12 May 2007

Couldn’t have said it better

by Matt Rubinstein at 5:48 pm

tower1.jpgOne of the last things I did in Cambridge was to climb the tower of the St John’s College Chapel. The tower is one of the most preposterous things in town, and is completely out of proportion to the already-kind-of-overblown chapel it stands athwart. It wasn’t always going to be like that:

Scott’s plans for the Chapel included only a small “fleche”, not the 163-feet-high tower that was eventually built. But after work had already begun a former member of the College named Henry Hoare offered £3,000 down and £1,000 a year for five years to finance the building of the tower. The offer was accepted, but despite the urgings of the Bursar the College failed to insure Mr Hoare’s life – he was, after all, a young and healthy man. Two years later he died as a result of a railway accident, leaving the College with a Chapel Tower and a large debt.

You need to be or know a member of the College to get hold of the key, there’s a very dark, tight, winding staircase and the views from the top are fantastic—a rare chance to properly see the geometry of all the colleges’ courts and the lines of the original town. There’s a sign asking people not to carve things in the roof, but you can see the results. And this pair of tags is priceless, kind of sums up the whole place!

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