The colleges and halls: Clare College

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.

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'The colleges and halls: Clare College', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959) pp. 340-346. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

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The site of the existing 17th-century court of Clare, with two houses standing thereon, was acquired by the University in 1298. The houses were probably used as a hostel for graduates until the University obtained a licence in 1326 to establish a new collegium under the title of University Hall. This licence enabled the members of the society to be put in corporate possession of the premises and to be subjected to statutes. As the new corporation consisted of clerks, it needed a competent founder, whose patronage should be constantly available. This function was undertaken by Richard de Badew, who was Chancellor in 1326; and it seems clear that for several years he supplemented the scanty endowments of the College from his own resources.

Clare College. Or three chevrons gules (for Clare) impaling or a cross gules (for de Burgh) all within a bordersable with golden drops.

The existence of a society prior to the incorporation in 1326 is proved by the mention in the statutes of 1359 of three early benefactors: Gilbert de Roubury, a justice of the King's Bench, John Salomon, Prior of Ely and afterwards Bishop of Norwich, and Thomas de Cobham, Bishop of Worcester. Gilbert de Roubury's bequest made in 1320 consisted of a 'chest', or a fund, which would normally be used to provide loans to poor members. John Salomon's bequest of 100 marks in 1325 was probably intended to further the scheme for founding a college, and may have been used to purchase a property in Glomery Lane, which was acquired in 1327 by three fellows as trustees. It is not known what form was taken by the bequest of Thomas de Cobham, who died in 1327, but in 1328, two 'schools' on the corner of Glomery Lane were bought by certain fellows as trustees.

The endowments of University Hall were, however, totally inadequate, a fact which was brought to the notice of Lady Elizabeth de Clare, widow of John de Burgh and youngest daughter of Gilbert, Earl of Clare, Gloucester, and Hertford, and Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I. Robert Marschall, who was certainly in her confidence and was also a relative of Richard de Badew, was probably the intermediary. Lady Clare responded by obtaining a licence, dated 12 March 1336, to transfer the rectory of Litlington to the Master and Fellows; but during the period of negotiations necessary to define the obligations of the College to the parish, the Bishop of Ely died, and the necessary deed was not executed until 23 August 1338. Meanwhile on 6 April in the same year Richard de Badew had surrendered his rights in the College to Lady Clare, and the transfer was ratified by the University and College on 5 April 1340 with the proviso statutis dictae semper salvis.

Owing to the plague, Elizabeth de Clare became concerned about the supply of clerks in the years to come. As patroness of University Hall, she wished to change its character so that it should be the means not only of keeping teachers in Cambridge, but also of bringing poor boys of ability to the University. Owing to the statutis salvis clause, this could only be arranged with the consent of the University. She journeyed to Cambridge in February 1346, and overcame any possible opposition. But it was still possible that persons claiming an interest in the advocatio, with or without the old statutes, might cause tiresome litigation. To guard against this, she prevailed on de Badew to cover his surrender of the advocatio by a deed of banns or clamatio, summoning all persons whatsoever to show reason why she should not enjoy full immunity from challenge or suit in respect of her advocatio. The period of publication of this deed being duly over, the king issued a licence on 15 June for the further endowment of the College with the rectories of Great Gransden (Hunts.) and Duxford St. John, to which Wrawby (Lincs.) was soon added. Without any sharp break University Hall became Clare Hall.

The evil consequences of the inadequate endowment were not finally dealt with until 1352, when, at the instance of Lady Clare, the king sent a commission of investigation. Financial difficulties had led the fellows to adopt dishonest or undesirable expedients. Robert Spalding had appropriated and sold a student-hostel of which he was tenant-inchief in trust for the College. Others had obtained benefices that could be held without leaving Cambridge. Accordingly one provision of Lady Clare's statutes was that a fellow should vacate his fellowship as soon as his independent income reached 10 marks by inheritance or preferment. These admirable statutes, given to the College in 1359, were the fruit of twelve years' deliberation and experience. The skill and tact with which the foundress carried through for the University the work which it had itself begun was truly exemplary. The early history of the College is of particular interest because it was Lady Clare who first conceived the idea of a College as a community consisting of undergraduates as well as a Master, fellows, and graduates. No similar College existed at Oxford until New College was founded in 1379. (fn. 2) Moreover, it was her closest friend, Marie de St. Pol, Countess of Pembroke, who began the foundation of Pembroke College in 1346.


The present site, an area of about 1¾ acres on the east bank of the Cam, was, so far as is known, the original one. In 1638 Charles I wrote to King's College requesting them to lease Butt Close, now the garden on the west bank of the river, to Clare. In 1651 Butt Close was leased by King's for 20 years at an annual rent of £5, and an area of 50 by 70 ft., part of the site of Clare adjoining King's Chapel, was leased to King's at a rent of 1s. The leases were to be renewed for ever without payment of fines. In accordance with a private Act of Parliament of 1823 (fn. 3) Clare exchanged the White Horse Inn and the before-mentioned piece of land in front of the College, valued together at £2,500, for Butt Close and £100 in money. The area of Butt Close is 2¾ acres. The site of the 'White Horse' is now occupied by the detached portion of King's adjoining St. Catharine's.

In 1804 the College was allotted 11 acres under the inclosure award of St. Giles's parish on the west side of Queen's Road. On the portion of this land fronting on Queen's Road, 5½ acres in area, the Memorial Building has been erected in memory of 197 members of the College who lost their lives in the First World War. The land behind the Memorial Building was sold to the University in 1925 as part of the site for the new Library.


It has already been stated that the foundress gave the rectories and advowsons of Great Gransden, Duxford St. John, Litlington, and Wrawby to the College. About 1367 Baldwin's manor in Great Gransden was bequeathed by Richard Baudewene. Henry VI gave land and houses in Cambridge and Chesterton in return for property surrendered for the use of King's College. Unfortunately the king's title to some of the property was defective, and it had to be given up to Merton College. The manor of Limburies in Ickleton was bought about 1456. The manor of Lacey's in Duxford was bequeathed in 1517 for a period of 50 years by Sir William Fynderne of Carlton. The rectory and advowson of Everton (Beds.) with Tetworth (Hunts.), formerly the property of St. Neots Priory, was purchased about 1544. In 1545 the net annual value of the endowments was £132, of which £54 was derived from the four rectories given by the foundress.

About 1562, Edward Leeds, Master of the College, and of St. John's Hospital, Ely, procured a licence from Elizabeth I to transfer the property of the hospital to the College for the maintenance of ten additional scholars. The property was situated in and near Ely and Littleport, and included the Littleport rectorial tithes. The right of presentation to the living was reserved to the College in old leases of the tithes. In 1602 Thomas Cave gave half the rectorial tithes of Warmfield (Yorks.) to maintain two scholars from Wakefield Grammar School. The tithe carried with it the right of alternate presentation to the vicarage. The other half of the tithe was bequeathed by Barnabas Oley, sometime fellow, for the augmentation of the vicarage, and his right of alternate presentation to the trustees of the Oley Trust, among whom are the Master and the eight senior fellows. The right of presentation is now exercised solely by the trustees.

In 1612 Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter, and Dorothy, his wife, gave a rentcharge of £108 yearly for the maintenance of three fellows and eight scholars. An Exeter fellow was allowed 5s. 9d. a week during residence, a Lord Exeter scholar was allowed 2s., and a Lady Exeter scholar 1s. 6d. a week. These scholarships and fellowships were abolished in 1861, the allowances having remained unchanged except that the fellowships had for some time been augmented out of a specific bequest. Robert Johnson, Archdeacon of Leicester, sometime scholar and fellow, fellow of Trinity, and founder of Oakham and Uppingham Schools, gave an annual rentcharge to provide four exhibitions at each of Clare, St. John's, Sidney Sussex, and Emmanuel Colleges for boys educated at the two schools. The rentcharge was subsequently sold and the proceeds invested in land, which was itself sold to the great advantage of the foundation. Two fellowships and ten scholarships were founded in 1617 out of a bequest by John Freeman of £2,000, to be invested in land. In 1657 Joseph Diggon devised land at Stepney, Braintree (Essex), and Liss (Hants). Two fellowships and four scholarships were founded with this endowment. In 1680 Thomas Philpot devised property at Eltham and Sidcup (Kent) for the purpose of maintaining two fellowships restricted to natives of Kent. The holders were debarred from election into any other class of fellowships and from membership of the governing body. Two fellowships and five scholarships were founded out of the bequest in 1867 of about £25,000 by Thomas Henry Coles.


The only advowsons held by the College in 1700 were those already mentioned. In 1713 Dr. Samuel Blythe devised and bequeathed property, money, and investments for the purpose of purchasing advowsons to be offered to fellows on the Clare and Exeter foundations in order that their acceptance might create vacancies in fellowships. The following advowsons were acquired: Patrington (Yorks.), 1716; Orcheston St. Mary (Wilts.), 1719; Elmsett (Suff.) and Ockley (Surr.), 1724; Datchworth (Herts.), 1725; Rotherhithe (Surr.) and Great Waldingfield (Suff.), 1729; Brington, Old Weston, and Bythorn (Hunts.), Hardingham (Norf.), Westley and Fornham All Saints (Suff.), 1736; Birdbrook (Essex), 1836; and Guestling (Suss.), 1857.

The advowson of Duxford St. Peter was purchased from Corpus Christi in 1868, and united with Duxford St. John. The advowson of Hackford (Norf.) was acquired by gift in 1918, and united with Deopham in 1920. Hardingham has been exchanged for Ashill (Norf.). The following unions of benefices have been effected: Litlington with Abington Piggotts; Brington and Old Weston with Molesworth; Orcheston St. Mary with Orcheston St. George.

Constitution and Statutes.

The corporate name of the college is The Master, Fellows and Scholars of Clare College in the University of Cambridge. The governing body is composed of the Master and the Fellows. The statutes of 1359 prescribed that the number of fellows should be increased to 20 when endowments permitted. The statutes of 1551 left the position unchanged, except that they permitted the election of probationary fellows, without stipend and voting powers, who were elected into fellowships as vacancies occurred. There is no evidence that there were ever more than 13 fellows at one time. The number became stabilized at 10 and so remained from about 1600 to 1861. These were the fellowships on the old foundation. Other fellowships were founded and maintained out of specific endowments: 3 by the Earl of Exeter in 1612, 2 by John Freeman in 1617, 2 by Joseph Diggon in 1658, increased later to 4. The named fellowships were abolished by the statutes of 1861, and the total number was reduced to 17. An additional fellowship was founded out of the bequest of Dr. Coles in 1870. The statutes of 1882 further reduced the total to 14. This was increased to 15 in 1883 when a second fellowship was founded out of Dr. Coles's benefaction. The statutes of 1926 created five classes of fellowships, of which the first two only are stipendiary: research fellowships, official fellowships (restricted to holders of certain College and University offices), professorial fellowships, supernumerary fellowships, and retired fellows who qualify for life fellowships.


The two houses which formed the original buildings of University Hall may have been occupied as a hostel for some 20 to 30 years before 1326, when they were taken over as collegiate buildings. All the muniments were destroyed by fire in 1521, except one manuscript book containing information about the first 200 years of the life of the College, (fn. 4) with the result that little is known about the early buildings apart from the fact that the library was either built or enlarged about 1425.

In 1521 the Master's Lodge and the treasury were burnt down, and this seems to have led to the rebuilding of the College. A quadrangle was completed probably within fifteen years. At the south end of the west side kitchen and butteries were built in 1523; next to these the hall in 1524, and the Master's Lodge adjacent to the hall in 1525. The western part of the north side was added in 1528, and in 1535 the eastern part consisting of a chapel with library over. The east side abutted on the street, with the entrance gate near the north end, and the west side ran through the middle of the present court, so that the area of the ground plan was the same as now. Prideaux's delightful drawing, bound with copies of the statutes of 1359 and 1551, shows the whole quadrangle as having the same height, ground floor, first floor, and gable roof with dormer windows facing inwards and outwards except in west range, but no part of these buildings now exists. Early in the 17th century the quadrangle had fallen into disrepair and it was decided to rebuild.

Work on the present east range was started in 1638 and finished in 1641. The bridge was also begun in 1638 and completed two years later. It was probably built first in order to facilitate the conveyance of building material across the river, and to have ready access to the country in case of plague. The south range, begun in 1640, was completed in 1642. Work was also begun on the southern half of the west range, but was discontinued the next year owing to the Civil War. It was resumed and completed between 1662 and 1679. Between 1683 and 1689 the hall, combination room, and butteries were built, and immediately after them the kitchen and the library, completing the north range. The northern half of the west range, the Master's Lodge, was only added between 1705 and 1715. In spite of changes in style and detail introduced after the Civil War the architectural unity of the whole quadrangular court was successfully maintained. This was partly due, however, to modifications introduced in the 18th century and even as late as 1815. The total cost of the work carried out between 1638 and 1715 was £15,478, towards which £6,654 was received from benefactors. The chapel had not been included in the scheme for rebuilding. The present chapel was built between 1763 and 1769 on the site of the old one at a cost of £7,327, of which £7,071 was received in benefactions.

Towards the end of the 19th century the number of undergraduates had increased to about 180, a number far in excess of any since the second half of the 16th century. It became apparent that to have so large a proportion as two-thirds of the undergraduates living in lodgings was a great handicap to the corporate life of the College. In 1910 the building of a second court was under serious consideration, and after the First World War a fund was raised to commemorate those members of the College who had fallen. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's plans for the Memorial Building were approved. This building provides sets of rooms for 4 fellows and 114 undergraduates. The work was begun in 1922 and completed in 1935 at a cost of £125,361 of which £33,358 was subscribed.

The new University Library, also to the designs of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was built on the same axis as the Memorial Court to the great advantage of both buildings. An extension of the Memorial Court by the same architect, to commemorate the Clare men who died in the Second World War, was dedicated in September 1955, and opened by the Master, Sir Henry Thirkill, in the presence of a large number of members of the College and their relatives. The extension contains rooms for 44 undergraduates and one fellow.


The society of University Hall did not hold any corporate worship within its walls; its members continued to attend the parish church and were, of course, corporately responsible for the commemoration of benefactors. Lady Clare went so far as to obtain a papal licence to build a chapel of Clare Hall in 1346. Nevertheless the statutes of 1359, while providing very fully for the religious obligations of the College as a body, still attached them all to the parish church of St. John Zachary. The use of an oratory intra mansum in 1352 had been only temporary, while this church was under an interdict.

It was not until after the foundress's death in 1360, when the College inherited the rich furnishings of her private chapel, that the decision was finally reached to build a permanent College chapel. Papal licence was petitioned for in 1363 and granted. The resulting chapel seems to have had only one altar in 1392, and no more would then be needed, as the society consisted of fewer than 30 persons and the statutory masses were consecutive. This chapel evidently stood on the north boundary of the College site, with its east end close to the buildings on Milne Street. There is no reason to suppose any building west of it. At, or soon after, the end of the 14th century there seem to have been north and south chapel altars, besides the high altar. During the 15th century benefactions greatly increased the society's numbers, and at the same time its chantry duties. Since the recitation of offices formed no part of the corporate obligation, it may be assumed that the chapel was not a stalled choir, but only a masschapel.

But, rebuilding having begun after the fire of 1521, this first chapel gave place to a new one with library above. Since the roof-line was the same as that of the rest of the quadrangle now built, this chapel was only the height of two stories and had a flat-beamed ceiling. The width was about 21 ft., the length of the chapel 41, and of the ante-chapel 18. It was lit, north and south, by three gothic windows of three lights, each light having an apostle or church father, with heraldic glass below. In 1534, a year before it was completed, the University publicly renounced the Pope's authority. But times changed again, and in 1557 the College underwent a visitation from Niccolo Ormaneto. Swynburne, the Master, having to explain why there was no pyx with the Reserved Sacrament hanging over the altar, pleaded that the chapel had not been consecrated. This is corroborated by the strange fact that there is no record of any burial in it. Its use without consecration would indeed be covered by the bishop's licence for an oratory. Since the demolition of St. John Zachary, probably about the end of the 15th century, the College had burial rights of some kind in a south aisle added to St. Edward's Church. In 1551 a Common Prayer obligation had been substituted for the Mass obligation and no doubt then, or soon after, stalls were added.

During the time of Nicholas Ferrar the sacramental provision was again improved and enriched. Dr. William Butler presented a sumptuous altarcloth and his will provided for the gold chalice and paten which are still in use. In 1641 the sanctuary was paved, the east end panelled and a cross placed over the altar. Two years later Dowsing ordered the removal of the cross and the levelling of the floor to the height of the altar steps. But the society persisted in its former mind, and in 1644 a Parliamentary commission, learning that the Puritan enactments against certain ritual practices were being defied, ordered the society to feast on Fridays, and fish was not to be one of the courses. At the Restoration the old 'high church' life was immediately revived; the altar was again raised and, notwithstanding the heavy expenditure on rebuilding the College, the furnishings of the chapel were enriched. Nevertheless there was a growing desire to replace the chapel with a new one in the Renaissance style.

At length in 1763, sufficient funds being available, the gothic chapel was demolished; a crypt was constructed and the present chapel begun. The architects were Sir James Burrough, Master of Caius, who died the next year, and James Essex, on whom all the detailed work consequently devolved. This new chapel was ready for occupation in 1769. It clearly expresses the 'high church' feelings, and nowhere more than in the altar-piece depicting the Annunciation; for the foundress had herself, in her statutes, ordered the society to keep the octave of the Annunciation as the annual solemn festival.

Nothing more was done to the chapel until 1857, when it was redecorated. In 1866 an organ was added. In 1868 the south-east window representing the foundress was put in. The coloured glass which was put into the remaining windows in the next two years has been removed, and in the westernmost pair dignified designs by Mr. Hugh Easton were put in 1935. The present fine organ was installed in 1910. The theory that this chapel is extradiocesan is disproved by the fact that when Richard Terrick, Bishop of London, consecrated it in 1769, he was first handed the Bishop of Ely's commission and was accompanied in the ceremony by the deputy chancellor of the diocese.


A library room was enlarged or built about 1425. William Wymbyll, who became Master in 1421, gave £3 to glaze the south side of the library. It was usual to build libraries running north and south and lit on both sides. There is no evidence of extensive chaining of books, while loans to fellows and others appear to have been of long duration. William Wilfleet, Master 1448–55, was still collecting money ad edificium librarie but the building was perhaps already completed.

The chief evidence upon this 15th-century library is in the limp-covered notebook known as the Master's Old Book, the only college document to survive a fire in the Master's chambers in 1521. It appears that this book began with an inventory of the college library made about 1440, no doubt in connexion with the collection of the books into their new home. Unfortunately some 4 to 8 leaves, containing the list of books on theology and philosophy, that is a majority of the books, have disappeared. The remaining leaves bear a list of books on physics, logic, mathematics, history, and law, and of chapel service-books, to a total of 111. Some of the items on the lost leaves are given on a separate sheet in the form of a record of benefactors to the library and their gifts. But the gifts, which date from the first days of the College, only account for a minority of the books, so that there must have been steady acquisition by purchase all through the first century of the College history. In 1496 a register of 'unbound' books was written into the Master's Old Book. No doubt this meant books bound in vellum only and not in boards. Finally Leland and Bale gave lists of books seen by them in this library. (fn. 5) The sum of information is that the library was adequate, but restricted to books useful in lecturing and disputing in the schools. The 1496 list ends with a notice of four unredeemed cautiones in the chest in the vestry, consisting of books to be sold for the benefit of the chest. The College had a cista redituum and a cista communis for current income and expenditure, and reserve funds deposited in a cista stauri kept in the chapel. But this cista in vestiario served a different purpose. It was an eleemosynary chest, from which members of the society could borrow on pledge. In 1455 the College itself became so pressed for cash that it borrowed from the cista in vestiario, putting into the chest as pledge a missal from the chapel.

The 1440 inventory identifies each volume by the author and title of the first or principal work in it and by the opening words of the second and last leaves. It helped the 15th-century librarian to keep track of his books and it makes it possible to say that every volume has since disappeared from the College. In 1535 the second chapel was completed with the new library room above it. The College still has early printed books acquired at that time but they can have filled but a tiny fraction of the space. The easy assumption that the 15th-century library was destroyed by the fire of 1521 is disproved by the fact that a manuscript in the Bodleian Library (fn. 6) can be safely identified as a volume seen by Leland and Bale in the Clare library. It is inscribed as a gift of John Ingham, an early-15th-century fellow. More probably, therefore, the 15th-century books went up to fill the new room over the chapel. Their dispersal may have come a little later, when their room was grudged, and the printed books of the new learning and the new theology were pouring in. There is ground for hope that further volumes from the old library may be identified with existing manuscripts in other libraries, and may contribute to the history of the dispersal.

The second library room, built between 1528 and 1535 over the chapel, continued in use until about 1760, when the old chapel was pulled down. This room was furnished in 1627 with bookcases similar to those provided about the same time for the library of St. John's. The present library room was built in 1693 and used concurrently with the old room, which was replaced by a room over the hall in 1763. The library has now been converted into a 17th-century room, and the bookcases of 1627 have been removed to a room specially prepared for use as a students' library, with the windows interspaced between the bookcases. This is a reversion to the conditions existing when the old library room over the chapel was used concurrently with the present room adjoining the combination room.

One of the most notable collections of books was given in 1620 by George Ruggle, the author of Ignoramus. He presented 284 books, including many very scarce French, Spanish, and Italian plays. About 1724 Dr. Humphrey Prideaux, through his son Edmund, a member of the College, gave a valuable collection of over 300 Oriental books. In 1915 a collection of liturgical books was given by Dr. Edward Atkinson, Master, and increased to a total of 300 by the gift of Dr. C. L. Feltoe. The Library also houses Cecil Sharp's manuscript collection of folk tunes, folk words, and folk dance notes with an index in 40 volumes.

The library possesses 35 books printed before 1500, of which 17 are Italian. Among the examples of early bindings are two by Siberch and four by Speryng or Spierinck. There are six volumes which formerly belonged to Ben Jonson, of which one is a Basle Sallust of 1564. There are also 31 manuscripts. (fn. 7)

Historical Sketch.

Little is known about the life of the society until the Reformation. In 1524–5 Hugh Latimer, while still a fellow, began his vigorous championing of the reformed doctrines in Cambridge. Latimer's fame as one of the chief of the reformers stood the College in good stead when a royal commission was appointed in 1548 to dissolve Clare Hall and Trinity Hall and to found in their place a college for the exclusive study of civil law. The Master and Fellows opposed the scheme and received support from Bishop Ridley, one of the commissioners. In anticipation of dissolution the Master and Fellows divided up the plate amongst themselves.

During the reigns of James I and Charles I much attention was drawn to the College by a group of remarkable fellows. William Butler was physician to James I and undoubtedly ranked as the foremost physician of his day. George Ruggle was a French, Spanish, and Italian scholar and had a great reputation as a writer of comedies. One entitled Ignoramus was twice performed in 1615 in the hall of the College before James I. But it was perhaps the striking personality and gifts of Nicholas Ferrar, combining saintliness with charm and intellectual alertness, that did as much as anything to attract attention to the society at this time. He was admitted in 1606 when only thirteen and elected fellow immediately after taking the B.A. degree. After a period of foreign travel he proved his ability in practical affairs in the service of the Virginia Company and in Parliament. In 1625 he withdrew to Little Gidding (Hunts.) and there founded a religious community which soon became celebrated. Barnabas Oley, elected fellow in 1623, is remembered for the wisdom and zeal with which he organized the rebuilding in 1638–42. Humphrey Henchman, after graduating M.A. at Christ's, was a fellow of Clare for a few years before 1620. His devotion to Charles II after the battle of Worcester was remembered at the Restoration, and he became successively Bishop of Salisbury and of London, a privy councillor, and Lord Almoner. Peter Gunning, elected a fellow in 1635, also an ardent Royalist, was ejected with other fellows by the Earl of Manchester in 1644. Reinstated in 1660, he became Master of Corpus a few months later. The next year he was appointed successively Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Regius Professor of Divinity, and Master of St. John's. Both he and Henchman were considered to have been outstanding for their wise insight at the Savoy conference. He was appointed Bishop of Chichester in 1669 and translated to Ely in 1675.

It is somewhat surprising that the society, which was predominantly Royalist in sympathy, should have come through the years of the Civil War comparatively unscathed. It would seem that there were level heads to whom this was partly due. John Tillotson, elected a fellow in 1651, was a supporter of the Parliament and was able to get the ear of Cromwell and obtain restitution for building materials valued at £500 which had been seized about 1642 for use in fortifying the castle. After the Restoration he was ordained, became a celebrated preacher, and eventually Dean and Archbishop of Canterbury.

It was the practice for undergraduates to be shared amongst the Master and fellows as pupils, but in the time of Samuel Blythe more and more were admitted as his pupils until he had a virtual monopoly. The accounts of his pupils, 1658–1704, in four volumes have been preserved. This was the beginning of the tutorial system, one, two, or three fellows acting as tutors. During the early years of the 18th century, thanks to Richard Laughton, who was tutor and had the reputation of being the best in the University at that time, many noblemen were admitted to the College, including several members of the Pelham family. One of them was Thomas PelhamHolles, afterwards Marquess of Clare and Duke of Newcastle, First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the University. Among the last of the series of men from noble families were Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose policy finally alienated the American colonies, and Charles Marquess Cornwallis, twice Governor-General of India, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when the Act of Union was passed, who had surrendered with his army at Yorktown in 1781. On the other side in the struggles for independence were Charles Carroll, the Maryland lawyer who proposed the burning of the Peggy Stewart's cargo of tea, and the great American lawyer, Daniel Dulany.

For more than a century Clare Hall remained one of the smaller colleges with little to distinguish it except its architectural charm. The name was changed to Clare College in 1856, but it was not until the last quarter of the 19th century that, under the able tutorship of William Loudon Mollison, afterwards Master, there began to be new stirrings of life and a gradual increase in the undergraduate membership.


There are only five pieces of pre-Civil War plate, much having been given for the Royalist cause. These pieces were all given by Dr. William Butler and kept in safe custody until the Restoration by Barnabas Oley, who had himself conveyed the Clare plate to Charles I. The old pieces are the Falcon Cup, Flemish, c. 1560, the Poison Cup, German, c. 1560, the Serpentine Cup, English, c. 1580, and a gold chalice and paten, c. 1618. The chalice weighs 64 oz. 6 dwt. and the paten 21 oz. 4 dwt.

The pieces of plate acquired since the Restoration are numerous. The following are earlier than 1760: 10 tankards, including Sir Andrew Henley's, 1675–6, and George Cooke's, 1676–7; 8 cups, including the Tipping Cup, 1681–2; 26 pairs of candlesticks, including a pair given by Sir Edward Betenson, 1686– 7; 6 salvers; almsdish, 1671–2; rosewater ewer, 1723–4; rosewater ewer and dish, 1739–40; 4 large salts, c. 1708, and 6 other salts. There are also 42 other pieces, in addition to spoons, forks, and ladles. Numerous pieces of plate, such as battered tankards, have at various times been handed to a silversmith for conversion into new plate inscribed with the names of the original donors.

Three pieces of modern plate have a special interest connected with the First World War. A silver-gilt cup was presented by the officers of the 1st Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, and a statuette representing an officer (a member of the college) of the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment was presented by the officers of the 2nd Battalion to commemorate the hospitality shown by the College, whilst these two battalions were waiting orders in Cambridge in September 1914 to proceed on active service. The third piece, a cup, was presented in June 1919 by ten members of the United States army who spent the time between the armistice and their return to America as undergraduates at Clare.


The original seal of Clare Hall, the silver matrix of which is still in perfect condition, belongs to the year 1359, when Elizabeth of Clare gave statutes to her new foundation. It is of the usual vesica shape, 2½ by 13/8 in., showing the foundress standing in a triple-canopied niche, holding in her left hand a book of the statutes and giving with her right the charter of foundation to the Master and Scholars, nine of the company being represented by kneeling figures and the remainder by largish dots filling the background. In the three niches of the canopy are demi-figures of Our Lady with the Child, between St. John Baptist holding agnus dei on the left and St. John the Divine with his emblems of the eagle and a palm branch on the right. On the left of the tabernacle work of the central niche hangs a shield of the arms of Edward I; on the right are those of Queen Eleanor, the quartered arms of Castile and Leon. Below the niche is the shield which was adopted as her own by the Lady of Clare in 1353. The legend in fine gothic letters reads aula' clare pia' rege semper virgo maria.

The 18th-century seal now in use is oval in shape and embodies the same details as the original seal.

Masters of Clare College

Walter de Thaxted. (fn. 8)

Ralph Kerdington: 1342. (fn. 9)

Nicholas de Brunne: 1359.

John de Donwich: 1371.

John de Chateresse: 1392.

William Radwinter: 1400.

William Wymbyll: 1421.

William Gull: 1445.

William Wilfleet: before 1 May 1448.

John Millington: 11, or 13, Aug. 1455.

Thomas Stoyle: 3 May 1466.

Richard Stubbs: 1470.

Gabriel Silvester: 12 June 1496.

William Woderove: 16 Aug. 1506.

Edmund Natures: 20 Oct. 1514.

John Crayford: 6 July 1530.

Rowland Swynburne: 23 Sept. 1539, expelled 17 June 1549, reinstated 26 Oct. 1553.

John Madew: soon after 17 June 1549. (fn. 10)

Thomas Bayly: 20 Sept. 1557.

Edward Leeds: between 14 May and 12 Oct. 1560.

Thomas Byng: 1571, died Dec. 1599.

William Smith: 24 Mar. 1601.

Robert Scott: 1612.

Thomas Paske: 31 Dec. 1620, ejected 1645, reinstated after 2 Aug. 1660.

Ralph Cudworth: Dec. 1650. (fn. 11)

Theophilus Dillingham: 13 Nov. 1654, ejected 1660, re-elected Mar. 1661.

Samuel Blythe: Nov. 1678.

William Grigg: 16 May 1713.

Charles Morgan: 18 Apr. 1726.

John Wilcox: 9 May 1736.

Peter Stephen Goddard: 25 Sept. 1762.

John Torkington: 1 Nov. 1781.

William Webb: 20 July 1815.

Edward Atkinson: 14 Jan. 1856.

William Loudon Mollison: 31 Mar. 1915.

Godfrey Harold Alfred Wilson: 10 Apr. 1929.

Henry Thirkill: 1 Oct. 1939. (fn. 12)

Sir Eric Ashby: 1 Oct. 1958.


  • 1. See J. R. Wardale, Clare College (1899); M. D. Forbes, Clare College, 1326–1926 (1928–30); E. Alfred Jones, Catalogue of the Plate of Clare College (1939).
  • 2. A. H. Smith, 'New College and its Buildings'; V.C.H. Oxon. iii. 154.
  • 3. 4 Geo. IV, c. 11 (priv. act).
  • 4. See below, p. 343.
  • 5. M. R. James, Cat. of Western MSS. in Library of Clare Coll. (1905), pp. vi–viii.
  • 6. Bodl. MS. 300; Summary Cat. of Western MSS. in Bodl. Libr. ed. Madan and Craster, ii. 386.
  • 7. M. R. James, op. cit.
  • 8. Thaxted is the first Master whose name is known, but probably the second holder of the office. His dates are not known.
  • 9. Dates are of election or appointment.
  • 10. He was unable to vindicate his claim until 8 Apr. 1552, when a royal commission of arbitration confirmed it. He was ejected, because he was married, soon after Mary's accession.
  • 11. The College was ordered to elect him by a warrant from the Earl of Manchester, dated 22 Apr. 1645, but he did not accept office until Dec. 1650. The Mastership was vacant for 5 years.
  • 12. Pre-elected 17 Apr. to assume office 1 Oct.