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Colleges and libraries
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.
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.
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.