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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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Plans and maps

There are a number of historic plans that help place some of Michaelhouse's buildings. The earliest is a picture by Lyne dating from 1574. Michaelhouse is identified as a tower on Findsilver (St Michael's) Lane and a range of chambers to the west. It adjoins Physwick Hostel, while Garrett and Ovyng's stand to the south-west and Gregory's is located to the north. However, by this time, Michaelhouse was part of Trinity, and work had been underway for 34 years to convert the muddle of small buildings into a functional whole. This included closing Foule Lane, which had separated Michaelhouse from Physwick Hostel.

From Lyne's plan, it can be seen that Michaelhouse comprised a tower gateway facing south that led to a court. On the north was the Gootham range; on the west were the hall, Master's room, conclave and library; and on the south was a range that backed onto St Michael's Lane, probably also raised in 1380 and paid for by the Gootham bequest. There is nothing to suggest that there was ever an east side, although it was probably enclosed by a wall. The town-and-gown strife is as ancient as the University itself, and no College or hostel valuing its safety failed to protect itself in some way. Although the early gatehouses may have been a little excessive to repel angry shopkeepers and apprentices, they illustrate that the more powerful and wealthy the institution, the more serious were its defenses. It seems very unlikely that Michaelhouse would have left its eastern angle unguarded; it almost certainly would have been protected by a wall.

Hammond's plan of 1592 shows that Garrett and Ovyng's hostels were still there, and are recorded as two small houses, one slightly to the west of the other. Garrett Hostel Green was divided from Michaelhouse by a stream, which was navigable in the 14th century. Evidence for this comes from the fact that there were at least three hythes on it - Dame Nichol's (which belonged to King's Hall), Flaxhythe, and one on the Buttetourte land. By 1423, permission was granted to Michaelhouse to dig a new one indicating that the old one had silted up. Some years later, Michaelhouse purchased Garrett Hostel Green itself (the Wren Library now stands on it).
The next available plan is that of Loggan, dating to 1688, but by then Great Court and Neville's Court were complete, virtually all traces of Michaelhouse had been eliminated - and even the great gateway of King's Hall had been moved