St John’s College and the School of Pythagoras

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A beautiful college, which has a large number of courtyards. The School of Pythagoras is the oldest academic building in Cambridge. Wordsworth had a room here. The lovely ‘Bridge of Sighs’ links the college. It was founded by the Lady Margaret Beaufort and has produced three Archbishops, nine Nobel Prize winners and six Prime Ministers. The original site was the hospital of St John. Now it has a huge Great Gate in red and white brick, with the Red Rose of Lancaster and Portcullis emblems of the founder.

The college arms has mythical beasts with elephants tails, antelopes bodies, goats heads and horns called Yales. At the top is St John the Evangelist, with a poisoned chalice in his hand and an eagle at his feet.

Fellows of the college are the only people outside the Royal Family legally allowed to eat unmarked mute swans. There are also said to be a number of ghosts. Some were

‘exorcised’ in the 1700s by being shot at. The college is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a student James Wood, who was so poor he couldn’t afford to light his room and would work in the stairway. Another mystery is the clock tower, it has four blank clock faces and no clock and no one knows why.

The Chapel is the tallest building in Cambridge. The dining hall is magnificent, with black and gold beams in the ceiling. Queen Elizabeth rode into the hall on horseback in 1564. That must have been quite a sight to behold!

The second court has been called the finest Tudor court in Engalnd. Part of the D Day landings were planned from here. The limestone Wren Bridge and beautiful Bridge of Sighs are both part of the college. The latter is a neo-gothic covered footwalk designed by Henry Hutchinson.

The School of Pythagoras, built 1200 approx was originally a private house of the Merton family. It is now used as a drama space. The Cripps building is a 1960s construction, to house the increasing numbers of students.


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