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Susanna Gregory will be adding exclusive articles on the background to the Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew on this page. We begin with a look at the origins of the college at the heart of the stories, Michaelhouse.

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Hostels and halls

Besides its core site, Michaelhouse was also endowed with a number of houses that it rented out as semi-independent hostels or halls. Still acting as Stanton's executor, John de Illegh purchased Garrett and Ovyng's hostels in 1329, at 'great trouble and expense', if the Otryngham Book is to be believed. Of the two, Garrett seems to have been the larger and the more important, given that it lent its name to the lane leading to the river. It is possible that the name derived from a 'gartye', or a watchtower, suggesting that the building had a high window. It was finally demolished in the 17th century, to be replaced by Bishop's Hostel.

A further messuage was purchased in 1330, comprising a house and land near Great St Mary's Church. This was followed in 1337 by another parcel of land near Dera de Madingle's house. In 1349, Michaelhouse was presented with three shops on St Michael's Lane, complete with a large garden. The benefactor was the widow Joan de Refham, whose husband was an apothecary and a town burgess. It is possible that Refham died during the Black Death (1349-50 in Cambridge), and that his widow hoped either to avoid a similar fate herself by donating property to a quasi-religious institution, or an arrangement was made with the Michaelhouse scholars to say masses for her husband's soul. This messuage became St Catherine's Hostel. Other hostels mentioned in the Otryngham Book include St Margaret's, acquired in 1396.
In 1448, Henry VI conveyed to Michaelhouse a parcel of land located to the south of Garrett Hostel Lane, known as Hennaby, after its 14th-century owner. This completes the list of Michaelhouse acquisitions in Cambridge, although it owned a number of properties and advowsons in other parts of the country.