Medieval manuscripts go online in digitisation project

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Trinity Hall has begun the exciting task of digitising some of its most important and beautiful medieval manuscripts.  This is part of the Library’s commitment to the preservation of these manuscripts, and to sharing them with anyone who would like to do research on them.

The first five selected manuscripts were given to the College by Robert Hare (d. 1611) and date from the 12th to the 15th century. They were obtained from the monasteries dissolved by Henry VIII.

Digitised manuscripts

Ms 1. History of St Augustine’s abbey. Thomas of Elmham’s (1364-c1427) history of St Augustine’s Abbey contains elaborate chronological tables and facsimiles of many lost Anglo-Saxon charters. It contains two magnificent full page illustrations

Ms 2. Ralph of Flavigny on Leviticus. This is one of the earliest copies of an important commentary on Leviticus. It contains illuminations by the artist known as the ‘Simon Master’.

Ms 3. Doctrinale ecclesie contra blasfemias Wiclef. This manuscript contains a letter from Thomas Netter of Walden (c. 1374-1430) to Pope Martin V, and his Doctrinale antiquitatum fidei, a work against the heresies of John Wycliffe.

Ms 12. De consolatione philosophiae. This early French translation of Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy is full of lively coloured illustrations. There is an interesting mix of religious and secular depictions of suffering.

MS 17. Contra Lollardorum. There are only three copies of Twelve Lollard Heresies in known existence. The Trinity Hall copy is the presentation copy made for Richard II in 1395 and has beautiful illuminations.

We are grateful to the generosity of alumni who paid for the digitisation, and for the advice and expertise of Professor Nigel Morgan and the staff at Cambridge University Library’s Digital Content Unit. We hope that many of our most important medieval manuscripts and early printed books will be added to the Cambridge Digital Library on an ongoing basis.

 

 

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Hidden Histories in the College Archives – A new Master’s Lodge for the Hidden Hall

One of the big tasks over this summer in the College archives has been to sort and catalogue a collection of late 19th century to early 21st century building plans that had been transferred to the College archives from the Bursar’s office and Maintenance departments. Among this collection I came across a set of architects’ plans from 1970 for a new Master’s Lodge, comprising a semi-subterranean construction with a grass roof, set in the Fellows’ Garden.  This radical design would have completely changed the College’s physical environment, and I was keen to find out more about the background to the plans.

Masters Lodge Clean

THAR/4/1/5/9 Building plan for a new Master’s Lodge, Gasson and Meunier Architects, 1970

In The Hidden Hall: Portrait of a Cambridge College (2004) John Pollard wrote about building projects that were never implemented, one of which was a set of plans for a new Master’s Lodge and library commissioned in 1970 from Cambridge architects Barry Gasson and John Meunier. The building would straddle, or partially replace, the long wall between the Fellows’ Garden and Latham Lawn. It seemed that this second set of plans I had found for a semi-subterranean lodge was created by the same architects, as an alternative to those discovered by Dr Pollard.

So, what was the story behind these plans? A study of the Governing Body minutes from 1969 and 1970 reveals heated discussions about the development of the central site to meet the changing needs of the College. The undergraduate library was housed it what is now the Graham Storey Room, and a solution was required for its expansion, with the idea that building a new Master’s Lodge in the College grounds would allow for the current lodge to be refurbished as fellows’ accommodation. On the appropriateness of the architects’ designs, the minutes record that Graham Storey quoted Professor Pevsner’s verdict in support of the claim that “any building of any kind involving the destruction of the medieval crunch [sic] wall, the copper beech and the herbaceous border was an inadmissible sacrifice that no need could justify”, and the decision to abandon the project altogether was passed by 20 votes to 4, with 4 abstentions.

No mention is made in the minutes, however, of these alternative plans in the Fellows’ Garden from the same architects, the impact of which would have been quite different. The construction would involve a gradual incline on the area equivalent to the current lawn, and turfed so that it could be walked on. The view from the gate in Latham Court onto the garden would hardly change, although one would be aware of a wall rising along the north side of the incline, and the lawn itself gradually rising in height until it met that of the long wall near to the river. The herbaceous borders on the long wall between the garden and Latham Lawn and current Master’s Lodge frontage would remain, with further planting incorporated into borders on the inclined lawn.

Although the Lodge is single storey and compact, the drawings demonstrate modern architecture in its simplest and most elegant form. Barry Gasson and John Meunier operated from the Department of Architecture at 1 Scroope Terrace, where they were teaching at the time. Later on they became best known for their outstanding design for the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, built in 1983 with Brigitte Andreson as the third partner in the practice. Architectural historian Gavin Stamp described the building in The Independent, 22 November 1998, as “a truly innovative but undemonstrative building widely and rightly praised for the beauty and sensitivity of its housing of Sir William Burrell’s collection of art and antiquities”.

Seeing the proposed Master’s Lodge plans in the College archives has left me with a strong image of what might have been an extraordinary and exciting ‘intervention’ in the College landscape, that worked with rather than against the College’s other buildings, leaving the tranquillity of the gardens undisturbed.

The building plan collections are now available for study in the archive, and interested researchers can access the catalogue on Janus, the online search facility for all the University’s archives.

Anna Crutchley

College Archivist (Maternity Cover 2018)

Matriculation photographs: Reflections of Change

This is a guest post by Lucy Holland

If one were to visit the home of any Cambridge student or alumni, it is almost certain that hung proudly on a wall is their matriculation photograph. The tradition of taking a photograph to mark the day of matriculation dates back to late 1800s, when photography was emerging as a more accessible and popular medium. Since then, every college has adopted the practice as a way of recording their new intake of students.

At Trinity Hall the archive houses a complete collection of undergraduate matriculation photographs for every year since 1869. This summer I have been undertaking a digitisation project to index the entire collection. My focus has been on inputting the names of all students present in each photograph into the central University archive database Janus. This will make it possible for researchers, alumni or their relatives to more easily locate individuals in the photographs. Along the way the project has resulted in some unexpected surprises, as well as provided a chance to reflect on the changes Trinity Hall has undergone over the last 150 years.

What is Matriculation?

Matriculation, derived from the Latin word ‘matricula’ meaning ‘register’, is the process which marks the formal admission of a student into the University body.[1] Our earliest record of the process at Cambridge University survives from 1544 in the form of matriculation registers compiled by the university central clerk. It was only from 1724 that students had to sign their own name in the register.[2] Fundamentally the process remains unchanged, with incoming students to this day signing a declaration form. However, now part of the tradition is for students to have a large group photograph with their peers.

A Timeless Tradition

Like any Cambridge tradition, there are many aspects of matriculation photography that has remained the same. The very earliest matriculation photograph, dated to 1869, is believed to be one of the first taken of a Cambridge undergraduate cohort.

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The matriculation photograph from 1869 is the oldest in Trinity Hall’s archive, and likely one of the earliest taken in Cambridge. Note the inclusion of future master Henry Latham third from the left, one of the few photos taken of him.

It features a small group of men dressed with their best hats and canes – noticeably without gowns – casually arranged on chairs on Latham Lawn. Despite its age, it remains as recognisable as a matriculation photograph as those taken presently. The reasons for this are two-fold.

Firstly, the decoration and design of the paperboard mount used to display matriculation photographs remains almost entirely unchanged. The mount which houses the photograph for the 1869 admission of undergraduates features hand painted crests for Trinity Hall and university at the top, together with the college’s name, the year and the type of cohort handwritten in calligraphy. Below the photograph is a list of names of individuals as appear in the photograph, again handwritten. While today the mounts are printed, the style is exactly replicated down to the style of calligraphy and placement of the crests.

Secondly, with these photographs taken within college grounds the setting is always a recognisable corner of the college. There is no portion of Trinity Hall which has not over the years served as the backdrop for a matriculation photograph. Front Court, Latham Lawn, the Master’s Lodge, the Gatehouse Building, the Old Library, and the Latham building in particular have all featured at some point. It is uncertain who made the decision of where to locate the photograph, but it is a testament to the timeless beauty of Trinity Hall that so many of its buildings have set the scene for these commemorative photographs.

Reflections of Change

Cataloguing this wide range of photographs has also brought to light many of the changes that Trinity Hall has undergone throughout the past 150 years.

Most noticeably, these photographs can reveal trends in undergraduate numbers. The average number of students admitted in the 1860s was 50, rising to 67 by the 1890s. This was supplemented under Henry Latham’s mastership (1888-1902) by an increase in the number of students from overseas, including students from New Zealand, Australia Japan, and India.[3] Undergraduate numbers remained more or less the same until the war years of 1914-1918, when the college became almost entirely empty of students. In the immediate years that followed, when over 250 ex-servicemen and new undergraduates arrived at Trinity Hall, changes to college life were acutely felt and can be traced through the matriculation photographs. In the 1919 matriculation photograph a group of students can be seen wearing their military dress, including famous alumni and novelist and playwright J.B Priestley.

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Taken in the Fellow’s Garden in May 1919, this photograph shows all the first year men who had arrived to Trinity Hall the previous October.

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This photograph features all the men who returned to Trinity Hall following the end of World War I. Novelist and playwright J.B. Priestley is amongst this cohort.

Between 1920-39 cohort sizes increased as Trinity Hall underwent expansion of student numbers to an average of 87 students. The majority of these students were to read arts subjects such as Law and English, though there was a slight increase in the uptake of Natural Sciences.[4] It also became mandatory from the late 1920s for gowns to be worn in the matriculation photograph, and have remained a familiar fixture to this day.

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The 1935 matriculation photograph is one of the first where undergraduates are wearing gowns, a tradition which continues to this day.

From the 1950s, student numbers continued to increase, averaging around one hundred students. A trend also emerged at this time for students to hold an identifying card with their number on it, ensuring that they could be easily identified on the list of names. The system was later changed in the 1980s to arranging students alphabetically.

The 1970s is perhaps the most significant decade of change for the matriculation photograph. It became tradition during this time for the Master, and later the Senior Tutor, to participate by sitting front and centre amongst the students. But perhaps most monumental is the 1977 photograph which is the first to feature women, this being the year when the first cohort of female undergraduates were admitted to Trinity Hall.

It is being able to chart changes such as these, that has made this digitisation project so rewarding and also incredibly valuable. Each of the college’s matriculation photographs is a vibrant and unique historical artefact that has much to tell us about life at Trinity Hall.

[1] K. Taylor, Central Cambridge: A Guide to the University and Colleges (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 106.

[2] H.E. Peek and C.P Hall, Archives of The University of Cambridge (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp.30-31.

[3] C. Crawley, Trinity Hall: The History of a Cambridge College, 1350-1975 (Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 180.

[4] C. Crawley, Trinity Hall: The History of a Cambridge College, 1350-1975 (Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 211.

Our copy of Novellae Constitutiones featured on World’s Rarest books blog

IMG_0652_inside pagesTrinity Hall’s Old Library is one of the partners of Preserving the World’s Rarest Books. The blog for the project features our copy of a Greek text Novellae Constitutiones which was printed by Charlotte Guillard, one of the few women printers of the sixteenth century to work under her own name. You can read more on its fascinating history here.

 

 

John Cowell, Master of Trinity Hall and his seditious dictionary

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Title page of The Interpreter

 

The Old Library at Trinity Hall is home to many law texts including an unprepossessing book written by John Cowell. It is known as The Interpreter (1607); or to give it its pithy title, The interpreter: Or Booke containing the signification of words : Wherein is set foorth the true meaning of all, or the most part of such words and termes, as are mentioned in the lawe vvriters, or statutes of this victorious and renowned kingdome, requiring any exposition or interpretation. A worke not onely profitable, but necessary for such as desire throughly to be instructed in the knowledge of our lawes, statutes, or other antiquities (Yes I’ll stick to The Interpreter). It was one of the first English law dictionaries, so while you may think this would be an safely dull publication, it was to cause a scandal which would lead to the book’s suppression and public burning, and almost earnt the author the death penalty.

John Cowell was born in Landkey, Devon in 1552. He was educated at Eton on a scholarship, before going up to King’s College, Cambridge in 1570, aged 18. He was a Fellow of King’s from 1573 until 1595, and was appointed to the Regius Professorship of Civil Law in 1594. Two years later he became Master of Trinity Hall – a post he was to hold until his death in 1611. He was also vice-chancellor of Cambridge University between 1603 and 1604. The pinnacle of his career came in 1608 when the Archbishop of Canterbury Richard Bancroft, who was his friend and mentor, made him his vicar-general. This important position meant that he was judge of the ecclesiastic court.

Cowell’s dedication to Bancroft

Now on to the main story. The Interpreter was published in 1607 by university printer, John Legate (he rented a shop at the west end of Great St Mary’s Church), and it was dedicated to Bancroft.

As it says in Cowell’s preface, the book was intended as an academic work for the ‘advancement of knowledge’, and was unlikely to have been written with any political motivation. In fact, any controversy appeared to go unnoticed for more than two years.

Cowell’s definition of ‘prerogative’

The thing that landed Cowell in hot water was a handful of definitions contained in his dictionary, in particular ‘King’, ‘Parliament,’ ‘Prerogative’, ‘Recoveries’, and ‘Subsidies’.

So why were these so controversial? Cowell’s definitions appeared to support the idea of an absolute monarchy, which was above the law. This was controversial in a difficult political climate where the Crown and Parliament were vying for power. When the parliament met on 24 February 1609 James I’s attention was drawn towards The Interpreter. Sir Edwin Sandys described the book as “very ill-advised and indiscreet, tending to the disreputaton of the House, and the power of the common laws”. A committee was then formed later that month to consider the book and report to the House of Lords.

The Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke was one of a group of lawyers on this committee who attacked Cowell’s book. Coke perhaps felt some hostility or jealousy towards Cowell and disparagingly referred to him in letters as ‘Cow-heel’. The background to his antagonism was complex, but was rooted in Cowell’s criticism of Thomas Littleton’s scholarship, whom Coke greatly admired and had based his own work. It was also a battle between the common law courts and civil law courts, with Coke and Cowell on opposing sides.

The Interpreter was investigated and it looked for a time that Cowell would be executed. The indictment read:

Dr. Cowell, Professor of the Civil Law at Cambridge, writ a book called The Interpreter, rashly, dangerously and perniciously asserting certain heads to the overthrow and destruction of Parliaments, and the fundamental laws and government of the Kingdom.

There was much discussion of the book and of Cowell’s punishment in the Commons and Lords. While they debated the matter, James I asked Cowell to explain himself.   The King then stepped in to denounce the book with a Royal proclamation. This in effect, took the matter out of the hands of parliament.

The proclamation order read:

When Men goe out of their Element, and meddle with Things above their Capacitie, themselves shall not onely goe astray and stumble in Darknesse, but will mislead also divers others with themselves into many Mistakings and Errours.. the Proofe whereof wee have lately had by a Booke written by Docteur Cowell.. by medling in Matters above his reach, he hath fallen in many Things to mistake and deceive himselfe.. in some Poynts very derogatory to the supreme Power of this Crowne; In other Cases mistaking the true State of the Parliament of this Kingdome.

People were prohibited from buying or reading The Interpreter and Cowell’s book is said to have been publicly burnt by the hangman on 26 March 1610. It was one of only around fifteen books that were consigned to the flames during the whole of the 59 year reign of James I.

Cowell was imprisoned for a while, but the case against him was soon dropped. James I apparently let it be known that Cowell was not to be prosecuted or harmed. He resigned his professorship on 25 May 1610 and died on 11 October 1611. He was buried in Trinity Hall Chapel and left bequests in his Will to Trinity Hall, King’s College, and to Cambridge University. These included his books and manuscripts which are held in the Old Library (possibly even his own copy of The Interpreter!).

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Plaque commemorating Cowell in Trinity Hall Chapel

This was not the end of the story for Cowell’s dictionary. Many copies have survived and it was reissued in unexpurgated form 27 years later, in 1658. Fresh editions were also published in the 17th century.

Further reading

Boucher, Harold, King James’s suppression of The Interpreter and denouncement of Dr. Cowell (Harold I. Boucher, 1998).

Chrimes, S. B., ‘The Constitutional Ideas of Dr. John Cowell.’ The English Historical Review, vol. 64, no. 253, (1949): 461–487. JSTOR , www.jstor.org/stable/556038

Hessayon, A., ‘Incendiary texts: book burning in England, c.1640 – c.1660′, Cromohs, 12 (2007): 1-25.
http://www.cromohs.unifi.it/12_2007/hessayon_incendtexts.html

Levack, Brian P., ‘Cowell, John (1554–1611), civil lawyer.’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (2004). Oxford University Press. Accessed 16 May 2018 at: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-6490

Simon, J., ‘Dr. Cowell’. The Cambridge Law Journal, vol. 26, no. 2 (1968): 260-272. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0008197300088528

Wright, Nancy E., ‘John Cowell and the Interpreter: Law, Authority, and Attribution in Seventeenth-Century England,’ Australian Journal of Legal History vol. 1, no. 1 (1995): 11-36. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/ausleghis1&div=7&id=&page=

The Old Library at Trinity Hall: donors and former owners

Similar to other college libraries in Cambridge and Oxford, the Old Library at Trinity Hall was founded and grew throughout centuries thanks to the continuous generosity of the College’s Masters and Fellows, alumni and sometimes private benefactors.

The Library was founded in the 14th century by Bishop William Bateman who donated a number of books to be housed and chained in a “safe room” so that “all the scholars of the College may have common access to them” (De libris collegii, II, 432).  During the next two hundred years, the holdings grew steadily through donations and bequests, and by the end of the 16th century, the College built a new library to accommodate the expanding collections.  It is possible that the decision was prompted by the receipt of a large bequest of legal books from the former Master William Mowse who, in his will dated 1588, left approximately 225 legal works to Trinity Hall.

 

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William Mowse’s signature

 

William Mowse was a civil lawyer and a scholar educated at Trinity Hall (LLB, 1538; LLD, 1552) who became Master of the College in October 1522. Upon Queen Mary’s accession to the throne, Mowse was removed from his position, only to be reinstated in November 1555, for a second term that lasted for about four years. After resigning from the Trinity Hall mastership, Mowse was appointed vicar-general to the Archbishop of Canterbury and judge of the court of audience.  Despite leaving the College, he maintained a strong connection to Trinity Hall and left his substantial collection of legal works (mostly 16th-century titles from continental presses) to the College Library.

A second major donation came from outside Trinity Hall. Robert Hare was a politician and an antiquary from London who began collecting rare books and manuscripts after his retirement from public life as an MP in 1571. Although a former student of Gonville Hall and of the Inner Courts in London, Hare had family connections to Trinity Hall and shared a long-term friendship with the Master William Mowse. Hare gave the Library approximately 50 early printed books (among them, some rare incunabula) and 11 manuscripts, which are still esteemed today as some of the Library’s most treasured possessions.

 

Nuremberg Chronicle

Hand-coloured copy of the “Liber chronicarum” (also known as “The Nuremberg Chronicle”) donated to TH by Robert Hare

 

The 17th and 18th centuries saw an increase in the number of contributions to the Library, either directly in the form of books or indirectly, through the provision of funds for their purchase. One large donation was that of Dr. Thomas Eden, civil lawyer, academic, politician and Master of Trinity Hall between 1626 and 1645. Eden gave approximately 110 legal works to the Library, including a manuscript of his own work, Commentarius in titulum De Regulis Iuris, containing his lecture notes in Latin.

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Inscriptions of Thomas Eden, Master of  Trinity Hall (1626-1645)

 

Throughout the years, the library holdings were augmented through occasional gifts of one, two or three volumes from various Masters, Fellows and students of the College. Some of these early benefactors included: Edmund Mundford (1546–1644), Fellow of Trinity Hall, James Hobart (1524-1615), Esq. of Hales-Hall, Norfolk, Sir John Hobart (1567-1613), a Trinity Hall graduate and member of the first Jacobean Parliament and Thomas Hughes (1640-1738), Fellow of the College between 1672 and 1678.

Also on the donors’ list were some well-known names such as: John Cowell (1552-1611), Master of Trinity Hall and Regius Professor of Civil Law and Thomas Pepys (1621-1665), physician, Fellow of Trinity Hall and cousin of the famous diarist Samuel Pepys. Thomas Pepys gave four books on medicine to the Library, one of which (a volume of medical prescriptions) carries his extensive manuscript notes and annotations, written on the margins of the pages or on the extra blank leaves inserted throughout the volume.

 

Thomas Pepys


Thomas Pepys’ working copy of “Formulae remediorum” with blank leaves inserted for his annotations

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Thomas Pepy’s signature

Although the exact provenance of all the books in the Old Library is not always known, some former owners can be identified based on the autographs, inscriptions, stamps or bookplates they left in their tomes. A good example of a volume with a fascinating ownership history is the work of customary law entitled Commentaires du droict civil tant public que privé, observé au pays & duché de Normandie, printed in Paris in 1574 by Jacques du Puys. The autographs and annotations in the book suggest that it was successively owned by several generations of jurats on the island of Guernsey and used extensively as a reference tool for their legal work. The volume was eventually donated to Trinity Hall in 1937, by Victor Michael Graham de Vic Carey (1900-1964), a former student of the College (B.A. 1922) and an advocate of the Guernsey Royal Court.

Previous ownership can sometimes be established through an examination of the book bindings. For example, a 16th century volume from the Old Library containing Justinian’s Constitutions, printed in Greek in 1542 is bound in dark calf with the initials “E C” stamped in the centre of the covers. According to the book historian David Pearson (Pearson, p. 119), the initials “E C” can be associated with the English barrister and judge Edward Coke (1552-1634) who is widely considered the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.

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Binding with the initials “E C” (i.e. Edward Coke)

Another book from the Old Library collections with a famous previous owner is Apian’s History of Rome printed in Paris in 1551, and bound in calf with the arms of Cardinal Jules Mazarin gold-stamped on the covers. Well-known as the statesman and politician who served as the Chief Minister to the Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV of France, Mazarin was also a noted collector of art, jewels and books. His personal library of more than 40,000 volumes was in the mid 17th-century the largest collection in Europe and, although it was looted and almost entirely destroyed during an outbreak of La Fronde, it survived and eventually served as the foundation of the Mazarin Library extant in Paris today.

The cataloguing project of the Old Library’s collections has made the names of all the donors, benefactors and former owners of books at Trinity Hall available on-line, alongside other important bibliographic information describing the volumes currently housed in the Library. The names of the benefactors are here to remind us of the importance of philanthropic support and generous donations to the Library and the College at large.

 

References:

Hinton, Lavinia. Trinity Hall. The story of the Library. University Press, Cambridge, 2000.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed Nov. 20, 2017.

Pearson, David. Provenance research in book history. London, British Library, 1994.

Commiss. Docts. (Cambridge). De libris Collegii, II. 432.

Bedders and Butlers: Female servants and staff at Trinity Hall

Bedders and Butlers: Female servants and staff at Trinity Hall

As part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to College, the Archive put on an exhibition examining the history of women and their relationship with Trinity Hall since it’s foundation until now. Since few people were able to see the exhibition in all its glory, I’ve been disseminating sections of it for a wider audience. The recent article for Front Court from the Archive focused on female tradespeople and merchants; here we will be looking at what went on below the staircases in the world of female servants and staff.

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Trinity Hall Staff, c.1930s. THPH/3/1930

The Laundress or Launderer was one of the original servant positions, dating back to the medieval foundations of the colleges. Traditionally, all servants of the medieval colleges were male, except for the laundress. Male launderers were hard to come by, so the position was often filled by a woman. However, certain safeguards were put in place to minimise contact between the laundress and the fellows, who were required to remain celibate. Most colleges required the laundress to live in town and be handed the linen at the college gates.  Some colleges, such as King’s College, went even further and stipulated in their statutes that only elderly or unattractive women could be hired as the laundress. The laundress was generally amongst the highest paid of college servants, but this was most likely to cover their living expenses in town, because female servants were not allowed to live in College like the male servants. The Trinity Hall foundation statutes made no provision for a laundress, but there was certainly a laundress working for the College by the 17th century.

The other positions traditionally held by women in colleges were bedmakers and cleaners. It is unclear precisely when the College began hiring female cleaners and bedmakers, but the account books that have survived demonstrate the College was regularly employing women to clean the Hall and other rooms around College, polish the silver, and perform various other duties around College by at least the 18th century. From the trial papers of Philip Nichols, it also appears there were female bedmakers by the mid 18th century. Philip Nichols was a fellow at Trinity Hall from 1723-30 who was caught stealing books from several libraries around Cambridge, including St John’s and the University Library. His bedmaker, Elizabeth Richardson, testified that she witnessed him leaving his room with a large bag and return with it full under his gown.

Nicholls bedmaker crop

Elizabeth Richardson’s testimony against Philip Nicholls, 1731. THGB/4/1/8/3

By at least the mid 19th century, staircases were being worked on by husband and wife teams of gyps and bedmakers. The wives cleaned the rooms and the gyps were the students’ and fellows’ personal servants. Gyps brought the students’ morning teas to their rooms and did everything for them except clean their shoes. There was a bootman for that. In 1950, bedmakers and cleaners in College made a shilling and ninepence per hour, and the minimum wage for women was set to £1 less per week compared to their male counterparts, who made £4.15 (or £4 per week if lunch was provided). One pound less per week does not sound like much money, but £1 in 1950 is the equivalent of about £23 today.

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Steward’s Order Book detailing the responsibilities of bedmakers, 1843-50. THAR/5/4/3

The first kitchen manageress was Mrs Leggett from 1920 to 1934. When Mrs Leggett was the manageress she enjoyed a high status in the kitchen, having her own waiter, crockery, and wine in the cellars. One of the main duties of the kitchen manageress was to entertain fellows’ wives and entertain parents when they came up. The manageress was also responsible for the menus, bookings, and purchasing of goods for the kitchens. During wartime, she was also responsible for rationing. According to Don Tarrant, College Butler from 1925 to 1973, Mrs Leggett was a fearsome woman, who even told fellows what to do. Mrs Leggett was succeeded as manageress by Miss Wain (1934-45) and Miss Mackenzie (1945-53). According to the Report on the Sub-Committee of Stewards and Bursars on the wages of College servants, the Kitchen Manager/ Manageress was one of the best paid servant positions in College.

Sara Rhodes holds the distinction of not only being Trinity Hall’s first female Butler but also being the first in Cambridge. She first started working for the College in 1986 as a part-time waitress, helping out with evening meals. She left for a time, but came back in 1997, when she was appointed as College Butler, and she has been here ever since. Kim Brown became the first female porter in 2003 and is also still working for the College. Today there are women working in nearly every department of the College, and they make up just over half of the workforce at Trinity Hall.

References

Cobban, Alan. English University Life in the Middle Ages (London: UCL Press, 1999).

Duckenfield, Bridget. College Cloisters- Married Bachelors (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).

Trinity Hall Staff Recollections: 1925-2002 (Cambridge: University Printing Services, 2002).