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Visiting Bredon House, at Wolfson College, Cambridge, England: 1914 design by architect Harry Redfern

Updated on July 2, 2014
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Bredon House, Wolfson College, Cambridge
Bredon House, Wolfson College, Cambridge | Source
Crest of Wolfson College, Cambridge
Crest of Wolfson College, Cambridge | Source
Cambridgeshire map
Cambridgeshire map | Source

From a comfortable English house to a thriving Cambridge college

Bredon House was the work of architect Harry Redfern (1) in 1914, the year when pre-World War One English life was changed for ever by a mighty conflict, the effects of which are still felt.

From the house, executed in clean, red brick, one receives a strong sense of quiet comfort on the edge of the English countryside. There are arguably hints of different styles being eclectically incorporated into the design, without these becoming pronounced or preponderant. The roof tiles and the windows set in the roof almost suggest an Arts and Crafts hanging tile format. The frontage gives a hint of Mock Tudor in the vertical boards below the upper storey's central window.

The property was built for Cambridge Professor of Zoology John Stanley Gardiner (1872-1946), who served in that capacity 1909-1937; he was also a distinguished oceanographer, and notably prepared the Great Barrier Reef Expedition of 1928-29.

Wolfson College was founded in 1965 by the University of Cambridge as a graduate college by the name of University College. It was renamed Wolfson College in 1973, and Bredon House was incorporated into the East Wing by Ferry and Mennim in that practice's East and West Court complex in a traditional Cambridge college layout. Tim Rawle has commented that, in his view, the manner of blending old and new architecture has been both 'sensibly handled', though 'harsh in places' (1).

Bredon House is not actually the oldest property belonging to Wolfson College. In fact, 10 Selwyn Gardens was acquired subsequently following the Wolfson benefaction, dates from circa 1890.

Bredon House is situated in the College's Eastern Court. The formal entrance to the College's Courts off Barton Road includes striking 'gate guardians' in the shape of lions.

Wolfson College is designed for students and scholars aged over 21. Since 2010 the President of the College has been Professor Richard J. Evans, Regius Professor (i.e., a Crown appointment ) of Modern History in the University of Cambridge. Prominent, past Presidents of the College have included broadcaster John Tusa.

Wolfson College is named for businessman Sir Isaac Wolfson (1897-1961) whose philanthropic trust funds endowed many causes.


(1) Harry Redfern was also responsible for the property at 6 Adams Road, dating from 1913; this house has been acquired by Robinson College.

(2) Tim Rawle, Cambridge Architecture, London Trefoil Books, 1985, p. 162.

Also worth visiting

In Cambridge itself, some of the well-known, older Colleges include King's, Queens', Clare, Trinity, and St. John's: all of these back onto the aptly named Backs, on the Cam River.

Ely (distance: 26 kilometres) impressive Cathedral, known as 'the Ship of the Fens', has loomed over its very flat area of Cambridgeshire for centuries.


How to get there

United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Rail services link Cambridge with London's Liverpool Street and St Pancras railroad stations. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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