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Colleges and libraries
St John's College was founded in 1555 by the Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company in London, Sir Thomas White, using the premises of St Bernard's College, itself founded in 1437 by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, for Cistercian monks studying at Oxford University. The Cistercian college was suppressed in 1536. St John's was the first Oxford college to be founded by a merchant. Alumni include Archbishop Laud, Jane Austen's father, A E Housman, Robert Graves, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The buildings date from the 15th century. The Chapel was originally consecrated in 1530. The Library dates from the 16th century and holds over 200 medieval manuscripts, 20,000 books printed before 1850, several Middle Eastern manuscripts dating back to the 14th century, 200 modern manuscripts, and important collections of papers and books owned by figures such as Robert Graves, A E Housman and Spike Milligan.
Parts of the college are open to the public at particular times. Check the college website for details.
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.
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.
St John’s College is the third largest college of the University of Cambridge and is located on the site of a 13th century monastic hospital of St John. The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, and dates from 1511. It is her arms that are carved on the enormous Great Gate; the arms include yales – mythical beasts with elephants’ tails, antelopes’ bodies, goats’ heads and horns that swivel from back to front. Wander through the various courts – many buildings date from the Tudor period. Significant features include the chapel, Bridge of Sighs and New Court. Alumni are known as ‘Johnians’. Famous ones include Lord Palmerston, William Wilberforce, William Wordsworth, Douglas Adams, Fred Sanger, Hugh Dennis, Derek Jacobi, Rob Andrew and Mike Brierley.
Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, combining two earlier colleges, Michaelhouse and King’s Hall, and has the largest court in Oxbridge. Michaelhouse had existed since 1324; King’s Hall had been established by Edward II in 1317 and refounded by Edward III in 1337. Trinity’s flag, flown on special occasions, has as its design the royal standard of Edward III. The oldest parts of the college are medieval, including the range behind the Clock Tower. The Great Gate was built at the beginning of the 16th century. The 17th century Wren Library, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, contains treasures that include 8th century copy of the Epistles of St Paul, works by Isaac Newton and the manuscript of Winnie the Pooh.
Famous alumni include Francis Bacon, John Dryden, Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, Alfred Tennyson, Earl Grey, Ernest Rutherford, Vaughn Williams, G M Trevelyan, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, AA Milne, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Jawaharlal Nehru, Nicholas Monsarrat Antony Gormley, Eddie Redmayne and Prince Charles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.