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5 - Cambridge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 April 2021

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Summary

I WAS THRILLED to be at Cambridge at last – it had been my goal for three years – but I soon perceived that I had entered a very rough-and-ready version of the dream: it was impossible to ignore the disappointing conclusion that, so far as Cambridge University life was concerned, Fitzwilliam House was not the real thing. The official position was that Fitzwilliam was a ‘non-collegiate’ institution, created in 1869 to look after the interests of students who either because of their religion or through lack of funds could not get a place at any of the colleges; it was not until 1969 that Fitzwilliam was granted what is called collegiate status. In my day, twenty years before that major change, the House had few signs of the traditional collegiate set-up: there were no elegant courtyards with ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs; no Perpendicular chapel; no Wren Library or Gibbs Building. ‘Fitzbilly’ was housed in a three-storey late-Georgian building situated on the corner where narrow Fitzwilliam Street joins broad Trumpington Street, almost opposite the great Fitzwilliam Museum. A chemist shop founded in Victorian times functions to this day on the ground floor adjacent to what in my time was the crowded dining room where we took our lunches and dinners in two rowdy shifts. The lack of style reminded me of early National Service days at Catterick and was a million miles from the candlelit elegance enjoyed at King's or Magdalene, where I sometimes dined with undergraduate friends.

Upstairs at Fitzwilliam there was a student common room with scruffy armchairs and a cluttered clubs’ noticeboard. A pleasant back room was named, in Victorian style, the Parlour: here the Fitzwilliam House Musical Society gave its concerts; there was a decent grand piano on which I composed a few songs and played duets with my contemporary John Parry (father of today's distinguished choir conductor Ben Parry). I made no attempt to form my own orchestra or to continue with the conducting I had enjoyed at school; the inferiority complex I was nursing held me back.

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Humphrey Burton In My Own Time
An Autobiography
, pp. 73 - 92
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Cambridge
  • Humphrey Burton
  • Book: Humphrey Burton In My <i>Own Time</i>
  • Online publication: 09 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787448001.006
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  • Cambridge
  • Humphrey Burton
  • Book: Humphrey Burton In My <i>Own Time</i>
  • Online publication: 09 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787448001.006
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Cambridge
  • Humphrey Burton
  • Book: Humphrey Burton In My <i>Own Time</i>
  • Online publication: 09 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787448001.006
Available formats
×