college in Cambridge and has a long list of distinguished alumni.

Near to St. John's stands the greatest of all collegiate foundations, Trinity. Founded by Henry VIII in 1546, it absorbed three earlier houses - King's Hall, Michael House, and Physwick's Hostel. The old gate of King's Hall forms part of the Great Gate, but little of the early building remains. Henry's foundation was on a truly magnificent scale, the college being endowed with a mastership and sixty fellowships, and the enlarged buildings, begun about 1550, are worthy of the royal foundation. In the Great Court, by far the largest in Cambridge, are the chapel, with its statues of some of the famous Trinity men, Newton, Bacon, Macaulay, Tennyson; the hall, built about 1604 from designs similar to those of the hall of the Middle Temple and containing many famous portraits, from that of Henry VIII onwards; the Master's Lodge, and many sets of students' rooms. In the middle of the court is a beautiful Renaissance fountain. The design of Great Court was largely the work of Thomas Nevile, who became Master in 1593. He was also responsible for the court, which bears his name, on the other side of the hall. There are cloisters on two sides of this court and at the farther end is the noble library, looking on to the river, which was the work of Sir Christopher Wren. The library contains many famous manuscripts, among them those of Tennyson's "In Memoriam" and Thackeray's "Esmond"; it also preserves the statue of Byron, which was refused a place in Westminster Abbey. Adjoining Nevile's Court is New Court, where Arthur Hallam, the friend of Tennyson, had rooms, and from New Court an avenue of limes leads to Trinity Bridge.

On the site of a Benedictine house at the foot of Castle Hill, Magdalene College was founded in 1542. It is one of the most charming of the small colleges, and its most famous association is that with Samuel Pepys, who bequeathed his library to Magdalene; to-day his books remain in their original cases, arranged exactly as they were in the owner's lifetime. Included in the library is the famous Shorthand Diary, first deciphered in 1819.

Emmanuel College was founded by Sir Walter Mildmay in 1584 on the site of a Dominican friary and is a college of Puritan traditions. Its best architectural feature is the chapel and cloisters, built by Sir Christopher Wren. Above the cloisters is a famous picture gallery attached to the Master's Lodge. To Emmanuel all good Americans make a pious pilgrimage, since it is the college of John Harvard.

Like Emmanuel, Sidney Sussex College (1596) stands on the site of a religious house-a Franciscan friary dissolved in 1538. It takes its name from its foundress, Lady Frances Sidney, who married the second Earl of Sussex. Not much of the early Buildings remains, but the chapel, recently enlarged and restored in the Renaissance style, is one of the most remarkable modern buildings in Cambridge. The most famous of Sidney men is Oliver Cromwell, who entered the college in 1616. In the hall his portrait may be seen.

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Pictures for Cambridge and Its Colleges

PEMBROKE'S FRONT
PEMBROKE'S FRONT >>>>
PEPYSIAN LIBRARY OF MAGDALENE AND THE OLD COURT, CORPUS CHRISTI
PEPYSIAN LIBRARY OF MAGDALENE AND THE OLD COURT, CORPUS CHRISTI >>>>
LONG FACADE OF PEMBROKE COLLEGE AND WREN'S CLOISTERS AT EMMANUEL
LONG FACADE OF PEMBROKE COLLEGE AND WREN'S CLOISTERS AT EMMANUEL >>>>
WITHIN KING'S CHAPEL
WITHIN KING'S CHAPEL >>>>
KING'S FROM THE RIVER
KING'S FROM THE RIVER >>>>
THE FOUNTAIN AT KING'S FROM THE ARCHWAY OF FELLOWS' BUILDINGS
THE FOUNTAIN AT KING'S FROM THE ARCHWAY OF FELLOWS' BUILDINGS >>>>
TALL FOUNDER'S GATEWAY TO JESUS COLLEGE
TALL FOUNDER'S GATEWAY TO JESUS COLLEGE >>>>
GATEWAY AND FACADE OF CHRIST'S COLLEGE, WHERE MILTON WAS AN UNDERGRADUATE
GATEWAY AND FACADE OF CHRIST'S COLLEGE, WHERE MILTON WAS AN UNDERGRADUATE >>>>
BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF CLARE BRIDGE, ONE OF THE LOVELIEST SIGHTS OF THE 'BACKS'
BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF CLARE BRIDGE, ONE OF THE LOVELIEST SIGHTS OF THE 'BACKS' >>>>
THE GARDEN OF NEWNHAM, ONE OF THE TWO CAMBRIDGE COLLEGES FOR WOMEN
THE GARDEN OF NEWNHAM, ONE OF THE TWO CAMBRIDGE COLLEGES FOR WOMEN >>>>
TOWERED ENTRANCE OF ST. JOHN'S IN A QUAINT CAMBRIDGE STREET
TOWERED ENTRANCE OF ST. JOHN'S IN A QUAINT CAMBRIDGE STREET >>>>
TOWER OF GIRTON, THE SENIOR OF TWO CAMBRIDGE COLLEGES FOR WOMEN
TOWER OF GIRTON, THE SENIOR OF TWO CAMBRIDGE COLLEGES FOR WOMEN >>>>
'BRIDGE OF SIGHS' AT ST. JOHN'S AND CAIUS' GATE OF HONOUR
'BRIDGE OF SIGHS' AT ST. JOHN'S AND CAIUS' GATE OF HONOUR >>>>
PETERHOUSE, THE OLDEST CAMBRIDGE COLLEGES, AND QUEENS'
PETERHOUSE, THE OLDEST CAMBRIDGE COLLEGES, AND QUEENS' >>>>
FOUNTAIN IN THE GREAT COURT AT TRINITY
FOUNTAIN IN THE GREAT COURT AT TRINITY >>>>

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