Apart from the new ranges raised in the 1380s, Michaelhouse's documents
suggest that the College tended to concentrate on acquiring new properties
and sites than on developing what it already possessed. It was a small
Society, and its scholars came from humble beginnings. To begin with,
at least, their expectations would not have been great - unlike the
pampered clerks and scribes who were sent for training in the comparatively
luxurious surroundings of King's Hall.
By the end of the 14th century, however, Michaelhouse was wealthy by
University standards. It owned all the land in a great square between
King's Childer Lane in the north and Garrett Hostel Lane/St Michael's
Lane in the south, and between the navigable stream in the west and
Foule Lane/Milne Street in the east. It also owned a chunk of land and
three shops further north, plus two houses and their land on the High
Street. And there were also properties outside Cambridge, including
the advowsons of Tittleshall in Norfolk, Cheadle in Staffordshire, Grundisburgh
in Suffolk, and Barrington in Cambridgeshire. There is no reason to
suppose that the scholars did not put some of their considerable funds
to providing themselves with some comfortable lodgings.
The statutes laid out strict guidelines for the sharing of rooms in
order of seniority, suggesting that at least some of the Fellows had
rooms to themselves - an almost unprecedented luxury in medieval times.
It is likely that they were shared with students, but Michaelhouse was
slightly different in that its records suggest that - unlike King's
Hall - teaching took second place to personal study. And the spacious
conclave also suggests that Michaelhouse had abandoned its shabby beginnings
and was moving on to better things.
So, how did Michaelhouse's relentless acquisition of properties between
the High Street and the river affect the Trinity College we know today?
The western range of the Trinity's Great Court follows exactly the projected
outline of the old hall of Michaelhouse (now the Essex range), while
the southern range follows the line of the buildings raised in the 1380s.
The north range probably ran where the central north-south footpath
is, while the wall that separated Michaelhouse from Foule Lane would
have run along the route of the main east-west footpath. Trinity Great
Court is divided into sections, and the south-west part is exactly where
Michaelhouse's main court would have stood.
Meanwhile, New Court and Neville's Court stand completely on land acquired
by Michaelhouse. In fact, although King's Hall was the larger and better
known of the two Colleges surrendered to Henry VIII, it was Michaelhouse
that provided it with most of its land. It is still possible to walk
down St Michael's Lane (now called Trinity Lane) to Milne Street (now
called Trinity Hall Lane and a quiet backwater). To reach the river,
Garrett Hostel Lane is taken - another of Michaelhouse's properties.
Michaelhouse might be long gone, and its only surviving stones buried
beneath the 18th century Essex building, but its legacy survives.