Fitzwilliam House Arms
(28) Fitzwilliam House, on the E. side of Trumpington Street, opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum,
comprises on plan a straight-fronted block beside the
street, built in 1727, with a wide block of rather earlier
build projecting obliquely from it on the E.; but this
last, of c. 1700, has been much altered and rebuilt in
modern times. In 1869 undergraduates unattached to the
endowed Colleges began to be admitted to the University. They were governed by a board elected by the
Senate and in 1892 this house was reconditioned and
made over entirely to them for their headquarters; it had
previously, since 1874, been occupied only in part by
'Fitzwilliam Hall'. The building is of three storeys. The
walls are of gray and red brick, in mixed bond, with red
brick dressings; the roofs are tile-covered. The W.
block and street-front were at one time adapted to
contain a shop in the southern part; in 1891–2 this use
was discontinued, the shop-window removed and the
front reinstated. In 1924 the N. and E. elevations were
The front of the house to Trumpington Street is a
spacious and dignified example of street architecture,
distinguished by a well-contrived patterning of differing
coloured brickwork. The staircase of 1727, now somewhat obscured by paint, is a good example of the period.
Architectural Description— The street-front (Plate 301) is in
six bays with the southernmost bay rather more widely spaced
than the others; the third bay from the N. contains the doorway; for the rest, in each bay, on every floor, is a segmental-headed window with brick arch and apron and fitted with
double-hung sashes. The front has a brick plinth, breaking forward round the aprons of the ground-floor windows, a brick
dentil-cornice returning upon itself at each and a parapetwall. A quoin effect is achieved at the N. end by changing the
colours of the brickwork, but the S. end has been altered and
extended in modern times and the similar effect destroyed. The
three S. ground-floor windows are replacements of 1891–2;
over the southernmost is a terracotta key-block modelled in
relief with the date 1727, IH [for John Halsted], a saltire
and a Catherine wheel; this is reset but said to be in the orignal
position. The aprons to the upper windows have short labels
ending in regulae and guttae. The colour-treatment consists of
narrow vertical strips of gray and red brickwork alternately,
extending from plinth to cornice. The timber door-case has
fluted Corinthian side-pilasters with short flanking pieces and a
pedimented entablature with a dentil-cornice and a frieze
decorated with interlacement and with shaped ends; all to the
top of the architrave is of 1727 but the frieze and pediment are
of the late 18th century.
Fitzwilliam House, Plan
The N. end is of 18th-century brickwork, in part plastered,
to the W.; further E. the ground floor is masked by modern
additions and the upper part has been rebuilt in modern brick.
The E. side where visible retains brickwork, perhaps of the
18th century, on the ground floor but the upper part has been
rebuilt. Modern buildings adjoin the S. end.
The Interior of the 1727 block comprises, on the ground
floor, an entrance-hall, containing the main staircase, flanked
by an office on the N. and the Dining-hall on the S. The office
is lined with original moulded and fielded panelling in two
heights with a moulded cornice against the ceiling and a
bolection-moulded panel over the fireplace; a recess on the E.
side of the fireplace is flanked by Corinthian pilasters. The
Dining-hall was formed by an extensive remodelling of the
interior in 1891–2 and includes an extension on the N.E. into
the earlier building which involved the removal of a chimney-stack. The room is lined with panelling similar to that in the
office but much made up and extended with modern work.
The main staircase of 1727 (Plate 67) has cut strings with
brackets elaborately carved with foliated scroll-work, turned
newels, slender balusters, a moulded ramped handrail and a
dado of fielded panelling on the containing walls; the top flight
to the roof-space, is exceptionally steep. The back staircase, in
the E. block, is of c. 1700, with close strings, turned balusters,
heavy square newels and a moulded handrail, but the lower
part appears to have been to some extent rearranged.
On the first floor the rooms have doorways with 18th-century moulded architraves and cornices hung with doors of
two fielded panels. The room over the office is lined with
18th-century fielded panelling similar to that below. The whole
of the southern part of the E. block is now occupied by the
Parlour; this is lined from floor to ceiling with ovolo-moulded
and fielded panelling in two heights, with dado-rail and dentilcornice mainly of the 18th century but adapted for modern
doors and windows and entirely modern on the W. wall and
on the chimney-breast. The wood fireplace-surround in 18th-century style has all the mouldings enriched with foliation.
(University Reporter, 1024, Apr. 24, 1894).