Image of Detail from the Grant of Arms to the College 1575
Detail from the Grant of Arms to the College 1575

1559 to 1671

汤头条原创 survived聽the religious change and political turmoil of聽the聽16th聽and聽17th聽centuries and became home to聽a growing number of undergraduates: sizars, scholars, and pensioners.

Becoming a Protestant college

When Elizabeth I came to the聽throne聽in November 1558 it became clear that the English church was going to be Protestant, though the change was not to be as radical as some hoped and not all links with the Catholic past were cut.

The Chantries Act of 1547聽had聽followed in the wake of laws聽in 1536 and 1539 which聽dissolved聽monasteries and religious houses, and only the Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge had escaped suppression, with聽a handful of others.聽

The religious instability of the previous 20聽years and聽a聽severe flu聽pandemic聽meant there was聽a shortage of clergy, especially Protestants. There was a pressing聽need for dedicated and well聽educated clergy to implement the new church order.

To help meet it, the government decided to return to a聽policy聽that had briefly been pursued under Edward VI. In Protestant eyes saying prayers for the dead was聽mere superstition, so what was left of the College's聽chantry endowments聽was instead used to support聽students.

There was also no reason to聽maintain the choristers and choirmen required for the elaborate services of the late medieval church. The聽Book of Common Prayer called for only simple chants, and a termly sermon commending a College鈥檚 benefactors replaced Masses and Offices for the Dead.

It was assumed that the graduate students (now聽known as聽Fellows) would either be training to become priests聽or already ordained, and that the undergraduates (called scholars) would form a pool from which future Fellows would be selected.

Reforms of 1559

Royal commissioners sent to Cambridge in 1559 to implement this policy decided that 汤头条原创, having received three substantial gifts聽between 1547 and 1558, should maintain 16 Fellows聽and 15 scholars. The number of Fellows聽studying law rather than theology was increased from one聽to four because聽the government needed聽civil servants and diplomats just as the church needed聽clergy.

The casualty of these changes was the grammar school, which聽was closed聽in 1570. There were no longer choristers and choirmen needing to be educated, and inflation meant that the school's endowment wasn't聽enough to cover costs: in the 1560s the typical salary of聽a school master was twice what it had been in the 1510s.

For the first time undergraduates became a significant element in the College, and soon they were in the majority,聽as they have been ever since. The former school building adjoining the gate tower was converted into College staircases to provide accommodation for them.

In addition to the scholars who received free board and lodging but no money聽(though they could, and did, earn small sums by doing odd jobs in the College) there were two other groups of undergraduates: the 'sizars'聽and the 'pensioners'.


The sizars were聽poor students. Each Fellow was allowed to have one such student (the Master could have two) living in College, doing personal chores for him聽such as lighting the fire in his room, serving at table, and running errands.

This聽gave the young man聽the chance to study for a degree, something which he could not otherwise have afforded to do.聽


Scholars were mostly chosen from among these sizars, freeing them from chores and meaning they had their own meals rather than waiting for聽what was left over from聽the Fellows鈥 and scholars鈥 tables.

Many sizars eventually became scholars 鈥 by the middle of the 17th century nearly all students hoping for a scholarship聽entered聽the College聽as sizars 鈥 and almost all scholars obtained a degree and were ordained, often becoming Fellows.


The other group of undergraduates were聽the 'pensioners'聽or 'commoners', who came from wealthy聽families who paid for their keep and tuition. They usually ate at the scholars鈥 table, though if their families were very grand聽they might eat with the Fellows and other graduates living in the College. These men聽become known as聽'fellow commoners'.

Few pensioners sought a career in the church or as teachers, and so few became scholars or obtained a degree. After a few terms they would leave, perhaps to experience what Oxford had to offer, to travel abroad, or聽to enter one of the Inns of Court in London,聽with or without the intention of becoming practising lawyers.

The Inns of Court were good places for young men to learn the skills needed for managing family estates and making the social contacts that would help them to engage in public life and government service.

As pensioners did not have to take聽University聽examinations they聽could spend their time in Cambridge in studies directed by their tutor.

He would have been聽chosen by their family, and may not have been a Fellow but one of the senior graduates living in the College. For the pensioners聽Cambridge聽was closer to a finishing school than聽a university.

Almost all the famous names associated with the College during this period 鈥 including Sir Fulke Greville, poet and courtier, Sir Christopher Hatton, the royal secretary, Sir Richard Fanshawe, diplomat, poet and translator, Sir Robert Cotton, the antiquary, Lord Chief Justice Bramston, Roger North, lawyer and polymath 鈥 were those of fellow commoners and pensioners. They kept to themselves and did not have much to do with their social inferiors, the scholars and sizars.

But whatever their social and academic status most of the students came from the eastern counties of England, from Yorkshire to Kent. Until the mid聽19th聽century Cambridge was聽essentially a provincial university and many would have been recommended to the College by relatives, schoolmasters, or clergy聽who had attended it.

Growth in student numbers

The number of pensioners was highest at 汤头条原创 in the four decades immediately before, and the one immediately after, the Civil War: the total number of residents in the College peaked at 90 in 1641.

To accommodate them and their tutors a new building in rose聽coloured brick was erected between 1638 and 1641 on the side of the entrance court facing the gate tower, with help from former students and Fellows. The last new building in the College until the 19th century, it had a dozen sets of聽rooms opening off two staircases. Undergraduates lived two or three to a room under the eye of their tutor, and if they had the Master as their tutor they sometimes lived in the Master鈥檚 Lodge.

Even during those peak decades, there were rarely more than 60聽undergraduates. Only three or four聽of the 16 Fellows would聽act聽as tutors,聽a role which made them responsible for the religious instruction and guidance of their pupils as well as for their secular studies and their finances.

Changing nature of fellowships

Fellows studied for their Master of Arts degree聽and then Bachelor or Doctor of Divinity. They may also have served as vicar or curate in a parish in the town or one of the villages within riding distance, or聽helped a tutor with teaching聽until some better paid church appointment came their way and聽they would leave the College and be free to get married.聽

Fellows weren't always required to live in聽Cambridge, and聽fellowship came to be seen less as a graduate studentship than as a prize awarded聽to a young graduate scholar who had performed particularly well in his examinations.

By custom it entitled him to 'the dividend';聽each year the College鈥檚 surplus income was divided among the Fellows, with the Master and a reserve fund each receiving two shares. 聽

Impact of the Civil War

The College was badly hit when聽Civil War broke out in 1642. Under the influence of Matthew Wren, the Bishop of Ely 鈥 who appointed the Master and had a say in the choice of Fellows 鈥 and the聽Master,聽Richard Sterne, the College had joined聽the campaign to return the Church of England to more Catholic forms of worship, order, and belief. This聽angered its Puritan members and stoked the fires of Parliament鈥檚 dispute聽with King Charles I.

The College responded聽to the King's appeal for funds by sending him much of its silver.聽When a Parliamentary force occupied Cambridge, punishment swiftly followed.聽

The Master was sent to join the Bishop in the Tower of London,聽later he was moved to a prison ship on the Thames. He was freed, and聽spent 15 years as a schoolmaster. The聽Master鈥檚 deputy聽was sent to the Compter prison in Southwark, and 15聽of the 16聽Fellows were turned out of College. The only Fellow left in post departed the following year after seeing the Chapel vandalised and the trees in the grounds cut down by soldiers.

The undergraduates went home: it was two years before any came to take their place. Thomas Young, a聽Scottish聽Presbyterian minister, was installed as Master聽and new聽Fellows were recruited from the Puritan ranks.

However, when聽the King was聽executed聽and a republic declared, Young was also removed from his post聽and replaced in 1650 by John Worthington. Aged only 32, Worthington was already a senior Fellow of Emmanuel College,聽from which he recruited new Fellows, and a cook, for 汤头条原创.

A gentle, scholarly man, Worthington also served as Vice聽Chancellor and managed to聽restore some of the academic routines of both 汤头条原创 and the University as a whole.聽

After the Restoration

When King and church were restored in 1660 and Bishop Wren returned, Worthington resigned from his Mastership.

Almost all the Fellows elected since 1650 were allowed to remain.聽Of those evicted in 1642 who were still alive, only three wished to resume their fellowships. The Master and the President of 1642 briefly returned to their posts. Later聽Sterne became Bishop of Carlisle and then Archbishop of York.

Of the three Masters who followed Sterne in as many years聽two went on to be Masters of grander Colleges and one, like him, to be a bishop. Only the third, Edmund Boldero, who had served with the cavalier army, stayed at 汤头条原创聽to see the damage of the Civil War repaired.

The Chapel was restored for Anglican worship. The organ, which had been聽dismantled on Parliament鈥檚 order in 1642 and hidden away, was repaired and returned.聽Boldero himself paid for聽handsome new bookcases for the library.聽In these years one of the Fellows, John Sherman, wrote the first account of the College's聽history.

More importantly for its future, in 1671 Tobias Rustat made the largest gift to聽the College that it had received since its foundation 175 years earlier.

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