Whenever the name Cambridge is mentioned it is Cambridge University which springs to mind. In this city, perhaps more than at Oxford, the everyday life of the town is closely associated with the University, and although industrial development has kept pace with the needs of a modern generation, the University has always been the dominating influence in the city.
The history of the town of Cambridge from the thirteenth century onwards is intricately bound up with the history of the University. Before that time Cambridge was an important river crossing and a prosperous community with a thriving European trade and a number of gilds. It was probably the importance of Cambridge as a commercial centre which attracted the various religious communities to set up their halls and hostels in the town, and from these the University gradually evolved. The principal study of these monastic establishments was Theology, but secular instruction became increasingly necessary, for the students were in demand as administrators and teachers. In the early thirteenth century Cambridge received numbers of students from Oxford as a consequence of the tension between the townspeople and the students, and in 1246 the first Chancellor was in office in Cambridge. In the fourteenth century it was the turn of Cambridge to suffer from civil disturbance; during the 'Town and Gown' riots of that time most of the earliest documents concerning the University were destroyed. Yet new colleges continued to be founded, and even the Reformation did not seriously affect the succession of new and renewed foundations which went on until the late sixteenth century. Then there was a long period of consolidation, until the nineteenth century brought a number of new colleges into existence.
The purpose of a university is far wider than that of the immediate function of teaching. Lectures, organised on a university basis, are, of course, given, but attendance at them is often left to the discretion of the undergraduate. Most students, it is true, work hard, especially in these days when the majority of them are supported by public funds, and the taking of a degree is still the principal object of an undergraduate's three years' residence. It is, however, as true today as it has always been that the University provides the opportunity of a liberal education in the widest sense of the word. A Freshman at Cambridge is confronted with a bewildering number of clubs and societies, social and sporting, serious and frivolous, to cater for his particular needs. If he is a good talker he may well join the Union, which is quite simply a debating society with a strict code of rules and a national reputation. Many eminent men in public life have taken part in Union debates, either as members or as guests, and the standard of oratory is high.
A university education for women was unknown until the nineteenth century, and at Cambridge the first college for women was not founded until 1871, although a college for young ladies had been established at Hitchin two years previously. When the Council of the Senate allowed the women students to take the 'Previous' Examination and even issued the successful with an 'unofficial' certificate it was inevitable that the establishment at Hitchin should move nearer to Cambridge. So delicate, however, was the question of the desirability of encouraging higher education for women that both Girton and Newnham Colleges were sited in parishes outside the town. The buildings of the former were designed byWaterhouse and those of Newnham by Basil Champneys. Although women students were allowed to take their Tripos Examinations as early as 1881, they were not allowed to receive their degrees until 1922, and full membership of the University on equal terms with men was only granted as recently as 1947.
The tutorial system at Cambridge is, as at Oxford, the basis of university teaching. Every undergraduate works under a supervisor, who is generally a don and often a member of the student's own college. The undergraduate goes to his supervisor once a week for an hour's private teaching. The supervisor discusses and criticises his written work, suggests suitable reading and generally guides his studies. Besides these visits to his supervisor, the undergraduate goes to lectures and classes provided by the University, and if he is a scientist or an engineer, to laboratories as well. To be eligible for a degree, besides passing his examinations, he must 'keep' a minimum of about sixty nights by residence in his rooms or his lodgings each term, and he is expected to dine in Hall at least four or five times a week. In most faculties the 'Tripos' examination is in two parts, but the undergraduate may, if he so wishes, offer a different subject or combination of subjects for each part. If he is successful he receives his Bachelor's Degree at the end of his three years' residence, and he can proceed to his Master's Degree without further residence after a further four years and on payment of the appropriate fee. Serious misdemeanours may result in his being 'rusticated', that is sent down for a term or more — or even sent down permanently. The enforcement of University discipline outside the colleges is the responsibility of the Proctors. The freedom afforded to the undergraduate means that he is able to take part, if he so desires, in a wide range of sports and games. Indeed prowess at one of the major games, at athletics or at rowing may lead to his selection for intercollegiate fixtures, and if his ability is outstanding to membership of a University team or crew. The ambition of every sporting man is to be awarded his 'Blue', that is to represent Cambridge in one of the annual contests against Oxford. Of all the sporting encounters between the two universities, it is the Boat Race, rowed each spring on the Thames from Putney to Mortlake, which captures the imagination and the support, not only of Cambridge men but also of thousands who have no connection with either university.
Probably the best way to begin a tour of Cambridge is to start with the river frontages of the colleges, collectively known as the 'Backs'. The Cam can by no stretch of the imagination be called a great river, but it was the principal avenue of trade in those far-off days when the University was born. In Saxon times the river was called the Granta and the name of the town was Grantebrycg — the bridge over the Granta. On the right bank of the stream between the two main road bridges six of the colleges are situated, and the river is spanned by a number of graceful bridges built by the colleges, some of which are of considerable interest. From the south the first to be encountered is the curious wooden 'mathematical bridge' of Queens' College. It is a copy of one designed in the middle of the eighteenth century and attributed, quite erroneously to Newton. The arrangement of the various spars and struts is so calculated that at any one point the stresses are equalised. The next is King's Bridge, from which there is a fine view of the Fellows' Building and of the Chapel. Clare Bridge deserves more than passing interest, for it is not only a graceful structure but it is the oldest of the college bridges, having been built in 1640. There was a long and bitter dispute between Clare and King's, the owners of the land, involving the King and the Church, before Clare finally won the day and was able to construct its bridge. Trinity has an eighteenth-century bridge, bearing the arms of the college, and St John's is the owner of two bridges. One, formerly known as the 'Kitchen Bridge' but now more reverently called the Old Bridge, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and took almost sixteen years to complete. The other is the well-known New Bridge, popularly called the 'Bridge of Sighs', presumably because of its resemblance to the covered bridge in Venice. It joins the Third Court with the Fourth on the other side of the river.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century there appeared on the university scene a new faculty, which, as it gathered momentum, created an unprecedented problem of accommodation. As fast as money and land could be found, laboratories and rooms to house collections and apparatus were built, first on the site of the old Botanic Garden, and later on land acquired from Downing College. Foremost among these new additions to the University buildings was the Cavendish Laboratory which was the gift of the Duke of Devonshire who was then Chancellor of the University. This laboratory has become one of the principal research establishments for Physics in the country.
Every university needs an adequate central library, and for a very long time at Cambridge the Old Schools were used for this purpose. It became evident before the beginning of this century that the accommodation was alarmingly inadequate and the provision of a new building was long overdue. A site was eventually found over the river, on land which belonged to Clare and King's. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was the selected architect and his design is both simple and impressive. The i6ofoot-high central tower houses books and periodicals and on its corners are symbolical carvings representing the four winds. The Library, which is privileged to receive a copy of every book published in the British Isles, has over thirty miles of shelves.
No less important is the principal museum of the University — the Fitzwilliam. Lord Fitzwilliam was a former student of Trinity Hall, and in his will he left the whole of his collection of fine art, as well as his library, to the University. He also provided considerable funds for a building to house the collection. The museum took eleven years to build and has since been extended. The entrance has massive classical columns and the interior is rich in marble and gilded decoration. But the chief interest lies in the magnificent collection of paintings, antiquities and collector's pieces, comprising what is probably the finest collection of its kind in Great Britain.
Cambridge has so much of interest that it is not easy to keep a survey in perspective. There is one building, however, which more than any other has spread the fame of Cambridge far beyond these islands, and it is of course the Chapel of King's College, known the world over as the most splendid Perpendicular building in the British Isles and one of the finest churches in Europe. Although it took sixty-nine years to complete, and there are discernible differences in detail, the whole building presents a complete harmony of design and execution. The Chapel is 289 feet in length, 94 feet high and 77 feet wide. The most striking features of the exterior are the massive buttresses, the delicate stonework of the pinnacles and the tall slender windows. But however impressive the exterior, the interior is even more magnificent. The whole roof is carried out in the most superb fan vaulting, unequalled anywhere in Europe, and the sixteenth-century coloured glass is wonderful to behold. The windows tell the story of Christ and the Apostles, with parallel incidents from the Old Testament. The glass of the west window, representing the Last Judgement, is comparatively modern, having been installed in 1879. On either side of the nave and choir are nine chantries, occupying the roofed-in spaces between the buttresses. One of them is dedicated to the memory of the founder, King Henry VI; another is a memorial to those of the college who fell in the wars of 1914 and 1939. The intricately carved choir stalls and the magnificent oak screen are of great beauty.
King's College was originally conceived by Henry VI as part of a plan to establish education for boys on two levels — at Eton, near his royal home at Windsor, and then at a college of the University. This plan had been adopted earlier by Bishop Wykeham of Winchester, who had founded Winchester College and New College, Oxford. The site chosen for the Cambridge college was surrounded by other buildings; by Clare, Trinity Hall, Gonville Hall, the Old Schools, and by the town. Part of the gateway to the original buildings — the Old Court — is still in existence. But soon a revised and much more splendid scheme was envisaged by the King. The land necessary for this was acquired to the south of the Old Court, and the Chapel was begun in 1446. For this purpose it was necessary to clear away a number of existing buildings, including those of God's House later to become Christ's College, and the Parish Church of St John Zachary. However, work was concentrated almost entirely on the Chapel, until the Wars of the Roses and the deposition of the King brought about a halt. The Chapel was eventually completed in 1515, but King's had to make do with the Old Court until more than two hundred years had elapsed.
Then at last at the beginning of the eighteenth century the Provost, Dr John Adams, met Christopher Wren, and Nicholas Hawksmoor prepared two models of the proposed Great Court. After the Provost's death James Gibbs, the architect of the Senate House, prepared a fresh plan, but only the western range, known as the Fellows' or Gibbs' Building, was completed. All the remaining buildings of King's College belong to the nineteenth and to the present centuries. The south side of the Great Court was designed by Wilkins, who was also responsible for the imaginative stone screen and gatehouse which front King's Parade. Everything about King's is spacious, especially the vast expanse of lawn reaching from Gibbs' Building to the river, and the Great Court with its fountain and statue of Henry VI. The Hall has a stone screen and linenfold panelling, and stained glass windows displaying coats of arms. Further extensions towards the river were all apparently carried out with one thought in mind — to preserve for all time the majestic view of the Chapel. In the early nineteenth century all King's undergraduates came from the sister college of Eton, and graduated without taking University examinations. All this was abolished a hundred years ago, but King's still has the honorary precedence of a Royal foundation, and to be a 'Kingsman' is still something of which every member of the college is justly proud.
Of the original fifteenth century buildings of St Catharine's College there is now no trace. The college was founded in 1473 by Robert Wodelarke, one of the first Fellows of King's College, who rose to be Provost and later Chancellor of the University. At one time St Catharine's had few undergraduates, and there was a proposal to merge it with King's; but it has long since overcome its difficulties, and it is now a large and flourishing college. The Principal Court is open on its eastern side facing Trumpington Street, but prior to the seventeenth century it was separated from the roadway by a number of houses and two inns, the main entrance being in Queens' Lane. In 1626 the Master of Caius generously left to St Catherine's the 'Black Bull Inn' which he owned, and henceforth it was only a matter of time before the other property was obtained and a new entrance to the college constructed.
In 1348 Edmund Gonville, a Norfolk clergyman, was licensed to found a college on the site where Corpus Christi now stands, but the Black Death and his own demise in 1351 prevented any building there. Gonville's executor was William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich, who was already engaged on his own foundation of Trinity Hall, but he began to build on a new site adjoining that college, incorporating two houses which already existed there. A Hall, Master's Lodge and a Chapel were erected but very little of the original fabric remains. It was a former student of Gonville Hall, John Caius, who had risen to be royal physician and had studied in Italy, who set himself the task of refounding his old college, and he became Master in 1559. Caius had very personal ideas of collegiate architecture and his principal contribution, known as Caius Court, had no southern range, as Caius was concerned 'lest the air, from being confined within a narrow space, should become foul'. Caius built three gates, symbolising the progress of a student through the University. The first is the Gate of Humility which served as the entrance to Trinity Street but which has been removed to the Master's Garden. The second, the Gate of Virtue, leads into Caius Court, and the third, the Gate of Honour, has a proud position on the open side of the court. Through this gate the undergraduate would pass on his way to receive his degree. The Gate of Honour is smaller than the other two and is a strange mixture of architectural styles, the lower part being mainly Classical but above is a hexagonal stone turret.
The original Chapel of Gonville Hall was lengthened in the seventeenth century and subsequently was 'modernised' and altered almost beyond recognition. The monument to Caius has been removed from his tomb and replaced in an elevated position on the north wall. The Hall, also a very different building from its predecessor, dates from the middle of the eighteenth century. It contains a portrait of Caius and a treasured relic — the flag which flew at the South Pole during Scott's ill-fated expedition. Caius, or more properly Gonville and Caius College,
has two further courts. Tree Court was constructed at the beginning of the seventeenth century and rebuilt at the end of the eighteenth, and St Michael's Court on the other side of Trinity Street is a handsome addition of the present age.
Pembroke, one of the first of the Cambridge colleges, dates from the middle of the fourteenth century. Its foundress was Marie de St Pol, the widow of the Earl of Pembroke, Of the earliest buildings only the Gatehouse and northern range of the Old Court are still standing, but the walls have been refaced. It was not until the seventeenth century that any major extensions were made, and it was then that the Chapel, Wren's first major work, was built. The Old Chapel, the first to be built specially for a college, was converted into the Library. The Second Court is also a seventeenth, century addition, but none of the buildings of the New Court and its extensions is over eighty years old.
In 1583 Sir Walter Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Elizabeth I, acquired the former Dominican house in Cambridge and founded Emmanuel College, which at first was small with its entrance on the north. The existing monastic chapel became the Hall and the refectory served as its first Chapel. The monastic fishpond is still there but has become a charming ornamental feature. Apart from the erection of the Brick Building, a detached wing, in 1683, the most notable addition took place in 1668 when Dr William Sancroft was Master. Sancroft was a former student of the college and not in agreement with the strictly Puritan views of its founder. So he commissioned Wren to build a new Chapel, the design of which included a cloistered front with the Master's Gallery above it. From this time Emmanuel grew rapidly into one of the largest of Cambridge colleges. It numbers among its distinguished scholars John Harvard, the founder of the American university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Trinity, the largest college of any English university, was founded in 1546 by Henry VIII who incorporated into his college the lands, endowments and some of the buildings of a number of monastic halls, the principal being King's Hall and Michaelhouse, which had occupied the site. This was in many ways a remarkable happening, for Henry had been granted power by Act of Parliament to dissolve all the existing colleges and halls. Two factors probably contributed to the successful outcome of the royal intention; one was the interest of Catherine Parr, who was already patroness of Queens' College, Cambridge, and of Queen's College, Oxford, in the plan, the other the existence of the Great Gate which Henry had had built in 1519 and which was completed in 1535. This gate served as the entrance to King's Hall until the close of the century, when a great transformation took place in Trinity. This was instigated by Dr Thomas Nevile who became Master in 1593 and who forthwith began to put into operation an ambitious plan which was to make Trinity the largest of the Cambridge colleges. Nevile was a rich and influential man and his architectural ideas were on a scale hitherto unknown in university building. He laid out the Great Court by removing some of the existing ranges and building others, re-aligning where necessary, and he moved the original gateway of King's Hall, known as King Edward's Tower, in line with the North Range of his new court. He did even more — he embellished this tower with a statue of Edward III and gave it a clock. The south side of the Great Court was completely reconstructed by Nevile and a new gateway, the Queen's Gate, bearing a statue of Queen Elizabeth, was incorporated in it. A college of such proportions needed a new Hall, and one was duly built, modelled on the Hall of the Middle Temple in London, and it is, of course, the largest in Cambridge. It contains many portraits, including those of Henry VIII and Mary Tudor. The latter was, somewhat strangely, responsible for the building of the Chapel, a large Gothic edifice which projects beyond the line of the Great Gate. The antechapel contains memorials to many of the famous scholars of Trinity — to Thackeray, to Newton, to Macaulay and to Wordsworth.
But to return to Nevile — he gave the Great Court a particularly charming focal point by building the octagonal fountain, and he constructed a new court to the west of the Great Court. Nevile's Court, as it is called, was originally much smaller than it is now; the two ranges at right angles to the Hall were each of three stories, the lowest being in the form of an open loggia. At the end of the court near the river a wall was built with a gate in the middle. In 1675 Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design the Library which was sited in place of the river wall. The result of his work is one of the most perfectly proportioned buildings in Cambridge, both internally and externally. The design is based on that of the library of St Mark's in Venice but its Classical conception harmonises perfectly with the earlier ranges. Wren's bookcases are embellished with carvings by Grinling Gibbons and along the whole length of the interior are white marble busts of former Fellows and Masters of the College. At the far end is a statue of Lord Byron which was originally intended for Westminster Abbey, but the Dean refused it and it was later installed in the poet's college. There are many treasures in the Library, including original manuscripts of Milton, Macaulay, Tennyson and Thackeray. The eighteenth century saw the completion of Nevile's Court when James Essex altered the North and South Ranges and joined them to the Library.
The pressing need for more accommodation led to the building in 1671 of Bishop's Hostel to the south of the Great Court and to a far more ambitious project, a completely new court to the south of Nevile's. The former was provided by John Hacket, Bishop of Lichfield, whose arms are over the entrance. The New Court arose some fifty years later and is in the Gothic style, the design being by Wilkins. Tennyson's friend Arthur Hallam, whom he commemorated in In Memoriam, had rooms in this court. The last court to be built was Whewell's on the opposite side of Trinity Street from the Great Gate. It actually comprises two courts and was named after the Master of Trinity who provided the money for its construction.
Trinity Hall, not to be confused with Trinity College, was founded by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich, who dedicated it to the Holy Trinity. Bateman was one of the leading exponents of the Law, and his 'college', as it was then called, was for students of the Law. In spite of all the changes which English law has undergone, Trinity Hall has maintained its position as the leading centre of legal studies in the University, and numbers many famous lawyers among its members.
The medieval Principal Court was refaced in the eighteenth century in the fashionable Italianate style, but the Library remains practically as it was when it was built in Elizabethan times. In those days books were kept chained to a rail and only the trusted few were allowed to take them out of the building. Here in Trinity Hall the original reading desks and rail can still be seen. Both the Chapel and the Hall, which were refashioned in the eighteenth century, have interesting features.
St John's was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, at the beginning of the sixteenth century on the site of the Hospital of St John which had been suppressed at the Dissolution. Above the magnificent Gatehouse, which leads into the First Court, are the elaborately carved arms of England and France and an effigy of St John. The three older Courts of St John's lead directly from the entrance to the river. The first two are predominantly Elizabethan and the third belongs to the seventeenth century. Beyond the river, and joined to these older courts by the well-known 'Bridge of Sighs', is the nineteenth-century Fourth Court. In this same century two major alterations were made to the fabric of the college; the first was the demolition of the northern side of the First Court to make room for the new Chapel, and the other the beginning of the Chapel Court on the northern side of the Second Court. The latter was not completed until shortly before the Second World War.
As far as size is concerned, St John's ranks second only to Trinity and has extensive gardens to the river. The upper floor of the northern range of the Second Court was formerly the Master's Gallery, but was converted by Sir Gilbert Scott into a fine Combination Room which has a delightful moulded plaster ceiling and beautiful Chippendale furniture. Scott was also responsible for the Chapel which was consecrated in 1869. In his design the architect endeavoured to revive the taste of the fourteenth century, and the result is a building of graceful proportions. The original intention was to provide the Chapel with a spire, but it was decided to substitute the tall tower which is today a familiar Cambridge landmark.
Jesus College was originally the Nunnery of St Rhadegund, founded in the twelfth century, and its buildings still reveal its monastic origin. The founder of the college was Bishop Alcock of Ely, whose statue is to be seen above the Main Gateway. A narrow lane, flanked by high walls — and known as the 'Chimney” — leads to this imposing entrance. Alcock made considerable use of the existing convent buildings; he converted the greater part of the church into accommodation for his students, leaving only the Choir to serve as the college Chapel; the Hall was adapted from the old refectory, the quarters of the Prioress became the Master's Lodge, and the Library was once the convent Guest House. Perhaps the most interesting relic of the convent, the entrance to the Chapter House, was discovered only in 1840. Magdalene is the only one of the older colleges to be built on the left bank of the river, although others have expanded into this territory. Originally it was a fifteenth-century hostel for Benedictine monks who came to study at the University, and it was known as Buckingham College. Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor, refounded the college as Magdalene in 1542, and his descendants inherited the title of 'Visitor' and the right to nominate the Master until 1926 when the system was abolished. Magdalene is famous as the college of Samuel Pepys, who became an undergraduate here in 1650. Pepys was a generous contributor to the new buildings of the Second Court and bequeathed to his old college his valuable collection of books, including six volumes of the famous Diary. His arms appear over the central window of this range which houses the Pepys Library. The diarist had special bookcases made to house his collection and these were transferred to Magdalene with three thousand volumes on the death of his nephew in 1724.
Unlike almost all the other older colleges of Cambridge, Corpus Christi was not a monastic foundation, but was established by a number of medieval gilds, the chief being the Gild of Corpus Christi. Unfortunately the college suffered at the hands of the townsmen during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381 and most of the early documents relating to the foundation were burnt. However, the Old Court is still the only one in Cambridge surviving outwardly in almost its original form, although the former Hall now serves as the college kitchen and the Master no longer occupies the original lodge. Until the late fifteenth century Corpus had no Chapel and St Benet's Church was used for that purpose, but a two-storied Chapel was later added to the Old Court. This was pulled down in the nineteenth century when the New Court was built. This court is a good example of neoGothic, and incorporates the Hall, the Library, and the new Chapel.
The foundation of Christ's College really dates from the first half of the fifteenth century, when William Bingham, a London priest, laid plans for the building of a college for future schoolmasters which was to be known as God's House. The project was abandoned when the site was required for King's College, but a new site was obtained and a modest building erected. At the beginning of the sixteenth century Lady Margaret Beaufort provided the necessary money for the building of a new college and the First Court was begun. The fine Gateway with its elaborate Beaufort coat of arms is strikingly similar to that of St John's, of which college, as has been mentioned, Lady Margaret was also the benefactress. The door, with its linenfold panelling, still has its original appearance but the stonework has been refaced. The Chapel contains the oldest stained glass in Cambridge, some of it having been in the earlier foundation of God's House. Both the Chapel and the Hall were converted in appearance from Gothic to Classical in the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, but the latter was restored to its original form towards the end of the last century.
To Peterhouse belongs the distinction of being the oldest surviving college in Cambridge. In 1280 Hugh de Balsham was permitted by charter to introduce into the Hospital of St John a number of lay scholars, and shortly afterwards he built for them two hostels which were the real beginning of Peterhouse. At his death he bequeathed money to his college, and with this was built the Hall which has since been in continuous use. The Church of St Peter, originally Norman but rebuilt in the fourteenth century, gave the college its name and served as its Chapel until the seventeenth century, when the two original hostels were pulled down and the present Chapel erected. It is beautifully situated between the north and south ranges of the Principal Court and is linked to them by a series of open arcades. The poet Gray was a commoner at Peterhouse and had a bar fixed outside the window of his room, so that he might escape in case of fire. He was, of course, duly hoaxed by his fellow students but was so angry that he moved to Pembroke.
As Peterhouse was the first, so Downing was the last of the Cambridge colleges to be founded by private patronage. It commemorates the name of Sir George Downing, the third baronet, who bequeathed the money for its foundation. Sir George died in 1749, but it was not until 1800 that a charter was granted and building could commence. So it came about that the style of the buildings is Neo-Classic with interesting variations of detail. First to be erected were the East and West Ranges, but financial difficulties slowed up the rate of building and it was not until the 1930s that the North Range was put up. Downing has one of the largest forecourts in Cambridge, reminiscent of American college planning.
Selwyn College, like Keble at Oxford, was built by public subscription as a memorial to an eminent clergyman, in this case to George Augustus Selwyn, the first Bishop of New Zealand, who had been a notable Cambridge oarsman and who subsequently became Bishop of Lichfield.
Although King's College and Queens' College were both founded at approximately the same period, there is a striking contrast between their outward appearances: King's has conventional college buildings but the architecture of Queens' is domestic in conception, and much of it is obviously Tudor. As the name of the college implies, two queens were concerned in its foundation. Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI, became the first patroness of the College of St Bernard which had been founded two years earlier by Andrew Docket, who was later favoured by the patronage of Elizabeth, the wife of Edward IV. Queens' has many interesting features, and of these the President's Lodge, in the form of a gallery extending along the whole of one side of the Second Court, is one of the most famous buildings in Cambridge. The Second Court with its cloisters is indeed one of the architectural gems of the University. The Chapel is situated in Erasmus Court. It is a late nineteenth-century building, replacing the former Chapel which has been refashioned and now serves as an addition to the Library. A small room in one of the towers in the First Court is reputed to have been the quarter of Erasmus, who was Professor of Greek in 1510.
Clare is a very old foundation but none of the present buildings, among the most impressive in Cambridge, is older than the seventeenth century. The origins of the college were in the early 1300s, when the wife of the Chancellor founded Clare House, Clare being her maiden name. In 1638 a complete rebuilding was begun which, largely on account of the interruption of the Civil War, went on for eighty years, but left the main college a fine example of early English Renaissance. The Palladian riverfront is acknowledged as one of the finest of collegiate buildings, and its design was obviously influenced by Wren. Across the river stands the New Court, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and erected as a memorial to the members of the college who fell in the First World War. Its open western front faces the New University Library.
Lady Frances Sidney, the daughter of Henry VIII's favourite, Sir William Sidney, founded Sidney Sussex College in the reign of Elizabeth I on the land which had formerly been occupied by a Franciscan establishment. The oldest surviving part of the college is Hall Court, dating from the end of the sixteenth century. The Hall was considerably restored in the eighteenth century and contains fine portraits of the founder and of Oliver Cromwell, who was a student here in 1616.
It is a surprising fact that whereas the colleges were ever seeking to expand and add to their buildings, the University as such had completely inadequate quarters until the end of the seventeenth century. Until then most of the formal teaching was carried on in the Old Schools which date mainly from the fifteenth century. In them, oral disputations for degrees were conducted, written examinations being introduced only in the last century. Until the Dissolution degrees were conferred in the church of the Franciscan friars, but the University failed to persuade the king to grant them this conveniently large building and it was eventually acquired by Trinity College and dismantled, the material being used in the new buildings of that college. As has been noted the site was acquired by Sidney Sussex College, and the University had perforce to conduct its degree ceremonies in the Church of Great St Mary until the Senate House was completed in 1730. This imposing building in the Palladian style was designed by James Gibbs. The adjoining range of the Old Schools, which had been used mainly as the University Library, was refaced shortly afterwards in a manner which harmonised quite well with the Senate House.
Cambridge has many fine parish churches, some of them having served in their time as college chapels. Two are of particular interest, Great St Mary's and the round church of St Sepulchre. The earliest parts of the former, the official church of the University, date from the fourteenth century, but there was probably a church on the site some two hundred years earlier. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre — the Round, as it is sometimes called — is one of only four left in the country which were built in this manner. They are usually believed to be in imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem and to have connections with the Knights Templar, but the church at Cambridge dates only from Norman times. Subsequently it was so drastically altered that its original appearance was a matter for conjecture, but in 1841 an attempt was made to rebuild the church in what was thought to be its original form. The success or failure of this restoration must be left to the judgement of the individual.
A Visit to Stratford
(Lilian, Mr. Priestley's niece, is staying, with her brother Andrew, at the Priestleys' house. She writes a letter home.)
Dear Mother and Father,
We had a heavenly day yesterday; Cousin John is home from Oxford for a short holiday (he calls it "vacation") so he took Margaret and Andrew and me in Uncle Charles's car to Stratford-on-Avon, the place where Shakespeare was born and died. It was a very suitable day, for yesterday was April 23rd; that is St. George's Day—the Saint of England—and that is the day on which Shakespeare was born, and also the day on which he died.
Stratford is a very interesting town, right in the centre of England. You can't get very far from the sea anywhere in England, but Stratford is about the farthest point you can get from it. It's nice to think that Shakespeare was born right in the heart of England and in the midst of country that is so typically English, quite unlike our Scottish country round Inverness. There are no mountains or deep valleys near Stratford; there's nothing of the grand scenery that we have round the Cairngorms, but there are beautiful woods, green fields, a quiet gentle river—the winding Avon—and lovely houses, black and white with thatched roofs.
Stratford is quite a busy town, especially on market day when the farmers from the countryside round Stratford come to buy or sell cows or pigs or sheep. At least so John told me, and he knows Stratford well. But it wasn't market day yesterday, so we were able to look round comfortably. The first place we went to was Shakespeare's birthplace, a small house with small rooms in the centre of Stratford. We saw the very room where Shakespeare was born. Lots of people who had visited the house had written their names on the walls. It seemed a wrong thing to do—although among the names were Walter Scott, Dickens, Thackeray and Browning.
In one room was a little wooden desk, the very desk that Shakespeare sat in when he went, to the grammar school in Stratford. But one of the things I liked best was the garden behind the house, because in it are growing all the flowers, trees and plants that are mentioned in Shakespeare's plays.
When Shakespeare became successful in London he bought the biggest house in Stratford, a house called New Place, to retire to. Here he probably wrote The Winter's Tale and The Tempest; and here he died. Well, I wanted to see that; but there's nothing left of it but a few bricks and the garden. The man who owned it, Mr. Gastrell, was so bad-tempered, because so many people came to see the house, that he pulled it down. It's hard to believe that, isn't it, but John said it's true. Shakespeare had planted a mulberry tree in the garden and Mr. Gastrell cut that down, too, but the people of Stratford took pieces of the tree and planted one of them in the garden of New Place, and that tree is still growing there. I'm sorry to say that while we were not looking at him, Andrew took a piece of it, about three inches long, from one of the branches. He said he knew Uncle Charles was very fond of Shakespeare and so he was going to plant his little piece in Uncle Charles's garden so that Uncle Charles could have a tree from "Shakespeare's tree".
Then we went to the church where Shakespeare is buried. There's a bust of Shakespeare that was carved by a Dutch sculptor who lived near Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and must have seen Shakespeare many a time, and on the stone of Shakespeare's grave are the lines: “Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear To dig the dust enclosed here. Blest be the man that spares these stones And curst be he that moves my bones.”
John said that, though it wasn't very good poetry, it was almost certainly written by Shakespeare himself. At any rate, I'm glad it has been successful in keeping anyone from "moving his bones".
By this time we were very hungry; Andrew had been saying for the last hour or so that he would be glad when it was time for lunch. So John took us to a very old hotel that was probably there in Shakespeare's time. It had some beautiful Tudor tables and chairs; and the rooms haven't numbers on the doors as most hotels have. Instead every room has the name of a Shakespeare play on it—the "Hamlet" room, the "Romeo and Juliet" room and so on. And we had a jolly good lunch there. After lunch John took us across the fields, about a mile out of Stratford, to Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Anne Hathaway was the woman that Shakespeare married, and the cottage is just as it was in Shakespeare's time. There are the old chairs by the fire-place where Shakespeare must have sat, the plates from which he probably ate his dinner, and a leather bottle from which Anne poured out beer for him. In that little house I felt as if I was living in the 17th century, and if Shakespeare had come walking down the narrow stairs I shouldn't have felt very surprised.
We had a look at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, built on rather plain practical lines (someone said it was "like a modern factory"), but John said it has the best stage in England. I wish we could have seen a play there; they were doing A Midsummer Night's Dream that evening, but all the tickets had been sold long ago. However, John is going to try to get seats for us for another night.
We were very tired when we got back, but it had been a lovely day—and I do hope John can get those tickets.
Lots of love,
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