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Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

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Gonville and Caius College1 is unique within the colleges of Cambridge University for having two founders (in that the college was 'founded' twice), Gonville and Caius. Its main courts are situated on Trinity Street, next to the Senate House and opposite St. Mary's Church (View Map). It has approximately 500 undergraduate and two hundred graduate students, one hundred fellows2 and nearly two hundred staff; making it one of the largest colleges in Cambridge.

What Is a College?

Some of the oldest universities3 in England are arranged in a 'Collegiate System'. Colleges are, in essence, self-contained units of students and staff,(both academic and domestic). Each has their own eating and living areas and other such amenities. They are each responsible for their own admissions, and collectively form the 'University'.

The College's Beginnings

In 1348 Edmund Gonville started to form a small college of only twenty fellows for postgraduates. This first very early college was set up in Free School Lane, where the Corpus Christi College Master's garden is now situated; unfortunately he died in 1351 and so did not finish this process. His money and vision for the college he left to the Bishop of Norwich, William Bateman, who had already founded Trinity Hall College in 1350. The role of Bateman in developing the college is somewhat controversial; there can be no doubt that he attempted to usurp the position of founder from Gonville, but theories that he used some of Gonville's money to extend Trinity Hall are less substantiated. What can be said though, is that without him the college would have died a very early death, having been left unfinished and with an uncertain future after the death of Gonville.

Bateman arranged, with the founder of Corpus Christi College4, the relocation of Gonville Hall, as it was then called, to its present site on Trinity Street, close to the site of Trinity Hall. Bateman gave Gonville Hall a slightly revised list of statutes from Trinity Hall and left instructions that graduating students from Trinity Hall were to receive their degrees before those from Gonville Hall5. However, after William Bateman's death three and a half years later, this snub to Edmund Gonville, and his college, was reversed by the university.

The college continued through the 14th, 15th and first half of the 16th Centuries much the same way; a very small college, of only four or five fellows, with the college based around what is now known as Gonville Court6.

The Second Founder

In the 1550s Gonville hall was still a small, fairly poor college, when John Caius, (who had graduated from Gonville Hall and gone on to Padua University to study medicine) returned. He was born under the name John Keys but spent some time in Italy and whilst there Latinised his name to 'Caius' - however his name is still pronounced 'Keys'. A myth exists that Caius was a royal physician - but this seems unlikely, as 16th Century royalty were notorious for not paying bills! He gained permission to re-found the college in 1557, extending its buildings and forming Caius and Tree court, as well as increasing the numbers of fellows and students in the college. He also commissioned the three gates for which Gonville and Caius College is famous - Humility, Virtue and Honour7.

These gates are fine examples of a mixture of gothic medieval and Renaissance architecture and have fine stone and plaster carvings decorating them. One enters the college through the gate of Humility8 into Tree Court, then through the gate of Virtue9, into Caius court and then past the chapel into Gonville court. The gate of Honour10 is used for graduation ceremonies and, traditionally, can only be used by graduates. During the lifetime of Caius the college increased greatly in wealth and numbers as it gained more bequests and land and its reputation increased. Since this time the college name has often been abbreviated to just Caius College.

Caius College Since the 19th Century

Since the mid- to late-1800s the college has seen extensive additions to its buildings - unfortunately, its position in the very centre of Cambridge has meant that there was not room on the original site and so these new buildings have been placed increasingly further away from the Old Courts, as the original site on Trinity Street is known. The college has built St. Mary's and St. Michael's courts on the other side of Trinity Street, and Harvey Court the other side of the backs (View Map)11. In addition the college has acquired a number of houses around Trinity Street and near Parker's Piece for student accommodation, as well as the Cockerell building, the original University library, situated next to Caius for use as the college library. Further buildings are planned close to Harvey Court.

1Caius is pronounced 'Keys'.2Lecturers, supervisors and researchers.3Cambridge, Durham and Oxford.4The Duke of Lancaster.5Students receive their degrees in an order determined by the date of their founding, oldest colleges first.6A court in Cambridge, or a Quad in Oxford, refers to either an area surrounded by buildings or to the area plus the buildings.7An unofficial name for a fourth gate is The Gate of Necessity - this is where the toilets are located.8 The original gate was very badly maintained and its ruin was moved into the Master's garden. The current gate is a replacement.9This gate has some carvings of some somewhat less than virtuous ladies - Virtue obviously having a subtly different meaning then.10This gate was used in the TV series Weirdsister College - the follow-up to The Worst Witch.11The backs is the area of land behind the colleges, between the back of Kings, Clare, Trinity and Queens Road, where most first years are accommodated.

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