The colleges and halls: Jesus

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: Jesus', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, ed. J P C Roach( London, 1959), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'The colleges and halls: Jesus', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Edited by J P C Roach( London, 1959), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"The colleges and halls: Jesus". A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Ed. J P C Roach(London, 1959), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

In this section


Jesus College. Argent a fess sable between three cock's heads razed sable with a border gules charged with golden crowns. [Granted 1575]


The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist, and the glorious Virgin St. Radegund, commonly called Jesus College, was founded in 1496 (fn. 2) by John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, upon the site of the dissolved Priory of St. Radegund, and endowed with its property. It cannot be argued here whether the reasons for its dissolution given in the royal licence of Henry VII, the dilapidations of its buildings, the alienation of its property, and the diminution of its revenues, as well as the dissolute dispositions and incontinency of the nuns, were genuine. This was not the first college to profit by the suppression of a religious house, and every college subsequently founded before 1800 made use of the site of an older foundation. Perhaps a pointer to Alcock's intentions may be seen in 1487 when he declared the eleven nuns of St. Radegund's unfit to elect a prioress, and appointed a nominee of his own, (fn. 3) after nine years of whose rule the community had shrunk to only two members. The dilapidated buildings were in sufficiently good condition to repair, and with certain alterations were still in use in 1956. A fine open timber roof supported on corbels carved with eagles and cocks, Alcock's rebus, and an oriel and windows in the Perpendicular style transformed the nuns' refectory into a college hall. The gate tower and the ornamental door-case of the entry from First Court into the cloister bear the arms of the founder and his see. The doorway of the chapter house was blocked up, and the interior of all the buildings on the east and west sides of the cloister was remodelled to conform to the college staircase plan. The library was housed on the second floor of the west range. Its eastern windows still contain the original stained glass with Alcock's rebus. The large conventual chapel was considerably reduced. The nave arcades were filled in, and the aisles pulled down, that on the north being used to enlarge the cloister, and the nave was shortened by the conversion of its four western bays into a staircase and part of the Master's Lodge, which also occupied the former lodging of the prioress. Chapels on the north and south sides of the choir were pulled down, and the chapel was reroofed at a lower pitch, large windows in the Perpendicular style being inserted. The upper story of the tower also dates from this period. The reconstruction took a considerable time. Sir John Rysley, who died in 1512, bequeathed £160 to complete it.

As for the diminished endowments, Alcock must have considered them sufficient to support his six priest fellows and 'a certain number of boys', for he made no other provision for them. The total net income of the College in 1497–8 was £70 6s., about two-thirds of it derived from agricultural land in Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, and one-third from houses in Cambridge and strips in the common fields of the town. The chapel was parochial, and one of the fellows henceforth acted as curate. The parish of St. Radegund was eventually amalgamated with All Saints by the Cambridge Award Act, 1856. (fn. 4) The tithes of St. Radegund, together with those of the impropriate rectories of St. Clement and All Saints, were known as Radegund tithes. Benefactions were received from other donors to found bye-fellowships, the first of these being from Thomas Roberts in 1497. His gift of land at Over provided commons for an additional fellow, but a similar benefaction of the manor of Horne Court (Surr.) by Joan, Lady Hastings in 1501, in memory of her first husband, Richard Pigott, was later used to provide a stipend for a fellow already on the foundation, as was the readership in theology, founded in 1506 and ascribed to Sir John Rysley and John Batemanson, D.D. Another benefaction of £100 by Sir Robert Rede, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, in 1518 was expressly intended to provide a stipend for one of the fellows for undertaking chantry duties. In 1514 Roger Thorney bequeathed a valuable property in Southwark to found a fellowship, but it did not accrue to the college until the death of his widow in 1530 and seems to have been used for general purposes. Various methods were used to increase Alcock's not too generous endowments. Money was lent on mortgage to John Ware, husbandman, of Fulbourn; property was bought and paid for by instalments out of income, other property was paid for by covenanting to give the vendor an income for life, a chamber in College, a stable for his horse, and an obit after his decease.

In 1506 the College received a substantial new endowment. James Stanley, Bishop of Ely, consented to the appropriation of the rectory of Great Shelford, hitherto in the patronage of the see, and at that time held by John Eccleston, Master. The Bishop kept the advowson, and also secured for himself and his successors the right to appoint not only one additional fellow but also the Master, who was to receive a stipend of £6 13s. 4d. out of the profits of the rectory. Part of the endowment was to be employed to convert the school for the College boys into a free grammar school. (fn. 5) The schoolmaster, appointed by the Master of the College, was to teach the boys in the building erected for the purpose by Alcock on the west of the gatehouse and was to enjoy a salary equal to the Master's stipend. He was to be assisted by an usher with a salary of £2. Neither was a fellow, but they were to have chambers and commons.


The first statutes of the College were made by Bishop Stanley, who stated in his preamble that he had suppressed the priory and given his statutes to the College by the authority of the late Pope Julius II (1503–13). The statutes are undated but must have been composed between the death of Julius II in February 1513 and that of Stanley in March 1515. There is no indication whether they were ever sealed. (fn. 6) The number of fellows on the foundation was stated to be five, with Stanley's, Piggott's, and Roberts's in addition, but that doubts were still felt as to the sufficiency of the revenues to support this number was shown by the stipulation that whatever happened provision should be made for the Master, the grammar schoolmaster, two fellows, two youths, four boys, and an usher. The foundation fellows were all to be priests, four studying theology and one law. They were to be drawn from five counties, the names of which are missing in the manuscript. The form of election was that used in most colleges. A fellow had to resign if he obtained an income from any source of more than 5 marks. The officers were a president, to be appointed by the Master, a dean and a bursar, to be elected by the fellows, and a steward. Each of the fellows in turn was to hold this office for a year. The dean, besides being responsible for the chapel services, was to preside at the disputations to be held every Friday in which all members of the College were to take part. The fellows were to pledge themselves to vote with the Master in all University matters. There were also to be four youths, skilled in singing, who were to study grammar or dialectic; one was to be organist, one sacrist, one bible clerk, and one porter, and all were to wait at table. They were to keep their scholarships until they were ordained priests or had taken their M.A., an innovation on Alcock's original arrangements. There were to be four choristers who were to attend the grammar school, to be under fourteen years of age when elected and to hold their scholarships for four years. Also on the foundation were five servants: the Master's servant, the cook, the undercook, the barber, and the laundress. Surprisingly there was no butler or manciple. The fellows had neither stipends nor livery. Their rate of commons was 1s. 2d. weekly and that of the scholars and servants 8d. An extra 6s. 8d. was allowed on four feasts, and a boar, supplied by the tenant of Great Shelford rectory, at Christmas. The fellows were to be allotted a chamber each, and three principal chambers were to be reserved for distinguished pensioners, that on the north side of the high altar, that at the west end of the hall over the kitchen, that next the common latrine. The Master was given permission to build on to the lodge and to enclose the garden south of it. The accounts were to be submitted annually to the Bishop of Ely for audit.

Stanley's statutes, if ever sealed, cannot have been in force for long. His successor, Nicholas West (1515–33), drew up a new code. It is curious that in his preamble he ignored Stanley's statutes, from which his own differ radically in arrangement and wording. They must have been delivered some time between 27 February 1516 and 19 June 1517, the dates of the last election of a fellow under the old statutes and the first under the new. (fn. 7) The fellows had now to present two candidates, one of whom was to be chosen by the Bishop. This control over elections was maintained until 1882, but by the end of the 17th century it had become a matter of form for the Bishop of Ely always to choose the first name of the two presented to him. (fn. 8) Another change in the statutes also increased his power. He was now to nominate and dismiss the schoolmaster. A remarkable change was made in the instruction given in the College. Daily lectures were to be given in metaphysics, natural or moral philosophy or logic, and one weekly on mathematics, which last all fellows and bachelor commoners were to attend. The other chief points in which West's statutes differed from Stanley's were as follows: the number of foundation fellowships was six, and no details were given of the bye-fellowships; the six fellows were to be drawn alternately from two groups of northern and southern counties, (fn. 9) and there was never to be more than one fellow from the same county, except that there might be two from those counties from which the College drew its revenues; the vacation was cut down from two months to 40 days, and the Master's to 50 days; there were to be eight boys, who were only to keep their scholarships until their voices broke; there were no scholarships for young men, though pensioners were to be received, and if under the age of 20 were to be committed by the Master to the care of a tutor; each fellow and fellow commoner might keep not more than one sizar, and the Master might keep two. The Master was made responsible for the College finances, and records show that he either collected the revenues himself or appointed a bursar to hold office at his pleasure.

Historical Sketch.

Records for the early period are scanty, but the bursar's account rolls exist for most years between 1535 and 1549. They contain a complete rental, but few details of expenditure. The lists of room rents show that, though there were several M.A. pensioners, some of the rooms were empty. Seventeen sizars were admitted during this period. In the survey made by Henry VIII's commissioners in 1546 Jesus was shown to have a deficit for that year of £10 7s. 4d., (fn. 10) and the College continued in debt for some years in spite of new endowments. In 1547 John Andrews, D.D., left estates at Over and Steeple Morden for the maintenance of two fellows and two scholars, and in 1551 John Reston, D.D., Master, left property in the city of London, at Canvey Island (Essex), and Great Wilbraham and Willingham, (fn. 11) to found one fellowship and seven scholarships.

One of the changes made by the royal commissioners of 1549 was to deprive the bye-fellows of their stipends for chantry duties, and to allot to all the eleven fellowships so far founded equal stipends of £1 6s. 8d. per annum. (fn. 12) Only six of these fellows had to be in priest's orders. Instead of the eight choristers and Andrews's two scholars there were to be eight youths, who were to study grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, or philosophy. (fn. 13) Two or three of these might be young men of maturer age. They were to hold their scholarships for six years, by which time they should have taken their B.A., and if eligible were to be preferred before other candidates in elections for fellowships. The commemoration of benefactors laid down in the new statutes for the University was substituted for the exequies. (fn. 14) Commons were raised to 1s. 4d. a week for the seniors and 9d. a week for the scholars and servants. (fn. 15) The vacation was extended to 50 days for fellows and two months for the Master. (fn. 16) The commissioners excepted Jesus from their general prohibition of the teaching of grammar in the University. (fn. 17) In August 1553 Mary I restored the ancient statutes of all colleges, (fn. 18) but from the accounts of 1557–8 (the first that are preserved after a gap of eight years) it appears that the stipends of the former bye-fellowships had not been restored, and that all twelve fellows were receiving stipends of 28s. The Master was receiving a stipend of £10. The schoolmaster's salary had likewise been raised to £10, but he received no allowance for commons, so presumably he lived out of College.

The statutes of 1549 were restored by the royal commissioners of 1559–60, who added a single statute embodying their own changes. (fn. 19) They confirmed the existing number of fellows at sixteen. Four had been added by John Fuller, Master 1557–8, who gave to the college the manor of Graveley, formerly belonging to Ramsey Abbey. Four of the fellows were to study civil law. The stipends of all were raised to £2 per annum. Their commons remained at 1s. 4d. a week. There were to be fifteen scholars, whose commons were raised to 10d. a week. The usher was still to have commons at the lower rate. The lectureship in theology was abolished, and the endowment used to found four preacherships, which might be held by beneficed clergymen whose stipends did not exceed £13 6s. 8d. These sermons were always in fact regarded as perquisites of fellows or former fellows holding college livings. In this connexion it may be noted that Thomas Thirlby, the Marian Bishop of Ely, had given the College six poorly endowed livings in Cambridgeshire formerly belonging to Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 20) The grammar school was now completely useless to the College, because no candidate might be elected to a scholarship unless he was sufficiently learned to read dialectic, which made impossible the earlier practice of young scholars studying in the grammar school, though this still occupied valuable space in the building to the west of the gate-house. The new University statutes, compiled in 1570 by a Royal Commission of which Thomas Ithell, Master of Jesus, was a member, no longer made an exception for the teaching of grammar at Jesus. (fn. 21) The College had already in 1568 ceased to pay the salaries of the schoolmaster and the usher, and soon afterwards the schoolhouse was converted into chambers for the increasing number of undergraduate pensioners.

All through the first half of the 16th century the value of the fellowships at Jesus was below that at any other college. (fn. 22) It may have been hard to find priests willing to take them, for there are instances of men who had already held their fellowships for several years receiving only the first tonsure. (fn. 23) Fellows would not infrequently migrate to richer colleges. But by the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth I men from other colleges were migrating to Jesus. Apart from tutorial fees, the value of a fellowship must have considerably improved. By 1546 all colleges were eking out their scanty incomes in a period of rising prices by taking fines for the renewal of leases at the old rents. (fn. 24) At Jesus no receipts from this source were paid into the College account; presumably they were divided between the Master and fellows; but the proportions are not known. Leases which fell in were very frequently taken up by fellows or their near relations, and, until forbidden by Act of Parliament, (fn. 25) they bought reversions. After the passing of the Statute of Provision in 1576 (fn. 26) the value of fellowships began further to improve. At some unrecorded date an arrangement was made at Jesus that the steward was to receive an extra 9d. a week for every fellow and 5d. a week for every scholar. When the corn-money provided under the statute of 1576 rose above this amount, the surplus was divided between Master and fellows in the proportion of two shares to the Master and one share to each fellow. In the same proportion they shared the rents of certain estates specifically bequeathed for that purpose, a portion of the room rents, and the fines. By the second half of the reign of Elizabeth I the improved value of the fellowships had led to intrusion of fellows by royal mandate, and to corrupt resignations of fellows in favour of their kindred or nominees.

The religious history of the College followed the general Cambridge pattern for the first half of the century. William Capon, Master 1516–46, was a man of the new learning, brother of one of the Henrician bishops. (fn. 27) Jesus contributed three men to the episcopate, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, John Bale, Bishop of Ossory, and Thomas Goodrich, Bishop of Ely. Geoffrey Downs, John Edmunds, and John Golding, better known as the translator of Ovid, were amongst the propagandist writers of the Reformation. In 1549 the royal visitors destroyed six altars in the chapel and some images in a chamber, (fn. 28) which later writers have taken to mean the former oratory of the prioress in the Master's Lodge. The Marian Bishop, Thomas Thirlby, appointed his chancellor, John Fuller, as Master in 1557, and he restored the old ritual and ornaments in the chapel. He died a month after the accession of Elizabeth I, and his successor, Thomas Redman, was deprived in 1560. The ornaments replaced in the chapel had already been removed again, though the organ was allowed to remain until 1585. Holy Communion was now celebrated only three times a year. There are signs, moreover, that the society was not expecting a return to the old ritual, for, as rector of All Saints and St. Clements, it pulled down the chancels of those churches, and used the stone to build a 'house of office'. Thomas Ithell, Master 1563–79, was a safe man, who, though he introduced 'the Geneva psalmes in meter' into the College chapel, had no sympathy with proposals to introduce the Geneva discipline into the church. The fellows, with one exception, took no part in the Puritan movement, and that one, John Dod, did not join it until after he had been driven to resign his fellowship in 1585 by unmerited charges of peculation.

Sources for College history are less scanty than in the earlier period. The College registers do not begin until 1618. The registers of the Bishops of Ely, giving the dates of institutions and resignations of fellows are incomplete, but the late Arthur Gray, who did so much work on the College muniments, compiled an invaluable manuscript register of all known members of the College, using these and other sources, such as the audit books (bursar's books), which begin in 1557. Treasury books begin in 1558, and after 1568 include lists of plate. Registers of leases begin in 1578, plate books and stipendia in 1623, steward's accounts in 1638, dividend accounts in 1663, and conclusion books not until 1753. From the audit accounts, which contain lists of fellows, admissions of pensioners, and detailed items of expenditure, it is possible to build up a picture of College life. The number of pensioners and fellow commoners greatly increased, and the latter ceased to be distinguished seniors, like Bale, who had already studied in the Carmelite Abbey of Hulme, Sir Thomas Fanshawe, Remembrancer of the Exchequer, and Sir James Dyer, Recorder of Cambridge, and Counsel to the University in 1547, afterwards Chief Justice of the Common Pleas: (fn. 29) henceforward they were for the most part sons of men of rank, who came for their education, though a few seniors migrated from other colleges, like Richard Bancroft, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, who came from Christ's in 1569. Sir Henry Fanshawe, son of Sir Thomas, and his successor in office, was admitted as an undergraduate fellow commoner in 1581, and his son, Sir Richard, the poet and ambassador, in 1622. Sir Fulke Greville, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney, was admitted in 1568, and in 1617 wished to benefit his old College by turning more of the nave of the chapel into sets of rooms. Among the pensioners was John Eliot (adm. 1619), afterwards known as the apostle of the Indians in North America. New scholarships were endowed, one of £3 6s. 8d. given by William Marshall in 1579 being the first close scholarship. Two more were founded, one of £1 2s. 6d. per annum by Lady Price in 1622, and one of £2 per annum by John Sykes in the same year. John Duport, Master 1589–1618, obtained for the College the rectories of Harlton and Elmstead (Essex). In his time the College twice entertained royalty, Prince Charles and the Elector Palatine in 1613, and James I in 1615.

Trouble arose in 1614 between the Master and the fellows over elections to fellowships. The fellows resented the Master's attempts to force his nominees upon them. Lancelot Andrewes, at that time Bishop of Ely, decided the case in their favour, but, when a vacancy occurred in the mastership in 1618, he appointed his brother Roger, under whom the disputes between Master and fellows became more embittered. The fellows claimed that the Master had unjustly withheld their dividends, and in 1628 they appealed to the king as their Visitor during the vacancy of the see. The matter was submitted to the arbitration of three heads of houses, (fn. 30) whose verdict was in favour of the fellows. They added a rider that notwithstanding the provision to the contrary in the statutes, the Master and Fellows should elect a bursar. This recommendation was not carried out. Andrewes refused to consent: four years later the king demanded his resignation on the ground that he had exceeded his statutory leave of absence. On the appointment of the new Master, William Beale, in 1632, Bishop Francis White gave directions for the reform of the disorders. From these it can be seen that one of the chief troubles was absenteeism. It was laid down that every one of the fellows was to receive pupils, but, from the register of exeats which the Bishop ordered henceforward to be kept, it can be seen that some of the fellows were absent for a great part of the year, only coming to College for a few days at the feasts when the dividend was distributed. That this was soon taken for granted is shown by the same Bishop's ruling in 1636 that only the resident fellows were to elect to the offices of dean and steward.

Roger Andrewes in the first year of his Mastership had introduced the practice of keeping a register, though at first only admissions, degrees, testimonials, and formal resolutions were recorded. In 1634 the College resolved against granting any more leases for lives, and in 1635 successfully petitioned the Crown to modify the county restrictions on elections to fellowships, so that more than one fellow from the same county might be elected. In 1636 'ye raile, floore, freeze, hangings, etc. about the altar, together with the Letany desk' were purchased as part of an attempt by Richard Sterne, Dr. Beale's successor in the Mastership in 1634, to give the Latin service, which Beale had introduced, a suitable setting. A new organ was purchased, partly by subscription, partly with benefactions, and the organist's salary was raised by a levy upon members of the College. New communion plate was bought in 1639. The Litany desk still exists; the other fittings were swept away by William Dowsing in 1645, except the organ which was dismantled and hidden in the Master's orchard. Admissions were going up, and reached their highest in 1641, when 90 residents paid the poll tax. The proportion of fellow commoners was high. A new range on the north side of first court was begun in 1638, and finished in January 1642, at a cost of £1,544. An appeal for subscriptions met with a good response, and the fellows voted a portion of the dividend money towards the cost.

In 1642 the College subscribed pieces of its plate weighing 1,201 oz. for the use of King Charles I, and also raised a loan of £100 for the royal cause. Dr. Sterne and the former Master, Dr. Beale, were arrested, and the fellows voted themselves prolonged leave of absence in 1643. In 1644 the president and all the fellows except two were ejected by the Earl of Manchester, and Thomas Young, who had taken the Covenant and been approved by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, was installed as Master. Seven of the vacant fellowships were filled on 1 October 1644 and 5 May 1645, and a few more later, but until the Restoration the number of fellows was never more than twelve. Young refused to take the Engagement, and was ejected along with four of the fellows in 1650; in his place the parliamentary committee for reforming the universities appointed John Worthington, fellow of Emmanuel, an account of whose mastership may be found in his diary. (fn. 31) He readily gave up his place to Dr. Sterne at the Restoration. Only three of the fourteen ejected fellows were reinstated, and the twelve intruded fellows were also instituted by the restored Bishop of Ely, Matthew Wren. One of these was John Sherman, author of a Latin history of the College. (fn. 32)

Dr. Sterne did not come back, for he was raised to the episcopate, and the next two Masters were men of such eminence that they were very soon given preferment. Edmund Boldero, Master 1663, had no such claim; he owed his place to his devotion to the royal cause in the Civil War. Dr. Boldero found the College in debt, and, while he was Master, had to advance money to the amount of £145 16s., about half a year's revenue of the College. This revenue, known as 'Dead College', (fn. 33) had not increased since the beginning of the century, but the standard of living had risen. Expenditure had increased by £40 to £50 a year, which meant that revenue was insufficient. Efforts to economize were made, and after Boldero's death in 1679 it was resolved to repay the remaining debt of £73 odd, underwritten by the bursar, Mr. Lewis, by devoting to it the sealing money, the increased rent of rooms, and the money usually spent by fellows and fellowcommoners in giving feasts on their admission. The absent fellows were to pay 6d. for every week of absence above nine weeks. Money from these sources did not suffice to pay off the debt, and the College had to borrow from the library and chapel funds. In 1709 the fellows had to forgo part of their dividend to pay off these loans. William Cooke, fellow 1664, realized that the lack of a reserve was 'the greatest want', and left £600 to Dead College in 1708, hoping future benefactors would follow his example. One of his contemporaries, Lionel Gatford, in 1715 left an annuity of £50, but unfortunately the principal was lost in the South Sea Bubble.

Letters and memoirs now supplement the evidence of bursar's and steward's books. John Strype, scholar 1662, (fn. 34) assured his mother that the food was good and sufficient. They had roast meat at dinner and supper every day except on Fridays and Saturdays, still fast days, on which pudding was served after the fish course. The records show that a second course was served four nights a week at high table but not to the undergraduates. Strype did not find it necessary to go to the buttery for extra bread and beer except at breakfast. This degenerate young man had a taste for hot milk for breakfast, which he had to satisfy outside college. He paid only 10s. a year for one of the best rooms in College, overlooking the Master's garden. Roger North, fellow-commoner 1667, shared a very large room with his brother, John, who was a fellow and acted as his tutor, but he also had a study in a garret above. (fn. 35) The rent of such studies averaged 5s. a year. Though his brother discouraged him from the study of Cartesian philosophy, he was evidently allowed to read what he pleased. (fn. 36) It was at this period that Richard Wroe, one of the most popular of the tutors, stood sponsor for John Flamsteed, the astronomer, who was admitted in 1670, though it appears that he never studied at Cambridge, receiving his degree by royal mandate in 1674. Benefactions were received for the library, to which Dr. Boldero gave the existing bookcases, and Thomas Man some valuable monastic manuscripts. John Sherman and Charles Gibson contributed to pave the chapel in black and white marble, and to provide new seats. The walls were whitewashed, and a gallery was erected for the Master's family. At this time Holy Communion was celebrated once a month, and there was a trained undergraduate choir. The organ was rebuilt, and an agreement was made with Renatus Harris to tune and maintain it.

Numbers of admissions were still high, and did not fall until after the beginning of the 18th century. A number of close scholarships were founded, four of £10 by Archbishop Sterne for boys from his diocese of York (1673), two of £12 by Lady Boswell for boys from Sevenoaks school (1675), one of £10 by John Somervile for a boy from Loughborough (1682). Dr. Henry Brunsell left leasehold property at Harston to provide three open exhibitions of £8 (1677). But the greatest benefaction came from Tobias Rustat (1671), whose father, Robert, had been admitted at Jesus in 1580. Tobias, a poor clergyman's orphan, had not been able to afford a university education. (fn. 37) Having prospered in life and become Yeoman of the Robes to Charles II, he asked the Master and Fellows of his father's old College to act as trustees, when he planned to assist clergymen's widows and orphans. A fee-farm rent of £50 from Nuneaton (Warws.) was to provide pensions for six widows, and one of £134 4s. 5d. from Denny Abbey, Waterbeach, eight scholarships of £15 per annum for orphans. The College laid out the surplus of the latter rent so well that by 1769 it was able to increase the number of scholarships to eleven, and to use the surplus for grants to deserving scholars. By the end of the 18th century all the scholars were receiving £30 a year. Two other scholarships of £10 per annum for clergymen's orphans were founded by Lionel Gatford in 1715, and one of £15 by Edmund Tew in 1755, while Robert Marsden in 1755 gave £15 per annum for the son of a living clergyman. Two other foundations were close scholarships; that given in 1707 by John Mawhood was for a boy from Doncaster or Arkesey schools; that by Charles Humfreys in 1718 for a boy from Caistor school; it is noticeable that the value of these, £4 and £6 8s. respectively, was considerably lower than the others. It is therefore not surprising that a number of clergymen's sons was attracted to Jesus, and many came up as sizars in the hope of being elected to scholarships. The Rustat, Gatford, and Marsden scholars held their scholarships until the chance of a fellowship falling vacant occurred. The number of pensioners and fellow commoners, however, declined more steeply at Jesus than at any other college. By the middle of the 18th century the number of testimonials for ordination given equals that of the admissions.

A letter of Charles Ashton, Master 1701–52, makes clear what he regarded as the function of the Colleges in the University. The University, he considered, provided an education in 'human learning' to men who 'supply the stock of liberal science and learning . . . and . . . all arts and professions are the better for 'em'. Out of these 'about three hundred are taken to be a constant seminary for the Church . . . and have the encouragement of Fellowships to enable and engage 'em to the study of Divinity'. Of the former sort Jesus in the 18th century supplied a high proportion of men who rose high in their professions, but above all men famous in the field of literature. Some, not necessarily those who prolonged their studies, rose to high positions in the church. There were Thomas Herring and Matthew Hutton (adm. 1710), both Archbishops of Canterbury, John Jortin (1715), ecclesiastical historian, David Hartley (1722), the philosopher, Laurence Sterne (1733), Henry Venn, afterwards one of the leaders of the Evangelical movement in the Church of England (1742), Samuel Hallifax (1751), afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, Gilbert Wakefield (1772), principal of two nonconformist academies, Robert Malthus (1784), Edward Daniel Clarke (1787), the first professor of mineralogy, William Otter (1787), first Principal of King's College, London, and Bishop of Chichester, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1791).

Three accounts of undergraduate life in the 18th century, from William Reneu (1705), (fn. 38) Gilbert Wakefield (1772), (fn. 39) and William Otter, (fn. 40) biographer of Edward Daniel Clarke (1787) make it clear that the daily lectures on logic and the Greek Testament continued to be given, and that the mathematical lecture was now given three times a week. The interest of the fellows, however, during Ashton's Mastership lay more in patristic studies than in teaching. Jesus men did not shine in the Senate House Examination. (fn. 41) Wakefield and Clarke, who did not do as well as they had hoped, ascribed their failure to the dullness of their tutors, a common excuse at all periods. Wakefield, however, sent his best pupil, Robert Malthus, up to Jesus, and in this period the College produced many able literary men. By the middle of the century the number of tutors had been reduced to two, both appointed by the Master. Wakefield complained that the office went by seniority, but this was not always so, for William Frend, Malthus's tutor, says that he was invited to stand for a fellowship in the year in which he was 2nd Wrangler, and was immediately appointed tutor by the Master, Lynford Caryl, who had been responsible for bringing him in. (fn. 42)

Dr. Ashton and Dr. Caryl did much to improve the value of the fellowships. Periodical surveys of the College properties were undertaken, and the fines were stepped up. Dr. Caryl even planned to allow the beneficial leases to run out, and to let the properties at rack rent, but the fellows refused to forgo even a small part of their present gains for the future benefit of themselves and their successors. (fn. 43) The cost of living in College rose steeply during the century, for in 1732 a fellow commoner was expected to manage on £80 a year, (fn. 44) while in 1787, Clarke, a scholar, could not manage on £90. Though numbers were falling, a second story was added to the south range of first court and the Master's Lodge in 1718– 20. In 1703 the hall was paved with freestone, and the wrought-iron gate at the end of 'the chimney', the passage leading from the entrance gateway to Jesus Lane, was erected. In 1763–4 the ceiling of the combination room, then known as the parlour, was raised and panelling was inserted to produce a room of Georgian proportions. (fn. 45) A similar change was not undertaken in the chapel until 1788–90, when Robert Tyrwhitt gave £300 and the College raised another £517, partly from the sale of Alcock's original stalls, screen, and pulpit to Landbeach church. The choir and crossing were given plaster ceilings, the chancel arch filled in, and the inner chapel thus formed fitted with painted deal stalls.

Tyrwhitt, who inspired this classicization, was one of the university reformers of the 1770's. (fn. 46) He became a Unitarian, and in 1777 had resigned his fellowship on conscientious grounds, but he continued to live in College, and presumably to attend chapel, until his death in 1817. His pupil, Wakefield, followed in his footsteps, and became head of a dissenting academy, and Frend also declared himself a Unitarian, though he did not feel himself obliged to resign, and greatly resented being deprived of the tutorship by the Master, Richard Beadon, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester. When in 1793 he published a pamphlet attacking the monarchy and the church, (fn. 47) a party amongst the fellows, whom he had greatly offended by unsupported allegations of dishonesty during the former dispute, moved to have him expelled, but it was with great difficulty that the Master and Fellows got him out of College without using force. (fn. 48) He continued to enjoy the profits of his fellowship until his marriage in 1808. It was at this time that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a Rustat scholar. He was treated very liberally, and continued to receive his scholarship money six months after he had left the College of his own free will. (fn. 49)

In 1820 William French was appointed Master. He had been a successful tutor of Pembroke, and he set himself to increase the number, if not the quality, of the undergraduates. A new block containing twelve sets was built to form the east side of Pump Court in 1822, and in 1830 the conditions under which the pensioners ate in hall were ameliorated by the introduction of hot-plates and silver spoons and forks. Dr. French also initiated the first modern reform of the statutes, the removal of the county restrictions on elections to fellowships, in 1827. In 1841 a new set of statutes was sanctioned by the Visitor, Bishop Allen, and the Privy Council. (fn. 50) In substance these were the same as the old, except that the fellows' dividends were at last given a legal sanction, with one-twentieth of the divisible income reserved to 'Dead College'.

Restoration of the chapel was begun in 1844. The 13th-century piscina had been discovered in 1815 by the bursar, William Hustler, who, dying in 1832, bequeathed £100 for further restoration. The partition in the chancel arch was removed, an organ chamber built on the north side of the choir, new stalls and a new floor of encaustic tiles supplied for the chancel. The stalls and pavement were the work of Augustus Welby Pugin, who also removed Alcock's low-pitched roof and replaced it with a highpitched one in the 13th-century style. He had archaeological evidence for the three lancets with which he replaced the large Perpendicular east window. These lancets were filled with stained glass of his design at the expense of Dr. French. The other windows in the inner chapel were later glazed in the same style, the whole of this work being paid for by subscription. In 1862 cracks appeared in the tower, and the removal of its upper story was debated. In view of his reputation as a destroyer, it is only fair to record that the tower was reprieved by Sir G. Gilbert Scott. (fn. 51)

Dr. French died in 1849, and was succeeded by George Elwes Corrie, who was Vice-Chancellor at the time of the first Royal Commission on the University appointed in 1850. After having done all he could to impede the work of the commissioners by denying them access to the necessary information, he succeeded in procuring the rejection, by a twothirds majority of the fellows, of some of the statutes made for the College, including that prescribing a contribution for University purposes. Altogether these statutes, sealed in 1861, (fn. 52) are chiefly remarkable for the fidelity with which they adhered to the ancient model, and even increased the power of the Visitor, who for the first time was given the right to remove the Master if he abandoned the Church of England. The Statutory Commissioners, however, insisted that one-twentieth of the divisible income of the College should be allotted to the scholarship fund, in which they also merged the endowments of many of the close scholarships and that of the three byefellowships founded in 1839 in memory of Thomas Dummer Ley. The Rustat scholarships, however, continued to be confined to clergymen's sons, though open to those whose fathers were still living. In this fund were merged several other scholarships given for a similar purpose. The second Statutory Commission made new statutes in 1882, which completely altered the old constitution of the College. (fn. 53) The mastership and fellowships were to be filled by election without reference to the Bishop of Ely. The old requirement of celibacy for fellows was abolished. The provision for scholarships was raised to onetenth of the divisible income, and their number was increased to twenty. In 1890 three post-graduate scholarships for men reading theology were founded by Sir Edwin Kay in memory of his wife, a daughter of Dr. French.

In 1873 an appeal was made for subscriptions to glaze the windows in the nave and transepts of the chapel from designs by Edward Burne-Jones. A new ceiling for the nave was designed by William Morris and painted under his direction.

In the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th it became necessary, on account of the increase in numbers, to make large additions to the accommodation in College. For this purpose Jesus was fortunate in its site. The close surrounding the buildings had formerly been let with the strips in the open fields, and known as Radegund manor, but, since the inclosure of the fields and the redevelopment of the town property, it had been let merely for grazing. Part of it was used as a kitchen garden and let to the college cook. On this in 1869– 70 was erected a range of 23 sets designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who also enlarged the hall by demolishing the old entry and building a new staircase and kitchen offices. In 1884 a new court was planned in the close to the east of the cloister by Carpenter and Ingelow, but only one range, that on the east side, was completed, as numbers did not rise as fast as had been expected. In 1927–30 plans for completing this Chapel Court were radically modified by P. Morley Horder, who, instead of building the projected northern range, enlarged the court to the south, and completed the eastern and southern sides of it, together with a short west range extending almost to the east end of the chapel. A new entrance was made in Victoria Avenue through a fine gateway given in 1931 in memory of Henry Arthur Morgan, Master 1885–1912, by his wife and daughters.

In 1926 the Statutory Commissioners for the University made the statutes by which, with a few modifications, the College is at present governed. Benefactions to the scholarship fund have been made by Dr. H. M. Chester, Captain M. E. Schiff, Dr. Cooper Pattin, Dr. William Briggs, and Thomas William Chapman, and in memory of Gerard Moore Mason and of Bernard Lord Manning, bursar and senior tutor (d. 1941). On 9 February 1950 the south range of First Court was badly damaged by fire. In the rebuilding the College took the opportunity of reconstructing the second floor as a war-memorial library for the use of undergraduates. The architect was Marshall Sisson.


In 1956 the College held the advowsons of: All Saints and St. Clement, Cambridge, Comberton, Fordham, Gravely cum Yelling, (fn. 54) Guilden Morden, Harlton, Hinxton cum Ickleton, (fn. 55) Swavesey, Whittlesford (Cambs.), Elmstead (Essex), King's Stanley (Glos.), Tewin (Herts.), and Cavendish, Hundon and Whatfield cum Semer (fn. 56) (Suff.).


The College possesses a number of notable pictures, including portraits of the founder, on wood, Henry VIII, Cranmer, and Mary Queen of Scots, and portraits by Lely, Reynolds, Hudson, Ramsay, Patch (of Lawrence Sterne), Opie, Sandys, and Nicholson.


The collection of plate is not extensive. The earliest possession is the bowl of a silver tazza, originally of parcel-gilt, with the head of a Roman Emperor in the centre, made in London in 1572–3, and 67/16 in. in diameter. This is a recent purchase and may have once belonged to Jesus College, Oxford. Other possessions include: a plain beaker, silver, London, 1692–3; two silver beakers, 1726–7, made by Thomas Tearle; a set of three castors by Thomas Bamford 1726–7; and a similar set by William Soame 1731–2. A Nuremberg cup too has been recently acquired. The chapel plate includes a pair of plain flagons, London 1627–8; a plain chalice and paten cover, c. 1665, the latter 93/8 in high; and an alms-dish, 15¾ in. in diameter, 1675–6, given by Edmund Boldero, Master.


The College seal is of vesica shape, containing a triple canopy under which Our Lord stands in the middle with the Virgin to his right and St. John to his left. Underneath this canopy is a shield with the Five Wounds. The surrounding inscription reads: sigillum collegii ihu: marie: et johis: evang: cantabr: The Master also possesses a stamp-seal, used mainly for ordination testimonials. This has on it the College arms.

Masters of Jesus College

William Chubbes: 1497.

John Eccleston: 24 Nov. 1505.

Thomas Alcock: 1515.

William Capon: 21 July 1516.

John Reston: 1546.

Edmund Perpoynte: 1551.

John Fuller: 23 Feb. 1557.

Thomas Redman: Jan. 1559.

Edward Gascoyne: 1560.

John Lakin: 1562.

Thomas Ithell: 1563.

John Bell: 1579.

John Duport: 1590.

Roger Andrewes: 1618.

William Beale: 14 July 1632.

Richard Sterne: 1634, ejected 1644, reinstated 1660.

Thomas Young: 12 Apr. 1644, ejected 1650.

John Worthington: 16 Nov. 1650.

John Pearson: 30 Nov. 1660.

Joseph Beaumont: Apr. 1662.

Edmund Boldero: 26 Apr. 1663.

Humphrey Gower: 11 July 1679.

William Saywell: 9 Dec. 1679.

Charles Ashton: 4 July 1701.

Philip Yonge: 1752.

Lynford Caryl: 1758.

Richard Beadon: 1781.

William Pearce: 1789.

William French: 1820.

George John Elwes Corrie: Nov. 1849.

Henry Arthur Morgan: 17 Oct. 1885.

Arthur Gray: 26 Oct. 1912.

Wynfrid Laurence Henry Duckworth: 28 May 1940.

Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard: 1 Oct. 1945.


  • 1. The first draft of this article was read and revised by Dr. F. Brittain.
  • 2. Cal. Pat. 1494–1509, 72; printed in full in Comm. Doc. iii. 91, gives the date as 12 June 12 Hen. VII (1497) but the original patent gives 11 Hen. VII (1496), and the date on the dorse of the membrane in the patent roll shows that 1497 is an error. The first reference to 'Jesus' College occurs in a deed of 31 Jan. 1499 endowing a chantry fellowship in 'a college in Cambridge called Jesus College that now be or hereafter shalbe'. 'Jesus Lane' is mentioned in the first existing account roll, that of 1497–8.
  • 3. 'Regs. of Bps. of Ely', ed. J. H. Crossley, Ely Diocesan Remembrancer (1909), 116.
  • 4. 19 & 20 Vic., c. 17 (priv. act).
  • 5. The costs of the appropriation were paid out of various bequests and by a contribution from Katherine, Lady Bray, in consideration of which she was given the right of appointing the schoolmaster during her life.
  • 6. The oldest copy of these statutes is written on paper in a 16th-cent. hand. This MS. was unknown to A. Gray, who printed them from an 18th-cent. copy: Statutes of Jesus Coll. Camb. 1514–15 (1935). Bishop Stanley is said to have objected to the suppression of St. John's Hospital, without a papal dispensation, for the foundation of St. John's College: Coll. Div. Joh. Evan. Camb. (1911), 61.
  • 7. Ely Dioc. Rememb. 1910, pp. 199, 217. The MS. of the West Statutes is written in another mid-16th-cent. hand, and is bound with the MS. of the Stanley Statutes and with a rental of 1555–6. The Statutes, which are neither dated nor sealed, contain deletions and marginal notes of changes bringing them into line with the ordinances of the royal visitors of 1549, and also additions in later hands.
  • 8. Jesus Coll. muniments, Old Letters and Extracts, vol. ii, f. 34, Letter from Bp. Simon Patrick, 1703.
  • 9. Cap. vi. Comm. Doc. iii. 192. The northern counties were Lincs. (afterwards Leics.), Worcs., Wales, Notts., Warws., Derb., Lancs., Ches., Staffs., Yorks., and the more northerly counties. No more than one fellow might be drawn from any county at one time, except from those counties where the College owned sufficient property to support two.
  • 10. Comm. Doc. i. 133.
  • 11. All these except Gt. Wilbraham were ex-monastic or chantry lands. Those in London and Canvey had belonged to chantries in St. Paul's Cathedral, of which Reston was a prebendary.
  • 12. Cap. x. Comm. Doc. iii. 105. The later copies of the West statutes have 11 in the preamble, but 12 in cap. 1.
  • 13. Cap. ix. Comm. Doc. iii, 104.
  • 14. Cap. xviii. Comm. Doc. iii. 111.
  • 15. Cap. x. Comm. Doc. iii. 105.
  • 16. Cap. xxi. So in the gloss to the MS. The printed version and the later MSS. say the Master need only reside 3 weeks in every quarter unless the Visitor gave him longer leave of absence, or he had to attend to legal business on behalf of the College, but that in any case he must reside for 40 days in the year: Comm. Doc. iii. 114.
  • 17. Lamb, Camb. Reformation Doc. 142; see p. 178.
  • 18. Lamb, op. cit. 165.
  • 19. This exists only in MS. It is appended to all the later MS. copies of the West statutes.
  • 20. Comberton, Fordham, Guilden Morden, Hinxton, Swavesey, Whittlesford.
  • 21. Comm. Doc. i. 492.
  • 22. Ibid. i. 105–294.
  • 23. Ely Dioc. Rememb. 1911, p. 208. Edmund Assheton, fellow, ordained acolyte.
  • 24. Lamb, Camb. Reformation Doc. 59. Stated to be in the handwriting of Matthew Parker, one of the royal commissioners.
  • 25. 18 Eliz. I, c. 11.
  • 26. 18 Eliz. c. 6. See pp. 188–9.
  • 27. John Capon, Bp. of Bangor 1534, Salisbury 1539–57.
  • 28. Lamb, Camb. Reformation Doc. 111.
  • 29. Sir Thomas Fanshawe is claimed for Jesus by Fuller, Athenae Cantab. ii. 295; Sir James Dyer by John Sherman in his MS. history of the College, 'Aborigines Jesuani'. There is no record of either having matriculated or graduated. Bale took his B.D. from Jesus in 1529 when he was about 35.
  • 30. Jesus College, Cambridge University Archives. C.U.R. 91.
  • 31. Diary and Corres. of John Worthington (Chetham Soc. 1847). Vol. 1 covers the years 1650–61; see pp. 201, 210.
  • 32. 'Aborigines Jesuani sive Historia Coll. Jesu Cant.' Several MS. copies exist in the muniment room, with additions down to the time of Arthur Gray (Master 1912–40). Portions were published by J. O. Halliwell (afterwards Halliwell Phillipps) in 1840.
  • 33. 'Dead College' meant originally the total statutory revenue of the College, but it later came to mean the capital reserve derived from the surplus of income over corporate expenditure.
  • 34. Camb. Univ. Libr. Baumgartner MSS., vol. iv, pt. i, no. 8, Strype's Corres.
  • 35. Roger North, Lives of the Norths (ed. Jessup, 1890), iii. 270. Letter to his son, Montague.
  • 36. R. North, Autobiography (ed. Jessup, 1887), 14 sqq.; see p. 215.
  • 37. Jesus Coll. muniments, Old Letters and Papers, vol. ii, a MS. account of him by Thomas Tanner, says that he had been apprenticed to a barber-surgeon.
  • 38. Camb. Univ. Libr. Baumgartner MSS. vol. iii, no. 88, Strype Corres.
  • 39. Memoirs of the Life of Gilbert Wakefield (2nd edn.), i. 63–119.
  • 40. Life and Remains of Edward Daniel Clarke (W. Otter, 1824), 41–43.
  • 41. See p. 227.
  • 42. W. Frend, A Sequel to the Account of the Proceedings in the University of Cambridge against the Author of a Pamphlet entitled Peace and Union etc. (1795), 103.
  • 43. The scheme exists in the handwriting of Dr. Caryl in Jesus Coll. muniments, Old Letters and Papers, vol. i. The Master and Fellows, as trustees of property left by Edmund Proby in 1682 for the augmentation of poor livings, rackrented it to augment College livings and to buy advowsons, thereby improving the prospects of the fellows.
  • 44. R. North, Lives of the Norths, iii. 276.
  • 45. The work was paid for by Lord Middleton.
  • 46. See p. 221.
  • 47. William Frend, Peace and Union recommended to the Associated Bodies of Republicans and Anti-Republicans (P. C. Croft, St. Ives, 1793). It is typical of Frend that he always refers to it as 'Peace and Union etc.' See p. 223.
  • 48. An Account of the Proceedings in the University of Cambridge against William Frend, M.A., Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge for publishing a pamphlet entitled Peace and Union etc. published by the Defendant (Cambridge, 1793). In Jesus Coll. muniments are a statement of the case by Dr. Pearce, and Frend's own very offensive letters to the Master.
  • 49. Rustat Accounts 1774–97. Allowances paid to scholars.
  • 50. Statuta Coll. Jesu Cantab. (C.U.P. 1844).
  • 51. Scott's son, G. Gilbert Scott jnr., was assistant to Bodley, the architect employed by the College. There exists a letter from Scott to his son giving his reasons for thinking the demolition unnecessary after having inspected the tower.
  • 52. Statuta Coll. Jesu Cantab. printed by the commissioners, 1861.
  • 53. Statutes of Jesus College, Cambridge, printed by the commissioners, 1882.
  • 54. Alternate presentation.
  • 55. Alternate presentation.
  • 56. Two presentations out of three.