The day dawned bright and clear, and with Jean away visiting our daughter Lucy in Edinburgh, and a clear Day Off in the diary too – it was the perfect morning for a drive down to Cambridge.
First to the Wren Library at Trinity, where on the strength of having once read there and produced the Definitive Description of one their mediaeval MSS, they kindly allowed me to pop in and quickly look through the Perambulation Notes of Beaupre Bell (1704–1741) of Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. He was the big cheese at Outwell in the eighteenth century, and enjoyed walking around both his own part of the county and other places, noting down anything that caught his eye. He visited Landbeach, in which I take a particular interest, and I’d hoped he might have noted down something about the east window there, but it was only inscriptions that detained him.
Never mind – the look didn’t take long, and the Library is stunning on a sunny day, so spirits still high I walked down Trinity Street to the Senate Yard to cast my vote in the Chancellorship election. Did I vote for a grocer? And if so the man from Mill Road, or the millionaire? Well both actually, and the other two, as it was STV, but in what order, only the Registrary (that’s a person, the good Jonathan Nicholls, the University’s Chief Administrator) and only then if he bribes the Electoral Reform Society too.
Jonathan is a fellow mediaevalist, so I took him as a present a printout of the Landbeach window, which of course has rare representations of Cambridge academics in it from the fifteenth century – and which, as my recent research is starting to show, probably came from the old Senate House of the University where elections like this would have taken place until the new one was built just at the same time in the eighteenth century as Robin Masters was begging the fittings of the old one to furnish his summer house with panelling and perhaps that east window with painted figures. Mmmm.
Even better, I now discovered that coffee and pastries were being served gratis to any voters who smelt them in the Combination Room, which is of course the very room which was the Old Senate, now sadly devoid of its chapel-like furnishings of yore, as of the library fittings that followed them. It’s a cosy place, though, and has created quite a stir in these modern times when it looked like being the victim of redevelopment. I imagined the Landbeach glass sitting nicely in the large end window there, and must see if a lowly non-Regent can be allowed an access card for other occasions.
Time to drive home, but via Milton Church where my friends the Chamberlains live. He’s vicar there, but I was really on the trail of the third of my 18th century antiquaries, William Cole, who I had mentally made a vicar there too, though I realised on looking at the incumbent board that he had just resided there without an official post, and lived not in the largish old rectory, but the very largish Milton Hall, which he filled with begged, borrowed and possibly ***** stained glass. Just like Masters – and they were bitter rivals, too.
Cole begged glass from the University just as Masters did, and his notes (which are in manuscripts in the British Museum) tell us that the Vice Chancellor at the time of the Senate rebuild, Dr Parris, also took out the old glass from Archbishop Rotherham’s Library on the other side of the Old Schools Quad, to improve the light, and gave some to to Cole. It consisted of deer leaping in various ways and roses. Cole used it in his house, but says he put some in Milton Church – and there it still is. Just like the ones in the drawings of it in the BL MSS:
And so home at last to write all this down, and get ready for some serious drafting tomorrow of a talk on the Landbeach window that I’ll be giving to The Magdalene Society of Medievalists on All Saints Day. In the parlour at 6pm. I think all are welcome.