United Kingdom

Jesus College

The day after Easter Monday I took my camera and walked into the city. It was beautiful weather and felt like the first day of summer.

I had just been to buy a new backpack for my upcoming trip to Spain. In the shop they just cut off the tags and I didn’t have a bag for it, so I thought, that’s alright, I’ll just shove my things in there and carry it on my back. So I made good first use of the backpack, but with this 40L pack on my back and camera in hand I looked like a tourist, even in my home city. While walking through town I was approached by three touts asking if I wanted to go punting. It got me thinking about the messages our clothes and behaviour convey and how we are perceived differently according to these.

Jesus is one of my favourite colleges. I first visited one winter’s evening for a lecture, and was excited to come across a medieval cloistered courtyard while I was wandering around. Even though it was a dark winter night, I could tell that it was a beautiful place and was keen to come back and visit it in the daylight.

Jesus is a large college, but off the tourist trail. It isn’t far at all from the major attractions like St John’s, just a few minutes’ walk away, but not many visitors to Cambridge seem to realise this. Jesus College is much less frequented than other large colleges like Trinity, King’s and St John’s.

On my trip today, which was in the Easter holiday so outside of term time, the college was very quiet. I saw a couple of students and a couple of gardeners and housekeeping staff; otherwise the place was deserted and really peaceful to wander around. The weather was fantastic too.

Jesus College is situated near the river and Midsummer Common, in central Cambridge. It is a little to the east of Trinity and St John’s and the other colleges along Trinity Street, and lies on Jesus Lane.

Jesus College has a long approach to its Porters’ Lodge. Bicycles line the old brick walls.

The long path up to the entrance at Jesus College, with its beautiful old walls. This path is known as ‘the Chimney’.

Gate to the Master’s Lodge.

Master’s Lodge

Many spring flowers were out in the grounds and the lawns were being mowed.

A bronze stallion sculpture stands in the First Court.

Entering the passageway to the right of First Court takes you into the Cloisters.

This wonderful cloistered medieval courtyard is a real hidden gem.

Jesus was founded in 1496 on the site of a derelict nunnery, in what was then the far east of Cambridge. The oldest parts of the college date from this original building, which was St Radegund’s priory, built in the twelfth century.

The tower of Jesus College Chapel, seen from the cloisters.

This small stone passageway leads off north from the cloistered court, past the Hall and into Pump Court.

The buildings of Pump Court.

Looking through the archway to First Court, from Pump Court. The brickwork here is amazing – old narrow bricks of various colours: black, orange, brown, red, pink and yellow.

There are swathes of daffodils around the trees, and curiously shaped box trees leaning away from the wind.

Close-up of the flowers, looking towards North Court.

The shield of Jesus College has three roosters on it. Founded in 1496 by John Alcock, the Bishop of Ely, the college’s cockerel symbol today originates from his surname.

Magnolia stellata on a lawn in Chapel Court.

The grand open space of Chapel Court. The chapel is on the left of the photo.

Looking west in Chapel Court.

The eastern doorway of Chapel Court gives a nice view out onto parkland and a row of bikes. The door itself is also really nice. Most of the old colleges have these kinds of doors: a massive, old, dark wood double door, with a small everyday door cut into it.

This is the view from the other side of the door.

The eastern entrance, Jesus College.

Archway looking back into Chapel Court. The chapel is directly ahead.

There is this picturesque circular bench around a tree trunk at the southern end of Chapel Court. A ring of daffodils grows around it.

Looking north-east, Chapel Court.

This beautiful old doorway beside the chapel leads to the Library Garden. A lantern hangs over the entrance.

The secluded and peaceful Library Garden.

Alumni of Jesus College include the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, novelists Laurence Sterne (author of Tristram Shandy) and Nick Hornby, Prince Edward (Earl of Wessex and the Queen’s third son), and theorist Raymond Williams.

This brilliant silver birch was strikingly white.

The old remains of the medieval priory, in the cloisters.

The cloisters.

First Court, with the prancing stallion.

Main entrance to Jesus College. The Porters’ Lodge is through a door in the right of the foreground.

I hope you enjoyed these photos of one of the most impressive yet under-visited colleges in Cambridge. And if you visit some colleges, I recommend trying to take in the cloistered courtyard at Jesus.

Click here for a virtual tour of Jesus College

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