A historical tour of the college

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Take a historical tour through the college

Click a title below to read about the history of the College through a tour of its buildings and artwork.

1. The Lodge

The Lodge

In the last third of the 19th century most men ordained in the Church of England were graduates of Oxford or Cambridge. They were required to pass a Diocesan examination before ordination, but very few had any sort of vocational training between leaving University and being ordained. Some went to study privately with a clergyman for the examination, but many were thrown totally on their own resources. The foundation of Ridley in 1881 stemmed from the perception that there needed to be a more formalised system of training for those entering ministry. Ridley Hall, in Cambridge, and Wycliffe Hall, in Oxford, were founded at the same time to provide training and formation for evangelical candidates.

Initial building work

By August 1877 two acres of meadow land had been purchased and fundraising had begun. It was calculated that £30,000 would be needed to establish the Hall. Ridley’s main architect was Mr Charles Luck, of Carlton Chambers, Regent St, London. The College owns a small portrait of him. Mr Luck designed the buildings from the lodge round to the dining room block, which were built between 1879 and 1882. They were faced with Chylton red bricks, with Ancaster stone window and door dressings. The Lodge was designed to be the Principal’s house. By 1882 the total spent on the building and furnishing of the Hall totalled £25,000. The money had been raised mostly through subscription. The lecture hall, tower and entrance archway, and dining room block were paid for by individual major benefactors (see relevant sections). The Hall was opened on 20 January 1881 under Revd Handley Moule with an initial body of 8 students. By 1882 there were 20 sets of rooms available (9 on ‘A’, 5 on ‘B’ and 6 on ‘C’), although by 1883 there were 22 men at the College, two being obliged to live in lodgings. There was no chapel until 1892. The chapel was also a gift, from a former student.

The first Principal

Revd Handley Moule came from a clerical family in Dorset. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1864 and was ordained in 1867. He was Principal of Ridley Hall 1881–99, then became Norrisian Professor of Divinity at Cambridge for a brief period before becoming Bishop of Durham in 1901. Two of his six brothers were missionaries in China, and his great-nephew was CFD ‘Charlie’ Moule, theologian and Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, who also had close links with Ridley.

A list of Ridley’s Principals

  1. Handley Moule: 1881–1899 later Bishop of Durham
  2. Thomas Drury: 1899–1907 later Bishop of Sodor and Man, then of Ripon, and Master of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge
  3. Arthur Tait: 1908–1927
  4. Paul Gibson: 1927–1945
  5. Sherard Falkner Allison: 1945–1951 later Bishop of Chelmsford, then of Winchester
  6. Cyril Bowles: 1951–1963 later Bishop of Derby
  7. Michael Hennell: 1964–1970
  8. Francis Palmer: 1971–1972
  9. Keith Sutton: 1973–1978 later Bishop of Kingston, then of Lichfield
  10. Hugo De Waal: 1978–1992 later Bishop of Thetford
  11. Graham Cray: 1992–2001 later Bishop of Maidstone
  12. Christopher Cocksworth: 2001–2008 later Bishop of Coventry
  13. Andrew Norman: 2009–2016
  14. Michael Volland: 2016 to present


Lodge Display Area and Seminar Rooms

Richard Cecil (1748–1810) (right hand side), leading Evangelical clergyman and a member of the Clapham Sect. Pastel by John Russell RA (1745–1806) Large portrait, framed in gold-painted wood; presented by Cecil’s granddaughter, Miss Cecil, in 1886. Written on reverse of frame: ‘This portrait belongs to William Cecil – given to him by his Mother Octr 1810’. Ridley owns Cecil’s library of books and pamphlets. See archives.

Henry Venn (1725–1797), (top) leading Evangelical clergyman and a founder of the Clapham Sect. Framed in gold-painted wood. The gift of Mrs WH Elliott (a descendant of Venn and also a relation of HGC Moule).

John Newton (1725 – 1807), (below) British sailor and influential Anglican clergyman. As a sailor he became involved with the slave trade, but later became a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery as an ally of William Wilberforce. He was the author of many hymns, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken”. This etching was owned by Richard Cecil and was given to Ridley by Cecil’s daughter. Ridley Hall owns twenty original manuscript letters from John Newton to his patron John Thornton. See archives.

Handley Moule (1841–1920) (facing), first Principal of Ridley Hall (1881–99). The painting shows Moule as Bishop of Durham ordaining a candidate for the priesthood. The painting was donated to Ridley by the late Revd John Eddison (Ridley 1938–39)

2. The Lecture Hall

The Lecture Hall

The lecture hall was originally the Library. The space was also used for teaching and for services before the chapel was built in 1892. There were four sets of students’ room on the upper floors. The lecture hall was paid for by a donation of £1800 from the widow of Revd Edward Carr, a Kent clergyman, who is considered by the Ridley History to be the real founder of both Ridley and Wycliffe – the idea of founding theological halls at both Cambridge and Oxford to formalise training for ordination was originally his. While still alive, Carr had already given £700 to Ridley Hall’s funds. The lecture hall was known as The Edward Henry Carr Library. Edward Carr died in 1880. Many of the older books still kept in the lecture hall have a plate with this name on it. Mrs Carr continued her association with Ridley for the rest of her life, giving a donation of £100 a year to the Hall’s funds for a total of 22 years until her death in 1902.

The plans to bring the library back from its current location in ‘A’ staircase to the lecture hall are in fact returning the space to its original use, and will provide some much-needed space for archive storage and reading space. As well as its institutional archive, the college owns some important manuscript collections, including the largest Charles Simeon archive in the world.

There is a plaque to Edward Carr in the entrance porch of the lecture Hall. Inside the hall, above the door, is a plaque to Howard Sheldon, (Ry 1907–09) who left a legacy to the hall which paid for clear glass to be put in the lecture hall windows in memory of the Sheldon and Petter families.

Sheldon Family: Frederick Howard Sheldon was a student at Ridley 1908–1909. He was Chaplain at both Trinity Hall and Gonville & Caius in the 1920s. Leonard Sheldon was at Ridley 1914–15, and served in France 1917–20. JG Sheldon was at Ridley 1943.

Petter Family: William Petter was at Ridley 1885–86. He was vicar of All Souls’ Child’s Hill, in north London for over 40 years. The large east window in the chapel is a gift of William Petter’s younger brother Horace in memory of their father, GW Petter, a publisher.

3. Entrance arch and tower

The entrance arch and tower

The entrance archway and tower were paid for by Mrs Frances Rebecca Robinson in memory of her husband, the Revd Disney Robinson, formerly of St John’s College and Vicar of Woolley in Yorkshire. The tower and what is now known as ‘A’ staircase had five sets of students’ rooms. Frances Robinson gave £1,000 for the building, in addition to a further £1,766 in railway stocks to the College’s general funds. There is a plaque commemorating the Revd Disney Robinson on the road side of the tower, surmounted by five coats of arms. Ridley did not possess its own coat of arms art this time, and the ones engraved on the tower are, left to right, St John’s College (Disney Robinson’s college); the Hodgson family (Mrs Frances Rebecca Robinson’s family); Cambridge University; The Robinson family; Bishop Nicholas Ridley.

4. D Staircase and Dining Room

'D' Staircase entrance hallway

The large picture situated in the lower entrance hallway of 'D' Staircase (above the stairs down to the kitchen) is a copy of the stained glass window of the Ridley Chapel in Buwalasi, Uganda. In 1926 the new Diocese of the Upper Nile was created and it was decided that a new Diocesan Training College should be built. Around £8,000 was needed to pay for the college buildings as a whole, and money was raised both in England and in Africa. Ridley Hall’s 50th Jubilee took place in 1929, and in 1930 Ridley decided to dedicate the proceeds of its Jubilee Fund to Buwalasi, aiming at raising a total of £5,000, which would pay for the building of the chapel and also fund the Principal’s salary. A cheque for £3,600 was dedicated at a special service in Ridley Hall Chapel in Cambridge on Commemoration Day, 28th January, 1933. £2,500 was designated to be invested towards the salary of the Principal of Buwalasi and £1,000 towards the building of the chapel, plus £100 for its furnishing. By May that year the list of subscribers had over 320 names and had reached £3,800 with £1,000 promised in a will.

The opening of the College and the consecration of the Ridley Chapel by the Bishop of the Upper Nile, the Rt Revd Arthur Kitching (Ridley 1898–99) took place on 2nd March 1934. The college is now a campus of Uganda Christian University.

The Dining Room

The dining room block, designed by Charles Luck and built in 1882, included the dining hall, kitchens, common room and the Vice-Principal’s apartments.

The block was paid for by a Mrs Henry Gamble, a wealthy, twice-widowed lady of Torquay, who donated £3,000 in memory of her first husband, Mr Arthur Saltmarshe, a businessman (cotton exporter). There is a small bust of Mr Saltmarshe in the dining room. On the opposite side of the dining room is an inscription to Mrs Gamble. Mrs Gamble was a strict Presbyterian, but willing to support Anglican causes. The coats of arms of the Ridley family at the time of the building of the dining hall are carved on the right-hand side of the dining hall staircase. This is not the coat of arms of Nicholas Ridley, from which the college’s own arms are derived. Bishop Ridley’s coat of arms has a bull, while the later family coat of arms (as here) has hawks.

Dining Room Portraits

The oil paintings are on the BBC’s Your Paintings website, except the portrait of Mrs Rebecca Frances Robinson, which is on the Art UK website.

Frances Rebecca Robinson (née Hodgson), a founding benefactor of the college. She paid for the entrance archway and tower in memory of her husband, the Revd Disney Robinson, formerly of St John’s College and Vicar of Woolley in Yorkshire. Mrs Robinson gave £1,000 for the building, in addition to a further £1,766 in railway stocks to the College’s general funds. Oil on canvas by Francis Calcraft Turner (c.1772–1846), on loan from the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery.

Charles Perry (1807–1891), first Bishop of Melbourne, Australia 1847–74, a vice-president of the CMS and first Chairman of the Ridley Hall council. A graduate of Trinity College; painted by Henry Weigall (1829–1895). The painting was left to Ridley Hall under the terms of the Bishop’s will in 1893.

Handley Moule, (1841–1920), first Principal of Ridley Hall, 1881–99, later Bishop of Durham, came from a clerical family in Dorset. He was a graduate of Trinity College, where he was Senior Dean before accepting the Principalship of Ridley. He was briefly Norrisian Professor of Divinity at Cambridge before becoming Bishop of Durham. Moule was also a prize-winning poet. The painting by Charles E Brock (1870– 1938), given in 1897 by subscription on Dr Moule’s departure.

Thomas Wortley Drury (1847–1926), second Principal of Ridley Hall 1899–1907, later Bishop of Sodor and Man, then of Ripon, and Master of St Catherine’s College. A graduate of Christ’s College, and Principal of the Church Missionary Society College at Islington before coming to Ridley. Painting by Charles E Brock (1870–1938). Given by subscription on Drury’s departure in 1907 (along with a ‘most handsome’ dog cart)

Sydney Gedge (1829–1923), politician and one of the original four Trustees of Ridley Hall and Wycliffe in Oxford and a member of the Ridley Council. Sydney Gedge was a graduate of Corpus Christi; a solicitor; MP for Stockport and Walsall; licensed preacher and Chairman of the CMS Committee for many years. Painting by Hope. Painting dated 1899; given to Ridley by Gedge’s executors after his death in 1923.

Arthur J Tait, (1872–1944), third Principal of Ridley Hall 1908–27. A graduate of St John’s College and Ridley Hall (1894–96). From 1901 Principal of St Aidan’s College, Birkenhead. The last major building project, G & H staircases, took place in his Principalship. Also, during the First World War a company of officer cadets occupied the Hall, leaving only ‘A’ staircase for the depleted body Ridley students, whose numbers were down to single figures. Painting by Kenneth Green (1905–1986). Presented by the students on Tait’s departure in 1927.

John PSR Gibson (1880–?), fourth Principal of Ridley Hall 1927–45. Ahead of his time, Gibson was a strong advocate of the ordination of women to the priesthood; he gave a speech on the subject in 1933. In 1940 he invited the CMS women trainees to come to Ridley for the duration of the War after their institute in Kent was bombed. Painting by Alexander Christie (1901–1946). Presented on Gibson’s departure in 1945. The frame is 18th-century.

Graham Cray, Principal Ridley Hall 1992–2001. Painting by Richard Noble (former Bursar Ridley Hall). Graham Cray later became the Bishop of Maidstone, and in 2009 was appointed to lead the Archbishops’ Fresh Expressions team.

5. Chapel

The Chapel

Charles Luck’s original intention had been to build the chapel next to the Principal’s lodge. It would therefore have been filling the space now intended for the new building. This design is shown in an early sketch of the projected buildings:

It was decided, however, not to have a chapel at first. For the first decade, weekday services were held in the lecture hall, and on Sundays the students went to their college chapels. Over the course of time opinion about the desirability of having a chapel changed, and the current chapel was built in 1891 and dedicated in early 1892. The architect was Mr William Wallace, of Old Bond St, London, as Mr Luck had since died. E & F staircases were built in 1891, with Mr Wallace as architect. The chapel was dedicated – not consecrated – in 1892. The clock was paid for by ‘Friends at Malvern’ in memory of Handley Moule’s brief ministry there in summer 1889. The chapel was extended eastwards in 1914.

In the entrance to the chapel on the left-hand side is a drawing of the proposed elaborate scheme for the ceiling decoration; this was never carried out. Handley Moule’s handover notes to his successor Thomas Drury state that there had not been enough money to carry out the decoration. On the right hand side are plaques to alumni who died in the mission field, and facing the entrance are plaques to alumni who died in the two world Wars. Inside the chapel, on the right, are memorial plaques to the first three Principals of Ridley.

Pew Ends

The original pews had carved heads on the ends. Five of them have been preserved and are kept in storage at Ridley. Most were imaginary, although one is said to have represented Handley Moule wearing a crown.

Chapel Windows

The windows in the chapel were paid for by individual benefactors. They were painted by Mr RJ Newbery of London, and focus on the theme of teaching. The original sets of windows on the north and south sides represent leaders of the church, on the north side the early and medieval teachers, on the south side reformers. On both sides preference has been given to those who were translators or leading commentators on the Bible. In 1914 the extension of the chapel allowed for two extra windows, which were represent St James and St Stephen, respectively, embodying apostolic writing and evangelism. The windows in the gallery in the west end represent 18th and 19th century development of Anglicanism and the mission field.

The windows on the north and south sides had originally contained coloured glass surrounding the figures, which it was felt made the chapel too dark. In 1949 the coloured backgrounds were removed and replaced with clear glass. The new design was the work of Miss Joan Howson. The remains of the coloured background can still be seen around the base of the figures. Joan Howson (1885–1964) was a British stained glass artist of the Arts and Crafts movement. She trained at the Liverpool School of Art.

North Side: Teachers of the early and medieval church

From the chapel entrance to the altar:

  • Bede and Anselm (1892): Represents scholars of the Middle Ages. Donated by the Revd Henry Sykes, Ridley graduate, in memory of his mother and father
  • Jerome and Augustine (1892): Depicts Nicene and post-Nicene ages in the western church. Donated by Mrs Morton, widow of CJ Morton, and friends of Henry de la Mothe in memory of the two men, members of the Hall who had died early.
  • Athanasius and Chrysostom (1892): Nicene and post-Nicene ages in the eastern church. Donated by C Baring Young, son of an early major donor, and a member of the Ridley Hall Council.
  • Irenaeus and Origen (1892): The ante-Nicene church, west and east. Donated by Mrs WH Elliott in memory of her son. She was a relative of the Moules.
  • St James (1914): Depicts ministry and apostolic writing. Donated by Mr & Mrs Tait (3rd Principal) in memory of Mrs Drury (Mrs Tait’s mother)

Central east window:

Figure of Christ taken from ‘On the Road to Emmaus’ by Victorian painter James Sant; the four apostles representing New Testament teaching. The text under the figure of Christ (Luke 24:53) was chosen by the chapel’s main donor. The window was given by Horace Petter in memory of his father, GW Petter, a publisher. Horace Petter was the younger brother of Ridley alumnus William Petter (Ry 1885–86). William Petter was vicar of All Souls’ Child’s Hill, in north London for over 40 years.

South side: Reformers

From the altar to the entrance:

  • Wycliffe and Tyndale (1892): The English Bible. Donated by the Revd GA Schneider, Vice-principal, in memory of his mother
  • Luther and Melanchthon* (1892): The Continental Reformation. Donated by the Revd Handley Moule and his brother in memory of their parents
  • Cranmer and Ridley (1892): English Reformation. Donated by Mrs Perry in memory of her husband Bp Charles Perry
  • Hooker and Herbert (1892): Anglicanism. Donated by Sydney Gedge MP, Trustee of Ridley in memory of his parents
  • St Stephen (1914): Evangelistic work. Donated by Mrs Florence Philips, daughter of Mr William Cruddas in memory of Mr Cruddas, a Victorian philanthropist and MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who had died in 1912

* There had been some discussion as to whether to have Calvin rather than Melanchthon, but it was decided that as the two were so closely associated in life, it was more appropriate to have Melanchthon.

West end (gallery)

These windows, all dated from 1897, represent 18th and 19th-century Anglicanism and the mission field.

  • Archbishop Leighton and Bishop Butler: Stuart and 18th-century Anglicanism. Donated by the Revd GA Schneider, Vice-principal, in memory of his father
  • Charles Simeon and Bishop Lightfoot: Evangelical Revival and ‘Modern’ Theology. Also donated by Revd GA Schneider in memory of his father
Small quatrefoils:

Left to right:

  • Samuel Marsden (1764–1838): Mission to Australasia.
  • Johann Ludwig Krapf (1810–81 German missionary): Mission to Africa
  • Henry Martyn (1781–1812): Mission to Asia
  • Bp John Horden (1828–93): Mission to North America

It is not clear in the sources whether the quatrefoils were also paid for by GA Schneider.


The organ was donated in 1902 by an alumnus, Revd the Hon O.St. M. Forester (Ry 1900).

Behind the chapel

Behind the chapel, on the college wall by the bicycle sheds there is a small plaque marking the spot where students used to climb over the wall back into college late at night in the days when the main gate was locked by the porter in the evenings. A pamphlet of College rules, dated 1896, states that ‘the gate is finally closed at 11pm each night, by which time all Students must be within the building’. The 1904 rules add ‘Other ways of entrance and exit are strictly prohibited’.

The plaque quotes from “Oft in the Stilly Night”, a poem by the early-19th-century Irish poet Thomas Moore, and reads:

"Oft in the stilly night"....
....And departing leave behind us
footprints in the sands of time,
footprints that perhaps another....

The plaque is dated Advent 1932.

6. E & F staircases

E & F staircases

E & F staircases were designed by Ridley’s second architect, Mr William Wallace, who also designed the chapel. They were built at the same time as the chapel, in 1897. The growth in numbers of students necessitated new accommodation to add to the 20 set of rooms already established; in October 1889 there had been a record 37 students.

E & F staircases were extended and refurbished in 2002 to open up the attic space and provide en-suite bedrooms. The 2m appeal benefitted from grants from a number of trusts and foundations, and donations from other Cambridge colleges, parishes and over 270 individual supporters.

7. G & H staircases

G & H Staircases

G & H were built 20 years later, in 1912. The number of students had reached 50 in that year. The building’s architect was Mr Wallace. NB: The coat of arms on the outside of the building was mistakenly thought to be the arms of Bishop Nicholas Ridley. It is in fact the arms of a later branch of the Ridley family. Ridley Hall’s coat of arms was taken from Nicholas Ridley’s coat of arms, which had been engraved on the tower in 1879. The inscription on G & H was written by Handley Moule, then Bishop of Durham. The carvings are: an owl and a fox and a serpent and dove. The former were chosen by the mason, and the latter by the Principal, Arthur Tait, to indicate that the occupants were to be ‘as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves’.

8. The precincts and ‘Moule Hole’

The precincts and ‘Moule Hole’

These were built in 1984–85 to meet the need for accommodation for married students, during the Principalship of Hugo De Waal. Over £250,000 was raised from trusts and individuals to pay for the buildings, which are on the site of the former kitchen garden. The Moule Hole is used as an extra student common room, and as a crèche area by the spouses’ club, SPICE.

Image of Ridley Hall from the 19th century
Ridley Hall, from Sidgwick Avenue, by Francis Frith (1822-1898) By kind permission of Cambridgeshire Archives reference 544/1/22