The city of Cambridge: Town and gown

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 city of Cambridge: Town and gown', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959), pp. 76-86. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "The city of Cambridge: Town and gown", in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959) 76-86. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "The city of Cambridge: Town and gown", A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959). 76-86. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

In this section


Police, p. 77. Morals, p. 79. Theatres, p. 79. Health, p. 81. Jurisdiction, p. 81. Trade, p. 83. Finance, p. 84.

Both the economic and the constitutional development of Cambridge from the 13th to the 19th century were conditioned by the presence in the same town of 'two communities, the one of clerks, the other of laymen'. (fn. 1) From the year 1231, when the birth of the two communities was registered by Henry III's command to the Mayor to appoint two burgesses to act with two masters of the University in fixing the rents of scholars' lodgings, (fn. 2) the story of the relations of town and gown was one of endemic border warfare, with recurrent crises, the longest and fiercest being that under Elizabeth I. In the 18th century the warfare transformed itself into petty skirmishing, as administrative torpidity settled on both communities. It reopened in the 19th century with all the hostility and resentment that obsolete privilege and injured amour-propre can arouse. It was not until 1856 that peace was signed—a peace that was 'lasting because there were no victors'. (fn. 3)

Apart from general questions of precedence and prestige the main fields of conflict were those of police, morals and health, jurisdiction, trade and finance.


As at Oxford, the coming of the clerks meant frequent brawls between students and townsmen and the appointment of a succession of judicial inquiries. (fn. 4) The sheriff could be and was called by the Chancellor to enforce order, (fn. 5) but after the charter of 1256 this might well be regarded as an infringement of the Borough's privileges, and in 1268 the responsibility for keeping the peace was definitely fixed on the townsmen. By a charter, modelled on that granted to Oxford in 1255, (fn. 6) two aldermen and four senior burgesses (the later 'counsellors') were to be sworn to assist the Mayor and bailiffs in keeping the peace, to be assisted by two sworn men (later constables) in each parish, who could assist both clerks and laymen. This did not satisfy the University; the burgesses were described as negligent and incompetent; (fn. 7) and in April 1270 an agreement negotiated by the Lord Edward, (fn. 8) and authenticated by the common seals of both parties as well as by the king's seal, established a system of joint responsibility. Every year, within a fortnight from the beginning of Michaelmas term, ten burgesses, seven from the town and three from the suburbs, together with five scholars from every English county, three from Scotland, two from Wales, and three from Ireland, were to be elected and sworn to keep the peace. The clerks were to assist the burgesses in apprehending offenders cleric or lay; lists of heads of hostels and their inmates were to be kept; the lawless were to be expelled both from Borough and University and both parties alike were to swear to uphold the privileges of the University before proceeding to the elections. Thus was established the Magna Congregatio or Black Assembly in which the royal orders of 1231, 1268, and 1270 were carried out. The descriptions of 1421 and 1533 show how faithfully the forms were preserved. (fn. 9) In 1533 the Assembly met in Great St. Mary's; the Mayor sat on the left hand of the Vice-Chancellor with the four bailiffs facing them, and the senior proctor administered the oath to the townsmen in English and to the scholars in Latin. The practical importance of the assembly was by now outweighed by its symbolical aspect. It was summoned and conducted by the Vice-Chancellor and it stood for the subordination of the town to the University. Both in 1546 and 1552 resentment was manifested by the burgesses. (fn. 10) By 1668, when Alderman Newton described it, (fn. 11) the Michaelmas paving leet had been amalgamated with it, and when the paving leet was superseded by the Improvement Commissioners in 1788 (fn. 12) the Black Assembly ceased to be held. Revived by a tactless Vice-Chancellor in 1817 (fn. 13) it functioned for another 40 years for the presentment of nuisances and the swearing in of parish constables, but the scholars' obligation to swear to the peace had been completely forgotten. (fn. 14) It enshrined the superiority of the University as much as the ceremony prescribed in the University's charter of 1317, (fn. 15) whereby the Mayor and bailiffs on taking office had to swear to maintain the liberties of the University, informing the University officials in advance of time and place. The Corporation was reprimanded for 'ungentle and perverse' attempts to escape the ceremony by Cromwell in 1537, by Somerset in 1551 and by Burleigh in 1596, (fn. 16) and in 1597 the 'unreverent maner' of the Mayor was only endured by the Vice-Chancellor because of the multitude of townsmen in the town hall. (fn. 17) In 1641 the Corporation decided to defy the University (fn. 18) and in 1645 both parties petitioned Parliament. Though the Lords upheld the University, the town, represented in the Commons by Cromwell and Lowry, successfully continued their repudiation of the oath. (fn. 19) The oath, however, was restored at the Restoration, and was only abolished, together with the Black Assembly, in 1856.

The University's duty of arresting persons who had infringed its regulations, whether a clerk who was devoting himself 'to misdeeds rather than to his studies', (fn. 20) a bad character at Sturbridge fair, or a debtor, entailed the use of a prison, and as it had no right to have a gaol until 1603 it claimed the use first of the castle and later of the Tolbooth. (fn. 21) In 1601 the University had obtained from the queen a 40-year lease of the Tolbooth, but the resulting lawsuit was decided in January 1607 in favour of the town. (fn. 22) Both town and gown were represented on the trust set up by Thomas Hobson in 1628 for building a workhouse and house of correction to be used by both authorities. (fn. 23) The Spinning House, as it came to be called, ceased to be used by the town as a house of correction when the New Gaol was built, and was in effect the Vice-Chancellor's prison down to 1894. (fn. 24)

The sharing of gaols led to trouble when townsmen were imprisoned by the ViceChancellor in the castle, outside the Borough boundary, or when town officials refused to commit prisoners or released them without warrant. (fn. 25) Proctors acted concurrently with the town police and this joint responsibility occasionally created difficulties, as in 1559, when an attempt to carry out the advice of the county justices that 'the watches for the University and town of Cambridge should lovingly join together' during the time of Sturbridge Fair produced some free fights between the officials at midnight. (fn. 26) The first responsibility for correcting nuisances presented in the leet lay with the town, but if they failed to act the University could take action after six weeks. (fn. 27) In the 18th century notices about the enforcement of Acts of Parliament and other matters of public order were issued by Vice-Chancellor and Mayor jointly, the Vice-Chancellor's name always leading. (fn. 28) The charge to the Grand Jury at the Quarter Sessions for the town in October 1768 coupled the authority of the High Constable and the proctors, and stressed 'the necessity of a perfect union between the magistrates of the town and the University'. (fn. 29) In 1833 the municipal commissioners, having themselves observed conditions on 5 November, found the town police very inefficient. They were told that the chief and high constables, 51 constables and 6 watchmen did far less to keep order in the town than the proctors and their servants, so that the condition of the town in the long vacation was scandalous. (fn. 30) The powers of the Watch Committee set up under the Act of 1835 remained distinct from and unrelated to those of the proctors until 1856. The Watch Committee was, however, then reconstituted so as to contain five members of the Senate, appointed by the Senate, to sit with the ten town representatives. (fn. 31)


The proctors, however, still retained the powers granted in 1317, and reinforced in 1561 and 1605, to expel common women from the town or suburbs and to search for, imprison, or banish such persons. (fn. 32) Hobson's old workhouse had long served as a place of confinement for them by the name of the Spinning House. (fn. 33) Powers once accepted as necessary for the protection of the morals of the undergraduates had by the second half of the 19th century come to be regarded as infringing the liberties of the subject, and in 1860 the summary arrest and commitment of five suspects led to a lawsuit that indicated the risks a proctor took in exercising these powers. (fn. 34) For many years a policy of caution was pursued, but in February 1891 the rearrest of a girl who had escaped from the Spinning House produced an outcry in the press against the 'Academic Starchamber' and ten months later the University officials were convicted of carelessness and ignorance in the exercise of powers to which they were legally entitled by committing a highly dubious character without charging her properly. The inflamed feelings of the town were allayed largely by the good offices of the University members of the Borough Council, and after a series of conferences between town and gown both parties agreed in promoting the Cambridge University and Corporation Act of 1894 which provided for the concurrent action of the proctors and the town police in arresting loose women and the abolition of the Vice-Chancellor's jurisdiction over them, together with his veto on theatrical licences. (fn. 35)


Interference with the townsmen's diversions in the interests of the scholars only began in 1575, when the Privy Council instructed the Vice-Chancellor to prohibit 'pernicious and unhonest games' within five miles of the University. This was done mainly as a precaution against the plague, which was a serious interruption to studies. (fn. 36) Games licensed by the county magistrates at the Howes were stopped in 1580, and football and bear-baiting at Chesterton in 1581, provoking protests from the Chesterton constables. (fn. 37) In 1592 (fn. 38) the prohibition of the showing of interludes and plays at the time of Sturbridge Fair began (fn. 39) the long struggle over play-acting in and near Cambridge. The Corporation, which had been authorizing payments to minstrels and players for at least 100 years, and, in particular, since 1573, to the queen's players, (fn. 40) naturally resented this, though the growing puritanism of the times may have diminished the grievance. James I's charter to the University gave the Vice-Chancellor full powers to prohibit all idle games and diversions within five miles of the town, and to expel all actors, jugglers, rope-dancers, and such, and forbade the licensing or toleration of them. (fn. 41) In spite of this the town erected a bull ring on Peas Hill in 1604, which was still there in 1662. (fn. 42) When in 1701 the Corporation licensed the performance of plays at Sturbridge Fair the University constituted an ad hoc police of 62 M.A.s to enforce discipline and the Vice-Chancellor ordered the theatre booth to be demolished and the actor Dogget to be imprisoned. (fn. 43) This did not end the matter; Joseph Kettle, one of the county magistrates, built a permanent theatre on his own land in the suburbs, and petitions from him and from town and county residents for dramatic entertainments during Sturbridge Fair and from the University for the retention of its privileges were heard in Parliament in April 1737. (fn. 44) The rights of the University were upheld in the Players and Tavern Act of June 1737; all producers of plays in the precincts of Oxford or Cambridge were to be deemed rogues and vagabonds, but the Vice-Chancellor, though empowered to punish, was not forbidden to license performances. (fn. 45) There was much theatrical activity in Norwich and a circuit system was gradually developed with a touring company allowing three weeks for a visit to Sturbridge Fair each autumn. (fn. 46) By 1748 a dramatic performance in September had become the established practice, and as the century went on, the three weeks' season was a great social function enjoyed by town and gown alike. (fn. 47) Players from Covent Garden as well as Norwich attended; benefit performances for the Cambridge charity schools were given; (fn. 48) and three permanent buildings in succession were erected in Barnwell. (fn. 49) The fact, however, that for the rest of the year there was no theatre in Cambridge was, as the 18th-century guide-books pointed out, one of the drawbacks of residence there.

The Act for regulating theatres in 1843 extended the Vice-Chancellor's veto to a radius of fourteen miles, covering Newmarket and St. Ives. Under the award of 1856 all dramatic performances were licensed by both Mayor and Vice-Chancellor, but by 1894 this had become such an empty form that the University was willing to surrender it. (fn. 50) Meanwhile the theatre had not always prospered in Cambridge. In 1853 the Lyceum Company played for twelve nights, in 1858 the London Opera Company came for a week, and in 1861 and 1867 the London Royal English Opera Company played for short seasons. The theatre season usually covered August and September with programmes ranging from low comedy to grand opera and Shakespeare. The Barnwell Theatre Royal, rebuilt in 1816, flourished for many years, but in the mid-century, although Charles Dickens gave some readings there, dramas gave way to panoramas, and finally the theatre after serving as a mission hall was deserted.

In 1926 this theatre was said to be the oldest surviving in the British Isles, when Mr. Terence Gray reopened it as the Festival Theatre 'in order that it might become a centre for the practice of the most advanced stage craft in the country, a sort of university of dramatic art'. The Festival opened with the Oresteia of Aeschylus translated by R. C. Trevelyan, and its brilliant experimental programmes went on until 1934. Regular productions ceased in 1940.

Meanwhile the other Cambridge theatre owed its origin to an amateur dramatic club, the Bijou, formed about 1875 by William Beales Redfern. Redfern bought St. Andrew's Hall in St. Andrew's Street, and in 1896 he rebuilt the hall as the New Theatre. His enterprise was strongly supported by John Willis Clark, the University Registrary, who was a director of the New Theatre Company from the beginning, and in 1902 succeeded Redfern as its chairman, a post which he retained until his death in 1910. The first production was that of Hamlet by the Haymarket Theatre Company.

The last theatre to be built in Cambridge is the Arts, opened in 1936 in Peas Hill, and owing its existence very largely to the efforts of John Maynard Keynes. As bursar of King's College Keynes was able to help with the provision of a site. He also contributed generously with his advice and his money. In the early years he acted as business manager, and even on occasion sold tickets at the box office. The theatre has never had a repertory company. Its policy is to depend on visiting companies, and to try to provide the best of all kinds of drama. Apart from the Bijou a number of amateur dramatic clubs have contributed to the theatrical history of Cambridge. The Garrick Club, formed in 1834, gave performances at Barnwell Theatre Royal, but was disbanded in 1842. The Amateur Dramatic Club, formed in 1855, has flourished for more than a century. Its founder was F. C. Burnand, later editor of Punch. It secured permanent premises by the Hoop Brewery in Jesus Lane and was at times rather a social than a dramatic club. After a fire in 1933 the premises were rebuilt with a theatre seating 200. The Footlights, another University dramatic society, was formed in 1883, and several of its members have subsequently made the stage their profession. The Rodney Club began to give annual performances in 1889, first at the A.D.C. theatre in Jesus Lane, later at the Barnwell Theatre Royal, and since 1936 at the Arts. It has its own small theatre seating 80, at 148 Chesterton Road. The Marlowe Dramatic Society, formed to perform Faustus in 1908, with Rupert Brooke as its president and Geoffrey Keynes as its secretary, has since produced an Elizabethan play each year. Finally the Mummers, formed in 1926, to include members of the women's colleges, gives two performances each year. (fn. 51)


The University, though necessarily concerned for the health of its members, never claimed an independent jurisdiction in matters of health and sanitation. Under the royal charter of 1268 (fn. 52) it held that the town was bound to keep Cambridge properly paved, cleaned, and drained, and complaints about failure to perform these duties in 1330 and 1351 (fn. 53) were followed in 1391 by an order to the Vice-Chancellor to act with the Mayor in enforcing the recent Statute of Cambridge. (fn. 54) Power to inquire into nuisances was given to the Vice-Chancellor in 1459, (fn. 55) and the indenture of 1503, revised in 1575, provided that he could take action on presentments after six weeks if the Mayor had done nothing. (fn. 56) The Paving Act of 1544 fixed joint responsibility on University and town for the cleanliness of Cambridge, and set up the machinery which endured until 1788 for dealing with local amenities. (fn. 57) As will be seen below, (fn. 58) the ViceChancellor took an active and sometimes a leading part in these concerns, Addenbrooke's Hospital being the most outstanding example of the fruitful co-operation of town and gown for the bodily welfare of Cambridge.


The jurisdiction of the University over its own members when they only were involved was a matter of course in the Middle Ages: conflict of jurisdiction only arose when laymen were involved, for the townsmen could assert their own chartered right to answer in their own courts. Under the University's charter of 1268 the Chancellor could claim the person of a clerk who had attacked a layman, (fn. 59) and in 1305 he was given power to cite burgesses and other laymen to answer scholars in all personal actions. (fn. 60) In 1317 these were particularized as cases concerning loans, the leasing of houses, the hire, sale, or loan of horses, cloth or victuals and all other contracts concerning movables. (fn. 61) The Chancellor was further empowered to commit laymen as well as clerks to the castle for bodily violence. In protesting against these privileges the burgesses alleged, in 1337, that under this system laymen injuring clerks were punished and clerks injuring laymen were liberated without making amends, and that scholars purchased debts and contracts and sued for them in the University courts (fn. 62) where they might be tried by civil and not common law. (fn. 63) The town ordinance of 1403 which forbade burgesses to sue before the Chancellor concerning contracts which could be determined before the Mayor and bailiffs suggests that some preferred this procedure. (fn. 64) But the jurisdiction of the University was not restricted; it was further enlarged by the addition of stationers, writers, bookbinders, and illuminators to the persons whose trespasses were justiciable by the Chancellor, (fn. 65) while the charter of 1383 added scholars' servants and University employees to the list. (fn. 66) The agreement of 1503 added apothecaries, physicians, surgeons, barbers, and parchment makers, and was endorsed with the names of some 70 persons coming within these categories. At the same time, the procedure by which persons claiming privilege were to be handed over to the University authorities in St. Mary's Church was exactly defined. (fn. 67) In 1589 the 'privileged persons' were declared to include the servants and children of all married graduates living in the town, all gardeners, butchers, barbers, and brewers of every college or hall, the husbands of college laundresses, the keeper of the University library, the University printer, the University plumber, and 'the man who times the University clock'. (fn. 68) This concession was part of the price paid by the town for securing its rights to Sturbridge Fair; but Nicholas Gaunt, the Mayor who assented to 'these new jurisdictions of the University', was regarded as a traitor, and, as John Wickstede put it, 'having been put out of his Aldermanship lived the remainder of his life in gout, want and misery and hateful to all the townsmen'. (fn. 69)

It is not surprising that bad feeling between the two communities mounted. Privilege had its financial aspect; members of the University were forbidden to be burgesses, (fn. 70) and the townsmen complained in 1596 that as many as eleven score graduates were making their livelihood by husbandry, brewing or other trades, and yet escaping payment of the subsidies though they outnumbered the 'subsidy men' in the town. (fn. 71) Such residents, in no sense scholars, were exempt from the jurisdiction, routine duties, and common charges of the Borough.

Jurisdiction in matters of trade, conferred on the University in 1382, added thenceforth to the causes of friction. By the agreement of 1503 the Mayor was to have jurisdiction in victualling pleas (and victuals included wax and tallow) when a burgess was plaintiff, and the Chancellor when a 'foreigner' was plaintiff; the Mayor was to have jurisdiction over wholesale transactions, unless a clerk was a party. (fn. 72)

There were several cases of the vindication of University privilege in the 17th century, but by the 18th the claim of cognizance was becoming anachronistic. The town bench, which included both University and Borough magistrates, were allowed to hear doubtful cases, and 'privileged persons' who preferred the lay courts were no longer penalized. In 1771, in a case of assault by two scholars on a printer, the University put in a claim, but abandoned it with little protest. (fn. 73) As Soame Jenyns wrote to Hardwicke, 'these separate jurisdictions, where there is no trial by jury, are contrary to the spirit of our present constitution'. (fn. 74) Probably the last claim of cognizance by the Vice-Chancellor was made and disallowed in the Borough court in 1844, (fn. 75) whilst the jurisdiction over weights and measures, regrators and victuals, still being exercised in the same decade at Sturbridge, Midsummer and Reach Fairs in the Commissary's court, (fn. 76) was abolished by agreement in the Act of 1856. The jurisdiction of the Vice-Chancellor's Court was then confined to cases in which both parties were members of the University. (fn. 77)


A University had to protect its scholars against high prices and poor quality; and in accordance with established University custom the writ of 1231 instructed the two authorities each to appoint two taxors to fix jointly the rents of scholars' lodgings. (fn. 78) Very soon the co-operation of the Chancellor was required for the holding of the assize of bread and ale. (fn. 79) The Borough, however, retained effective control until February 1382, (fn. 80) when the assize of bread, wine, and beer was granted wholly and for ever to the University, with the custody of weights and measures and the cognizance of forestalling and regrating. This grant was expressly declared to cover Sturbridge Fair. (fn. 81) The restoration of the town's liberties, saving those of the University, in May 1382, (fn. 82) established a joint supervision of town trade and set up causes of friction that continued from 1384 (fn. 83) to 1856. In 1554, for instance, the town complained of the too liberal interpretation of the grant of 1382 to cover the enforcement of later statutes, in particular University interference with the licensing of alehouses. (fn. 84) Elizabeth I's charter to the University, however, confirmed its right to enforce statutes, and to act as the sole clerk of the market in Sturbridge Fair. (fn. 85) Though town and gown could co-operate against the pewterers of London, and the townsmen supported the University in dealing with the brewers of Cambridge, (fn. 86) Sturbridge Fair, in which the burgesses had the monopoly of holding booths, and from which the Corporation drew large profits, was inevitably a source of friction. From 1553 to 1589 the town was making persistent attempts to get the fair into its own hands. (fn. 87) It nearly succeeded in 1558, when the Provost of King's dissuaded the University from selling its rights. (fn. 88) Even when in 1589 the town had secured the lordship of the fair, there was still an overlap of functions. As the fair dwindled in importance, however, this became less irksome than the question of licensing. In 1564 the Chancellor's right to license alehouses had been explicitly approved by the queen (fn. 89) and in 1597 the University reduced their number from 80 to 30 (fn. 90) whilst its right to license vintners was vindicated against Raleigh as well as the town. (fn. 91) All Cambridge inns had to obtain the Vice-Chancellor's licence, (fn. 92) and the rights of the University were upheld, against protest, in the Act of 1737. (fn. 93)

The town had, by the composition of 1503, accepted the right of the University to control the retail trade in victuals; (fn. 94) in 1532 there were complaints about its slackness in enforcing the assize. When the grant had first been made, the townsmen said, the scholars had lived in small halls, and bought their bread and ale of the poor inhabitants of the town; now that the colleges were becoming wealthy, they had their own brew- houses and bakehouses, and cared little about breaches of the assize, accepting bribes from the offenders. (fn. 95) The University responded with new regulations; (fn. 96) and a century later the Mayor and town magistrates reported to the Privy Council that they left the enforcing of the assize and the punishment of forestallers and the like to the University officials. (fn. 97) Various acts of Parliament, from 1710 to 1824, confirmed the right of the University to fix the price and weight of bread, rights exercised by the Vice-Chancellor and proctors until the abolition of the Assize of Bread in 1836. (fn. 98) The rapid rise of prices led to the revival of the University's power to punish regrators and forestallers in 1792; poultry, dairy produce, and vegetables were not to be sold in Cambridge market for re-sale before noon. (fn. 99) Riots in 1795 led to collaboration between Mayor and Vice-Chancellor to deal with the price of butchers' meat, and again in 1800 they acted together. (fn. 100)

By the middle of the 19th century the University rights of regulating trade had come to be regarded as obsolete and annoying. Since 1836 the town magistrates had been able to license alehouses, and new powers had been given to the Mayor by the Act of 1850 for regulating markets and fairs, but the rights of the University had still been reserved. (fn. 101) The memorial drawn up for the town in 1852 urged that the concurrent licensing of alehouses by town and University and the sale of vintners' licences for profit was undesirable; and that the supervision of weights and measures by the University taxors, still the sole authority, was inefficient. (fn. 102) It also objected to the practice of discommuning. This practice, whereby members of the University were forbidden to deal with a specific Cambridge tradesman, had come into use in the 16th century, (fn. 103) and served as a good working substitute for the power of excommunication as exercised against Mayors in 1524 and 1529 and abandoned in 1533. (fn. 104) It had been an effective and unpopular weapon in the war of town and gown. By the award of 1856 the University retained this right as well as that of licensing vintners, though the right to license alehouses was surrendered. (fn. 105) In abolishing the taxors, who had acted as the agents of the University in supervising prices since 1231, with one brief interval from 1541 to 1546, the Act of 1856 wound up a very long story.


Whilst both trade and justice had their financial aspects, participation in the financial burdens of the town formed a distinct issue. From 1496 at least the lands of the colleges and the goods of the individual members of the University had been exempted normally from both lay and clerical subsidies. (fn. 106) In 1596, as stated above, the town had expressed its resentment at the large number of tax-free hangers-on of the University. (fn. 107) With the introduction of a poor rate the preferential treatment of college and University property was further emphasized; University and college property were not assessed to parochial rates, though the University made a voluntary contribution, fixed at £120 in 1650, on the condition that the streets were kept free from beggars. (fn. 108) This contribution was ultimately raised to £240. (fn. 109) The charter of 1632, in giving the Borough power to levy rates for supporting the burdens of the Borough on residents as well as burgesses, exempted scholars and privileged persons from payment. (fn. 110) On the imposition of the Land Tax in 1700 the sites of the colleges and the stipends of University officers were again exempted, (fn. 111) but the University undertook to contribute roughly 1/9 of the total amount imposed on the town and University. (fn. 112) From 1718 onwards the payments were falling into arrears, and a crisis was produced by the acquisition of the Senate House in 1722, which suddenly raised the charge upon the parishioners of Great St. Mary's. The parishioners, the town, and the University petitioned Parliament, and by an agreement of the following year, confirmed by Parliament, the ratio of £50 to £1,423 was accepted for the University's quota. (fn. 113) Thus in 1854 the University was paying £100 to the town's £2,700. This was not so inequitable as it might seem, since the assessment allowed for the exemption of college sites. (fn. 114) On the other hand the University accepted responsibility for 2/5 of the total amount leviable by the improvement commissioners under the Act of 1788 for the expenses of paving, lighting, and cleaning the town, (fn. 115) a proportion which by 1854 had become excessive owing to the growth of the inhabited area.

The fact that the University made no contribution to the expenses of maintaining the police force set up in 1836 under the Municipal Corporations Act was also an issue. A proposal in 1847 to make a voluntary contribution was rejected in the non-Regent House by a narrow majority, and a negotiated agreement between the two parties that the University should contribute one-third of the expense and have representation on the Watch Committee was similarly rejected, by a large majority, in 1850. (fn. 116) By the award of 1856, however, all outstanding financial issues were settled. The Land Tax assessment remained unchanged; all University property except the Senate House, the library, the schools and lecture-rooms, the laboratories and museums, and the college chapels and libraries was made taxable; the contribution under the Improvement Acts was altered from 2/5 to ¼ and the University was given five representatives on the Watch Committee. (fn. 117)

In the long rivalry of town and gown, ushered in by the disorders caused by the lawless young clerks of the 13th century, as the wealth and privileges of the University and its colleges increased, the weight of the royal power had been, almost invariably, thrown on its side. The charter of 1317, establishing the formal precedence of the University by the annual ceremony of the Mayor's oath, irritated civic susceptibilities, and, in spite of friendliness between individuals, and the foundation of a college by the town guilds, the resentment of the townsmen exploded in 1381, with the destruction of University muniments and the extortion of wholesale renunciation of college and University privilege by sealed deeds. (fn. 118) The resulting punishment added the further injury of the University's supervision of the markets, and the revival of prosperity after the 15th century regression produced an endless succession of statements of grievances from both parties, with appeals to the noble patrons; to the Lady Margaret, to the Protector Somerset, Chancellor of the University and High Steward of the town; to Thomas Cromwell; to Lord North; and above all to Burghley, in his two-fold position of chief minister of the Crown and Chancellor of the University. Fuller is probably right in connecting the increase of friction with the Reformation. (fn. 119) A succession of com- positions allayed but did not eliminate the irritation. The University's request for representation in Parliament, first put forward in 1570 and granted finally in 1604, (fn. 120) was the outcome of fear and distrust of the town. The town countered in 1616 by petitioning for the title and status of a city. (fn. 121) The University urged that this would endanger their privileges, and James refused the petition, asserting that 'the home of the Muses could gain no additional honour from the plebeian title of city'. (fn. 122) The national contest of the 17th century added a religious and political flavour to the old conflict, and the puritanical and parliamentary town had for the moment the advantage over the Anglican and royalist University and could defy it with impunity. But in 1660 the tables were turned; and in the comparative calm of the 18th century the University, always solicitous for the health and amenities of Cambridge, was actually making good some of the administrative derelictions of the torpid Corporation. Benthamite reform, however, which revolutionized the Borough government, left the University untouched, and the revival of bad feeling in the first half of the 19th century was largely attributable to survivals or even revivals of out-dated privilege. It was a triumph of common sense over feeling when, in 1855, direct negotiations having broken down, town and gown as in 1270, in 1503, and 1526 and 1548, (fn. 123) agreed to refer the points at issue to an arbitrator and Sir John Patteson's award was embodied in the Act of 5 June 1856. (fn. 124)

Though peace was signed there was still a barrier between the two communities. Members of the University could not hold office or vote in municipal elections. Not until 1889 was partnership in the government of Cambridge effected. By an Act of 1889 implementing the Local Government Act of 1888 two members of the Borough Council were to be annually appointed by the Senate, and four others elected by the colleges. (fn. 125) As subsequently modified, this means that in the City council of 1951 two aldermen and six councillors represented the University. Beginning with Horace Darwin in 1896, a succession of University aldermen have held the mayoralty of Cambridge, and since 1907 their wives also have served on the council and its committees.


  • 1. Rot. Parl. ii. 47a.
  • 2. Cooper, Annals, i. 41–42.
  • 3. D. A. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 138.
  • 4. Cooper, Annals, i. 45, 48.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1266–72, 357; Cam, Liberties and Communities, 41–42.
  • 6. Ballard and Tait, Borough Charters, ii. 367–8; Cooper, Annals, i. 50.
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1266–72, 317.
  • 8. Preserved in an inspeximus of 1292. Cal. Chart. R. 1257–1300, 415; see p. 152.
  • 9. Cooper, Annals, i. 176; Grace Book A, ed. S. M. Leathes, 225.
  • 10. Cooper, Annals, i. 441; ii. 65.
  • 11. Diary of Samuel Newton (C.A.S. Publ. 1890), 36.
  • 12. Cooper, Annals, iv. 429.
  • 13. Ibid. 517–18.
  • 14. Cooper, Annals, v. 209.
  • 15. Ibid. i. 75.
  • 16. Cooper, Annals, i. 389–90; ii. 61, 557.
  • 17. Ibid. ii. 582–4.
  • 18. Ibid. iii. 316.
  • 19. Ibid. 389–93, 409, 416, 424.
  • 20. Cal. Pat. 1292–1301, 101.
  • 21. Under the charter of 1561: Cooper, Annals, ii. 168.
  • 22. Ibid. ii. 615; iii. 26–27.
  • 23. Ibid. iii. 204–5.
  • 24. See below, p. 121.
  • 25. Cooper, Annals, i. 67, 88, 90, 140, 388; ii. 3; iii. 492.
  • 26. Ibid. ii. 155.
  • 27. Ibid. i. 268.
  • 28. Bodl. Libr. Gough Collection, Camb. 103.
  • 29. Ibid. 35 (2).
  • 30. Rep. on Municipal Corporations, pp. 2193–4.
  • 31. Cooper, Annals, v. 219.
  • 32. Cooper, Annals, i. 76; ii. 167; iii. 15.
  • 33. See below, p. 121.
  • 34. D. A. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 380–2.
  • 35. D. A. Winstanley, Later Vict. Camb. 92–142; see p. 287.
  • 36. Cooper, Annals, ii. 339–40.
  • 37. Ibid. ii. 380, 383–4. For games at the Gogs (1574) see ibid. 321.
  • 38. Ibid. 514–16.
  • 39. In 1580 the Earl of Oxford's players had been forbidden to perform in Cambridge, though backed by Burghley: Cooper, Annals, ii. 379.
  • 40. Cooper, Annals, ii. 319, 401, 410, 459, 518.
  • 41. Ibid. iii. 16.
  • 42. Ibid. 11, 262, 504.
  • 43. Ibid. iv. 46.
  • 44. Cooper, Annals, iv. 227–32.
  • 45. Ibid. 232–3.
  • 46. F. A. Keynes, By-ways of Cambridge Hist. (2nd ed. 1956), 121.
  • 47. Cooper, Annals, iv. 262; Gunning, Reminiscences, i. 124, 172.
  • 48. Cambridge Chronicle, 20 Sept., 4 Oct. 1777; 18 May 1782; 9 Oct. 1784.
  • 49. Cooper, Annals, iv. 366, 490, 509.
  • 50. Ibid. 661; Winstanley, Later Vict. Camb. 132.
  • 51. F. A. Keynes, By-Ways of Camb. Hist. (1956), 123–40; Roy Harrod, Life of J. M. Keynes, 473–77; A. E. Shipley, Memoir of John Willis Clark, 255–6; for A.D.C. see p. 251; for the Marlowe Society and the Footlights, see p. 285.
  • 52. Cooper, Annals, i. 51.
  • 53. Ibid. 85, 102.
  • 54. Ibid. 134, 140.
  • 55. Ibid. 209.
  • 56. Ibid. 268; ii. 332–6.
  • 57. Ibid. i. 409.
  • 58. See below, pp. 101–8.
  • 59. Cooper, Annals, i. 50.
  • 60. Ibid. i. 71.
  • 61. Cooper, Annals, i. 76.
  • 62. Ibid. 90.
  • 63. Ibid. 332; ii. 12.
  • 64. Ibid. i. 149.
  • 65. Ibid. 104.
  • 66. Ibid. 127; see p. 155.
  • 67. Ibid. 262–70; see p. 166.
  • 68. Ibid. ii. 473–5.
  • 69. Ibid. 475.
  • 70. Ibid. 340, 450.
  • 71. Ibid. 561.
  • 72. Ibid. i. 265.
  • 73. Winstanley, Unref. Camb. 27 sqq.
  • 74. B.M. Add. MS. 35631, 20 July 1771.
  • 75. Cooper, Annals, iv. 667.
  • 76. Winstanley, Unref. Camb. 33–35, 364–7.
  • 77. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 137; Cooper, Annals, v. 211.
  • 78. Cooper, Annals, i. 41.
  • 79. Ibid. 46, 51.
  • 80. Ibid. 85, 124–5.
  • 81. Ibid. 126.
  • 82. Ibid. 125.
  • 83. Ibid. 128.
  • 84. Ibid. ii. 86.
  • 85. Ibid. 167. The proclamation of the fair in 1548 gives a detailed picture of the functions involved: ibid. 18–21; see pp. 187–8.
  • 86. Ibid. 49–52.
  • 87. Ibid. 8, 13, 70, 93–94, 99, 154, 349, 358; see p. 188.
  • 88. Ibid. 143.
  • 89. Ibid. 180; v, 294.
  • 90. Ibid. 569.
  • 91. Ibid. 399.
  • 92. Ibid. iii. 238 gives a number of instances, 1628–66.
  • 93. Ibid. iv. 232–3.
  • 94. Ibid. i. 265 sqq.
  • 95. Cooper, Annals, i. 349.
  • 96. Ibid. 354.
  • 97. S.P. 16/109/13.
  • 98. Cooper, Annals, iv. 601; for a return to Parliament by the University taxors of the prices of wheat and malt in Cambridge market 1677–1765, see C. J. xxx. 764.
  • 99. Gunning, Reminiscences, i. 255; Cooper, Annals, iv. 443.
  • 100. Cooper, Annals, iv. 455, 467.
  • 101. Ibid. v. 19.
  • 102. Ibid. 45–47; Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 124–7.
  • 103. Cooper, Annals, ii. 437, 440, &c.
  • 104. Ibid. i. 310, 331, 355.
  • 105. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 137–8; Cooper, Annals, v. 210 sqq.; see p. 253.
  • 106. Cooper, Annals, i. 246, 272, 295, 296; ii. 25, 45, 68, 102, 154, 159, 176, &c.
  • 107. Ibid. ii. 561; see p. 82.
  • 108. Ibid. iii. 438–9.
  • 109. Ibid. v. 212–18; Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 131.
  • 110. Maitland and Bateson, Camb. Boro. Charts. 159.
  • 111. Cooper, Annals, iv. 44.
  • 112. Ibid. iv. 170.
  • 113. Ibid. 170–5.
  • 114. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 130.
  • 115. Cooper, Annals, iv. 429; v. 52.
  • 116. Ibid. iv. 687; v. 1–8.
  • 117. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 137; Cooper, Annals, v. 219. See above, p. 27.
  • 118. Cooper, Annals, i. 121. See above, pp. 10–11.
  • 119. 'The townsmen began to hope their time come to cast off the yoke of the University, as if on the alteration of religion the ancient privilege of scholars should be abolished': Fuller, Hist. 240–1.
  • 120. Cooper, Annals, ii. 269, 401, 435, 460, 585; iii. 3.
  • 121. Ibid. 42, 107.
  • 122. Ibid. 113–14; see p. 192.
  • 123. Ibid. i. 52, 258, 269, 323; ii. 11.
  • 124. Winstanley, Early Vict. Camb. 134–8; Cooper, Annals, v. 192–202.
  • 125. Winstanley, Later Vict. Camb. 98; see p. 286.