Old Hall chronology

1449: The Hall was erected as part of the original College, now known as Old Court.

1531–2: Linenfold panelling erected (removed 1732–4, re-erected in the Servants’ Hall of the President’s Lodge, transferred 1896/97 to the President’s Study).

1548: Screens passage created between the external doors of the hall. By implication, the passage might have created a gallery above.

1640: Date of an inventory and assembly instructions for a demountable stage used for drama performances in the Hall. The Hall had been used for performances of drama from much earlier (as required by the Statutes of 1559): the practice ceased sometime during the Commonwealth period.

1655: Date on the dinner bell in the bell tower on the roof over the Hall, also inscribed “WB”.

1685: Loggan’s view shows dormer windows over the Hall, indicating that there might already have been attics inserted over the hall.

1732–4: The Hall was fitted up in its present neat and elegant manner [Plumptre MS] (that is to say, in a classical style). A flat ceiling with an Italian cornice was inserted just below the main cross-beams of the roof structure. The present classical-style panelling was erected. The architect was Sir James Burrough, the joinery was by James Essex the Elder (father of the James Essex who built the bridge and Essex Building), carving by Woodward, and the wrought iron gates to the Screens were by Jonas Jackson (the Jacksons were a Cambridge family of gatesmiths). In the gallery, a single central entrance door replaced two earlier doors on either side: these, now blocked, survive as cupboards on the south side of the wall.

1742: It was reported that the Hall:

... very lately was elegantly fitted up according to ye present tast and is now by much ye neatest Hall of any in ye University being completely wainscoted and painted wth handsom fluted Pillars behind ye Fellows Table at ye upper end of it over wch are neatly carved ye arms of ye Foundress: at ye lower end of it over ye two neat Iron Doors of ye Screens wch front ye Butteries and Kitchin is a small Gallery for Musick occasionally. [Cole MSS, 22 Feb 1742]

1766: The three pictures over High Table were given, one by each of the three sons of Harry, 4th Earl of Stamford. They (family name Grey) were descendants of Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage to John Grey of Groby. The pictures, by Thomas Hudson, from left to right are of:

1780: Doors to the Hall were added behind the iron gates of the Screens.

Hall, by Ackermann, 18151815: Print published by Ackermann of the Hall interior. The side windows are of reduced height compared with the present. The oriel window is shown here without tracery, and without stained glass.

Drawn by Auguste-Charles Pugin, aquatint engraving by John Bluck. Published in A History of the University of Cambridge, its Colleges, Halls, and Public Buildings by William Combe, published by R. Ackermann in 1815.

1819–22: Stained glass by Charles Muss inserted in oriel window (removed in 1854, and transferred to the President’s Lodge). This is also the likely period when battlements (removed 1909) were added to the Old Court elevation of the Hall.

High Table and Oriel1822: This is an enlargement of a decorated initial capital used in several books printed in the 19th century concerning Queens’ College. It was first used in a collection of the Statutes of Queens’ College by G.C. Gorham, Fellow, printed in 1822. Gorham wrote:

The initial letters were drawn by myself on wood, and engraved over my drawings by Hughes. For the subjects of these illustrations, see the published Catalogue of Queen’s Coll. Library, Pref. [A Bibliographical Catalogue of Books Privately Printed, by John Martin, 1834, p201]

The stained glass coats of arms were inserted into the oriel window 1819–22, so this view can be accurately dated.

In this view, it appears that a class is being held on High Table.

1836: This is the date enscribed on the decorative chimney stacks above the fireplace of the Hall.

Hall, Le Keux, 18421842: Print by Le Keux of the Hall interior. By comparison with the earlier Ackermann, the following changes can be seen:

  • Full-length portrait of Joshua King, President 1832–57, has appeared over the fireplace. This portrait was later cut down to head-and-shoulders, and is now in the President’s Lodge.
  • A gas chandelier has appeared.
  • Stained glass by Muss from 1820 can be seen in the windows, which remain without tracery.

Drawn by F. Mackenzie. Engraved by John Le Keux. Published in Memorials of Cambridge in part form 1837–1842 by Thomas Wright and Harry Longueville Jones.  Revised edition of Memorials of Cambridge by C.H. Cooper published 1860.

1846: Tastes had changed — classical styles were now abhorred. The flat ceiling was removed, and the roof restored, to the design of Dawkes, architect (uncertain whether this one). At this stage, the roof was undecorated. Tracery, also to the design of Dawkes, was inserted in the formerly plain mullioned side windows, but this was replaced in 1857. Dawkes put up a new dinner bell tower, and also created a louvre in the roof, which was an inappropriate act of restoration (the hall always had a fireplace, so would never have needed a louvre) — it was removed again circa 1951.

1854: The Oriel Window was restored, and the present stained glass inserted by Hardman of Birmingham, depicting the armorial bearings of the foundresses, early benefactors, and all the Presidents from Andrew Dokett to Isaac Milner (excluding those from the commonwealth period). The earlier glass by Muss 1819–22 was removed to the President’s Lodge.

1857/8: The side windows were raised to their present height, and new tracery installed, to the design of John Johnson, architect.

1858/9: The present stained glass (by Hardman of Birmingham) began to be installed. The glass shows armorial bearings: on the east side, of Bishops who had been members of Queens’; and on the west side, of benefactors. The last window to be filled was the southern one on the west side, which includes the arms of the benefactor Robert Moon, who paid for all this work.

Morris and Co tiles over fireplace1861–4: The former fireplace was removed — the sawn off relics of the original clunch arched fireplace can be seen if you look up inside the present fireplace. A new fireplace was erected, by the architect G.F. Bodley, of alabaster and tiles. The tiles above the fireplace, depicting Labours of the Month, the two patron saints, and the angels of Night and of Day, were made by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1864 to the designs of Burne-Jones, Morris, Madox Brown, and Rossetti. See the William Morris Gallery for pictures of similar tiles.

1862–3: A tiled floor was laid, using stone and encaustic tiles by W. Godwin of Lugwardine. This floor was removed and replaced by a reproduction in 2003: only the oriel window floor and some specimen tiles survive from this period.

1863: The saying of Grace before and after dinner was revised or introduced.

1864: Philip Webb designed eleven coats of arms, painted above the fireplace.

All the work between 1854 and 1864 was paid for by Robert Moon, Fellow, whose arms appear as one of the benefactors in the west windows.

1865: 22 chairs for High Table bought from Howard & Sons.

1873: Ford Madox Brown drew designs for tiles of Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville, to be added to the tiles already above the fireplace (see 1861–4). The tiles were made by Morris & Co. for £24 10s. The college still possesses the original drawings.

Hall decoration1875: The present decorative scheme for the walls and roof was designed by G.F. Bodley and executed by F.R. Leach, for £345 18s 2d, including the gilding of 885 lead castings of stars in the roof. Each of the large stars weighs 14 ounces (0·4kg). A carved and moulded wood canopy to Bodley’s design was made by Cambridge firm Rattee & Kett and added above the Morris tiles of 1864. Hidden from view behind the wood canopy are the original wall decorations of 1875 by Bodley, untouched by the later redecorations. The Latin Graces written around the walls are described here.

The work 1873–75 was paid for by Campion, Wright, and Pirie, Fellows.

Angel in roof of Old Hall[In this decorative scheme, prominent features are four angels at eaves level, projecting horizontally into the hall. The heads and wings are separate items, but the bodies appear to be carved out of the truncated remnants of tie-beams, still securely jointed into the original roof structure. This raises questions: why would tie-beams have been cut away? Surely not just for decorative effect? After all, the tie-beams serve an essential function in preventing the weight of the roof pushing the walls outwards. During the period when there were attic rooms above the hall, the attic floor level was below the level of the tie-beams. Here is my hypothesis, for which I have no evidence at all: some of the tie-beams were cut away to make way for attic floor-space, and ease circulation.]

1900: The first electric lighting installed.

1909: Hall re-roofed with tiles instead of slate, battlements removed. Dated to 1909 by a fragment of newspaper found in 2005 behind a wallplate.

1948: It appears likely that the wall decorations were touched up for the celebrations of the quincentenary of the College.

ca. 1951: Louvre of 1846 removed from centre of the roof of the Hall. Its previous location is marked by the presence of cut rafters.

1961: The wall and roof decorations were completely repainted, using stencils to reproduce the patterns (the original 1875 work had been painted free-hand). The colour of the panelling was changed from Bodley’s dark green to black with gold leaf relief on the advice of S.E. Dykes Bower.

1978: The Hall ceased being used on a daily basis, with the opening of the new dining hall and kitchens in Cripps Court. The fireplace was unblocked and converted to gas-burning. From this time onwards the Old Hall (as it now became known) has been used for feasts, special functions, recitals, and receptions.

2001: Hall re-roofed with handmade tiles, thermal insulation inserted. Chimney stack over hall fireplace strengthened and repaired.

Old Hall floor before 2003 restorationOld Hall floor after 2003 restoration2003: The high-table wood dais and the tiled floor of 1862 were removed, to be replaced by a tile and stone floor in reproduction of the 1862 one, with newly made encaustic tiles from Craven Dunnill Jackfield. Where the previous dais had been, the new tile floor incorporated underfloor heating, enabling two visible radiators to be removed from the classical panelling.

2003: During the above works, an old crooked doorway was uncovered at the north-east corner of the hall, connecting with the diagonal window bay of the Combination Room looking out onto Old Court. This doorway had been blocked for many centuries by panelling on both sides.

Old Hall cleaning 2005, photo Brian Callingham2005: Smoke detection, fire alarms, and emergency exit signs installed. Cleaning undertaken of: the wall and roof decorations, the fireplace and mantel (including the tiles by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co), and the stained glass windows. The fireplace surround was restored, including the removal of some 1970s overpainting of the part immediately under the mantel shelf. The blue swan tiles of Morris & Co were lightly overpainted to restore the faded pattern. The photograph shows the before-and-after affect of the cleaning of the wall decoration: the dark uncleaned area was primarily contaminated by decades of nicotine, and the grime which adheres to the sticky nicotine surface. Apart from the oriel window, very little of the 1961 paintwork needed restoration: just chemical cleaning was all that was required. [Condition Assessment and Treatment Report for the Old Hall, by Hirst Conservation] 

2017: New LED-based lighting system, new P.A. and hearing aid induction loop.


The decoration of the Old Hall includes elements that have meanings relevant to the history of the college.

The Daisy was the badge of Margaret of Anjou, the first foundress queen, as its alternative name, marguerite, is her name in French. Daisies can be seen in the stained glass of the side windows, and along the top of the over-mantel.

The Red Rose was the symbol of the House of Lancaster, to which belonged King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, first foundress queen. The White Rose was the symbol of the House of York, to which belonged King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, second foundress queen. The civil war between these two parties for the crown of England is now known as the War of the Roses. Red and white roses can be seen on the fireplace, and in the stained glass in the tracery of the side windows.

The angels (a) at eaves level, and (b) supporting the brackets for the tie-beams, all bear shields carrying a letter written in gothic (black-letter) script. The two eaves-level angels on the east side carry the letters E and M, for the two foundress queens: their counterparts on the west side carry the letters B and M for the two patron saints. The lower angels carry E and M on both sides. The letters M and E also occur at the top of the over-mantel, alternating with daisies.

In the stained glass of the tracery of the side windows on the east side appears a row of alternating gothic letters e and red roses, all under crowns: on the west side, alternating white roses and gothic letters m. These are references to the two founding queens alternately.

The phrase Floreat Domus is the motto of the college, meaning: May this house flourish.

The armorial bearings of the college (derived from those of Margaret of Anjou) can be seen at the top of the panelling at the centre of the north end (behind High Table); the boar’s head badge can be seen at the centre of the south end, between the two entry doors from the screens passage. These two devices can be seen again at each end of the over-mantel, at the top.

The painted tiles of the over-mantel, displaying the Angel of Night, the Angel of Day, and the Labours of the Months, could be read as having a theme of the passing of time: perhaps a gentle warning to the students?


Drama and theatre at Queens’.
Old Hall stained glass inscriptions 1854–8.
The Graces of Queens’ College, with translations into English.
Morris & Co. tiles 1861–4.

Further reading

1837–​42: Le Keux’s Memorials of Cambridge, by Thomas Wright and Harry Longueville Jones, Vol. 1, pp. 264–​6.

1860: Memorials of Cambridge, by Charles Henry Cooper, illustrated by John Le Keux and Storer & Storer, Vol. 1, pp. 322–​3;

1886: The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge, by Robert Willis and John Willis Clark, Volume 2, pp. 44–​48. (OCLC 6104300)

1904: English and Scottish wrought ironwork, by Bailey Scott Murphy, p. 4 and Plate 41. (OCLC 56705227) [Old Hall gates]

1923: College Plays performed in the University of Cambridge, by George Charles Moore Smith.

1923: The Academic Drama at Cambridge: Extracts from college records, by George Charles Moore Smith, in the Malone Society Collections, Vol. 2, Pt. 2, pp. 150–​231, Queens’ at pp. 182–​204. (OCLC 1909297)

1959: Shakespeare’s Wooden O, by J. Leslie Hotson, Queens’ at pp. 169–​72, 218–​9. (OCLC 359088) [Over-optimistic reconstruction of demountable theatre in Old Hall] 

1959: An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Cambridge, by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), Part II, pp. 172–​3. (online version)

1980: Morris & Company in Cambridge : catalogue, by Duncan Robinson and Stephen Wildman[Fellow], pp. 26–​9. (ISBN 978-0-521-23310-1, 978-0-521-29903-9)

1986: An early stage at Queens’, by Iain Richard Wright [Fellow], in Cambridge: Magazine of the Cambridge Society, vol. 18, pp. 74–​83; (ISSN 0140-8348)
1996: another edition, in Studies in Theatre Production, vol. 13, issue 1. (ISSN 1357-5341)

1989: Records of Early English Drama: Cambridge, Volume 1: The Records, by Alan H. Nelson; (ISBN 978-0-8020-5751-8)
1989: Volume 2: Editorial apparatus.

1992: Hall Screens and Elizabethan Playhouses: Counter-Evidence from Cambridge, by Alan H. Nelson, in The Development of Shakespeare’s Theater, ed. John Astington, pp. 57–​76. (ISBN 978-0-404-62293-0)

1994: Early Cambridge theatres: college, university, and town stages, 1464-1720, by Alan H. Nelson. (ISBN 978-0-521-43177-4)

1996: William Morris Tiles : The Tile Designs of Morris and his Fellow-Workers, by Richard and Hilary Myers, pp. 62–​67 and plates 25–​29. (ISBN 978-0-903685-43-6) [Old Hall fireplace overmantel] 

1999: The Tile Decoration by Morris & Co. for Queens’ College, Cambridge: The Inspiration of Illuminated Manuscripts, by Michaela Braesel, in Apollo 149, no. 443 (January 1999), pp. 25–​33. (ISSN 0003-6536) [reproduced by kind permission of Apollo Magazine and of the author] 

2004: Queens’ College, Cambridge : archaeological monitoring of floor replacement, by Jess Tipper, Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

2005: Condition Assessment and Treatment Report for the Old Hall, Queens’ College, by Hirst Conservation. [by permission] 

2005: Biographical Dictionary of English Wrought Iron-Smiths of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, by Edward Saunders, in The Volume of the Walpole Society, Vol. 67, pp. 237–​384 at p. 303. (ISSN 0141-0016) [Old Hall gates by Jonas Jackson]

2014: SET free: breaking the rules in a processual, user-generated, digital performance edition of Richard the Third, by Jennifer Roberts-Smith et al., in The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 14: Special Section, Digital Shakespeares, ed. Brett D. Hirsch; D. Hugh Craig, pp. 69–​100. (ISBN 978-1-4724-3964-2) [simulation of hypothetical 1588 performance on demountable stage in Old Hall] 

2016: The Heraldry of Queens’ College, Cambridge, by David Broomfield.