Ridley Hall was named in honour of Bishop Nicholas Ridley, a leading Protestant theologian of the sixteenth century.
Nicholas Ridley came from a prominent family in Tynedale, Northumberland, and was born c.1500. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he received his Master's degree in 1525. Soon afterward he was ordained as a priest.
He spent a brief period at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Louvain before returning to England around 1529. He became the senior proctor of Cambridge University in 1534 and in 1537 was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, as one of his chaplains. In April 1538, Cranmer made him vicar of Herne in Kent. In 1540-1, he was made one of the King's Chaplains and Master of Pembroke. In 1543 he was unsuccessfully accused of heresy, although just after his exculpation he finally abandoned the doctrine of transubstantiation.
Ridley was made Bishop of Rochester in 1547, and shortly after coming to office, directed that the altars in the churches of his diocese should be removed, and tables put in their place to celebrate the Lord's Supper. Edward VI was now on the throne and in 1548 he helped Cranmer compile the Book of Common Prayer. As Cranmer's former chaplain, Ridley was moved from Rochester to the then vacant diocese of London in 1550.
Having signed the letters patent settling the English crown on Lady Jane Grey, Ridley, in a sermon preached at St Paul's cross on the 9th of July 1553, affirmed that the princesses Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate and that the succession of the former would be disastrous to the religious interests of England. When Lady Jane's cause was lost, however, he went to Framlingham to ask Queen Mary's pardon, but he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London.
The College owns a manuscript letter of 1550 by Nicholas Ridley to Bishop Hooper on the vestments controversy (held at Cambridge University Library), along with first editions of Ridley’s publications (see Library Collections below) and memorabilia.