The Affable Society of Bears

The Affable Society of Bears

Affable bears 1

Today we will be looking at a very intriguing set of documents found in College by a member of staff in 2017. The documents in question are a set of cartoons from the late 1920s depicting a society referred to as the Affable Bears. The Affable Bears were not an official society of the College; instead the cartoons appear to chronicle the activities of a group of friends. The members are depicted as bears and chose pseudonyms upon joining the society, so it is impossible to discover the identities of the members.

Fortunately, a couple of the drawings provide crucial information about the society. Members were selected to join the society through invitation. Once someone accepted the invitation, they chose a name and were formally inducted into the society. The members drew their names and inspiration from popular culture. The five named members were Algernon, Baloo, Sylvie, Bruno, and Mr. Edward. Algernon was most likely named after the character from The Importance of Being Earnest, first performed in 1895; Baloo from The Jungle Book, published in 1894; Sylvie and Bruno from the story by the same name by Lewis Carroll, published in 1889, and Mr Edward Bear from the 1924 poem “Teddy Bear” by A.A. Milne. Mr Edward Bear from “Teddy Bear” is the first appearance of Winnie the Pooh, before he was renamed by 1926. Baloo was the resident artist of the group, producing most or all of the drawings, although, rather perplexingly, he is never listed as a formal member of the group. 

The Whim 1

It is stated that the purpose of the society was for the “promotion of Whimming and Roman Roadsing.” Their motto “a bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise,” is lifted directly from the first line of “Teddy Bear” by A.A. Milne. Their activities included regular trips to the Whim pub (a restaurant on the corner of Green Street that closed in the 1980s) and Matthew’s Café, dining together, dancing along the Roman Road (a 12 mile Site of Special Scientific Interest stretching from south-east Cambridge to Linton), swimming at Jesus Green Lido, and ice skating. The drawings are silly and light-hearted, in keeping with the exuberance of the roaring ‘20s.

Bears at home

It appears some of the bears lived together somewhere on Storey’s Way. Trinity Hall did own land on Storey’s Way at the time, but they must have been living in private accommodation. The college’s land on Storey’s Way only contained the cricket ground, pavilion, and groundsman’s house. Wychfield house and its grounds weren’t purchased until 1948.

Cartoons proliferated in the 1890s due to the desire for easy reading material for the masses resulting from the democratisation of education brought on by the Education Reform Act of 1870. By the turn of the century, as literacy rates increased, comics were increasingly marketed to children. Adults no longer needed easy reading material and it became shameful for adults to purchase comics. Baloo was undoubtedly influenced by the comics he enjoyed during his childhood and adolescence. It is extremely fortunate that these cartoons survived, as they provide an amusing glimpse at pastimes of Cambridge students during the interwar period.



“Exiled infamous creature:” The Case of Philip Nichols


THHR/2/4/3/81 Letter of Philip Nichols to Sir Nathaniel Lloyd, Oct 1731

On August 4th 1731, Philip Nichols was expelled from the fellowship of Trinity Hall. What was his crime, you ask? He was found guilty of stealing books not only from Trinity Hall, but also from the University Library, St John’s, and Trinity College. His treachery was discovered after the Librarian of St John’s College began to realise certain books were missing from his library.

In January 1730/1, the St John’s College Governing Body ordered the lock on their library door to be changed and entrusted one of their fellows, James Tunstall, with the task of hunting down the missing books. Tunstall enlisted William Thurlbourn, a local bookseller who also noticed there were books missing from his shop. Together they made inquiries with London booksellers, watched out for books going up for sale, and looked through past issues of the Daily Post which advertised notices of book sales. Eventually Thurlbourn found an advertisement for a sale in November 1730 of 5 books that matched books missing from St John’s. Nichols made the mistake of giving his real name to the book agent, so when Thurlbourn found the book agent, he was easily able to trace the thefts back to Nichols. On June 14th Thurlbourn confronted Nichols. At first Nichols denied stealing the books, instead saying they were given to him by someone. When Thurlbourn pressed him further, he finally confessed.

Philip Nichols was educated at the ‘other place.’ He matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford in 1715 at the age of 16 and got his MA in 1722. He was made a fellow of Trinity Hall in 1723, but he was not elected a fellow in the normal way. He was nominated by the Master, Sir Nathaniel Lloyd, who exercised the right of devolution (which was the right of the master to make someone a fellow without the approval of the fellows). After Nichols was found out, Lloyd stated in a letter that Nichols came highly recommended by Dr Irish, a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, but that “from the very minute [he] first saw him [he] said [he] did not like his look.”[1] Appointing Nichols was a decision he would bitterly regret.

Nichols keys

THGB/4/1/8/2/1: Affidavit of Samuel Hadderton, clerk, Fellow of Trinity College, and Keeper of the University Library, Aug 1731

How he stole the books

When Nichols’ room was searched, in addition to a number of books, they also found fourteen keys of various sizes, a pair of pincers, four screws, and a steel file. He used a variety of methods to obtain the books. In some cases he broke into the libraries using the aforementioned tools and in others he used keys that he had copied. One of the College’s cooks testified that Nichols would come to him asking for paste, which he then used to make impressions of the keys. In his letter of apology to the Master of St John’s, he states that he got into the St John’s library using a key he had found and entered the library under the cover of night. One of the keys found in his room did fit the old lock of the St John’s Library.

Some books weren’t even technically stolen because he had legitimately checked them out. Another one of the keys found in his room fit into the University Librarian’s desk, where the notes on borrowed books were kept. It was suggested that instead of stealing books from the University Library, Nichols had borrowed the books normally and then used his key to remove the borrowing records from the Librarian’s desk.


Why he stole the books

It would appear that Nichols had been living a dissolute life for years before he began stealing books. His profligate lifestyle was well known to his peers at Trinity Hall. Nathaniel Lloyd was ashamed of his behavior and he “long blushed for him.”[1] Lloyd gently admonished him, but Nichols lamented:

“happy had it been for [him] if [he] had then taken the right method, and had put on courage – honestly to confess [his] shame; possibly [he] might then have stopt there, and so have escaped the great load of guilt arising from the several Robberies, wch [he] afterwards most wickedly committed.”[2]

The best explanation for how he came to be in such a desperate situation comes from a letter he wrote to Dr Chetwode in October 19th 1731:

“Tis hard & to you I am sure it wd be tedious to tell by wt insensible degrees I arriv’d to such a height of villany as I did, you are no stranger to the scandalous debauch’d life I had led for some years before, indeed I had extricated my self from that affair & my debts were not so great but that I might have retrieved my self by honest means, but the silly shame of poverty it was that was the cause of my ruin, & push’d me on to all the robberies I afterward committed.”[3]

Once he was found out, he did not linger long. Instead of appearing before the Master of St John’s to beg for forgiveness and plead his case to the Governing Body of Trinity Hall, he first fled to Holland and then to another undisclosed location.

Nicols expulsion

THGB/4/1/8/4: Order of Expulsion of Philip Nichols, Aug 1731

His expulsion from college

Two days after Thurlbourn met with Nichols, the fellows of Trinity Hall and the other librarians involved gathered evidence. By the end of the day, there was little doubt of his guilt. The following day, William Warren, a fellow of the College, wrote a letter to Lloyd describing the situation. On June 22nd, the fellows issued a formal summons to Nichols to attend a meeting of the Governing Body on July 7th to make a case for himself. The citation stated they would proceed even if he did not show up. The citation was repeated two more times, with the last meeting being held on August 3rd. In the final meeting, the witnesses swore to their depositions before the Vice-Chancellor of the University and the evidence was recorded in the presence of a Notary Public. On August 4th, the official expulsion ceremony was performed.

The ceremony of expulsion was quite elaborate. All of the fellows and scholars gathered in the hall and the Master sat at the high table. The bell was tolled and the Master asked each fellow what ought to be done. They all said Nichols should be expelled. The sentence of expulsion was written in Latin and sealed with the College’s seal. Then a card, pasted on the table with Nichols’ name written on it, was to be cut off the table by the College Butler. Apparently this was quite a difficult task, and the Butler wasn’t able to remove the card from the table. Had the card been removed, it would have then been kicked out of the hall. The sentence was also put on the College gates for everyone to see. In addition, Nichols was expelled from the University and deprived of all his degrees.

Although this case was quite the scandal at the time, Trinity Hall and, arguably, the University Library benefited far more than they suffered from the incident. Nathaniel Lloyd felt so guilty about appointing Nichols that he swore to never use the right of devolution again and he gave a considerable amount of money to the College to make amends. That money was used to do substantial building work that transformed the College into what it looks like today. At the University Library, the incident spurred on much needed reform to their borrowing practices. Before, borrowers were not compelled to return their books and could keep them for years at a time. One book found in Nichols’ room had been borrowed seven years before.

Nichols did make his way back to England eventually. He moved to London and began writing for the Biographia Britannica in 1752. In 1763 he was embroiled in another controversy regarding the publication of Bishop Warburton’s letters, and he openly admitted his scandalous past. Nothing else is known about Philip Nichols, the “poor penitent thief.”

[1] Letter from Nathaniel Lloyd to Dr William Warren, June 19th 1731, THHR/2/4/3, p. 70c.

[2] Letter from Nathaniel Lloyd to Dr William Warren, June 19th 1731, THHR/2/4/3, p. 70c.

[3] Letter from Philip Nichols to Nathaniel Lloyd, October 17th 1731, THHR/2/4/3, p. 81.

[4] Letter from Philip Nicholls to Dr Chetwode, October 19th1731, THHR/2/4/3, p. 79b.


Chadwick, Owen. “The Case of Philip Nichols.” The Cambridge Bibliographical Society, vol. 1, no. 5 (1953): pp. 422-431.

Miscellaneous Documents, THHR/2/4/3. Trinity Hall Archive, Cambridge.

Trinity Hall v. Philip Nichols, THGB/4/1/8. Trinity Hall Archive, Cambridge.

A tale of two women

This post continues our celebration of the THwomen40 anniversary and looks at the importance of two women in the life of Thomas Preston, a former Master of Trinity Hall.

The ante-chapel of Trinity Hall contains two monumental brasses, situated just a few feet apart, of Walter Hewke (Master 1512-1517/18) and Thomas Preston (Master 1585-1598). Preston’s brass is particularly interesting for the Latin inscription which contains the names of two women, Alicia and Elizabeth. Who were they and what role did they play in his life?


Alicia’s inscription on Preston’s brass (from Warren’s Book)


Thomas Preston has the distinction of being the first married Master of Trinity Hall! He was educated at Eton and King’s College Cambridge (1556-81) and it seems likely that he resigned his fellowship at King’s in order to marry Alicia. By this time Heads of Houses, unlike fellows, were allowed to marry but it is not clear whether Preston lived with his wife in College. According to Crawley, “The fact that Preston was buried in the ante-chapel does not prove that he resided in College, but his widow at least ensured that she would not be forgotten, for the inscription on his monument begins with her name ALICIA, alone on the first line.” In her inscription Alicia leaves us in no doubt about her importance in Preston’s life!


Might Alicia have looked like this ?

We know little about Alicia and do not have an image of her. However, we can speculate that as a woman of some standing she might have looked something like the wealthy woman depicted in this brass in a church in Bruges (above).

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth, the other woman mentioned in the inscription, was in fact the Queen of England! Preston first came to the Queen’s attention as young fellow of King’s at the time of her stay in Cambridge in August 1564. This was a gala occasion for both town and gown, with speeches, disputations, religious services, banquets and plays.  Preston impressed Elizabeth I with his “gracefull gesture” and “propernesse of person” in his role in the play of “Dido” which was put on for her entertainment at King’s College. He also excelled in a disputation before the Queen on the subject “monarchy is the best form for a state” (and he had the delicate task of speaking against the motion!) and in his oration at her departure from Cambridge. Elizabeth I was so taken with him that she called him “her scholar” and gave him a pension of £20 a year, a substantial sum in those days.


Elizabeth I, detail from the charter re-confirming Trinity Hall’s foundation (1559)

And she did not forget him! Many years later in 1585, when the Mastership of Trinity Hall fell vacant, Lord Burghley wrote to the fellows of Trinity Hall staying the election of a new Master. A few days later the fellows were instructed by royal mandate to elect Thomas Preston. The brass, which records that Elizabeth I called him “her scholar”, pays tribute to the importance of the Queen’s patronage in Preston’s fortunes.


As Master, Preston set to work to sort out a number of problems including the College’s parlous finances which were burdened with debts “desperate to be remedied”. He was Vice-Chancellor, 1589-90, and was admitted an advocate in the Court of Arches in 1591. Perhaps he is best known today as the author of the play “Cambises King of Persia” which was lampooned by Shakespeare through the words of Falstaff in Henry IV, part I. His name lived on in Trinity Hall’s drama group, the Preston Society.

Over time the memory of Preston’s achievements may fade, but the inscription on his brass ensures that the importance of Alicia and Elizabeth in his life is recorded for posterity!


This post is an extended version of an article published in Front Court, Issue 21, Spring 2015.

For more about the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Cambridge see the related post Vivat Regina!

Thomas Preston, The lamentable tragedie, mixed full of pleasant mirth containing the life of Cambyses king of Percia, Tudor Facsimile texts (London, 1910)

Charles Crawley, Trinity Hall. The History of a Cambridge College (Cambridge, 1976)

Past Impressions: seals as an insight into medieval life

Bateman's seal

This year’s Supporters of the Old Library event “Past Impressions: seals as an insight into medieval life”, a talk by Dr Elizabeth New will take place on Saturday 24 September. The talk will look at some of Trinity Hall’s seals (including the seal of Bishop Bateman pictured here) and give an insight into the “Imprint” project. The speaker is a medieval historian, an expert on British seals and Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the Department of History & Welsh History at Aberystwyth University. She is also co-investigator on the “Imprint” project, which is a forensic and historical investigation of fingerprints on medieval seals. There will be a display of seals in the Chetwode Room before the talk.

Supporters of the Old Library are also invited to the preview of “Women in the Special Collections of Trinity Hall”, an exhibition in the Old Library to celebrate 40 years of admitting women to Trinity Hall.

Date: Saturday 24 September 2016
Time: 1:30-2:30pm Old Library Exhibition and seals in the Chetwode Room | 2:30-3:30pm Talk ‘Past Impressions: seals as an insight into medieval life’
Location: Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Cost: Free of charge | booking required

This is an open event for both Trinity Hall and non Trinity Hall members.

Booking: Online booking is available or alternatively, please contact the Alumni and Development Office on 01223 332550. Please book by Monday 18 September. Places are limited so book early.

If you have any enquiries, please contact the Alumni Office on or 01223 332550

Trinity Hall and the University Library

We are delighted to welcome Liam Sims of the Rare Books Department at Cambridge University Library as our guest blogger on “Trinity Hall and the University Library”.

Trinity Hall has had books in its possession since Bishop Bateman’s gift in 1350, and many links exist between the ancient libraries within the University – of which Trinity Hall’s is one – not least in terms of the movement of individual volumes between collections. A recent post on this blog about the college’s incunabula (books printed before 1501) made me wonder if any early books now in the University Library (which came into being about sixty years after Trinity Hall and celebrates its 600th anniversary in 2016) have connections to Trinity Hall. This post looks at three volumes once owned by members of the college, whose contents can tell interesting stories about their long histories and connections with our university town.

Pet binding

Blind stamped wooden binding on Peterborough.Sp.61

The volume with the earliest connection to Trinity Hall is a medieval blind stamped wooden binding containing five separate works, all printed in the 1490s, and all evidently in Cambridge at a very early date. Two are from the press of Richard Pynson, an important printer based in London (possibly an early assistant of England’s first printer, William Caxton), and others made their way from Cologne and Paris. The first work in the volume forms the third part (the Facetus) of an eight-part work known as the Auctores octo morales (Eight Moral Authors), a standard collection of Latin textbooks used for teaching in the medieval period, which included Aesop and the Distichs of Cato.


Title page of the “Facetus” (Paris, ca. 1491-3)

This undated edition was printed in Paris by André Bocard, in about 1491-3, and is today exceedingly rare; the third part is recorded in just one other library – the Bodleian. One of the first owners of this copy of the Facetus was William Dakke, who is named in an inscription on the verso of the first leaf: ‘Iste liber p[er]tinet f[ratris] wyll[el]mo dak cu[m] magno gaudio et honore Amen’.

Facetus inscription

Inscription recording Dakke’s ownership on o1v

Dakke is fairly well documented in Emden’s Biographical register of the University of Cambridge to 1500, which records that he had graduated (at an unknown college) as a bachelor of Canon Law by 1454/5 and that he was vicar of Meldreth church before 1475, as well as rector of Sudborne and Orford in Suffolk from 1475 onwards. His connection with Trinity Hall comes, unsurprisingly, with his expertise in the law, for he served the college as ‘Proctor at law’ in 1474, a post he held for the prior of Ely in 1469/70; surviving records tell us that he was ‘rowed from Cambridge to Ely on priory business’. Dakke died late in 1495 (his will is dated 2 September), leaving the sum of 6s 8d to the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge (the Round Church) and was buried in Orford church. During his lifetime the book passed by purchase to one Geoffrey Jullys, who bought it from Dakke and gave it to one Thomas Ellys, all of which we know thanks to another helpful inscription (on the recto of the second leaf): ‘emptus a fratre Will[el]mo Dalke [sic] per m[agist]r[um] galfridym Iullys et datus per e[un]d[em] m[agist]r[o] fr[atri] thome ellys filio suo spirituali’. Since most of the other works in the volume are dated to 1496 or later (i.e. after Dakke’s death), we know that they can only have been bound together later on, perhaps by Ellys, whose name appears in other items in the volume. In 1713 the volume was given by one John Turner to White Kennett, then Dean of Peterborough (and from 1718, Bishop of Peterborough), whose books formed the core of the Cathedral Library. After more than 250 years in Peterborough the volume returned to Cambridge in 1970, on permanent loan with the rest of the Cathedral Library (about 7000 books). One of the most significant collections of early English books in the UL, the Peterborough library is rich in early bindings and marks of ownership.

William Dakke’s connection to Trinity Hall was a fairly tenuous one, but another volume now in the UL links us with the most important individual in the college: the Master. It is an edition of sermons by the Franciscan theologian Pelbartus Ladislaus de Temesvár (1430-1503), born in Hungary, and was printed in the town of Haguenau in 1498 (then German, but now part of France). The earliest owner of the UL’s copy was one Henry Harvey (d. 1585), Master of Trinity Hall, who – in humanist style echoing the great collector Jean Grolier – inscribed the second leaf ‘Sum He[n]rici Haruey et amicor[um]’ (i.e. it belonged to ‘Henry Harvey and his friends’).


Harvey’s inscription at the head of A2r (Inc.5.A.39.1[3940])

Again, Harvey’s career within the University is well documented: he took his bachelor of laws degree from Trinity Hall in 1538, his doctor of laws degree in 1542 and – after serving variously as Archdeacon of Middlesex (1551-4), Vicar-general of London and Precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral (1554) – he became Master of the college in 1559, succeeding William Mowse, who was mentioned in the previous blog post. His career continued to flourish: he became Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1560 (in the same year, he gave three books to the King Edward VI School at Bury St Edmund’s) and held prebendaries of Salisbury Cathedral (1558-72), Lichfield Cathedral (1559-61) and Ely Cathedral (1567-85). He was important in the legal world, most notably in 1567, when he established the London premises of Doctors’ Commons (a society of civil lawyers). His was a time of great upheaval in the University, as a result of the turbulent years of the reformation, which saw – within a generation – England’s separation from the Roman church under Henry VIII, a period of extreme Protestantism under his son Edward VI, a return to Catholicism with Mary I and finally the restoration of Protestantism with Elizabeth I. To succeed in this troublesome period one had to be very careful, and Harvey’s immediate predecessor as Vice-Chancellor (Andrew Perne) was an extreme example of this: he changed his allegiance so frequently that Cambridge wits, it was said, translated ‘perno’ as ‘I turn, I rat, I change often’. Harvey was himself involved in seeking out banned books in the University during Mary’s reign, as ‘Commissioner for detection of heretical books’ in 1556, but he was presumably well-regarded enough to be offered the Mastership in the year of Elizabeth’s accession. It is unknown where the volume went after Harvey’s death in 1585, but in 1913 it was bought by Stephen (later Sir Stephen) Gaselee – then Pepys Librarian at Magdalene – on Gustave David’s market stall in Cambridge. Gaselee included it as no. 100 in his List of the early printed books in the possession of Stephen Gaselee (Cambridge, 1920) and eventually gave it to the UL in November 1934, just two weeks after the official opening (by King George V) of the present building. He eventually gave a total of 311 incunabula and remains the Library’s second most prolific donor of fifteenth-century printed books, after King George I (whose gift of Bishop Moore’s library in 1715 included 470 incunabula).

Utterson a1r

First leaf of Dares Phrygius

The third and final book I would like to discuss is the earliest of the three, both in terms of its date of printing and the text it contains. It is a slim volume of about twenty leaves, containing a history of Troy by the mysterious ‘Dares Phrygius‘, whom Homer tells us was a Trojan priest. Although the text is traditionally linked to the pre-Homeric period – and therefore to the very origins of European literature – the version of the text printed here is one which was ascribed to the 1st century BC writer Cornelius Nepos (though it is more likely to have been compiled five centuries later) and which circulated widely in the medieval period. The UL’s copy was printed in Cologne by an unknown printer known simply as the ‘Printer of Dares’ at an unknown date not after 1472. By 1659 it was in the Benedictine Abbey of Georgenberg at Kärnten (Austria) and at some point, probably in the first half of the nineteenth century, it was acquired by Edward Vernon Utterson (d. 1856), who had it bound with his arms in gilt on the boards.


Utterson’s gilt arms on the upper cover of Inc.5.A.4.4[410]

Utterson was educated at Eton, matriculated at Trinity Hall in 1797, took his bachelor of laws degree in 1801 and was called to the Bar in 1802, becoming a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1807 and was one of six Clerks in Chancery from 1815 until 1842. He had a great love for books – centred around English literature, and Italian, Spanish and French chivalry-romances – and was one of the eighteen founder members of the Roxburghe Club in 1812, the world’s premier bibliophile society. He did not just collect early books, but edited and printed facsimiles himself: at his home (Beldornie Tower) on the Isle of Wight – he set up a printing press, called the Beldornie Press, which operated for a few years early in the 1840s.


Beldornie Tower, from the colophon of Utterson’s edition of ‘Good newes and bad newes’ (Lib.8.84.23)

Many of his productions were printed in extremely limited editions and are consequently exceedingly rare today. The UL holds just one of these, which was printed in sixteen copies: a facsimile of Samuel Rowlands’ Good newes and bad newes, originally printed in 1622. Utterson had a considerable library, from which the ‘principal portion’ was auctioned at Sotheby’s in April 1852 (perhaps a result of the death of his wife in 1851). Among the 1950 lots were a fourteenth-century manuscript of Rolle’s Pricke of conscience, a fifteenth-century manuscript of Lydgate, Caxton’s Recuyell of the histories of Troye (the first book printed in English), the first edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609; now in the Folger Shakespeare Library and one of just five copies to survive) and the 1623 ‘first folio’ of his plays. After Utterson’s death, aged 80 in the summer of 1856, the remaining books were sold at Sotheby’s on 20 March 1857, where this edition of Dares Phrygius was lot 480 (sold to the bookseller Bohn for £2 14s). At an unknown point after that sale it was bought by Henry Bradshaw, University Librarian at Cambridge from 1867 until his death in 1886 – and a great collector for the Library of early printing – who presented it to the UL in 1885.

With just three volumes we have traversed nearly five centuries of collectors and collecting in Cambridge and seen the ways in which members of Trinity Hall have made their mark in the world of books and – noticeably – the law. These books are all to be found in the University Library’s Rare Books Department, where they may be consulted by anyone with a Library Card.

Liam Sims,

Rare Books Department

Cambridge University Library



The Medieval Manuscripts of Trinity Hall

Forthcoming Supporters of the Old Library Event

Professor Nigel Morgan will give a talk to Supporters of the Old Library on “The Medieval Manuscripts of Trinity Hall” in the Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall,  at 2:30pm on Saturday 18 April 2015.

After the talk there will be an opportunity to visit of the Old Library to see its treasures. There will also be an exhibition of the “Medieval Manuscripts of Trinity Hall” in the Chetwode Room, featuring some of our rarely seen manuscripts.


Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.3

This manuscript “The doctrines of the Church against the blasphemy of Wycliffe” by Thomas Netter (Trinity Hall MS.3) contains a lovely illuminated initial showing the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child. Mary’s mantle is held up by an angel and kneeling on the left is the author, Thomas Netter, who is depicted as a Carmelite in white and black robes. This fifteenth-century manuscript was written in Ghent and is among the manuscripts which will be described in Professor Morgan’s talk.

The talk is free, however spaces are limited. If you are interested in attending the talk and would like to book a place, please contact Emma Bennett

Samuel Pepys, Trinity Hall and the Civil War

In celebration of the birthday of the famous diarist Samuel Pepys on 23 February we take a look at his connection with Trinity Hall. Surely some mistake? Everyone knows that Samuel Pepys went to Magdalene College, Cambridge, which has the world renowned Pepys Library. Well, on 21 June 1650, Samuel Pepys was admitted to Trinity Hall!

Entry in Venn for Samuel Pepys recording his matriculation at Trinity Hall (extract)

Entry in Venn for Samuel Pepys recording his admission to Trinity Hall (extract)

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was the son of a London tailor and the family lived above the shop in Salisbury Court, just off Fleet Street. They had important relations in Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire and in 1643 Samuel was sent to his uncle, Robert Pepys, in order to attend the “Free Grammar School” of Huntingdon. Three years later Samuel returned to London to finish his education at St Paul’s School and to apply to Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Why Trinity Hall? Well, Trinity Hall was the college of Samuel’s great-uncle, Talbot Pepys. As Recorder of Cambridge (1624-1660) and M.P. for Cambridge from 1625, Talbot Pepys was a man of considerable power and influence. He had a large manor house at Impington and was a leading figure in raising taxes to fund Cromwell’s armies. Perhaps, then, it was natural for Samuel Pepys to choose Trinity Hall.

Trinity Hall in the time of Samuel Pepys

Trinity Hall in the seventeenth century

But Samuel never actually attended Trinity Hall! Sadly, we don’t know the reason why. Trinity Hall was a law college and Claire Tomalin, in her life of Pepys, speculates that perhaps Samuel was not keen on the idea of a career in law, adding “or it may have been too expensive to pursue”. Instead Samuel migrated to Magdalene and matriculated there in 1651.

The choice of Magdalene may have been influenced by the fact that the new Master of Magdalene, John Sadler, was a London neighbour at Salisbury Court. Moreover, Samuel had even more influential relative in Edward Montagu, the Parliamentarian soldier, whose mother was Samuel’s great-aunt. Tomalin tells us, “Montagu’s patronage probably came into it too; his chaplain had a Magdalene connection, and Samuel Morland, who claimed his friendship, had just been appointed to a fellowship there and became Pepys’s tutor.” So it was that Samuel Pepys studied at Magdalene for his Cambridge degree.

Trinity Hall and the Civil War

The Master of Trinity Hall in 1642 was Thomas Eden, who was also the M.P. for Cambridge University. Crawley tells us that Eden was “known by 1642 as one of the rare civilians [i.e. civil lawyers] who leaned towards the Parliamentarian cause”. Eden seems to have been skilful in navigating difficult times and, according to Crawley, “he may have had some influence in saving in saving the College silver from requisition either by the king or by Cromwell”.

Founders cup, circa 1350

Founders cup, circa 1350, a remarkable survival

In 1644 Edward Montagu (a relative of Samuel Pepys’s) and the Earl of Manchester came to Cambridge to purge the university of senior members with Royalist sympathies. Crawley tells us that twelve of the sixteen Heads of Houses were turned out and replaced with Puritan scholars – but Thomas Eden was not one of them! In February 1644 Eden had signed the Solemn League and Covenant and in 1645, a few months before his death, he was appointed to serve on a Parliamentary Committee for Admiralty affairs. Parliament took an interest in (or interferred in!) the appointment of Eden’s successor and it was not until 1546 that a mutually acceptable candidate was found at last. John Bond, who had strong Puritan credentials, was appointed Master. He served as Vice-Chancellor in 1658 and retired at the Restoration in 1660.

During the Commonwealth the discipline of the ecclesiastical courts was abolished. This had a direct impact on our civil lawyers. However, civilians still had probate and Admiralty business. College’s links with Admiralty law may account for a charming manuscript in the Old Library dating from about 1660-1690 called “Sea terms and geography”. It contains a glossary of nautical terms, the names of the winds and geographical descriptions of the world.

Trinity Hall manuscript of "Sea Terms" (MS.32). Pepys would have learnt similar terms on board ship with Montagu

Trinity Hall manuscript of “Sea Terms” (MS.32). Pepys would have studied similar terms aboard the “Swiftsure”

Samuel joins the Admiralty

After obtaining his degree, Samuel Pepys returned to London and worked as a clerk for his patron Edward Montagu, who had risen through the army to become Cromwell’s General-at-Sea. The navy flourished under Cromwell, it was well run and gained enormous respect among the European powers. After the Cromwell’s death the Commonwealth began to fall apart under his son Richard. In the interests of stability, a number of the ruling elite, including Montagu, began to think the un-thinkable and work covertly for the restoration of the monarchy.

Samuel Pepys by ClaireTomalin

Life of Samuel Pepys  by Claire Tomalin

At such a time Montagu needed a man he could trust and he chose Samuel Pepys as his secretary. Thus at the age of 27 Pepys joined the Admiralty. On 23 March 1660 Pepys set sail with Montagu aboard the “Swiftsure”. According to Tomalin “Pepys enjoyed his snug cabin, set out to learn sea terms, walked on the deck to keep sickness at bay as they put to sea.” From the “Swiftsure” the party transferred to the “Naseby” (soon to be renamed the “Royal Charles”) which sailed to the Netherlands to bring Charles II and his brother James back to England.

Montagu had royal favour for the part he played in the Restoration and through his influence Samuel was appointed clerk of the acts at the Navy Board, at a salary of £350 a year! Pepys turned out to be an admirable civil servant: a hard worker and loyal to his royal master James Duke of York. He was also a canny businessman. Dealing with naval supplies, he managed to amass a considerable fortune and a wonderful library!

Pepys Library at Magdalene College Cambridge

Pepys Library at Magdalene College Cambridge


Two members of the Pepys family attended Trinity Hall: Talbot Pepys, Samuel’s great-uncle and John Pepys, Talbot’s second son (and Samuel’s cousin).

Talbot Pepys matriculated as a pensioner at King’s in about 1595 and became a scholar of Trinity Hall in 1601. He was Recorder of Cambridge and M.P. During the 1640s and 1650s Talbot Pepys sided with Parliament, being appointed to numerous parliamentary commissions and serving on the committee of the Eastern Association. Shortly before the Restoration, aged 77 and with failing eyesight, he resigned the recordership in favour of his eldest son, Roger, who also became M.P. for Cambridge

John Pepys was admitted as pensioner at Christ’s in 1636 and was admitted to Middle Temple in 1640. In 1641 he obtained an LLB from Trinity Hall and was appointed a fellow. In 1647 he was called to the Bar and obtained an LLD from Trinity Hall.


Samuel Pepys: the unequalled self” by Claire Tomalin. London: Penguin Books, 2002

Trinity Hall: the history of a Cambridge college, 1350-1975” by Charles Crawley. Cambridge: Trinity Hall, 1976

Alumni Cantabrigienses: part 1, From earliest times to 1751” compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1924

The Pepys Library, Magdalene College Cambridge, opening times

Master of Trinity Hall in the Tudor corridors of power

The Master of Trinity Hall is a major player in the new BBC2 series “Wolf Hall”! The “Sherlock” actor Mark Gatiss plays Stephen Gardiner (Master of Trinity Hall from 1525-51 and 1553-55) in the TV drama based on Hilary Mantel’s historical novels about career of Thomas Cromwell.

The first volume of Hilary Mantel's trilogy on Thomas Cromwell

The first volume of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy on Thomas Cromwell

Stephen Gardiner came up to Cambridge at the age of 14 (which was not unusual in those days). He obtained his Bachelor degree from Trinity Hall in 1518 and became Doctor of Civil Law in 1521 and Doctor of Canon Law in 1522. Crawley tells us that Gardiner “was in residence at Trinity Hall, and almost certainly a fellow, in the early 1520s, and was not at that time reputed to be a rigid or intolerant man”. He lectured in civil and canon law during the years 1521-24 and was appointed in 1523/4 to examine in both subjects for four years.

In 1523 he was engaged by the University on business with Cardinal Wolsey. The Cardinal was so impressed by Gardiner that he took him into his employ in 1524. It was probably through Wolsey’s influence that Gardiner was elected Master of Trinity Hall in 1525. Gardiner was an absentee Master. However, he clung to his Mastership until his death, despite the fact that he held other more important offices.

Trinity Hall's portrait of Stephen Gardiner

Trinity Hall’s portrait of Stephen Gardiner. For a colour version go to BBC’s “Your Paintings”

Gardiner was to rise to become Bishop of Winchester, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge (1540-47 and 1553-56) and eventually Lord Chancellor. He seems to have valued Trinity Hall as a potential bolt-hole if things went wrong in his public life and Crawley quotes a report that “if all his [Gardiner’s] palaces were blown down by iniquity, he would creep honestly into that shell”.

However, when Gardiner’s fortunes WERE reversed, during the reign of Edward VI, he did not have a chance to retreat to Trinity Hall! Instead he was imprisoned in the Tower and put on trial. In February 1551 he was deprived of his bishopric and sometime later that year he was deprived of the Mastership of Trinity Hall (to be replaced by Walter Haddon in 1552). During the turmoil after the death of Edward VI, Crawley tells us that Gardiner “cautiously chose to stay in the Tower until Queen Mary came in person to release him and reinstate him.”

Gardiner's dedication to Mary Tudor in his book against the marriage of priests.

Gardiner’s dedication to Mary Tudor in his book against the marriage of priests (1554)

His time in the wilderness was over! Gardiner was once again Bishop of Winchester, Privy Councillor, Master of Trinity Hall, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and, from August 1553, Lord Chancellor of England.

You can follow Stephen Gardiner’s career at the centre of Tudor power in BBC Two’s series “Wolf Hall” broadcast on Wednesday evenings.


Trinity Hall has a portrait of Stephen Gardiner by the school of Hans Holbein the younger. In the library’s Trinity Hall Collection, we have three books by Gardiner: ‘A detection of the devil’s sophistrie’ (1546), ‘De vera obedientia’ (1553) and ‘A traictise declaryng … that the pretensed marriage of priestes … is no mariage’ (1554).

The heavilly annotated titel page of "A detection of the devil's sophistrie"

Annotated title page of Trinity hall’s copy of “A detection of the devil’s sophistrie”

For an insight into the religious controversies of the time, take a look at an earlier blog post “Thomas Morgan of Minety”. In the post Dunstan Roberts, our guest blogger and graduate of Trinity Hall, looks at the extensive contemporary annotations to our copy of ‘A detection of the devil’s sophistrie’.References

Trinity Hall : the history of a Cambridge college, 1350-1975  / Charles Crawley. Cambridge: Trinity Hall, 1992

Wolf Hall / by Hilary Mantel. London: Fourth Estate, 2009

Bring up the bodies / by Hilary Mantel. London: Fourth Estate, 2012

BBC Two Wolf Hall (first episode on iplayer)

BBC’s Your Paintings: Stephen Gardiner

Radio Times Wolf Hall in pictures

Pushkin and his age: The Russian Connection, Part 2

It is not all about Russian spies! While some Trinity Hall alumni went on to become spies for Russia, bringing notoriety and dishonour to their College, one notable alumnus forged an honourable connection with Russia in the twentieth century through his distinguished scholarship. Anthony Cross (TH 1957-61) studied Russian at Trinity Hall and became the third Professor of Slavonic Studies, 1985-2004.

Professor Cross is internationally known for his work on eighteenth-century Russia and Anglo-Russian relations. Among numerous honours, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Institute of Russian Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Pushkin House) in 2010.

Throughout his career Professor Cross has built up a remarkable personal library and the Jerwood Library Trinity Hall has been the fortunate recipient of his fine collection of about 500 books on Pushkin and his age. Although the collection contains some works written in English, the majority of the books are rare volumes in Russian. These were either purchased, mainly during the time of the Soviet Union, or collected by gift.

Pushkin book

Published in Moscow in 1937

Alexander Sergievich Pushkin (1799-1837) is the national poet of Russia. He was born in Moscow and came from an aristocratic family, of which he was very proud. He was no less proud of Abram (Ibrahim) Gannibal (1696-1781), his great- grandfather on his mother’s side, who was an African slave brought over to Russia to serve as a page in the court of Peter the Great and who later rose to a prominent position in Russian society.

Pushkin showed promise as a poet at a young age and was educated at the prestigious Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum, an exclusive boarding school attached to the Catherine Palace, near St Petersburg. He published his first poem at the age of 15 and had made a name for himself in literary circles by the time of his graduation. His first long poem “Ruslan and Lyudmila” appeared in 1820 and he went on to write many classics of Russian literature including the verse novel “Eugene Onegin”, the tragedy “Boris Gudonov” and the novel “The captain’s daughter”, amongst others.

A selection of books on Pushkin from the collection of Professor Cross

A selection of books from the collection of Professor Cross

Pushkin had a short and tempestuous life. He was exiled several times for his liberal views, he was an inveterate gambler and fought as many as 29 duels. Most tempestuous of all was his relationship with the beautiful Natalya Goncharova whom he met in 1828 and married in 1831. The couple moved in court circles, but Pushkin’s pride was hurt because the Tsar awarded him the lowest court title. As a result Pushkin came to believe that he was only accepted at court on account of his wife’s beauty.

After several years of marriage, rumours began to circulate about Natalya’s close relationship with her brother-in-law Georges d’ Anthès. In February 1837, Puskin challenged d’ Anthès to a duel in order to defend his wife’s honour.  The duel proved fatal for Pushkin and he died of his wounds two days later on 10 February 1837. One hundred years after Pushkin’s death, the town of Tsarskoye Selo was renamed “Pushkin” in the poet’s honour.

This fine collection of books on Pushkin and his age is housed in the Jerwood Library Trinity Hall and is a valuable resource for researchers and scholars.

Bookplate in the books of Professor Cross' collection at Trinity Hall

Bookplate in the books of Professor Cross’ collection at Trinity Hall

Professor Anthony Cross is Emeritus Professor of Slavonic Studies and a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College Cambridge. He has written widely on Russia and his latest publication is a bibliography of travel writing about Russia under the Tsars “In the lands of the Romanovs: an annotated bibliography of first-hand English-language accounts of the Russian empire (1613-1917)”.



Biography of Professor Anthony Cross

In the lands of the Romanovs: an annotated bibliography of first-hand English-language accounts of the Russian empire (1613-1917) Cambridge: Open Book, 2014 (ISBN 9781783740574)

The Hillwood Museum Washington DC also has a collection of books from the library of Professor Anthony Cross

Wikipedia for biographies of Pushkin and his circle

Treasures of the past … and see you in September!

The Old Library had three very successful events in June to bring the treasures of the past to a wider audience.

Preservation and Interpretation of Seals
Cambridge college libraries and archives contain a wealth of sealed documents. While the documents themselves are generally well recorded and valued for their content, the seals attached to the documents are often less well studied.

Trinity Hall hosted two workshops and a public talk on the subject of seals and sealed documents. The workshops on Friday 7 June were an opportunity for librarians, conservators and museum professionals to hear from two experts in the field, Dr Elizabeth New and Dr John McEwan, Research Associates on the Arts and Humanities Research Council seals projects at Aberystwyth University.

Seals Public Talk

Seals Public Talk

Participants learnt about the technology of creating matrices and seals, the historical and artistic significance of seals, and the approaches for preserving these vulnerable wax objects. Examples of medieval sealed documents from the Old library and from the Archive of Christ’s College were on display. There was also a chance to handle resin facsimiles of historical seals (including one in the form of a fridge magnet!). In addition, there was a lunchtime visit to the Parker Library to view selected seals from the Corpus Christi Archive including a wonderfully sharp impression of the Cambridge town seal.

Studying a resin replica seal

Studying a resin replica seal

Seals are a potent connection with the past. They are highly tactile and many bear the thumb or finger prints of their creators. They deserve to be preserved and studied for the light they shed on the medieval world.

General Admission
Every year the Old Library is open on the afternoon of General Admission for Trinity Hall graduands and their guests. It is a day of celebration when another cohort of students collects their degrees and goes out into the world. The treasures of Trinity Hall are on show, including the college silver and the rare books of the Old Library.

Enthralled by the manuscripts

Enthralled by the manuscripts

Over 200 people visited the Old Library during the afternoon and for many students it was their first time in this hidden gem of Trinity Hall. The visitors were fascinated and amazed by the treasures on show.

Under the Covers
At the end of June the Old Library hosted an event for the Supporters of the Old Library and the 1350 Society. Guests were given a tour of the Old Library and then visited the “Under the Covers” exhibition in the Chetwode Room.

This fascinating exhibition by the Cambridge Colleges Conservation Consortium looked in detail at the physical structure of medieval books – literally under the covers! On display were the traditional materials used for binding manuscripts and early printed books: vellum leaves, sewing materials, oak boards, Nigerian goatskin, tawed alum skins and hand marbled papers. Visitors could look at some of the recently conserved items from the Old Library to see the finished result of the reinstated medieval-style bindings.

Manuscript rebound in the medieval style using a vibrant red Nigerian goatskin

Manuscript rebound in the medieval style using a vibrant red Nigerian goatskin

There were some surprises too! Conservation on the binding of a printed book, Speculum Spiritualium by Richard Rolle de Hampole (London, 1510), revealed that the boards were made up of manuscript leaves which had been pasted together. The conservators carefully separated the leaves and replaced the boards. Some of the leaves are from an early medical manuscript! These leaves have yet to be studied and we would welcome any scholars who would like to look at them.

Conserved manuscript leaves removed from the covers of "Speculum Spiritualium"

Conserved manuscript leaves removed from the covers of “Speculum Spiritualium”

Experienced conservators, Edward Cheese and Bridget Warrington of the Cambridge Colleges Conservation Consortium, were on hand to explain the book-binding techniques and to guide people who had a go at sewing together the leaves of a book. The event gave people first-hand experience of this important medieval craft and helped to bring the past vividly alive!

Coming Up…

The Old Library will be open for two events in September 2013.

The Old Library

The Old Library

On Friday 13 September the Old Library will be open to the general public for bookable tours during Open Cambridge. Booking starts on Monday 19th August via the Open Cambridge website.

The Old Library will also be open to Cambridge alumni for bookable tours during the Alumni Festival on Sunday 29 September. Booking starts on Monday 15th July via the Alumni Festival website.

Please book early for either event to ensure a place on an Old Library tour!


Seals and Sealing Practices by Elizabeth A. New,  (London: British Record Association, 2010).

Seals in Context: Medieval Wales and the Welsh Marches edited by: John McEwan and Elizabeth A. New, with Susan M. Johns and Phillipp R. Schofield (Aberystwyth: Canolfan Astudiaeth Addysg, 2012).

For more about the Cambridge Colleges Conservation Consortium see: Collaboration in special collections by Suzanne Paul.

Richard Hampole: in addition to the Wikipedia article there is a biography of Richard Hampole in the Catholic Encyclopedia

Speculum spiritualium. There are several copies of this book in Cambridge University Library ( in addition to the copy in the Old Library, Trinity Hall)

Open Cambridge:

Alumni Festival: