DCS: Local Heritage Event:
Visit to St John's College Chapel Tower and the Pepys Library in Magdalene College

Saturday 20th November 2010 Return to Alumni Events


Relaxing in the Parlour

This day was one of those days when you feel that disaster threatens with factors out of your control but ends with wonderful memories. The factor out of control was the rapidly thickening fog threatening to spoil the views, and the memories were the inspiration and enthusiasm of our guides. This Local Heritage trip started very well with a full complement of alumni and a reserve list, it continued with a lovely relaxed lunch at Darwin for which Ian Smith and his staff looked after us very well, one or two glasses of wine and a relaxed seat with coffee in the parlour.


Daunting task

The Tower and a Daunting Climb Ahead

Rousing was necessary for the walk to our first stop, St Johns College, where we were met by Dr Laurence Drake who led us up an increasingly narrow spiral staircase which felt steeper and steeper as we ascended and squeezed our way up the final steps to pop out onto the tower roof like the wine corks at lunch. It was very obvious why the tower is not open to the public. Once there, the views from amongst the colleges and the shops were staggering even although the views of very distant places were not available because of the limited visibility.

Preparing to ascend

Dr Drake Introducing the Ascent!


On top looking at ...


... a view ...

On top1

... and changing views

Our guide was very knowledgeable of the history and the identification of birds-eye views of buildings which most of us had not even seen from ground level, as well as the tower itself. The fog came down quickly but just as it was time to leave. This was the time we received what games players would term a 'bonus go' as instead of walking down the busy pavements, Dr Drake led us through the private arches and gardens of St John's College, over the Bridge of Sighs into Magdalene College where the porter directed us to the Pepys Library. Here we met our second guide, the librarian, Dr Luckett, for a private visit and talk.

If there is a person who knows as much about the 3,000 books left to Magdalene College by Samuel Pepys, the library buildings, the life and times of Samuel Pepys, his relations, friends and acquaintances and so on, then all of us visitors, standing captivated by the stories, would probably have disbelieved it. A few of our number had visited the library in public viewing hours beforehand but all of them echoed the same message that Dr Luckett had brought it all alive to them, as one of party said "...his enthusiasm was infectious ". Whether it was his talk or whether he was answering questions we hung on his every word. We learned of Samuel Pepys' very unusual method of ordering books by size, how he had invented book cabinets, how he was a linguist and about the success of his career other than the writer of diaries. We looked at his shorthand and read translation excerpts and marvelled at the bindings and the illustrations, and the sheer variety of the books he collected. Eventually, way over time, we left to allow our guide and 'mentor'  a very well-deserved Saturday evening rest.

It was a special day and we saw and heard so many things that would have been unavailable to us if it had not been for this trip and our guides. So many thanks are due to Dr Drake, Dr Luckett and the sub-librarian Phillipa Grimstone who made the arrangements for our visit to the Pepys Library.

(Click on the pictures for larger versions) Return to Alumni Events


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