Lucy Cavendish Alumnae visit Madingley Hall

by Bea Aldrich on 18 August 2015

On Saturday, 11 June, a dozen alumnae and several guests visited Madingley Hall and its beautiful grounds for an informative guided tour followed by afternoon tea in The Saloon. Afterwards we had free access to the gardens on a perfect summer’s day for as long as we wished.

Our guide, Steve Robertson, proved to be excellent value as he had detailed knowledge of the building’s history and also of the various owners and their stories. The ‘Shire Manor of Madingley’ was granted to John Hynde in 1543 by an Act of Parliament and he began building Madingley Hall in the same year, creating what are now known as the south and east wings. Today, the much-altered Hall is home to Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, which provides courses for students from all over the world.

Our group visited parts of the building rarely open to the public. These included the Dog Hole and the Murals Room in the South-East Turret, which was built in 1543 and is reached by solid oak staircase (rather tricky to negotiate but well worth it). This room contains roof timbers believed to be from the original Anglesey Abbey. This room was possibly used as a withdrawing room by the Hynde family who owned the Hall for many generations. The murals are thought to have been commissioned in the late 16th or early 17th century by Sir Edward Hynde and it is likely that the scenes show activities in the park at Madingley, including a bear hunt. One theory suggests that Sir Edward himself is portrayed in the murals. The wall paintings were discovered in 1906 under layers of tapestry by Colonel Harding, owner of the Hall at that time and underwent restoration in 1960. The spiral staircase was used by Edward, Prince of Wales as a private exit into the delights of Cambridge during his sojourn as a Cambridge student in 1861, which was cut short by the death of his father that same year.

Our afternoon tea was served in the historic Saloon overlooking the grounds.  We were the only guests, which made the experience even more enjoyable and meant that we could relax and move around at will to view the paintings and decorations. The selection of teas, sandwiches and cakes could not be faulted and with the best will in the world we were unable to finish everything.

Congratulations to Mary Dezille for organising another thoroughly enjoyable outing for the Alumnae Association.