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The College

A Short History of the College was prepared by Corpus Fellow, Warden of Leckhampton, and historian Patrick Bury (revised by Oliver Rackham).

The development of the College plans and buildings can be found in The Courts of Corpus Christi by Oliver Rackham and Peter Carolin.

Corpus Christi Cambridge: A Timeline

1352
FOUNDATION

Corpus becomes the 6th College to be founded at Cambridge University. Unusually, it is founded by townspeople, members of two Cambridge guilds. These are the guild of Corpus Christi and the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary, primarily to train priests.The College was founded in the aftermath of the Black Death, which ravaged Europe and killed many clergy.

1381
TOWN VS GOWN

A mob led by the mayor of Cambridge stormed the College in protest against its rigid extraction of 'candle rents', charges assessed upon houses in its ownership according to the number of wax-taper found. Many books and documents are burned.

1849
FIRST SCHOLARSHIP

The first of a series of scholarships was endowed by Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, in memory of her sister, Eleanor. Money was still short and the time, and records report that the half-built shell of a bakehouse was used as a tennis court.

1544
GREATEST BENEFACTOR

Former Corpus student and future Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker became Master in 1544. He obtained some of the greatest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts from monasteries that had fallen foul of the Reformation, and left them to Corpus. These treasures form the core collection of the Parker Library, one of the world's greatest collections of Anglo-Saxon and early English books.
1569
TROUBLES WITH THE MASTERSHIP
Religious strife in the country was bound to affect a college that had been founded to educate the clergy. Every Master's appointment was strongly disputed within College. In the end, Queen Elizabeth I imposed a new Master by royal mandate, suspecting the Fellow's right to elections for some time.

1573
NEW COLLEGE RULES

New rules required that Latin be spoken at all times during Full Term or a scholar would be "subject to the heaviest penalties for speaking English". Being 'beaten at the Buttery hatch' was a regular punishment for various misdemeanors. 
1577
A NEW CHAPEL
Corpus gets its own Chapel for lectures as well as prayers. Prior to this, Fellows and students used St Bene't church adjacent to the College. The College was known for many years as Bene't College of Benet Hall. The Saxon tower of the church stands to this day and is connected to Old Court by a long gallery built in the 15th century. 
1580
CHRISTOPHER MARLOW
The Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe arrived at Corpus in December 150 and lived in Old Court. Butter records report mysterious absences from College and expenditures of up to 12d a week on food and wine, a considerable sum at the time.
1630
THE RETURN OF THE PLAGUE
The Black Death once more sweeps through Cambridge, and everyone in Corpus fled but the Master, Dr Butts. He bravely stayed in an attempt to stop the pestilence spreading and to organise supplied and relief. He described himself as "alone, a destitute and forsaken man; not a scholar with me in College". In 1632, he was found hanging in his garters from the strain of it all.
1642
THE CIVIL WAR
Whilst many College surrendered their silver to one side or another of the conflict, the Corpus silver collection was left largely intact because it had been distributed to Fellows who were given leave of absence. As a result, the College retains one of the finest collections of medieval silver in Oxbridge.
1700
PEACEFUL TIMES
18th-century life seems to have been relatively tranquil. A chief topic of debate at the time was matrimony. No Fellow was allowed to marry until well into the 19th century. Corpus was famous for the Benedictine Antiquaries, some dozen antiquarian researchers, including William Stukeley and Richard Gough.
1822
A NEW COURT
Work began on new buildings for Corpus. Architect William Wilkins, also responsible for the National Gallery and the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, cited New Court as his favourite building and requested that he be buried in the Chapel. Work was completed in 1827, sadly at the expense of the old Chapel.
1904
GHOSTLY GOINGS-ON
Like any respectable ancient building, Corpus has its very own ghost, perhaps even more than one. Some say it's the ghost of Dr Butts, who committed suicide after the Plague; others believe it is the daughter of a Master, or her lover. The ghost was last sighted in the Easter term of 1904, when three undergraduates then tried to exorcise the tortured soul.
1906
A LAYMAN FOR A MASTER
Colonel Caldwell was elected Master and determined to retrieve the College's flagging fortunes. An influx of new blood followed; a wider admittance policy allowed a far broader intake of students. Corpus was no longer a seminary for the production of clergymen.
1919
A GOLDEN AGE
In the inter-war years, Corpus produced a host of distinguished alumni.These included two mayors of Cambridge, emphasising anew the original intent of the College to bridge the gap between town and university; and two Burgesses for the University, one of whom, Geoffrey Butler, gave his name to the newly built undergraduate library.
1939
WORLD WAR II
During the war the Master was Sir Will Spens, who was also Regional Commissioner for the Eastern Region. Had Hitler invaded, Sir Will would have been in charge of running Eastern England. Whilst there were fewer undergraduates during the war, their spaces were taken by cadets and officers on short training courses.
1953
DISCOVERY OF DNA
On 28 February 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson interrupted the patron's lunching at the Eagle Pub (then and still owned by Corpus) to announce they had "discovered the secret of life". Working at the nearby Cavendish Laboratory, Watson and Crick and decoded the double helix structure of DNA based on the x-ray data of Rosalind Franklin.
1962
A HOME FOR POSTGRADS
The development of the Leckhampton site as a home for research students and Fellows was the brainchild of the Tutor, M.W. McCrum. It enable postgraduates members to increase from forty to over a hundred, and has attracted PhD and Masters' students from around the world ever since.
1983
FIRST WOMEN MATRICULATE
In 1980 Corpus decided to admit women undergraduates, the first of whom matriculated in 1983. Now the College is thoroughly egalitarian, with almost even numbers of men and women at undergraduate level.
2008
THE TAYLOR LEGACY
The Corpus Chronophage is officially unveiled to the public on 19 September by physicist Professor Stephen Hawking. Built by John C Taylor, Corpus alumnus and benefactor of the College, the landmark sits at the front of the Taylor Library, a newly renovated 24-hour undergraduate library.
2012
THE KHO BUILDING
A generous donation from the Kho family enables a distinctive new postgraduate student housing block to be built at Leckhampton, providing comfortable accommodation for the growing graduate community.