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East of England
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.
Hero or villain, Oliver Cromwell was one of those people who make a brief appearance on history’s stage and leave their mark. So his house has got to be worth a visit. Cromwell inherited the lease from a rich uncle, moved there with his family in 1636 and they stayed for 10 years - though Cromwell himself would have been away for much of that time. It stands opposite a small green, next to St Mary’s Church. It has been a pub, vicarage and at time of writing is Ely’s Tourist Information Centre. A tour of the house includes the fascinating kitchen and Cromwell's study.
And - it is meant to be haunted...wooooo!
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 Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew has its roots in Anglo-Saxon times. The first abbey was established at Peterborough (originally called Medeshamstede) in 655 AD and largely destroyed by Viking raiders in 870. In the mid 10th century a Benedictine Abbey was created from what remained. Some buildings were destroyed in Hereward the Wake's resistance to the Norman Conquest in 1069, but the church survived until an accidental fire swept through it in 1116. The present building was begun in 1118, consecrated in 1238 and the structure of the building remains essentially as it was on completion. Most significantly the original wooden ceiling survives in the nave, the only one of its type in this country and one of only four wooden ceilings of this period surviving in the whole of Europe, having been completed between 1230 and 1250. There is some fine 16th century fan vaulting at the east end of the church. Peterborough grew to be a wealthy monastic house, with 120 monks just before it was dissolved in 1539. However, the abbey church survived as Peterborough Cathedral. Parliamentary troops caused damage to glass and monuments during the Civil War. Two queens were buried in the Cathedral, Katherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots: however, in 1612, James I/VI had his mother re-buried in Westminster and her grave is now empty.
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.
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.
The Round Church, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Cambridge is one of only four round churches in Britain. Influenced by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Cambridge's round church was built in c1130 and is heavily Norman in style - though has been added to and restored at various times - particularly in the later medieval and Victorian periods. It hasn't been used as a parish church since 1994 and is now a study and visitor centre, with an exhibition about the story of Cambridge. The interior architecture of the round church is lovely - and there are some striking stained glass windows.
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.
Preserved cold war bunker designed to help continue some semblance of government following nuclear attack. Also known as 'the secret nuclear bunker'. Not recommended.
Known as 'Greensted Log Church', or simply, 'Log Church', this is reputedly the oldest surviving wooden church in the world, constructed c1060 using split oak logs. It is believed that an earlier church stood on the same site. The church is also famous as a resting place for the body of St Edmund, on its way from London to be finally interred in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in 1013.
When visiting, bear in mind this is not just a historic building of considerable interest, but also a fully functioning place of worship.