Secret St John's - December 2013

Each week we post an image from around the College, focusing on some of the smaller details of St John's.

Please contact Aisling O'Neill if you have any comments about the items or would like to suggest topics for future items.


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Swans and St John's!
30 December 2013

Traditionally, the British Monarch retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but today the Queen only exercises ownership on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This tradition dates from the 12th century, during which time swans were a common food source for royalty. Fellows of St John's College are the only people outside the Royal Family legally allowed to eat unmarked mute swans.

Swan traps were originally built into the walls of the College alongside the river, but these are no longer used. Swans for breeding were purchased in the College in 1691 and payments to the Swanyard and for swan maintenance continued for years afterwards. There is proof of the consumption of cygnets through to 1896, and until 1986 ‘swan’ was served (in some form or another) at the May Ball.

College Christmas trees
23 December 2013

The Christmas tree in Hall comes from Elveden Estate in Suffolk, and this year it measures around 23 feet in height. The College has been sourcing its tree from Elveden for several years now, and the estate has a nationwide reputation for supplying some of the best corporate and town centre display trees across England, Scotland and Wales. It takes several hours and thousands of lights and ornaments to decorate it, but I am sure that you will all agree that the final result is certainly very festive.

Season’s greetings to all members of our Johnian community and wishing you all the best for 2014.

Humphrey Gower
16 December 2013

Humphrey Gower was appointed Master of St John’s College on 3 December 1679, a post he occupied until his death in 1711. He is the longest serving Master of the College and twice hosted King Charles II in Cambridge.
In July 1693, when twenty of the Fellows refused to acknowledge William III as King, Gower was ordered to eject them. Gower refused, and steps were taken to indict him at the Cambridge assizes, but the grand jury threw out the bill. A second order was issued in the following October, but, the names of the nonjuring fellows having been omitted, Gower again refused to eject them, alleging that it did not appear who they were, and the court of king's bench declined to pursue the issue.

Gower died at St John's College on 27 March 1711, and was buried in the original College Chapel. He now lies beneath the Old Music Room, which was constructed in 1866-9 along with the new Chapel.

St John's and the Varsity Match: Part 2
09 December 2013

Following the 131st match in 2012, Oxford have 56 wins, while Cambridge maintain the lead with 61; 14 games have ended in draws. Possibly the most notable recent Johnian to appear for Cambridge in the Varsity match was Rob Andrew (1982), who played at fly half in the victories of 1982 and 1983 before captaining the Cambridge team to victory once again in 1984. Rob went on to play 71 times for England, and also played 5 matches for the British and Irish Lions before becoming Director of Rugby at Newcastle Falcons and later Director of Operations at the RFU.
This year’s Varsity match takes place on Thursday 12 December at Twickenhan, with the Cambridge team featuring two Johnians: Tom Pascoe and Jack Baker.

St John's and the Varsity Match: Part 1
02 December 2013

Since 1872, the year of the first Varsity match, St John’s has produced 91 Rugby Blues, second only to Trinity with 122. Two Johnians took part in the match of 1880 – James A Bevan and P T Wrigley. Wrigley had also represented Cambridge in 1878 and 1879, and both Bevan and Wrigley were part of the team in 1877.

The 1880 Varsity match was played at Richardson’s Field at Blackheath for the first time, having previously taken place at the Oval. The match was drawn with one try apiece. Bevan almost won the match with a drop goal, but the umpires disallowed it after a dispute. Two months later Bevan captained the Welsh team against the English in the first international match between these two nations, and in Wales’s first ever international. Under modern scoring values the Welsh lost the game 82-0, and Bevan never played for his country again, choosing instead the life of an Anglican clergyman.

The Cambridge University XV of 1880: Back Row (L-R): R M Yetts, J G Tait, A R Don Wauchope, E Rice, S Pater, J A Bevan, E Storey, W M MacLeod. Front Row: E S Chapman, H G Fuller, J T Steele, C P Wilson, P T Wrigley, H Y L Smith, A S Taylor.

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