Category Archives: Archives

Cheyne Links with King’s

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942) came up to King’s College in 1883 and read History. The friends he made in Cambridge and the books he read contributed to his development into what biographer Alan Crawford described as an ‘Architect, Designer & Romantic Socialist’. Ashbee’s memoirs came to King’s a few years after he died, with his ‘journals’ (correspondence and scrapbooks bound together) and some genealogical papers given by his widow ten years later. With the death of their daughter Felicity in 2008, the last large tranche of Ashbee papers came to King’s, including his Jerusalem papers (for more on which see this online exhibition).

But in May we were given two more drawings by C. R. Ashbee and they’re rapidly becoming some of my favourite things. The first drawing is a design for a crucifix medallion. It’s stamped ‘This design is the property of The Guild of Handicraft Ltd … Chipping Campden, Glos. and is to be returned to them’ with the design number and date added by hand. It’s labelled ‘Silver Cross, enamelled & chased’. At 7 mm diameter, it’s probably drawn life-size.

CRA/100. Guild of Handicraft design for a crucifix medallion

CRA/100 (detail). Silver Cross, enamelled & chased

The other drawing, which is too big for us to reproduce for the blog, is floorplans for a house that Ashbee designed for 37 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, called ‘Magpie & Stump’ after an ancient pub once run on the site (see the ‘Places’ section of the ‘Summary’ tab here). The Victoria and Albert Museum holds in its collection the elevation of that building.

Ashbee’s parents separated in 1893, his mother bought the freehold of 37 Cheyne Walk and he designed the house for her and her unmarried daughters. Ashbee lived there as well, doing a fair business as an architect (he built 6 more houses on Cheyne Walk over the next 20 years, but only 2 survive) while also managing the Guild he had begun in 1888.

CRA/23, f4. 37-39 Cheyne Walk (The Ancient Magpie and Stump is the nearest) as published in Neubauten in London (Berlin, 1900)

If you’re in Cambridge you can see the drawings themselves during the Long Vacation 2017, displayed in the exhibition cases in the Archives Centre Reading Room. See Getting to the Archive Centre. There is no need to book an appointment just to look at the exhibition. More permanently, and to learn more about C. R. Ashbee and see more of his papers, visit our on-line exhibitions page about him. And when the Chapel is open to visitors you can see the frame Ashbee designed for a painting he gave to the College in the 1930s, Madonna in the Rosary which can also be seen in the Chapel virtual tour (Click ‘Navigate the Chapel’ and then click on the link to ‘Visit St Edward’s Chapel’ in the top right/northeast corner).

To satisfy patient readers who have come this far, there is another Cheyne link with King’s which was brought to my attention by a colleague. T. S. Eliot lived with John Davy Hayward (1905-65, King’s College 1923) in 19 Carlyle Mansions at 122 Cheyne Walk, for ten years after WW2. Because of this friendship and co-habitation, Hayward collected many Eliot drafts, some letters, ephemeral publications, first editions and proof copies of Eliot’s works, which form the Hayward Bequest of T. S. Eliot material.




The Potticarie’s Bill

Following a previous post about the College site in the accounts books, this post highlights another series of accounts books: the Commons Books which record food bought for consumption in Hall and the names of those consuming it. Sometimes these are the only record of the names of our choristers. (An article has been written from the Commons Books for earlier years and two of the books are partially transcribed, see the catalogue descriptions of the commons books, and the article and transcriptions, for more information.) The pages for the week beginning October 18, 1578 are reproduced here (click on the image if you want to zoom in):

KCAR/4/1/6/20 1578-10-18 1

Oct 18, 1578: diners and first part of the week’s expenses


At the top of the page is listed the week (in this case, the third) of the financial year, then the name of the Fellow assigned to be Steward that week (in this case, Mag[iste]ro [John] Cowell). Then are listed the members of the ‘College society’ (the Provost is not included, his commons was usually accounted elsewhere): i.e. the Vice-Provost followed by the rest of the Fellows in their order of seniority, each of whom was allowed 20 pence weekly commons allowance in what amounted to an internal recharging system. An annotation next to someone’s name indicates if he was away from Co[llege] for the whole or just half the week. The Fellows are followed by the ‘Scholaribus’ = Scholars of the College, also in seniority order and allotted 20 pence per week, then ‘alii’ (others, also allotted 20 pence per week commons) which turns out to be the Bursar’s Clerk, the lay clerks and the chaplains. Then the Choristers are listed (10 pence each for their commons), then the ‘Servientes’ (servants, 12 pence per week each) that had been specified by Henry VI as being supported on the Foundation. Following the total commons allowance are, for each day of the week, the value of the food consumed at dinner and supper.

KCAR/4/1/6/20 1578-10-18 2

Oct 18, 1578: expenses for the second part of the week

You can see that an awful lot of beef (carne bovine) and mutton (carne ovine) was being consumed, plus milk, butter, eggs (ovis – we had no College chickens or cows), various types of fish (ling, plaice, roach, pickerel), pepper, sugar, currants, dates, cinnamon, cloves, mace, suet, rabbit (‘cuniculis’), tripe, neat’s foot (the heel of a cow or ox), ‘salsamente’ which is some unspecified sauce, oatmeal, mustard and possibly other herbs (‘sinapis’), and black or white salt (‘sale nigra’ or ‘albo’). ‘Cena’ means supper, apparently the last meal of the day.

Sedge, wood and candles were part of commons expenses, I suspect the sedge was in the form of rushes strewn on the floor. Not much flour is accounted for but there was wheat (‘frumenti’) charged during this week – we had our own millstone. There are no expenses for honey that week. I have never seen expenses for beekeeping supplies in other years’ accounts books, so possibly honey was not used regularly in Hall.

Following all of the expenditures is an account of what was still in the storerooms (in stauro), and internal accounting of various College members’ cizations, i.e. personal domus accounts.

Audit Feasts

Dining expenses in the two weeks or so preceding the annual Audit at the end of October, were accounted separately. The year after the above, in the 18 days before October 30th, 1579, in addition to the usual mutton, beef etc., the College members were indulged with ‘a pigge’ one day (other pork cuts were served on other days), pigeons, capons, oysters, cream, marrowbone, veal (loin, breast, leg, shoulder and rack), ‘boylde chikins’, larks, a goose, mallard, teal and snipe. An entry for ‘sake’ doesn’t constitute previously unknown evidence of intimate links with Japan, it’s from the French ‘sec’ for dry wine. There was wine, white as well as claret, at almost every meal during the audit time. Sometimes the wine was used ‘for broth’. The College brewed its own beer at this time but beer is not mentioned in the Commons Books, suggesting that these accounts only list the actual expenditure on food. Fruit is often mentioned in general, with apples sometimes specified for the table, sometimes for tarts, and peaches are mentioned specifically once.

KCAR/4/1/6/19 audit 1579 02

The ‘potticaries bill’ (halfway down in the image above) for the first week includes expenses for currants (5 pence per pound, that’s half a Chorister’s weekly commons allowance), prunes, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, dates, pepper, capers, vinegar, verjuice, oatmeal, ‘unnions’, rose water and saffron. That’s a reminder of the days when medicines were plant-based and exotic plants were most readily available from the druggist.


Riveting Accounts

After someone asked me about a young King’s fellow in about 1579 (whom the enquirer thought might be the minister who married Will Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway – we were not surprised when I couldn’t find any supporting evidence at King’s), I searched through that entire year’s accounts. Some surprising, or at least interesting, things came up.

The two great maps of the College site pre-Gibbs’ building are Hamond’s map of 1592 and Loggan’s map of 1688. Hamond’s map is faint, and is reproduced here as a re-drawing from Willis and Clark’s Architectural History of the University of Cambridge and of the Colleges of Cambridge and Eton. The Loggan excerpt reproduced here is taken from a 1921 reprint by Clark and Gray.

W&C-553 fig 57 b

Hamond’s map

1688 Loggan_crop

Loggan’s map

Queens’ Road (west) is at the top – the fields beyond, now the Fellows’ Garden, were common land at the time.

What’s that moated site in the middle of Scholars’ Piece? On the Hamond map it’s occupied by a dovecote. And what about all those buildings around the wall surrounding the College site, particularly visible in Hamond’s map? What are they? The draft accounts (a page of which is shown below) offer some partial explanations.

1578-9 rep cantab 4

KCAR-4-1-4-11 Bursar’s particulars book, reparationes cantab. for Annunt and Bapt term (Easter and long vacation/summer) 1579

These particular pages from the accounts record repairs on the College site. (Other pages record repairs at our Grantchester and Barton estates, for example.) The first three items on this page record payments of

Junii 23 le pavier for paving 32 yerdes in the lane by the stables 2 d ob the yerde…vi s iiii d

for a load of ragge to the same…iiii s vi d

Cochei July 8° pro 10 bigatis argille…vi s viii d

The abbreviation ob is for oblus, technically a halfpenny but the term often appears in the accounts to stand generally for ‘a portion’ – in this case the paving cost works out at 2 3/8 shillings per yard. This suggests it is internal to the College site, for the 1543 Cambridge paving bill (in force until 1788) decreed that all the public streets be maintained by the frontage-holders and that ‘no persone or persones exercysyng the handecrafte or ocupacion of pavyng wythin the sayd towne, shall take above a jd. q. for every yarde square pavyng’ (Cooper’s Annals of Cambridge, vol. 1, p. 411).

Thus we paid someone to pave a lane, at two and a bit pence per yard, and he supplied the (rag-)stones at 4 shillings sixpence. We also paid Cochei for 10 cartloads of clay. It’s not clear whether this is a man called Cochei, or just ‘a coach driver’ – the designation appears in the accounts books frequently during these years, when labourers’ names are usually specified. From the marginal ‘g.w.’ next to this entry and others I surmise the clay (‘argille’), as well as the next items (sand and straw, also delivered by Cochei), were used to build the garden wall in that year. 10,800 tiles were purchased at one point to cope the garden wall ‘about the Fellows garden’ which had a locked gate.

In various places the late 1570s College accounts mention a thatched swan house and a dove house which probably housed the ‘salt stone for the pigeons’ who were fattened, like the swans, with malt – the swans were later ‘upped’ (gathered and marked) and one presumes the pigeons were consumed in Hall. Other buildings mentioned in these years are:

• the stables and stable yard
• wheat house
• wood house and wood yard
• storehouse which might be the same as the larder mentioned
• salt house
• lead house (it housed the leads used in windows and the Chapel roof I suppose)
• ‘house over the water in the Scholars’ garden’
• coal house
• mill house with mill stone and mill horse
• brew house
• bake house
• sedge house with a wall around it which might be the same as the new straw house – a boat was required to remove the scaffolding after the sedge yard wall had been repaired, so if they are the same it must be one of the riverside buildings.

Gates mentioned:

• field gate
• bridge gate
• water gate
• College gate
• alms gate
• friars’ gate

The friars’ gate was approximately where Webb’s Court gate now is. There was a tennis court outside the friars’ gate and an orchard in what is now the Provost’s garden. There were lofts somewhere for malt and fish. Willis and Clark examined the accounts and offered some explanations, but it’s likely that in many cases we will never know which buildings were used for which purposes. So there are more questions than answers at this point, and plenty more research to do in those ‘boring, dry old accounts’.


Celebrating Saltmarsh and the Chapel

John Saltmarsh (1908-1974) Photograph taken on the King’s College Bridge, by Robert Le Rougetel in 1965. (Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. College Photo 9.)

John Saltmarsh (1908-1974)
on the King’s College Bridge, by Robert Le Rougetel in 1965.
(College Photo 9)

When John Saltmarsh (historian, archivist and Vice-Provost) died in 1974, he left behind unfinished but quite remarkable manuscripts for a book entitled ‘King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary’. The book has been co-edited by Bert Vaux (Fellow and Graduate Tutor) and me (Peter Monteith, Assistant Archivist) and was launched on Friday (6 November).

Our launch was a fairly modest event with around thirty guests, including Saltmarsh’s relatives, Fellows and a few other individuals whom we wanted to thank for their part in the publication. This publication is part of the College’s celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the completion of the stonework of the Chapel; however, we felt it was important that this event was also a celebration of John Saltmarsh’s life and work.

A page from the manuscript of the commentary. (Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. JS-1-70)

A page from the manuscript of the commentary.

When our guests arrived, they came to the Archive Centre to see an exhibition on ‘John Saltmarsh and the Chapel’. This exhibition included records relating to his youth, the various roles he held at King’s, his work as a historian and his work on the Chapel. The guests had the opportunity to greet each other, as they admired the beautifully written medieval building accounts used to great effect by Saltmarsh while writing his Chapel book.

A few of John Saltmarsh's relatives at the exhibition. They had just been looking at the chapel building account for 1508-9.

A few of John Saltmarsh’s relatives at the exhibition. They had just been looking at the chapel building account for 1508-9.

After this, we all headed over to the Chapel, where we sat in the Fellows’ stalls. Andrew Hammond (King’s Chaplain) led a wonderful Evensong and our guests had the opportunity to hear the College’s famous choir.

Then we went to the Saltmarsh suite, where Rob Wallach formally welcomed our guests, and paid tribute to John Saltmarsh. Bert and I took the opportunity to thank our guests for all of the support they have shown us throughout this project.

The Saltmarsh family seem very close, with four generations being present at the launch. We heard wonderful stories about Saltmarsh. He has a reputation as a ‘notable Cambridge eccentric’. The stories supported that view but showed the warmth he had for others and how keen he was to share his knowledge of local history.

Back (l-r): Vicky and Henry Saltmarsh, their son Nick and daughter Anna, with her husband Richard Hartshorn. Front (l-r) Anna and Richard’s children Harry and Hebe, with Violet Saltmarsh, their great-grandmother and John Saltmarsh’s sister-in-law.

Back (l-r): Vicky and Henry Saltmarsh, their son Nick and daughter Anna, with Anna’s husband Richard Hartshorn. Front: Anna and Richard’s children Harry and Hebe, with Violet Saltmarsh, their great great aunt and John Saltmarsh’s sister-in-law.

We were also pleased to welcome Lilah Wayment, who had kindly allowed us to print her husband Hilary’s report on the manuscript. Shortly before he died, Saltmarsh had told Hilary Wayment (an expert on the Chapel windows) about the manuscript so the report, along with one written by Saltmarsh himself, sheds light on the story behind the book.

Lilah Wayment (left) with Henrietta Ryan.

Lilah Wayment (left) with Henrietta Ryan.

For further details on the book, please visit the ‘Saltmarsh’s Chapel Book’ webpage. The book can be purchased from the College’s Visitor Centre, on King’s Parade, or online.


Book cover


‘The oddest town I’ve ever seen’: Alban Berg’s visit to Cambridge

Rowe Music Library

The first thing anyone notices on entering King’s College’s Rowe Music Library are shelves upon shelves of brightly coloured scores, and it is possible to be so beguiled by them that you fail to notice anything else; but there are pictures hanging on the walls that are just as interesting in their way. This, for instance:

Cambridge, 1931

The photograph was taken in January 1931, in the rooms of the musicologist E.J. Dent, a Fellow of King’s. Dent is the dapper, Wilfrid Brambell-esque figure seated at the table; alongside him, the Polish composer Grzegorz Fitelberg and the Belgian Désiré Defauw. At the piano is Alfredo Casella; standing behind him, Charles Koechlin and the conductor Adrian Boult. And in the middle, leaning on the piano, is Alban Berg. How did this man, one of the titans of twentieth-century classical music, come to be in Cambridge?

The occasion was a meeting of the jury of the International Society for Contemporary Music, which at that time consisted of Dent and the five composers (Boult serving in an advisory capacity). Dent had been President of the ISCM since its inception in 1922, and the purpose of the meeting was to determine which works would be performed at that summer’s Festival in Oxford and London, the first to be held in Britain.

Berg’s published letters to his wife tell the story. From 12th January:

So far I’ve only the impression of a provincial place, but not a German one. Sort of super-Deutsch-Landsberg.

Dent called for me, and we went on working in the College. Altogether this is the oddest town I’ve ever seen. More about that when I get back.

Dent, who is like a kindly nanny to me, made a splendid tea in the afternoon. We worked till about seven; and now the car is fetching me and taking me home to dinner. We had a very fine lunch at Dent’s, except that the food had no taste at all. In this country a pheasant tastes exactly like a turkey or a chicken.

A couple of days later:

I’ve been working hard all day, had a fine lunch (my ‘favourite’ roast lamb), home to dinner, played the gramophone afterwards, and went to bed early. It’s become colder. But thanks to all sorts of drinks, good warm pants and woolly vests and galoshes, I’m managing quite well and never catch cold. We all get on well on the jury, talking French almost all day – although we’re from six different countries: Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, Austria, England …

By 15th January, writing on his way to London, he had had enough:

Thank the Lord, Cambridge is over … not an hour more in that dull place.

In a letter to Arnold Schoenberg a month later, Berg wrote more frankly of his experience on the jury:

Of course the professional task at hand was very depressing since I, alone against 4, sometimes 5 opponents … was able to accomplish practically nothing worthwhile, as you can see from the concert programs of the Oxford Music Festival.

Thank heavens at least Webern will be heard!

The Webern performed that summer was his Symphony, Op. 21, the score of which Berg is seen holding in the photograph. Among the other works in the programme were Vaughan Williams’ Job: A Masque for Dancing, Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Hindemith’s children’s opera Wir bauen eine Stadt, and pieces by Szymanowski, Roussel, Roger Sessions, Egon Wellesz and Constant Lambert. Much of the Festival was broadcast by the BBC, which (alongside the Radio Times, at that time a publication of the BBC) made an effort to promote it with a series of articles and radio talks related to the music being performed.

While researching this post I had the opportunity of consulting Dent’s personal papers, housed in our Archive Centre. They include correspondence from several ISCM people, including a typed letter of thanks from Defauw dated 21st May 1931, to which is added a handwritten postscript referring presumably to the forthcoming Festival, to be held in July: ‘Cher Ami, je ferai tout mon possible pour venir en juillet – j’aurai une grande joie de vous revoir’.

Also in the Dent archive are several photographs dating from the foundation of the ISCM. This annotated photo, taken in Salzburg in 1922, features several composers of note, including Webern, Wellesz, Hindemith, Arthur Bliss (later Master of the Queen’s Music), and Ethel Smyth.

Salzburg, 1922

You can explore the Dent archive further by searching the catalogue on Janus here.

Brand, J., Hailey, C. & Harris, D. (eds.). The Berg-Schoenberg Correspondence: Selected Letters (Macmillan, 1987)
Doctor, J. The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music, 1922-1936 : Shaping a Nation’s Tastes (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Grun, B. (ed.). Alban Berg: Letters to His Wife (Faber, 1971)

[The copyright holder of the 1931 ISCM photograph is unknown. We apologise for any inadvertent omission. Please contact us if you are the copyright holder.]


Turing’s inspiration

It is fair to say that some of King’s College’s most famous alumni have inspired others. One of the most influential must surely be Alan Turing, who is popular with both mathematicians and computer scientists.

Alan Turing, aged 16 (AMT/K/7/4)

Who inspired Turing though?

Some indication of the answer to this might be found in his papers at the King’s College Archive Centre, the catalogue of which can be seen on Janus.

When he was just 15½ years old, Turing wrote a precis of The Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein. In this small memo book, he produced summaries for each chapter of Einstein’s famous work. He did so with the intention of explaining it to his mother.

First page of Alan Turing’s precis of The Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein (AMT/K/2/4)

First page of Alan Turing’s precis of The Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein (AMT/K/2/4)

On 6 October 1936, upon arriving in Princeton (where he received his PhD), Turing wrote a letter to his mother which included a critique of the mathematicians and ‘logic people’ at that university:

The mathematics department here comes up to expectations. There is a great number of the most distinguished mathematicians here. J.v. Neumann, Weyl, Courant, Hardy, Einstein, Lefscheftz, as well as hosts of smaller fry. Unfortunately there are not nearly so many logic people here as last year. Church is here of course, but Gödel, Kleene, Rosser and Bernays who were here last year have left. I don’t think I mind very much missing any of these except Gödel. Kleene and Rosser are, I imagine, just disciples of Church and have not much to offer that I could not get from Church. Bernays is I think rather ‘vieux jeu’ that is the impression I get from his writing, but if I were to meet him I might get a different impression. (AMT/K/1/42)

Alan Turing (AMT/K/7/12)


To see scans of these and other documents held in the papers of Alan Mathison Turing, visit the Turing Digital Archive or make an appointment to visit the original documents at the Archive Centre.


Brooke Acquisitions

As many of you know, King’s has recently been awarded £430,000 (for which we are most grateful) from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) towards the £500,000 purchase price of the largest collection of Rupert Brooke material that was held outside King’s. We took possession of the collection on April 17th. Peter Jones (Librarian) and Peter Monteith (Assistant Archivist) are shown here, unpacking the acquisition in our reading room.


The University Press Office published a news story Madonna and Childabout the accession. As you can see from the photo, most of the manuscripts were bound by Marsh and Schroder into guard books, which kept them in good condition and makes them easy to catalogue. The letters and papers in guard books are now on open access, and the cataloguing will proceed apace so that everyone will soon know exactly what is in the new accession. My favourite finds so far relate to Eric Gill. There are three letters from Brooke to Gill. In the first he says he’s seen Gill’s Madonna and Child sculptures that belong to Frances Cornford and to Maynard Keynes (which was left unfinished, as Keynes preferred it) and would like Madonna and Child (right) to buy one for himself. Keynes left his art collection to King’s, and we have his, which in fact presides over the top of the last staircase you have to climb to get up to the archives. It was seen by Keynes before Gill had finished it, and Keynes so liked it in that state that he purchased it as it was.

The second letter says Brooke has received his Madonna, and loves it, and will send a cheque. The third and final letter, written from San Francisco, says he may have forgotten to pay Gill and so he asked Eddie Marsh to send a cheque. At the bottom of the page you’ll find ‘If you’ve a cheque from him, too, you’d better tear up one, + I advise this: for he is of the Great + his cheque is sure to be honoured, but I’m a poet, + with me it’s always doubtful.’


The Schroder collection also includes the torn-up cheque.


Poignantly, there is also a letter from Eric Gill to Eddie Marsh offering to carve the lettering on the memorial plaque that was erected in the Rugby chapel. These are my favourites because they illustrate the research value of the new papers (I’ve never seen anything before about Brooke’s artistic tastes), they create even more links between our collections (we have Keynes’s correspondence with Gill and invoice forRCB-Ph-333 his Madonna, as well as having the statue itself), and they exemplify the relationship between old and new collections (the photo of the Rugby plaque is from the old collection). There’s the allure of ‘big names’ like Eric Gill. Finally, there are questions raised – why a torn-up cheque? – that can only be answered by recourse to the papers themselves.

It is particularly gratifying that the majority of funding to acquire this important collection comes from the NHMF. The Fund has its roots in the National Land Fund, established by the then Chancellor, Hugh Dalton, himself a Kingsman and friend of Rupert Brooke, who established the fund as ‘a thank-offering for victory and a war-memorial’. The letters Hugh Dalton himself had received from Rupert Brooke, were bequeathed to King’s and form part of the College’s existing Brooke papers.