Historic Madingley Hall reveals its secrets for Open Cambridge
Secret rooms, hidden Tudor murals and an oven that was used to bake bread for captive bears are all on show.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the University of Cambridge buying Madingley Hall, its doors will be opened to the public on Saturday.
The day is one of 80 events taking place as part of the Open Cambridge, which runs from September 14-16.
The hall now houses the Institute of Continuing Education, which teaches adult education courses.
But with a history dating back to Tudor times, the building is full of fascinating features, each with its own story.
Head of academic centre lifelong learning, Zara Kückelhaus, said: “Madingley Hall is one of Cambridge’s best kept secrets. Much of it is open to the public for most of the year, so anyone can enjoy the Capability Brown gardens and the beautiful architecture. This weekend will be special as we are opening areas of the house not normally seen.
“Probably the most exciting exhibits are the 400 year old murals painted in one of the turrets, which depict hunting scenes and reveal something of the history of the hall including the bears that used to live in the grounds.
“We know that The Hynde family, who built Madingley, loved hunting so much that alongside deer they also kept bears to hunt to make the experience a bit more challenging. The tricky problem of what to feed the bears in captivity was solved by giving them bread baked in an oven set up especially for the purpose. One account suggests this was later destroyed, but tantalisingly there is still a bread oven in the Stuart Room, a teaching room that was once the hall’s main kitchen.”
Madingley Hall was granted as part of the Shire of Madingley to John Hynde in 1543. There is a local legend that King Charles hid here while on the run from Oliver Cromwell’s forces during the English Civil War. Madingley Hall was also used by Edward Prince of Wales as a residence while he was studying at the University of Cambridge in 1861.
“Unfortunately for his frustrated tutors, Prince Edward was less enthusiastic about his books than attending sports events and parties,” explained Ms Kückelhaus. “There is even a rumour that the staircase next to this room was used as an escape route so that he could slip out unnoticed and steal into town for social events.
Visitors on Saturday, September 15 will have the chance to climb to the turret room on an original staircase dating from the reign of Henry VIII. They can also visit Prince Edward’s room and see the ‘dog hole’ where Charles I may have hidden during the Civil War. And they will hear about which parts of the hall are recycled from Anglesey Abbey in Lode.
The university acquired 1,150 acres of land when it bought the estate 70 years ago. The area is now managed by the University’s Estate Management and Building Service.