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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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The core buildings

Unlike King's Hall and other medieval Cambridge colleges, building records pertaining to the development of Michaelhouse are scanty. It is likely that the Buttetourte house served as the main part of the College - the Buttetourtes were noblemen, and so the house was probably fairly substantial and relatively comfortable as far as medieval buildings went.

The first records suggest the scholars invested some of their accumulating wealth on repairs and development. A document in the Otryngham Book dating to 1380, tells that £130 was produced to raise twelve chambers and a kitchen. Four of these chambers were located somewhere along St Michael's Lane, and another eight sets of rooms were added in the north. These buildings are sometimes referred to as the Gootham Work, after the benefactor who paid for them. So, by the end of the 14th century, Michaelhouse proper had its hall and conclave (the Buttetourte house) on the west, a range of chambers along St Michael's Lane in the south, and a second range on chambers opposite to the north, forming three sides of a square.

Given that the Michaelhouse college statutes give a complex set of rules regarding which Fellows were to sleep where, there was apparently a rigidly enforced pecking order relating to rooms. Since Michaelhouse remained small right up to its surrender, and did not expand its numbers significantly after its foundation, it can only be supposed that the Fellows were providing themselves with a higher standard of living when they built the Gootham rooms- not for them the cramped, unhygienic conditions of most communal living in the Middle Ages!