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Colleges and libraries
Balliol is one of the colleges of Oxford University. It was founded by John de Balliol in 1263, has occupied the same site ever since and claims to be the oldest college in Oxford, and the world. Its attractive buildings are predominantly Victorian, however. Balliol's widow Dervorguilla of Galloway, established a permanent endowment and their son, John, was King of Scotland. Balliol has an impressive list of alumni, which includes writers, politicians and scientists. A few random examples: Boris Johnson, Robert Peston, Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene and William Beveridge.
Visitors can tour the grounds and some of the buildings, except when college events take place.
The British Library receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland. In addition to books (including early printed books), the collection includes manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints , drawings, music scores, patents, sound recordings and stamps. Particular treasures include Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, the first edition of The Times from 18 March 1788 and Beatles manuscripts. As well as being open for research, the Library holds free exhibitions and events.
Christ's College was first established as God's House in 1437 by William Byngham, a London parish priest, for training grammar school masters. However, its site was needed for King’s College, so it had to move to its present location in 1448. Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, decided to enlarge God's House and in 1505 the College was re-founded as Christ's College. Lady Margaret has been honoured ever since as the Foundress. You can spot her coat of arms on the gatehouse and as pictured. Christ's became one of the leading Puritan colleges of Elizabethan Cambridge. In 1625 it admitted the young John Milton. The Garden still boasts what is known as 'Milton's Mulberry Tree'. Charles Darwin is another famous old boy. Further noted alumni include JH Plumb, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Simon Schama, Roy Porter, Colin Dexter, CP Snow, Rowan Williams and Sacha Baron Cohen.
The John Rylands Library holds the special collections of the University of Manchester's library. The library was built by Enriqueta Rylands, the widow of wealthy industrialist John Rylands, who died in 1888. It is a fantastic neo-Gothic building, designed by Basil Champneys (with help from Mrs Rylands) and opened to the public in 1900. One of its first acquisitions was the 40,000 volume Spencer Collection, which includes about 3,000 early printed books - including a Gutenberg Bible. The library has undergone various refurbishments. Although a research library, it is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Manchester.
King's College was founded by King Henry VI in 1441, the year after he founded Eton College, originally a sister college which sent scholars on to King's. It is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge and parts are open to the public. The highlight is undoubtedly the chapel, begun by Henry VI but finished by Henry VIII in 1544. The ceiling, windows and carving are breathtaking. It is also famous for the annual Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols, introduced by Eric Milner-White in 1919 and now broadcast all over the world.
Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which have the exclusive right to call students to the Bar. The education and training of advocates lies at the heart of the Inn, but it is also a professional society with a worldwide membership. The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, to give it its full name, is based on the site of the headquarters of the medieval Knights Templar. Though very little survives from this period - and the area was also extensively bombed in the 1940s - walking through Middle Temple is like walking through history, with links to Magna Carta and the exploration of the New World. Visits inside the Elizabethan Great Hall can be arranged in advance - most of the buildings contain barristers' chambers. Middle Temple is also responsible, with the Inner Temple, for the historic Temple Church.
Pembroke College was founded in 1347 by Mary de St Pol, the widow of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. In 1360, she sought permission from the Pope to build a college chapel – the first in Cambridge. The original chapel is still there – it is now a library – but the current chapel is the first completed building designed by Christopher Wren. It includes some notable features, not least an exquisite 15th century alabaster representation of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Michael depicting the judgement of a soul. Next to the chapel is a cloister where memorials commemorate the 450 Pembroke men who fell in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. Around a third of the young men who joined the college between 1911 and 1917 were dead by 1919.
Notable alumni include William Pitt the Younger, Peter Cook, Eric Idle, Clive James, Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Roger Bushell, Naomie Harris, Robert Macfarlane and Jo Cox.
The royal founders of Queen’s College were Margaret of Anjou (1430 – 1482) in 1448 and Elizabeth Woodville (c1437 – 1492) in 1465. Margaret was the wife of King Henry VI and Elizabeth was the wife of King Edward IV. The has also enjoyed the patronage of three further queens - Anne Neville (1456 – 1485), who was married to King Richard III, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900 – 2002), the late Queen Mother and HM Queen Elizabeth II. Queens’ College Cambridge is the only Oxbridge college to have the Queen as Patroness. Particular features of the College include the 15th century Old Court, Hall and Cloister. Walnut Tree Court is located on the site of a 13th century Carmelite Monastery. The Wooden Bridge – wrongly called ‘the Mathematical Bridge’ – dates from 1749, though the current version was completed in 1905. Famous alumni include Bishop John Fisher, Stephen Fry, Richard Dearlove and Emily Maitlis.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded in 1682 by Charles II as a retirement home for soldiers. The architect was Christopher Wren. Today, it is home to about 300 veterans, who have served in the British Army all over the world over the last 60 years or so. Known as Chelsea Pensioners, they can be seen out and about in London in their distinctive red uniforms and three-cornered hats. Tours of the hospital can be arranged, and there is a museum. Particular highlights include the great hall and the Wren chapel. Among those buried on the site are ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis, in the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary, which opened in 2009. The Royal Hospital's extensive grounds are also the location for the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Sidney Sussex College was founded on St. Valentine's Day in 1596 by legacy of Lady Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex. It is built on the site of a Franciscan friary and has a reputation as a Protestant college; arguably, it’s most famous old boy is Oliver Cromwell, whose skull is buried in the college ante-chapel – where his ghost is said to hang around. The main buildings of the College were built in the closing years of the 16th century, with additions in the 17th. The Chapel dates from 1780 and there were considerable changes in the 19th century. The college has an impressive art collection and a particular reputation for mathematics, history, engineering and law. Apart from Lord Protector Cromwell, notable alumni include David (Lord) Owen, David Lidington, several Bletchley Park codebreakers, including the historian Asa Briggs, the journalist Andrew Rawnsley and TV personality Carol Vorderman.