Trinity Hall was founded by Bishop Bateman of Norwich in 1350, making it the fifth oldest surviving College of the University of Cambridge. Bishop Bateman originally founded the College to promote the study of canon and civil law, probably due to the shortage of clergyman and lawyers following the Black Death of 1349. To this day, the College maintains a very strong tradition in the study of Law.
If I were called upon to mention the prettiest corner of the world, I should draw a thoughtful sigh and point the way to the gardens of Trinity Hall." Henry James
The current site of the College originated from the purchase of a house from John de Crauden, Prior of Ely, for the use of his monks during their period of study in Cambridge in the early 14th century. The College has remained on this site for almost 700 years. The buildings of Front Court, including the Chapel, the Hall and the Master’s Lodge, date from the late 14th century. Although little evidence remains of their medieval origins, from North Court the medieval windows and arches which remain on the back wall provide a glimpse of how the College may have looked in the 15th century.
The current appearance of Front Court dates from the 18th century. Following the bequest of Sir Nathanael Lloyd, Master 1710-1735, Front Court was altered according to the classical fashion of the day. The walls facing into the court were ashlared and new windows were inserted into the rooms facing the court, giving Front Court its uniformly elegant proportions. The Hall was also altered at this time; the old medieval panelling and smoke-blackened beams replaced by panelling carved with classical pillars and baroque designs. The Chapel was also altered, with sober classical panelling and a richly decorated ceiling replacing the medieval stone carvings and timbered roof.
The buildings of The Hall changed little until the late 19th century, when an increase in the number of students prompted the construction of the Latham Building facing onto Latham Lawn, named after Henry Latham, Master from 1888-1902. The neighbouring Thornton Buildings were constructed in 1909. Both buildings were refurbished to a high standard in 2009, and now provide spacious, modern accommodation for first-year undergraduates.
The last century has seen the most comprehensive building programme since the College’s foundation. The Bursary and two new staircases were built in North Court in the early part of the century. In 1975, provisions were made for a new Junior Combination Room, bar, a music room, lecture theatre and terrace in an under-used court between the Old Library and the Latham Building. Following the construction of the Aula Bar and Crescent Room in 2009 in North Court, the old Junior Combination Room and bar have been refurbished to become a modern lecture theatre and reception room. In 1998 the College saw the completion of a new undergraduate library next to the Thornton Buildings. Overlooking the River Cam and housing 30,000 books, the Jerwood Library (named after its general sponsor, the Jerwood Foundation) has won particular acclaim for its unique design.
Altogether, Trinity Hall, with its gardens, its architecture and its riverside site, hidden between its larger neighbours, is one of the most attractive colleges in Cambridge. Of course we are prejudiced, but Henry James went even further: 'If I were called upon to mention the prettiest corner of the world, I should draw a thoughtful sigh and point the way to the gardens of Trinity Hall.'