College History

Magdalene (pronounced "maudlin") College began life in the early 15th century as a Benedictine hostel, in time coming to be known as Buckingham College (1428), before being re-founded in 1542 as the College of St Mary Magdalene. It is now one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge. Its re-foundation as Magdalene College was largely the work of Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. Audley also gave the College its motto, 'garde ta foy', keep your faith.

The College's most famous son is Samuel Pepys, whose unique library was donated to the College upon his death. It is now housed in the Pepys building, the College's most architecturally significant single building. In the eighteenth century it became the home of radical Anglicans several of whom under the inspired leadership of the master, Peter Peckard, went on to lead the early civil rights movements which led, for example, to the abolition of slavery.

First Court covered in ivy

Aesthetically, Magdalene's older courts are both beautiful and unusual, some being 'purpose built' others, incorporations of the Cambridge vernacular. Unusually too, most of the buildings are in brick rather than stone. Magdalene Street and the river divide (east/west and north/south respectively) the most ancient courts from more recent developments. One of the College's most distinguished buildings in the newer part of the College was built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early 1930s.

Despite its twentieth-century expansion, Magdalene remains one of the smaller colleges within the University, being home to about 330 undergraduates and 180 postgraduates. The College's newest court, Cripps Court, was opened in November 2005. Magdalene counts amongst its past Honorary Fellows Nelson Mandela and Seamus Heaney, as well as current Honorary Fellow  2012 Nobel Prize winner, Professor Sir John Gurdon.

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