Sectional Preface: Building Materials and Procedure

Pages xcviii-cvi

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Cambridge. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1959.

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Building Materials

Cambridge is without a good building stone, though bands of reasonably hard stone of irregular occurrence nearby provide materials for some local uses. From Roman times recourse has been had to the chalk bands known locally as clunch (Burwell Rock, Melbourn Rock, etc.), which come to the surface, from under the Boulder Clay, in W. Suffolk and continue through E. and S. Cambridgeshire to the Chilterns and beyond. Clunch is suitable for internal work, being easily carved, but weathers quickly. Thus experience led to the expedient of facing such walling outside with rendering, brickwork, or imported stone; in 1295, for example, 'white stone for filling walls' at Cambridge Castle came from Reach. The chalk also provides flints, though their use in Cambridge is very limited, and the hard stratum of the Lower Greensand yields a sandstone called Carstone. Small rubble walling of oolitic limestone, probably from Northamptonshire, survives from the 11th century and flint pebble walling from the 12th. Amongst other materials here, the most prevalent is brick, surviving in situ from the mid 14th century, and timber-framing from the 15th century. Notable is the use of many of these in the same structure. The wealth of documentary evidence for the source of materials in Cambridge (fn. 1) is such that the following account can be no more than representative.

The clunch quarries are mostly to the N.E., S. and S.W. of Cambridge. The Roman tomb-structure at Arbury Road (Monument (13)) was of Melbourn rock, a clunch. Entries in accounts show that clunch was brought for college buildings from Burwell, Reach, Barrington, Hinton, presumably Cherry Hinton, Eversden and Haslingfield, being specified as 'clunch', 'whitestone' or by its provenance, and it is evident that much of the stone was worked before delivery. (fn. 2) Though it hardens with maturity, the use of it in the 14th century for elaborate tracery, doorways and sculptured details where rendering was impossible would seem to have called for white liming. An interesting commentary on its properties is implied in the contract of 1632–3 for the Brick Building at Emmanuel College, the window dressings were to be of 'whitestone' but the sills and cornices of freestone. The original walls of Christ's College are of clunch alternating with courses of brickwork, and this may apply to many walls now ashlared. The sculptural capabilities of it are shown by the use of Eversden stone for images in Christ's College Chapel in 1510 and for Bishop Fisher's tomb-chest of c. 1535 in St. John's Chapel; these do not survive, but the character of the first is self-evident and a sketch of the elaborated tomb-chest exists. Again, the stone for the statues of the Stuarts on Great Gate, Trinity College, came from Barrington and Eversden. The use of clunch is not so evident in the 18th century but it occurs again in the cloister vaults of the New Court at St. John's College of 1826–31.

Small roughly coursed rubble was used for inter alia the early 11th-century tower of St. Benet's church, the 12th-century tower of St. Mary the Less, with some flint pebble at both, the 13th-century church of St. Andrew the Less, the 14th-century tower of St. Botolph, for St. Michael and the Old Court of Corpus Christi College of the same century, and the late 16th-century work at Trinity College where it was laid 'herring-bone' fashion. At both St. Benet's and Corpus Christi College it was rendered and no doubt this was the normal external treatment; documentary record shows that the 14th-century walls of Pembroke College, now either refaced or demolished, were built of rubble and plastered. Flint pebbles occur in the mid 12th-century Stourbridge Chapel and the part of the tower of Holy Trinity of the same age.

For good freestone, even more than for small rubble, Cambridge has always relied upon importation, at first or second hand, from the quarries in the great limestone belt extending from S.W. to N.E. across England. In Northamptonshire the Lower Oolite slopes are covered with Boulder Clay; in the N. part of the county and in Rutland these oolites produce excellent building stones. The best known of them in the Middle Ages were the shelly Barnack, Weldon, and Ancaster, and from a later date Ketton. Other well known quarries are Clipsham and Casterton in Lincolnshire. The Magnesian Limestone (see King's College Chapel) runs in a narrow band from Nottingham through Doncaster, Ripon and Darlington, bending eastward and spreading out to form the coastline from Tees to Tyne.

In the two 12th-century buildings that survive, Holy Sepulchre church and Stourbridge Chapel, Barnack stone was used. Fragments of stone of the same kind in the walls of Great St. Mary's church are second-hand material, having been brought from older ruined buildings. (fn. 3) The re-use of much rubble and ashlar from Thorney (fn. 4) and Ramsey Abbeys, Barnwell Priory, the Castle, and friars' houses in Cambridge is attested documentarily for many other Cambridge buildings, including Gonville and Caius College, King's College, Trinity College, Trinity Hall, and, together with slates, tiles and timber from the Carmelite house, for Queens' College.

For King's College Chapel begun in 1446 at first a white magnesian limestone was brought from Yorkshire, from quarries in the Tadcaster area; in 1460 supplies of stone from Northamptonshire, from King's Cliffe, began and before completion of the work in 1515 freestone had been used from Peterborough, Clipsham, Weldon, Hasilborough, and Hampole, the last, again from Yorkshire, for the vaults of the two porches. The King's Cliffe quarries supplied also the stone for much of the work at Trinity College, including the early 16th-century additions to Great Gate, then of King's Hall, the Chapel, begun 1555, Hall, begun 1604, and Fountain, begun 1601–2, for the chapel porch at Corpus Christi College, 1583–4, since destroyed, and for some dressings and cornices in the Second Court of St. John's, 1598–1602. Clipsham was ordered for Great St. Mary's in 1511 and Weldon eleven years later. Weldon was earlier used for most of Bishop Alcock's work at Jesus College, begun in 1496. From the early 17th century Ketton was extensively used for college buildings until in recent years the quarry was exhausted. It was obtained for Clare College, with Weldon, from 1635, Emmanuel College begun in 1668 and Trinity College Library begun in 1677, and often used for refacing, as at Christ's, Pembroke, Emmanuel Colleges and Trinity Hall in the first half of the 18th century. Trinity College accounts of 1636–7 include for paving the Chapel with Ketton and marble and the Hall of Emmanuel College was paved with similar stone in 1763. Again in the 19th century Ketton occurs at Downing, Corpus Christi, and King's Colleges and the Pitt Press. The E. and W. ends of Pembroke Chapel, 1663–5, are of Ketton and Portland. The Senate House begun in 1722 and Gibbs' Building begun in 1724 at King's College are of Portland, so also is the Fitzwilliam Museum begun in 1837. Rarer uses are the Purbeck stone recorded for the paving laid in 1667–8 in the First and Second Courts at St. John's, Purbeck and 'Dunkirk' for Jesus College Chapel in 1675–6 probably again for paving, Sussex marble for the porch of the old chapel, now destroyed, of Corpus Christi of 1583–4 and Fifeshire stone for the bridge of 1819 at King's College. Portland and Bath stone and Devonshire granite were used in 1822–3 for the Observatory, Portland and Whitby stone in 1837–40 for the Cockerell Building of the Schools.

The good brickearths N. and W. of Cambridge, though some compensation for the lack of good local building stone, do not, so far as structural evidence goes, seem to have been exploited here until the 14th century, unless the re-used Roman tiles in St. Peter's church are accepted as evidence to the contrary; no Roman bricks have been found in situ. (fn. 5) The earliest brick so found is in the vault of the bone-hole in the church of St. Mary the Less of c. 1350, used in the webs, the ribs being of clunch. These were perhaps from an E. Anglian brickfield for at much the same time Ely was being supplied from fields at Wisbech, Lynn, Wiggenhall and Ely itself, and none of the many references to bricks in college building accounts mentions the importation of bricks from abroad. In 1375–6 brick and ragstone were used at King's Hall, or again at Peterhouse in 1438–9 where surviving walls show this conjunction. The chapel at Gonville and Caius College of c. 1390 was built of clunch faced with brickwork and plastered, the plaster being scored to resemble ashlar; it is now refaced with true ashlar. That the fine-quality brickwork veneer of 1448 and 1449 at Queens' College, on a clunch infilling, was always exposed is demonstrated by the traces of diapering surviving in the S. wall; it is thus the first Cambridge college known to have used exposed brickwork extensively, just as it exhibits this remarkably early example of patterning. The next most conspicuous use of brick is at Jesus College where Bishop Alcock's work begun in 1496 has such a facing; it is of much interest, consisting mainly of white brickwork, though some consignments, due to variations in firing, are suffused with pink; it was produced no doubt from the bed of stiff blue clay called Gault that begins at Cambridge and runs S.W. to Swindon where it dies away. Here at Jesus again the diaper-patterning is of note. Brick on clunch infilling was again used at St. John's College for First Court in 1511–6, where the brickmaker was one Reculver of Greenwich whose travelling expenses to Cambridge were paid in 1511; it seems the bricks were purposely made for the College and wood for firing was brought from Coton nearby. (fn. 6) For the original buildings of Christ's College an impressment commission was issued for bricklayers, and in King's College Chapel, another royally sponsored building, brickwork was used and may be seen as infilling in the walls above vault-level. Brick was bought at Ely for the Great Gate of King's Hall (now of Trinity College) in 1528–9 and thereafter much brick was used, particularly during the latter part of the century, perhaps the most notable of all Cambridge works in brick of Elizabeth's reign, at the turn of the century, being Second Court at St. John's College. Reference has been made, under College Buildings above, to the spate of ranges of chambers added to Colleges during the reigns of James I and Charles I; most of these were of brick. For the rebuilding of Clare College brick-earth was obtained in 1636, but three years later Ely bricks were being bought. During this century, dates in moulded brick occur at Peterhouse, '1633', and at Abbey House (Monument (270)), '1678', and incised at St. John's College Third Court, '1673'. The earliest surviving example of Flemish bond here, 1634–7, is at St. Catharine's College. Wren used brickwork for the less conspicuous parts of his Chapel at Pembroke College, begun 1663, under contract with George Jackson and Thomas Hutton, bricklayers, and his Library at Trinity College, begun 1676, built under the supervision of Robert Grumbold; at Pembroke English bond is used, at Trinity Flemish. Both Stow and Trumpington brickfields are mentioned in the Trinity College Library accounts.

A number of large houses were built in the earlier part of the 18th century incorporating gauged, rubbed or moulded brick features and often an architectural treatment of two-colour brickwork. Most notable are 'Little Trinity', c. 1725, Fitzwilliam House, 1727, the Central Hotel, 1727, and 32 Jesus Lane. A simulation of brickwork could be obtained by using special-purpose tiles so moulded that the effect of headers, stretchers and closers, and even rubbed bricks for arches, was obtained; the term 'mathematical' tiles is the, inappropriate, usage for them. More often than not they were hung on older timber-framed buildings to give 'a new look', being a cheap substitute for rebuilding in brick, which evidently had prestige value. No 32 Hobson Street (Monument (164)) is a remarkable example of virtuosity in the use of this tiling; other examples are at 4 and 14 Market Hill (Monuments (149, 151)), 48 Sidney Street (Monument (163)), and Lichfield House (Monument (179)); all are of the 18th century. It is notable that in all these the tiling is restricted to the conspicuous elevations, a further economy that is itself reflected from the economy practised in those 18th-century houses where the conspicuous walls are of brick the rest of contemporary framing. For example, 20a and 22 Trinity Street (Monument (III)), and Peas Hill (Monument (145) S.E. block), among others, are early and late 18th-century buildings respectively with brick front and timber-framed back walls.

The 18th century witnessed an increasing use of white brick, made from the abundant local gault, probably in conformity with the aesthetic of the Picturesque movement that required a colour harmony, stone and white brick, and not a contrast, stone and red brick, the latter being increasingly considered in bad taste, (fn. 7) though it may be observed that the proposal for the New Court of St. John's College, 1826–31, offended so until revised in 1827. Fellows' Building at Peterhouse, 1738–42, Clare College Chapel, 1763–9, Downing College, begun 1807, New Court at St. John's, finished 1831, typically combine stone in front and white brickwork in the rear walls, though the latter is certainly not out of sight at Peterhouse. (fn. 8) White brick infilling occurs at the Senate House, begun 1722, and in Essex's Combination Room at Trinity College, 1771–4. On the other hand Essex Building at Queens' College, 1756–60, shows a full and unashamed architectural use of white brick, and Kenmare (Monument (237)) of the later 18th century is perhaps the first small house in Cambridge with a white brick façade. Resulting either from developing technique or in answer to the demand, improved methods of brick-making produced by the end of the century a very fine-textured and regular grey-white brick of constant colour. In the 19th century this material was used for nearly all the houses in the town and it is only with the Lodge to Histon Road Cemetery (Monument (74)) of 1843 and Rattee's House (Monument (280)) of c. 1845 that the use of multicoloured brickwork and fancy patterning begins.

Miscellaneous materials appear in profusion in the local building accounts. Lime came from Hinton for Great St. Mary's in 1513 and 1594, and from the same and Reach for Gonville and Caius College in 1573. Carter mentions the good lime-kilns at Cherry Hinton, 'which supply the town of Cambridge and a good part of the county with that useful commodity'. (fn. 9) Lead is recorded from Derbyshire for St. John's College in 1624 and Clare College in 1638; it was mined there and sent in large quantities to Boston for export; the fact that the Clare master-mason went to Lynn to enquire after it in 1638 suggests the route to Cambridge. Tiles, probably floor-tiles, were brought from King's Lynn for King Edward's Tower of King's Hall in 1430–1. In the 15th-century work at King's College Chapel can be seen oyster shells used as a damp-proof course between the bedded stones.

The stone roofing slates used in Cambridge came from a fissile oolite bed, the principal quarry being at Colley Weston, 4 miles S.W. of Stamford, whence for example, came the slates for Clare College in 1638. The absence of thatching in the area of the old town is not a matter of chance; a Privy Council order of 1619 is illustrative of the cause: it forbids 'all persons ... to erect or rebuild any manner of houses, cottages, barns, sheds, or such like, within the said town, except the owners and builders thereof do cover the same with slate or tile, and that they make or raise all chimneys ... with brick or stone, and that all thatched or reeded houses now built within the said town near unto any cottage or dwelling-house, be with all convenient speed tiled or slated...'. (fn. 10) Plain tiles and pantiles were local products co-extensive with the local bricks, the second, so far as they survive, being generally of the late 18th and 19th century; but the thin blue slates from further afield were the more prevalent roofing material at this later period in Cambridge.

College building accounts also provide details of the source of timber. Standing timber was sometimes given to the Colleges: in 1339 six oaks by Queen Philippa from Sapley (Hunts.) and four by Elizabeth de Burgh from Hundon (Suffolk) to King's Hall, for which also timber was viewed at Brandon and obtained from Haverell in 1413 and 1429–30 respectively. Timber from Thaxted was used at Peterhouse in 1430–1; that for King's College Chapel obtained between 1480 and 1483 came from Ashdon Hales, Thaxted, Bardfield, Weybridge, Sapley, and Stansted and Canfield Parks, that for Dr. Caius buildings at Gonville and Caius College Chapel from Warboys. The ruined Ramsey Abbey was again a convenient source of supply of wrought timber in the 16th century, Dr. Caius used it and much material came thence in 1562–3 for Trinity College Chapel. For the last Essex was also viewed for timber, and so was Suffolk where ten great trees were bought at £1 8s. each. In 1675 'Norway planks' were used in the main gate, since removed, at Clare College and in 1730 Norway oak flooring was installed in the Parlour, now the Library-annexe, at Trinity Hall. (fn. 11) Technical examination of the timber used in the 16th-century framing of the Folk Museum (Monument (214)) shows it to be elm, in the 17th-century framing pine; the latter occurs in other 17th-century buildings, for example in Monument (145) where dated 1661. Cedar planks were used for fittings in Trinity College Library between 1685 and 1691, though the casings of the bookcases, which have much the texture and colour of cedar, are in fact of oak.

The transport of building materials to Cambridge was largely by water, mainly from King's Lynn the sea port both for foreign and many home goods, and thence by the Ouse and the Cam. The importance of waterways to Cambridge is indicated complementarily by the constitution in 1373 of Lynn into a Staple port on the grounds that rivers ran thither from inter alia Cambridge by which wool and other goods could be conveyed more easily and cheaply than to any other port. (fn. 12) In 1535 an injunction was granted to allow Cambridge merchants to tie up their ships and load and unload in Lynn in process of the long dispute between the two towns over dues, which itself indicates the water-borne trade. (fn. 13) Or again, nearly two centuries later, an Act of 1703 (fn. 14) provided for improving the Cam from the Queen's Mill (by Magdalene or Great Bridge) to Clayhithe for barges, boats, lighters, etc., and the dues listed therein include for deal boards, timber, bricks, tiles, sedge, stones or pebbles, clay or sand, iron or lead, pitch-tar, etc.

In illustration of the foregoing, the supply of stone for King's College Chapel from S. Yorkshire came nearly the whole way to Cambridge by water. That from the Thefdale quarry granted to the College in 1446 was carried overland to the waters of the Wharfe, leading to the Great Ouse, the Humber and the sea. That from Huddlestone was shipped at Cawood on the Great Ouse; though the account of 1450–1 surviving that provides this information is concerned with the building of Eton and so transport to London and up the Thames, it is significant that King's College paid half the carriage costs, for Huddlestone stone was being used there from 1446 and probably earlier.

Inland waterways were used to bring stone from Weldon to Trinity College in 1560–1 and from King's Cliffe to Corpus Christi College in 1583–4; it was carted to Gunwade on the Nen and thence by water to Cambridge. (fn. 15)

Building Procedure

The surviving records of Royal works and of works at the two senior Universities are a source of very full and detailed information upon building in England from the 13th century to modern times. (fn. 16)

The documentation of Cambridge University and colleges, for example, demonstrates the trend in the organisation of building operations, most noticeably in the three centuries after the Black Death, towards the replacement of direct labour, integrated and centrally controlled, by the contract system. The Old Court and the present Chapel of King's College were being built by direct labour in the 15th century, but the latter was finished by contract early in the 16th century. At King's Hall in 1528–9 separate contracts were let for completing Great Gate (now of Trinity College), for masonry and for timber-work, the mason finding the masons' wages, the college his materials, the carpenter finding materials and workmanship. This is the first masonry contract recorded for the College, though not the first timber-work contract, as noted below. Second Court of St. John's College was built by contractors in 1598–1602, so too were the Perse and the Legge buildings at Gonville and Caius College in 1617 and 1618 respectively. The Westmorland Building of 1719–22 at Emmanuel College is an interesting late example of the employment of direct labour; the Society nominated two Fellows, responsible to itself, to supervise and coordinate the work and administer the building funds, just as some two and a half centuries earlier the supervisor, 'magister operum', of the building of King's College Chapel had been responsible to his superior, the king or his executors.

It was not unusual however for parts, as opposed to the whole, of large buildings to be done by bargain before the 16th century, in particular the timber-work. At King's Hall (see Trinity College) the first carpenter's contract is recorded in 1386–7, and the contracts of 1448 and 1449 for the timber-work of the original court of Queens' College and of 1466 for that of the S. range of the Schools survive. The specifications in these 15th-century contracts, particularly detailed for the Schools, are enhanced in value by the survival of much of the work specified. The Queens' indentures were with a draper and a carpenter; the presumption is that the draper was a guarantor. No complementary bargains for the stone and brickwork accompany these contracts, and such parts of the building work may be conjectured to have been done by direct labour. Certainly a University committee was appointed in 1457 to work out a scheme for the Schools extension.

Contracts of 1457 for a boundary-wall and 1459 for the walls, windows and doorway of a bakehouse for Corpus Christi College show that where the scale of mediaeval building was small such work was on occasion given to a contractor. Inevitably few documents remain to illustrate the process, if indeed the small contractor kept accounts, but repair work at Merton Hall (Monument (292)) was the subject of an agreement made in 1374 with two masons by Merton College, Oxford, and both agreement and work survive: a sufficiently remarkable coincidence in regard to a minor 14th-century undertaking.

Whilst 'plattes' are referred to in the early 16th-century King's College contracts, they do not survive and thus their form and connection with the contracts are unknown. But the St. John's contract of 1598 referred to above survives complete with the contract-drawings and is a prototype of the modern architectural process. Thereafter, in the 17th century, others, or evidences of others, survive in Cambridge, including inter alia the detailed specification and 'great draught' of 1633 for the Brick Building at Emmanuel, the contract and model of 1663 for Pembroke College Chapel, or, again, the 1670 Bishop's Hostel contract with a plan at Trinity College. The detailed working drawings for Trinity College Library preserved there and at All Souls College, Oxford, are evidence for further evolution by 1677.

Again a rather different organisation is exemplified by the conduct at St. John's College of the Library building between 1623 and 1625. The Bursar had duties of supervision and of approving and buying materials, one Henry Man, a carpenter, seems to have provided architectural and technical advice, for he drew the 'plots' and accompanied the Bursar to buy bricks as well as timber, whilst bargains were made with different tradesmen for parts of the work, including the brickwork. In due course Man was given the gratuity promised 'if he did well'. The relationship here between Bursar and carpenter suggests a reduced measure of autonomy from that within the mediaeval 'magister operacionum' and mastercraftsman relationship, and the organisation is of a workable and work-a-day kind that must have furthered much of the building in the University over a long period; indeed something of the kind obtained at the rebuilding of Clare College just before the Civil War, which was in part by direct labour, in part by small bargains, but where one John Westley was more clearly the master-craftsman and on occasion the chief contractor.

For Brick Building at Emmanuel both Westley and Man were employed, each in 1633 signing a separate contract with the College. Westley was the builder, being responsible for the brick and stonework, the tiling, the wattle-and-daub infilling, plastering, ironwork and glazing. Man was required to set up the oak and fir floors and roof 'at such time as the bricklayer shall be ready for them', the studding of the partitions according to the divisions described in a 'growndplott' by him exhibited, and the doors, etc. Except for minor gifts, both found their own materials. Here is essentially the modern contracting and sub-contracting system, though with a more direct and personal obligation between owner and 'specialist', 'specialist' and owner, than often now obtains.

Reference is made above to 'plots', 'plattes', 'draughts' and models, but little enough information regarding the preparation of architectural drawings before the 17th century, let alone the inception of design, is to be gathered from Cambridge documents any more than it is from extraneous sources. In 1480 parchment was bought for the master-carpenter of King's College Chapel on which to draw the roof ('in quo proposuit tractare tectum Ecclesie') (fn. 17) : a working-drawing perhaps. In 1512 Henry VII's executors made a grant to King's College on condition that the Chapel was vaulted 'after the fourme of a platte therfor devised', which the contractors describe as 'signed with the handes of the lordes executours', and in 1513 the buttress-finials were to be made according to the 'plattes conceyved for the same'.

Two large architectural drawings of King's College survive, one, inaccurate, of the N. elevation of the Chapel, the other of the proposed great tower (B.M., Cott. MSS. Augustus, I, i, 2 and 3); both are of the first half of the 16th century, but their purpose and their chronology against the work completed and that proposed are enigmatic. In connection with Bishop Fisher's chantry at St. John's College the mastermason of Ely Cathedral was paid 3s. 4d. in 1525 for drawing 'a draught for my Lordes tumbe and for his avyse of the chapell'. In the late 16th century a plan and elevation of a spire for Great St. Mary's church were prepared in company with a diagram apparently for purposes of calculating its cubic content of stone (B.M., Cott. MSS. Faustina, C,III, ff. 487–8, 490–1). It may be added that William Grumbold, mason, employed in completing the tower may well have been the freemason who is known to have drawn 'plotts' for Sir Thomas Tresham (fn. 18) (H.M.C.,MSS. in Various Colls., III, xxxiv).

Complementary however to this comparative paucity of drawings is the frequency with which mainly in the late mediaeval period craftsmen are referred to works elsewhere for pattern of quality, arrangement and often of style. It implies a general reliance, for the rather smaller projects at least, more upon exemplars than upon drafts. Instances at Cambridge of such direction occur in a contract of 1386 for the kitchen and 'solarium', now destroyed, of King's Hall, in a St. John's contract of 1516 with a carpenter for chapel fittings, of which the stalls survive reset in the present Chapel, and in a contract of 1520 for a rood-loft, now destroyed, in Great St. Mary's. A late recourse to the same method occurs at St. Catharine's College where the agreement with John Austin for the Chapel fittings requires that all the work 'is to be done, exactly in the same manner, with the work in Christ's College Chapel, and every way to be as good as that.... The whole work to be finish'd, before Christmas day 1703'. In truth, between the few surviving mediaeval original works and their copies so specified the disparity is to us notable, but this may be due as much to a modern failure to understand the usage of words in the contracts as to the mediaeval craftsman's failure of memory or lack of measured drawings. Of greater note is the identity of style that does permeate much mediaeval work, for instance that in the Cambridge area associated with Bishop Alcock: the almost exact duplication of his elaborate doorway of c. 1500 to the cloister at Jesus College and one in his building of the Bishop's Palace at Downham, or the similarity between the roof-corbels in the Hall at Jesus and those in the aisles of Great St. Mary's church, of which he was a benefactor, and generally in character with his chantry in Ely Cathedral. These may well be the products of a single band of masons, producing characteristic work and on occasion, as in the instance quoted above, probably using the same moulds and templates. (fn. 19)

The incidence of chance in the survival of contracts and of drawings makes deduction hazardous, but from the foregoing there seems to emerge, not unexpectedly, a connection between the establishment of the contracting system and the survival of drawings of works proposed. Under direct labour it is to be supposed that in supplementation of the detailed preliminary verbal directions, the 'will' of Henry VI for King's College for instance, drawings were prepared on canvas or boards in the 'tracery-houses' or lodges as a matter of day-to-day procedure during the progress of the work, and without written record of the fact: the drawings being probably large-scale details were no doubt destroyed in the process of use. Under contract, drawings supplemented agreements, as at St. John's College, and together were legal instruments.

One other aspect of building in mediaeval Cambridge may be considered briefly here, that is, how in so comparatively small a place enough craftsmen could be gathered together for simultaneous employment on a major building like King's College in those periods when work was being pressed ahead (see histogram, p. 102). It was the royal prerogative much exercised by the English kings to issue commissions for the impressment of craftsmen and labourers and their enrolment, on pain of imprisonment. The net was often spread wide, the order being sent to sheriffs of several counties, but possibly to ensure a better class of craftsman commissions were sometimes issued specifically to a master-craftsman, a surveyor or a clerkof-works. The latter method was adopted for the work sponsored by the king at King's College. In 1444 Henry VI issued letters patent to Reginald Ely 'head mason of our College Royal', William Roskyn and Henry Beverley, clerks-of-works, directing them to impress stonemasons, masons, carpenters, plumbers, tilers, smiths, plasterers and all other workmen needed for the building. For the same, Richard III's patent of 1484 empowered John Sturgeon, carpenter, to press workmen so that 'the building should go on with all possible despatch'. Or again, a scheme for new building Trinity College was initiated by a similar commission in very wide terms from Philip and Mary in 1554 (Willis and Clark, II, 469–70).

The king's needs overrode those of his subjects, but that his needs could clash is perhaps illustrated by the exemption granted in 1446 to the servants of King's College from liability to be taken for building operations by the Crown elsewhere. The subject's need was met however on occasion by the right of impressment being given by the Crown to other employers or by exemption being granted to their servants. An example of the last is the commission of 1564 from Elizabeth I to John Caius, just before his court at Gonville and Caius College was begun, that none of the materials, the gear nor the workmen 'be in any wise taken or withdrawn from them attending the said work by any of our officers' and that they 'be free from all and every our purveyors and servants during the [five] years hereafter following, if the College shall be so long in building'.


  • 1. Passim R. Willis and J. W. Clark, Arch. Hist. of the University of Cambridge (1886), Vols. I–III; J. E. Foster, Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Mary the Great, Cambridge, 1504–1635, C.A.S. (1905); etc.
  • 2. V.C.H. Cambs., II, 366.
  • 3. Barnack quoins occur in the fragment of St. Peter's church, Monument (58).
  • 4. 'There is at Thorney Abbey good stone of ashlar or freestone which may be so carefully taken down that it shall need no hewing or workmanship for so the waterman will undertake to bring it..., the water serveth very well to bring it hither from thence, so that it be brought in the winter time whilst the water be high' (B.M., Cotton MSS. Faustina, C. III, f. 487, referring to the tower and spire of Great St. Mary's, late 16th-century).
  • 5. But see p. lxii.
  • 6. R. G. Scott, Notes from the Records of St. John's College, Cambridge (1889–99).
  • 7. Isaac Ware, Complete Body of Architecture (1756), 60–1: 'of [grey stocks and red stocks] the grey are the most used; and this not only because they are cheaper, but in most cases where judgement is preferred to fancy they will have preference. . . . There is something harsh in the transition from the red brick to stone, and it seems altogether unnatural; in the other, the grey stocks come so near the colour of stone that the change is less violent, and they sort better together'.
  • 8. In this context may be quoted the interesting comment by Giacomo Leoni, thirty years before Ware's appraisal, in regard to Argyll House in King's Road, Chelsea, 'the ornaments of the windows are all of stone, as is also the great cornice; the rest is gray brick, which in my opinion sorting extremely well with white stone, makes a beautiful harmony of colours' (The Architecture of L. B. Alberti, 1726).
  • 9. E. Carter, History of Cambridgeshire [1753] 1819, 204.
  • 10. C. H. Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, III, 126.
  • 11. According to William Warren in his history of the College, but he wrote contemporaneously with the work.
  • 12. Rot. Parl., II, 319.
  • 13. C. H. Cooper, Annals, I, 377; see also 55–8 (1551), 215–6 (1565), 570–2 (1597), 594–6 (1599).
  • 14. Stat. 1 Ann stat. 2, c. 11; C. H. Cooper, op. cit., IV, 53.
  • 15. 'This newe stonne [as opposed to reused stone] ys to be hadd at a place cawlled King's-cliffe, and maye be well convaied to Gooneworthe ferrie whiche ys aboght five miles from the quarrie, and so from that ferrie yt maye be brought well by water hither' (B. M., Cotton MSS. Faustina, C, III, f. 487, referring to Great St. Mary's church tower and spire, late 16th-century).
  • 16. passim R. Willis and J. W. Clark, Architectural History of the University of Cambridge, etc. (Cambridge, 1886), I–III; F. B. Andrews, The Mediaeval Builder and his Methods (Oxford, 1925); D. Knoop and G. P. Jones, The Mediaeval Mason (Manchester, 1949) and 'The Sixteenth Century Mason' in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, L, pt. III (1937); L. F. Salzman, Building in England (Oxford, 1952); J. Harvey, English Mediaeval Architects (London, 1954); references to manuscript and other printed sources are given in the text.
  • 17. Day-book of Thomas Clyff, clerk-of-works, in the College.
  • 18. Rothwell Market House contract, B.M., Add. MSS. 39831. It is of interest in this context that Tresham's Triangular Lodge at Rushton seems to have been built by direct labour, whilst in part at least at his Lyveden Old Build Grumbold was not only responsible for the design but stood between Tresham and other contractors, in much the position, that is, of the modern architect to his client. Lyveden Old and New Build accounts, B.M., Add. MSS. 39831–51.
  • 19. A. Oswald in J. Harvey, op. cit., traces other noteworthy stylistic series, see under e.g. Reginald Ely, John Wastell, in the Cambridge context.