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Magdalene College


MAGDALENE COLLEGE is a very attractive college located in the centre of Cambridge beside the bridge on the River Cam.

On the suppression of the monasteries "Monks Hostel" passed to the crown as part of the possessions of Croyland Abbey, but was soon afterwards re-founded as "St Mary Magdalen" College by Thomas, Lord Audley, Chancellor of England, who obtained a grant and letters patent from Henry VIII. in 1542.

The name of this College, as frequently pronounced Maudlin, is by some supposed to be traceable to the surname of the founder ("M-Audley-n"); but it is more likely a corruption from "Magdalene," as in the case of the college of the same name at Oxford.

Subsequently the ground on the north of the College, bounded by Bridge Street and Chesterton Road, was obtained by purchase and bequest.

Part of the College was erected by the Duke of Norfolk, who shared the fate of the other Dukes concerned in the building by dying on the scaffold (1572), and part by Sir Christopher Wray, Lord Chief Justice of England; but the structure has been so disguised by cement that it is impossible to determine the ages of its several parts.

The exterior of the College was greatly improved in the late 19th century under the direction of Mr. Penrose; and the houses between it and the river having been cleared away, and the space laid out as a garden, it presents an open and picturesque south front of brick, with stone facings.

New buildings, designed by Penrose were erected on part of this site. The western side, next the street, was also re-faced, after its old style, in 1880. The front of the court was, and the interior still is, covered with cement. Over the gateway, on the inner side, are the Neville Arms, with the motto ne vile velis."

The Hall, opposite the entrance, was built by Edward Stafford, last Duke of Buckingham, who had the same fate as his father Henry, being beheaded in 1521. It was re-wainscotted and celled in 1714; and the flight of stairs on either side of the south end, leading to the Combination Room, was then made.

The royal arms, flanked by those of Lord Audley and other benefactors, are over the dais: and beneath them are portraits of Thomas Audley (1542), a copy of that at Audley End by Holbein, of Sir Christopher Wray (1587), who built part of the court, and of Edward Stafford. Among other portraits in the college is one of Pepys, by Sir Peter Lely, and another of Charles Kingsley by L. Dickinson.

The Chapel on the north side of the court was built not later than 1483. A complete restoration was carried out between 1847 and 1851 ; the old oak roof was opened out, the stalls and other fittings made to correspond with it, and the east window was filled with stained glass by Hardman. The rooms on the west of the chapel, which formed the drawing room and dining room of the master's lodge, are now the Library. Previously the books were in a room & over the chapel.

The Lodge also extended northward into a small building, which has been converted into rooms, and which is approached from the street by an old doorway, formerly an entrance to the lodge. This building was cut off from the court when the carriage way to the new lodge was made. The new lodge of brick, in plain Elizabethan style, was built, in 1835, in the grounds of the College.

The handsome stone building beyond the hall, the date of which is about 1700, contains the Bibliotheca Pepysiana. Samuel Pepys, who was a scholar of this College and had a warm affection for it, bequeathed to it, in 1703, his library, containing his famous diary and other curious manuscripts, including copies of Henry VIII.'s love letters to Anne Boleyn, also Sir Francis Drake's "Pocket Tables," with his autograph, and printed books by Caxton, etc.

The diary is in shorthand and attracted the attention of a former master of the College, whose uncle, Lord Grenville, furnished the key. The inscription, "Mens cujusque is est quisque " (briefly, in English, "The mind's the man"), the motto of Pepys, together with his arms, with the date 1724, are to be seen on the west front of the building.

The date denotes the period of the acquisition of the library. Pepys desired that his library should occupy a "faire room, wholly and solely appropriated to it and no other book mixt therein." When it first came it was in a large room lighted by five windows in front. It is now in a room at the back of this building. Most of the books are in the little carved oak bookcases in which he placed them.

On the north side of the College garden is a terrace, which was part of the southern rampart of the Roman town. Cranmer was a reader at this College when living with his wife at the Dolphin Inn. Archbishop Henry Ussher was a member of the College, and Archbishop Grindal was for a short time at Buckingham College.

Famous alumni include Samuel Pepys, Bamber Gascoigne and C. S. Lewis.

Website: Magdalene College



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