Sunday, 29 June 2014

Queens' (Not Queen's) College

They get very sniffy about that apostrophe so I'd better get it right.

Queens' College, unlike neighbouring King's, does not announce itself to the casual visitor. King's strides grandly and majestically along King's Parade and has the wonderful Chapel which, with both its size and magnificence, dominates the scene. Queens' College, in contrast, hides away demurely in a side street. You enter through what appears to be just a hole in a drab and grimy wall, though once inside you turn to see that you've actually come in through a mighty gatehouse.

The street outside is so narrow and cramped that you are scarcely able to see the whole building. The college was founded in 1448 by Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, as The Queen's College of St Margaret and St Bernard to "laude and honneurre of sexe feminine". Then in 1475 the college was re-founded by Elizabeth, the Queen of Edward IV. So the college was founded by two queens, hence that apostrophe after the "s".

The Old Court, which you see as you first enter is little changed since it was built when the college was founded. As you make your way through the archway into Cloister Court you are able to see into the Old Hall.

How very different from the canteen where I ate my sausage and chips when I was a student! Originally the Hall was rather plain but was re-decorated in the mid-19th century in the Arts and Crafts style. 

Then you're in Cloister Court itself. If Queens' lacks the grandeur and extravagance of some other colleges then it more than makes up for it with the quirky charm exhibited here:

From Cloister Court you can sneak through the corner into Walnut Tree Court....

....along one side of which stands the New Chapel (by "New" we mean 1891) which was designed, like the re-decorations which we saw in the Hall, by George Bodley. Avid readers of this blog, if any such there be, might remember Mr Bodley from a post about All Saints' Church; well, here's some more of his work....

There was preparation going on for some kind of end of college-year event so I didn't investigate further, but made my way around to where there was a more relaxed feel to proceedings in the Fellows' Garden....

....I say, old boy, are you sure those are Fellows? They look like "the sexe feminine" to me.

I wandered back into Cloister Court to cross the river by The Wooden Bridge, or the Mathematical Bridge as it's more often, but incorrectly, known.

I've shown you this before but to save the muscles of your clicking-finger here's what I said then:

"If you've been to Cambridge you've probably seen this queer-looking bridge. It's the kind of structure that seems to inspire stories. The college authorities refer to it as "The Wooden Bridge" but everyone else calls it the "Mathematical Bridge". Some say it was designed by Isaac Newton but in fact it was the work of an undergraduate named W. Etheridge in 1749. Disappointing but true. Then you may hear that it was originally held together without the need for nails or bolts. That may be true but wooden dowels were probably used instead. The last tale, and the one I really wish was true, is that the iron bolts were put in because inebriated students returning after a night in the local alehouses could not resist the temptation to dismantle the bridge. Then of course, in the cold light of day, they found it was much harder to put back together again. But sadly there's no evidence for that story either."

Over on this side of The Cam the college has added some more modern buildings, built in the 1970s and 80s; not bad for their day, but not in keeping with our present post. So lets just take a wordless wander back the way we came...

Take care.


  1. Exquisite photographs John. What gorgeous decorative work and architecture lies behind that rather nondescript doorway.

  2. Thanks for the grand tour of Queens' college. What a fabulous place and you captured it quite well. I do have to laugh with you about getting the name correct as there is a similar situation in the States with Johns Hopkins University... not John Hopkins as I have often it called.

  3. I'm glad the queens were looking out for the interests of the "sexe feminine". A very pretty place. Is it maybe co-ed now?

  4. Never heard of "refounded" before. A slick way to be remembered. Interesting post.

  5. a lovely tour of Queens' college--missed that one on my visit--landscaping is beautiful and amongst the old buildings makes for a fairy tale beauty

  6. Excellent, John. Enjoyed the tour and the history lesson. Jim

  7. There's something serious about the grounds and buildings that make me want to read more classic books or learn a classical language.

  8. If not for the marvelous Old Hall and the chapel, I was preparing to say that Queens' College is almost demure. (That might have set the ladies among your visitors upon me!)

  9. ...those apostrophes sure do my head in John. I used to think that Queen's meant Queens own almost, or bird's ..that particular bird's own thing. That is getting a little confusing for you I guess. I think I'm just going to start forgetting about apostrophes now you made mention of it.

    Oh gosh and then you make mention of the King's Parade!!

    So is this just the Queens' English, or the Queen's (own) English?

    By the way, as always, enjoyed your photos; when you quote dates like 1448 it is astonishing. Nice to see people out and about enjoying the weather.

  10. I wish, I wish . . . if I could magically be transported into your post, I could experience Cambridge in June and sniff at the peonies in Queens' College gardens. You write so well and bring it to life to life with your words. What a pity I am no longer up to flying or real travel either. You are one of the special bloggers I would dearly like to meet.
    Thank you for your insightful comment on my last post.

  11. Queens' College has many very beautiful arches which makes it fabulous in my book John.

  12. P.s. The info on the wooden bridge was tres interesting as was the bridge itself..

  13. Have enjoyed catching up on posts missed. Loved all the green & the b&w poem to summer & of course the little history of Harley Davidson.....& so interesting learning about Queens college....thanks for the tour....


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