SIDNEY SUSSEX COLLEGE (fn. 1)
Sidney Sussex College. Argent a bend engrailed sable (forRadcliffe) impalingor a pheon azure (for Sidney).
Sidney Sussex College stands on
a plot of ground of about 5½ acres which at one time
belonged to the Franciscan friars. Here the friars had
settled about the middle of the 13th century and had
built their church, cloisters, and friary. In 1538 the
friary was suppressed and in
1546 the buildings and site was
conveyed by Henry VIII to his
new college of Trinity. The
buildings were mostly destroyed,
the materials being used in the
erection of the Great Court of
Trinity, but the refectory survived as the chapel of Sidney
Sussex College for many years,
and was pulled down in 1776. It
formed the east side of the south
court of the College and can be
seen in Loggan's print as it appeared about 1699.
The foundress was the Lady
Frances Sidney, Countess of
Sussex. The fourth daughter of
Sir William Sidney, she was born in 1531, and married
in 1555 Thomas Radcliffe, Viscount Fitzwalter,
afterwards Earl of Sussex. She died on 9 March
1589, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Her
will is a lengthy document with a large number of
bequests. She left £100 amongst 'poor and godly'
preachers in and near London, for the relief and
redemption of poor prisoners in the King's Bench
and Ludgate and for the poor in Bermondsey Street,
in Barking, and in Bortham (Essex). Another bequest
was £200 to purchase an annuity of £20 a year for
two lectures on divinity weekly for ever in Westminster Abbey. The most important legacy involving about two-fifths of her whole estate was as
follows. 'Whereas since the decease of my late lord
the Earl of Sussex I have in devotion and charity
purposed to erect some good and godly monument
for the maintenance of good learning and to that
intent have yearly gathered and deducted out of my
revenues so much as conveniently I could. I do
therefore . . . will that my executors shall bestow
the sum of £5,000 besides all such goods as are in
this my will unbequeathed for the erection of a new
college in the University of Cambridge to be called
the Lady Frances Sidney Sussex College.'
Out of the money and goods so bequeathed the
executors were also to buy lands for the maintenance
of a Master, ten fellows, and 20 scholars, students at
the College 'according to the laudable custom of the
said University' if the funds should prove sufficient.
If the bequest proved in the judgement of the
executors insufficient for the purposes mentioned
they were directed to bestow the £5,000 for the
enlarging of Clare Hall and for the purchasing of
lands for that college free of encumbrance for ever.
The college was then to be renamed 'Clare and Lady
Frances Sidney Sussex College or Hall'. The will
also directed that if the testatrix had not in her lifetime obtained licence for the erection of the new
College, the executors were to present to Her
Majesty 'a Jewell which I have made of purpose like
a starr of Rubes and Dymonds and a Rubie standinge
in the midle which Stockbridge made of the valewe of
cxl li. or theire aboute and having on the backside a
hande deliveringe upp a hart to a Crowne with an
humble suit in my name for the establishing of the
said College'. The executors who were responsible
under the will for the foundation of the new College
were the Earl of Kent and Sir John Harrington, the
first of whom was appointed 'chief and principal
executor'. The Archbishop of Canterbury, John
Whitgift, was made one of the supervisors of the
In 1593 the executors approached Trinity College
with a view to buying or leasing the site of the Grey
Friars. To this proposal Trinity objected that they
had no power under their statutes to make any such
alienation. The executors then procured an Act of
Parliament empowering the College to sell or let the
site to them. They also petitioned the queen who
wrote to the Master and Fellows of Trinity pointing
out that the executors had spared no pains to discharge their trust, and that their suit tended to the
amplifying of the University and the beautifying of
the town of Cambridge. The letter continued 'we
require that you would presently sell or grant the
said site of the Friars for some reasonable price to
the said executors'. Also in case the College might
still be in doubt whether they might alienate their
land under the statutes, although an Act of Parliament has been passed permitting them to do so, the
queen continued 'we do hereby of our mere motion
and certain knowledge and of our prerogative royal
fully clearly and absolutely discharge and dispense
with you . . . touching all your said statutes and
ordinances in that behalf'.
The executors also obtained the support of Archbishop Whitgift, who in addition to being supervisor
of the will was a former Master of Trinity and was
thus exceptionally qualified to act as a mediator
between the college and the executors. Sir John
Harrington appears to have offered Trinity College
20 marks a year for the whole site. The archbishop
writing to the college on 27 June 1593 pointed out
that at that time they only received £9 a year from
the tenants for the site so that they would be better
off by more than £4 a year by accepting Sir John's
offer, which he advised them to do. What reply
Trinity made is not known, but it was not until
25 July 1594 that the queen granted letters patent to
the executors to found a new College on the site of
the Grey Friars or elsewhere. On 1 February 1595
Sir John Harrington gave his nephew, James
Montagu, afterwards first Master of the new College,
power of attorney to pay out all sums given to him
towards the building of 'Sydney College'. No agreement had yet been sealed with Trinity but the first
stone was laid by James Montagu on 20 May 1595.
The first payment to the architect had been made
two months previously. Afterwards the building proceeded without interruption and sufficient stone,
sand, and gravel was found on the site to lay all the
foundations and to raise up the walls above the
'water table'. The sealing of the conveyance of the
site was still delayed as Trinity now demanded 100
marks in addition to the annual rent for a building
which Sir John meant to convert into a chapel. This
demand was referred to the archbishop, who decided
that the sum was to be paid. The conveyance was
sealed on 10 September 1595. About three weeks
later Sir John sent a messenger to Trinity to deliver
as much of the 100 marks as they would take, at the
same time appealing to their generosity; his appeal
seems to have been successful as the Trinity bursar's books, complete for this period, show no trace
of the receipt of the sum or any part of it.
The whole income of the College at the outset was only a rent-charge of £30 from
the manor of Bagginton bought out of the foundress's
legacy. Sir John, however, contributed, besides £100
towards the building, £30 a year for the first four
years, increased this to £110 for the next four years
and, finally, on 10 April 1608, endowed the College
with his manor of Saleby (Lincs.) in full completion
of his trust as executor. The College thereupon
granted him a release of his trust, 'he having laid
out as much and more than was bequeathed by the
foundress for erecting and endowing the College'.
Edward Montagu of Hemington, afterwards 1st
Baron Montagu of Boughton, granted the College in
1599 a lease for 1,000 years of 45 acres at Burwash
(Suss.) for founding three exhibitions, two of them
for candidates from Oundle School, and one to a
native of Sussex. These were changed to scholarships
in 1632. Leonard Smith, a citizen of London, in
1601 left £120 for a fellowship to be called after his
name and his executors in 1604 founded a scholarship preferably for a candidate from Holt School.
The benefaction to which the College is indebted for
much of its present property was that of Peter
Blundell of Tiverton, who, dying in 1601, left
£2,000 for founding six scholarships at Oxford or
Cambridge or both. Sir John Popham, Chief Justice
of the Common Pleas, to whom was left the discretion of carrying out the bequest, ordered that two
of the scholarships should be founded at Balliol, two
at Emmanuel, and two at Sidney. Emmanuel refusing
the scholarships offered to them, four were assigned
to Sidney, the two senior to be considered as fellowships; and for their maintenance the manor of
Itterby near Clee (Lincs.) was bought for £1,400.
In 1603 Sir John Hart, a former Lord Mayor of
London, left £30 to the College library and £600 to
purchase an estate of £42 per annum, £20 of which
was for the maintenance of two fellows and £4 for
each of four scholars, candidates from Coxwold
School to be preferred. This bequest was increased
in 1618 by a gift of £200 from the testator's son-inlaw, Sir George Bolles.
About 1607 John Freestone of Altofts (Yorks.)
left an estate of £25 per annum at Stamford (Lincs.)
to Emmanuel to provide £10 per annum for the
maintenance of a fellow, £5 per annum for each of
two scholars, and the remaining £5 for the benefit
of the College. Emmanuel refused the legacy, considering the allowance of £10 insufficient for a fellow,
whereupon Sidney applied for it, they thinking
themselves insufficiently supplied with fellows and
scholars. Emmanuel agreed to the application. Dr.
James Montagu, first Master, afterwards Bishop of
Bath and Wells and later Bishop of Winchester,
who died in 1618, left the College a rent-charge of
£20 a year out of the manor of Coppingford
(Hunts.), whereof 20 marks was to discharge the
rent due to Trinity for the College site. He also left
all his books to the College. Archdeacon Robert
Johnson in 1625 left an annuity of £100 for four
scholars in each of the four colleges, Sidney, St.
John's, Emmanuel, and Clare, preference to be given
to candidates from Oakham or Uppingham Schools.
Sir John Brereton, one of the first scholars, who
died in 1626, left one-half of his estate for such purposes as the Regius Professor and Lady Margaret's
Reader in Divinity should think most expedient for
the good of the College. With this legacy Cridling
Park, part of the manor of Cridling (Yorks.) was
bought from the Earl of Monmouth in 1634 for
£2,670. It was then valued at £140 a year. In 1627
Dr. Paul Micklethwaite gave a house opposite to the
College for founding two scholarships of £4 a year
each if the rent of the house should be sufficient. In
1641 Francis Combe gave a great part of his library
and his manor of Abbot's Langley (Herts.) to
Sidney and Trinity College, Oxford, equally between them 'for the education in piety and learning
of four of the descendants of his brothers and sisters
and three of the descendants of the brothers and
sisters of his first and second wives'. In 1680 Downham Yeomans of Cambridge left lands at Denston
(Suff.) and a house and lands at Stradishall of the
annual value of £24 for the benefit of three Bedfordshire men, being scholars of the College.
Samuel Taylor of Dudley, who died in 1732, left
to the College property at Dudley of the annual
value of £60 for establishing a mathematical fellowship and if the profits which should arise from
working coal on the estate permitted they were to be
applied to the maintenance of mathematical students;
a mathematical lecturership was established in 1738
in lieu of the fellowship. By private Acts of Parliament in 1818 and 1823 the College was empowered,
amongst other things, to found additional exhibitions
and to build a mathematical library out of the proceeds of a mining lease. In 1754 and 1756 William
Barcroft, Rector of Kelvedon, gave £800 to found
two exhibitions for sons or orphans of clergymen.
In 1755 Sir John Frederick left £1,000 to the College.
Including interest the College received £1,237 from
this legacy, of which £1,007 was appropriated to the
fund for purchasing advowsons and the residue for
the benefit of the Masters of the College in succession.
Francis Sawyer Parris, Master, who died in 1760,
left £200 and most of his library, as well as £400 for
purchasing an advowson. In 1776 Thomas Lovett
left £2,000 for founding two exhibitions for sons of
clergymen preferably for candidates from Grantham
and Oakham Schools.
William Chafy, Master, 'repaired and beautified'
the chapel in 1833 at his own expense and at his
death in 1843 left £1,000 for the purchase of advowsons or the augmentation of College livings. In 1919
Arthur Sells of Sheffield gave £1,000 to found an
exhibition for candidates from King Edward VII
School, Sheffield. Gerald Maclean Edwards, formerly tutor, who died in 1924, left £2,000 to be used
for any purpose which the College should think fit.
William John Reynolds Pochin died in 1930 and
left half of the residue of his estate to found an
exhibition for resident members of the College born
or educated in Leicestershire. Evan Lewis Thomas,
K.C., who died in 1935, made provision in his will
for studentships or scholarships in law and jurisprudence.
In compliance with the wishes of Charles David
Whittaker, sometime headmaster of Taunton School,
who for family reasons felt himself unable to make
a bequest to the College, two of his relatives left
property, a legacy of £2,000, received in 1945, and a
bequest for the foundation of a scholarship in law or
history. In 1945 the College received a legacy of
£1,000 in memory of Percy John Harding, and in
1948 a bequest of £1,000 under the will of William
Whitehead Watts, F.R.S., a former fellow.
In 1649 James Risley gave the
advowson of the vicarage of Wilshamstead (Beds.),
which was exchanged in 1786 by Act of Parliament
for that of the rectory of Week St. Mary (Cornw.).
Mr. Gyles, a member of the College, left in 1654 the
advowson of Peasmarsh vicarage (Suss.). In 1703
James Johnson, the Master, gave £1,200 to purchase
advowsons, and also estates at Cherry Hinton
(Cambs.) and Swine (Yorks.) for the maintenance of
three or four poor widows of clergymen who had
been at the College and 'for want of such widows' the
rent of the estates was to be given in exhibitions to
four orphans of clergymen. Owing to his will being
signed without witnesses the College did not obtain
possession of these estates; but the estate at Cherry
Hinton was bought. Johnson also gave the advowson
of the rectory of Rempstone (Notts.), and out of his
legacy were purchased the advowsons of the rectories
of South Kilvington (Yorks.) in 1706, which was
transferred to the Archbishop of York in 1946,
Swanscombe (Kent) in 1710 and Lockington
(Yorks.) in 1711. The last was later the subject of a
lawsuit and did not remain in the possession of the
College. In 1765 the advowson of the rectory of
Gayton (Northants.) was bought, and in 1846
William Garnons, the senior fellow, gave the advowson of the vicarage of Ulting (Essex). The latter
was transferred in 1911 to the Bishop of St. Albans.
Under the will of William Henry Wyn Honey, who
died in 1931, the College received the advowson of
Raithby with Hallington (Lincs.).
The original statutes given to the
College in 1598 by the executors were based on
those of Emmanuel. The object of the foundation
was stated clearly and emphatically in several
passages. 'The single purpose that we have in view
is the glory of God and the edification of the Church
by a sound training of young men so that the
College may be made a seminarium of the Church',
and 'Our design in founding the College is that it
may be made a seminarium of learned men from
which the largest possible number may be available
to instruct the people in the Christian faith.' With
this end in view the Master and fellows were to proceed to the degree of D.D. as soon as possible. If the
Master did not do so he lost his office, but if he
obtained the degree he remained Master for life.
Fellows also were required to take the D.D. as soon
as they were of standing for it and if they failed to
do so they lost their fellowships. In any case they
had to vacate their fellowship within a year of taking
the degree, so that they might leave the College and
devote themselves to pastoral work. This regulation
was altered in a later set of statutes of the same year
so that a fellow need not vacate until three years
after he was of standing for the D.D. Later still the
period was increased to seven years owing to the
difficulty of obtaining preferment to a living. Even
this extension was found unsatisfactory and after
the death of Lord Harrington in 1612 the restriction
Fellows were to be Englishmen, chosen from
amongst the scholars, poor students being preferred.
After Lord Harrington's death the limitation to
English nationality was rescinded and fellowships
were open to Scotsmen and Irishmen provided they
had studied for six years at Cambridge. Before this
change John Young, said to have been the first
Scotsman who ever took a degree in the University,
was elected a fellow in 1606. He was incorporated
from St. Andrews in that year and took his M.A.
from Sidney. He afterwards became Dean of Winchester.
Master and fellows were to be before everything
professors of pure religion, opposed to popery and
other heresies; the erasure of the latter condition by
authority of James II's commission in 1687 is still
visible in the old statutes. The principal College
officers in addition to the Master were the dean or
catechist, the steward, and lecturer. A Greek lecturer was provided for by the will of Sir John Hart
in 1603. Scholars were to be elected from young men
who were poor and otherwise suitable and they must
have the intention to study theology and take orders.
To so strictly religious a society as this, fellowcommoners and pensioners could be admitted only
if they were of 'virtuous life and unsullied reputation'. They must promise to adapt themselves in
every way to the mode of life of the fellows and
scholars and to obey the College statutes.
These statutes remained in force, with minor
emendations, until they were replaced by new
statutes framed by commissioners in 1860. By these
the College was to consist of a Master, six fellows
and twelve scholars. The Master might be any
member of the University provided he were at least
an M.A., a member of the Church of England, and
in priest's orders. Any graduate who was bona fide
a member of the Church of England might offer
himself as a candidate for a fellowship but not more
than three times. If a fellow married, his fellowship
became vacant, and a fellowship lapsed one year
after the holder accepted a College living. Exceptionally one fellow at the most might retain his
fellowship under these circumstances. At least half
the fellows must be in holy orders. The Master
was ex officio bursar and was to appoint a fellow to
be tutor; the annual College officers were the dean,
praelector, steward, and librarian. By a set of supplementary statutes in the same year the income of all
bye-foundations except the Taylor, Montagu, and
Micklethwaite legacies, were to be carried to the
general funds; the income of the last two was also
carried to the general funds by the later statutes of
1882. All rights of nomination to fellowships and
scholarships by persons outside the College were
Under the statutes of 1882 neither the Master nor
any of the fellows need be in priest's orders. The
present society is governed by statutes approved in
1926 with later emendations and consists of a Master,
at least eight stipendiary fellows, non-stipendiary
fellows, and at least 24 scholars. The Visitor is the
Viscount de L'Isle of Penshurst, being the representative of the Sidney family.
The architect of the new College
was Ralph Simons, who had, a few years previously,
built Emmanuel College. He was assisted by a local
architect, Gilbert Wigge. The building was of brick
with stone dressings in the style of the period and
was by no means of the dark and gloomy character
described by Harraden 200 years later as is evident
from original bricks seen at various times recently
which are of a pleasing rich red. The whole building
contained two ranges on the north and south sides
of an open court, each consisting of sets of chambers
on four floors, the rooms on the top floor being little
more than garrets. The east side of the court was
occupied by the hall and the Master's Lodge. All
these buildings still exist though much changed in
appearance by alterations made in the early 19th
century. All Elizabethan features were then destroyed. A view of the College as it must have been in
its original state is to be seen in Loggan's print of about
1699, no alterations being recorded in the interim.
Before the westward extension of the Master's
Lodge there were square turrets in the corners of the
court and a corresponding turret in the centre of the
eastern range, the ground story of which formed
a porch serving as an entrance to the hall. The
Master's Lodge was probably entered by a stair in
the turret at the south-east corner. The originally
projecting corner turrets are now recesses. The east
side of the east range had, and still has, near each
end a large oriel window, the northern one lighting
the dais end of the hall and the southern one the
kitchen below and the great chamber in the Master's
Lodge above. The Master's Lodge occupied the
space above the kitchen, buttery, and the entrance
passage to the hall.
The hall had an open timber roof, still in existence,
though hidden by the present flat ceiling. There was
no gallery and there were two windows on the west
side which were later blocked up by the extension
of the lodge and the building of the mathematical
library. The original parlour or combination room is
in the north range adjoining the hall. A new parlour
was built in 1832 opening out of the old one on the
north side in the then fellows' garden, now Cloister
Court. This was taken down and the present combination room made in the block built by Pearson in
1891. After being used for various purposes the old
room is once more used as an additional parlour.
The three ranges were practically finished in 1598
and the active life of the new College began in that
year. Commons of the Master, fellows, and scholars
date from 25 August and their allowances from
St. Thomas's day, 21 December.
A building which Sir John Harrington had from
the beginning intended to fit up as a chapel was the
old refectory of the friars, the only one of the important friary buildings which had been spared. It
was not quite in line with the future hall and Master's
Lodge but sufficiently so to form the east side of a
second court if and when it became possible to
enlarge the College. The refectory was adapted to its
new use by division into two floors, the lower consisting of chapel and antechapel and the upper
forming a library. In November 1595 small sums
were spent on mending the thatched roof of the
chapel and gathering up stone and brick. Services
were held there from Michaelmas 1598, but no
further mention of work done there occurs until
22 March 1601, when a first payment of £10 was
made 'to Rafe Simons for the building of the Chappell'. As the main buildings had been finished by
this date the further payments to Simons probably
refer to the chapel also. They only amount to about
Here may be mentioned a memorandum in the
College archives entitled 'State of the Foundress'
Will, Dec. 10 1601'. The total value of the estate was
£12,813 2s. 2d. After payment of funeral charges,
debts, legacies, &c. there remained towards the building of the College, and the purchase of lands for its
maintenance £4,027 8s. 10d. out of which had been
expended at that date £2,616 4s. in building, £400
in purchasing a rent-charge of £30 a year out of the
manor of Baggington, payments totalling £66 13s. 4d.
to Trinity College, and £230 in other expenses
incidental to the foundation, leaving £714 11s. 6d.
for finishing the College and for other expenses, said
to amount to £1,140.
With the meagre resources at the disposal of the
College it is not surprising that the work of furnishing and completing the chapel progressed very
slowly. The floor apparently remained unpaved
until 1612 when Sir John Harrington supplied the
necessary stones. In the same year the first Master,
then Bishop of Bath and Wells, wainscotted the
upper part of the chapel and so completed the work.
In 1623 the College had about 130 residents and
only about 35 chambers for their accommodation;
even the parlour had to be used as a fellows' chamber.
This inconvenient situation was partially relieved by
the erection of a new range, the end of which was
just overlapped by the chapel, so completing a second
court open towards the west like the first. This was
due to the liberality of Sir Francis Clerke of Houghton Conquest (Beds.) who, in 1628, conveyed his
manors of Pilling Shingay, or Wootton Pilling, and
Pilling Rowsbury to the College and later his other
property at Wootton also for founding four fellowships and eight scholarships and for increasing the
scholarships of the foundation. Each of the four
fellows was to have a chamber on the first floor of
the new building and each of the chambers over
them was to be occupied by two of the scholars. This
would leave ten or more chambers at the disposal of
the scholars or for other students. The building must
have been begun without delay and seems to have
been finished in 1630; the earliest mention of it is an
entry in the College accounts at Michaelmas of that
year, 'for carrieing out rubbish from the east end of
the new building'. No further important change was
made in the buildings for over 100 years. Uffenbach,
who visited the College in 1710, describes it as 'an
old but still tolerably fine building' and the library
'though high up under the very roof of the chapel'
he thought 'tolerably good and well lighted and the
books though not numerous were still in a good
In May 1730 'in consideration of the miserable
and ruinous condition of our College is in as to its
building' it was agreed to borrow £200 to be laid
out in repairs of the College 'and to no other use or
purpose'. Six months earlier a fellowship had been
kept vacant for the same reason. What repairs were
necessary does not appear; the hall and chapel
were dealt with some years later. Between October
1746 and February 1750 four more fellowships were
kept vacant and £400 borrowed for the necessary
'reparation and decent refitting' of the hall and for
other purposes, the last entry providing for repair of
the gateway. The old gateway was in fact destroyed
and a new one of classical design built on the same
site. This was finished in 1762. It was removed in
1831 and now forms the entrance to the fellows'
garden near Malcolm Street in Jesus Lane.
The work done in the hall was much more than
necessary repair; the open timber roof was hidden
by the present flat ceiling and a music gallery constructed; the panelling now seen was probably done
at the same time. Payments of £556 and £573 in
the Master's accounts for 1750 show that the work
was done in that year. The next building urgently in
need of repair was that containing the chapel and
library. According to Cole 'the old Chapel was quite
worn out both in its Stone Work and Timbers and
was become dangerous'. The usual expedient of keeping a fellowship open for its repair was resorted to in
October 1774 and several other fellowships were
kept vacant in succeeding years. In 1775 it was
judged preferable to pull the building down entirely
and erect a new one in its place. Accordingly the
architect, James Essex, was consulted. The old
building was taken down in August 1776 and the
foundation stone of its successor laid on 1 October
of that year. The building erected by Essex was not
quite on the foundation of the old one but was made
more nearly at right angles to Clerke's building, which
it overlapped completely. It consisted of two parts,
of which the southern contained the chapel and the
northern contained the library on the first floor and
beneath it the antechapel and the Master's kitchen. In
1833 the west front was 'repaired and beautified'
at the sole expense of the Master, Dr. William
Chafy, who gave it a totally different appearance by
altering the windows in a pseudo-Gothic style, adding a parapet and an entrance porch and covering
the whole with stucco. The interior was very plain
with flagged floor and painted deal stalls and panelling. In 1911 it was decided to enlarge and reconstruct
the chapel according to the designs of T. H. Lyon.
The shell of Essex's building was preserved but the
length was more than doubled by the addition of an
extension towards the south with a memorial chapel
on its west side adjoining the sanctuary. The walls
are panelled in oak to the cornice, which is also of
oak, and the floor is of marble in various colours;
the work was finished in 1923.
As the walls of the hall showed signs of weakness
buttresses were built in 1821 on the east side, and
on the west the structure which now connects the
old angle turrets. This contains an entrance hall and
staircases for the Master's Lodge and the lower
room of the Taylor Library, while above them are
the Master's Lodge and the upper room of the
In 1831 the rooms in the roof story of the central
range were enlarged, a gateway tower of masonry
constructed at its west end and the old gateway
opposite the entrance to the hall removed to Jesus
Lane. In 1832 similar alterations were carried out
in the north and south ranges and a new combination room built in the fellows' garden. The whole of
the College buildings then received a coating of
stucco. The architect responsible for the designs of
the alterations in these twelve years was Jeffry Wyatt,
afterwards known as Sir Jeffry Wyatville. No further
building was done until 1891, in which year a new
range was completed according to the plans of J. L.
Pearson. This is north of the Hall Court parallel to
Sidney Street and contains on the ground floor the
combination room and a lecture room; Wyatt's
combination room in the fellows' garden, now
Cloister Court, was taken down at this time. Another range was built in 1923 in the Master's garden,
the architect being T. H. Lyon, who had previously
prepared the plans of the new chapel. Finally a range
was finished in 1937 along the boundary of the
College site in Sussex street, the architect being
E. R. Burrow, who had a few years before built the
shops and flats on the College property on the opposite side of the street. A new feature of the range is
that the ground floor and basement are occupied by
The deed of foundation
was sealed by the executors on 14 February 1596.
The College was to consist of a Master, 10 fellows
and 20 scholars in accordance with the foundress's
will. The Master was James Montagu of Christ's
College, Dean of the Chapel Royal; 3 fellows and
4 scholars were also named in the deed and 7 more
fellows were nominated by the executors in 1599,
but the estate not proving sufficient for the maintenance of the full number the executors in 1621
directed that in future there should be 7 fellows only
unless the revenues of the College should be sufficiently increased.
The first Master was the fifth son of Sir Edward
Montagu of Boughton by Elizabeth, the daughter of
Sir James Harrington of Exton and the foundress's
sister, Lucy. He was thus a grand-nephew of the
foundress and a nephew of her executor, Sir John
Harrington, who was Elizabeth's brother. James
Montagu was appointed to the deanery of Lichfield
in 1603 and transferred to that of Worcester in the
following year. In 1608 he was made Bishop of Bath
and Wells and resigned his Mastership. Eight years
later he was translated to Winchester, but he died
on 20 July 1618, aged 50, and was buried in Bath
Abbey. The second Master, Francis Aldrich, originally of Clare Hall, one of the first fellows of Sidney,
was nominated by the executors in April 1608. He
died on 27 December 1609 at the early age of 32.
The third Master, Samuel Ward, a fellow of
Emmanuel, was nominated by the executors on
6 January 1610 and admitted three days later. Under
his 33 years' rule the College became very prosperous owing particularly to the benefactions of
Sir Francis Clerke and Sir John Brereton. Dr. Ward
was one of the translators of the Bible, being one of
those to whom the Apocrypha was assigned. He was
a strong opponent of Arminianism and the ritualistic
innovations of Laud. He and three other divines
were appointed by the king in 1618 to attend the
Synod of Dort in the capacity of advisers. In his
time the chapel remained unconsecrated and the
iconoclast William Dowsing, after his visit there in
1643, reported 'we saw nothing there to be amended'.
The year 1616 was destined to be a memorable one
in the annals of the College, for on 23 April of that
year a young man, not yet 17, Oliver Cromwell, the
future Lord Protector, was admitted as a fellowcommoner. It is unfortunate that there are no
contemporary records of his residence in College
beyond the entry of his name in the admission
register and a note of the sale, amongst other plate,
of the stoup which he presented to the College on
his admission. His stay was short as he was obliged to
leave after one year owing to the death of his father.
The Montagu connexion with the College and the
reputation of the Master brought to Sidney many
members of the Montagu family amongst whom
should be mentioned Edward, afterwards 2nd Earl
of Manchester, the famous leader of the parliamentarian side in the Civil War, admitted in 1618;
his brother, Walter, admitted in the same year,
afterwards Abbot of Nanteuil and a noted royalist;
Edward, afterwards second Baron Montagu of
Boughton, member for Huntingdon in the Long
Parliament, admitted 1631; his brother William,
member for Huntingdon in the Short Parliament
and later Chief Baron of the Exchequer; Montagu
Bertie, afterwards 2nd Earl of Lindsey, a grandson
of the first Baron Montagu of Boughton and a noted
royalist, admitted 1622–3. Two other distinguished
royalists had been admitted in the first Master's
time; Edward Noel, later Viscount Camden, a
nephew of Sir John Harrington and a member of the
College from its first year, and also George Goring,
later Earl of Norwich, admitted in 1600. Another
man of great distinction in a different sphere
migrated from Queens' to Sidney in 1629, Thomas
Fuller, author of The Worthies of England.
When the Civil War broke out the College sent
£100 for the king's use. There is no record of any
plate being sent as was done by other colleges, but
two gilt cups and covers presented by the Earl of
Kent and not now in the possession of the College
may have gone at this time. In consequence of their
gifts to the king the Vice-Chancellor and other
heads of houses were requested to make contributions to the Parliamentary cause, and on their refusal,
Dr. Ward and others were imprisoned in St. John's
College until, his health giving way, he was permitted to retire to his own College. Within a month
he was seized with an illness and died on 7 September 1643.
The first three Masters had been nominated by
the executors, but by a deed of 5 January 1611 they
gave the College the right of free election. On
13 September 1643 the fellows met at 5 a.m. in the
Chapel to elect a successor to Dr. Ward. They were
divided between Herbert Thorndike of Trinity, a
royalist, and Richard Minshull, a fellow of Sidney
who had been a student with Cromwell and was now
on the side of Parliament. Five of the eleven fellows
present were in favour of Thorndike, five in favour
of Minshull and one seems to have been doubtful.
The matter was settled arbitrarily but effectively by
the Earl of Manchester's Committee, for they sent
a party of soldiers who forcibly took away one of
Thorndike's supporters; his other adherents then
refused to vote and withdrew, whereupon Minshull
was elected without further opposition. He and the
fellows were, however, commanded to appear before
the king at Oxford and give an account of their proceedings, but the king with the assent of Thorndike
ultimately confirmed Minshull's election.
The next Master, Joshua Basset, a fellow of Caius
College, was admitted by royal mandate on 7 March
1687. As he was a Roman Catholic the king dispensed with his taking the statutory oaths. Two
months later the new Master procured from the
Commission for Ecclesiastical Causes an order,
confirmed by the king on 2 July 1687, annulling all
provisions in the statutes against 'Popery, Heresy
and Superstition'. He is said to have set up the Mass
in the College chapel; if so, this was probably in a
room of the Master's Lodge, which he had fitted up
as a private chapel and which, though within the
chapel building, had always been annexed to the lodge.
On 1 December 1688 the king addressed a letter
to the College rescinding the order of the commissioners and his confirmatory letter, and directed that
the statutes of the College should henceforth be
observed as if no alteration had been made, also
authorizing the College to proceed to the election of
a Master and fellows in the room of those who were
not qualified by the statutes. The College accordingly,
on 9 December following, elected James Johnson,
one of the fellows, to the Mastership. The interloper,
Joshua Basset, had previously left the College.
Thereafter the history of the College was one of
steady growth and peaceful routine, interrupted only
by the two World Wars, during which its life and
work were adapted to times of emergency.
The following are the most notable:
the foundress, full length, attributed to the Dutch
artist, Hans Eworth, (fn. 2) and also a half-length; Oliver
Cromwell by Samuel Cooper, (fn. 3) and another by H.
Walker; 'Repose after the Flight into Egypt', an
altar-piece by Giovanni Battista Pittoni. (fn. 4)
Ewer and basin, silver gilt, 1606–7, presented by Sir John Harrington, son and heir of the
executor. Steeple cup and cover, silver-gilt, 1610–11,
presented by the Earl of Kent in 1611. A similar cup
and cover, another of about twice the weight also
given by the Earl and a number of other early pieces
have disappeared, probably during the Civil War.
Plate, silver, 1664 or 1671. Six tankards with covers,
silver, 1666–1706. Toy basin, silver, 1645–6. Teapot
and stand, silver, 1708–9. Snuffer stand with snuffers,
silver 1709–10. Pair of Trencher Salts, silver 1727–8.
Large soup tureen with cover, silver 1738–9. Tankard,
silver, 1739. Soup ladle, silver, 1742. Tall, twohandled cup and cover, silver, 1752–3.
Chapel plate: two chalices and paten covers, silver,
part gilt, 1610–11. A pair of flagons, 1610–11. Large
alms dish, silver part gilt, 1610–11. All presented by
the Earl of Kent, 1611. A pair of patens, silver, part
The corporate seal of the College, showing
a porcupine and surrounding it the inscription:
sigill commvn collegii dominae francisc sydney
A smaller seal showing the foundress's arms on
a lozenge and surrounding it the motto: diev me
garde de calvmniez.
Masters of Sidney Sussex College
James Montagu: 14 Feb. 1596.
Francis Aldrich: Apr. 1608.
Samuel Ward: 9 Jan. 1610.
Richard Minshull: 13 Sept. 1643.
Joshua Basset: (fn. 6) 7 Mar. 1687.
James Johnson: 9 Dec. 1688.
Bardsey Fisher: 22 Jan. 1704.
Joseph Craven: 25 Feb. 1723.
John Frankland: (fn. 7) 12 Feb. 1728.
John Adams: 15 Sept. 1730.
Francis Sawyer Parris: 20 Aug. 1746.
William Elliston: 8 May 1760.
Francis John Hyde Wollaston: (fn. 8) 18 Feb. 1807.
Edward Pearson: 31 Jan. 1808.
John Davie: 30 Aug. 1811.
William Chafy: 17 Oct. 1813.
Robert Phelps: 23 May 1843.
Charles Smith: 5 Feb. 1890.
George Arthur Weekes: 12 June 1918.
Thomas Knox-Shaw: 16 June 1945.
David Thomson: 25 June 1957.