Wesley House in the 1950s

The Revd Dr Brian E Beck

I came to Wesley House as a graduate student in 1955 and left in 1957. I returned for the Michaelmas Term in 1966 while on furlough from Kenya, particularly to improve my liturgical studies. In 1968 I came as Tutor and in 1980 became Principal. I left in 1984. These recollections relate almost entirely to the 1950s.

The Buildings

It may be helpful to identify the uses to which the 1920s building was put at the time. There were two tall Victorian terraced houses on Jesus Lane at the western end of the property which were demolished when the Rank Building (now Jesus College West Court) was put up...

Teaching

All students, unless already Cambridge graduates, were matriculated as members of Fitzwilliam College (at the time still ‘Fitzwilliam House’). All sat for the Theology Tripos, Part II only if already graduates, Parts I and II if a non-graduate (one such had to be admitted each year)...

Preaching

All students preached about three times a term in local churches (some at quite a distance) on the college plan made by the student Plan Secretary.  They were always ‘doubles’ and often required an overnight stay of one or two nights with church members. Such hospitality, though doubtless well-meaning, tended to be variable...

Daily life

The 1950s were still experiencing the effects of war and some items of food were still rationed. One collected one’s allocation of butter and sugar each week from the kitchens. By comparison with colleges in the University however life was rather spartan. Central heating was never turned on until October 15 and turned off again at a fixed date in the spring...

Worship

Attendance at chapel was obligatory. Legend was that if you missed morning chapel the Principal would come round with a thermometer, assuming you were ill! On Wednesday mornings there were no college prayers as Meth Soc gathered  for prayers at 7.30am...

The Common Room

The student body organised its own common life. Meetings generally took place twice a term with elections annually for the four officers, Chairman, Secretary, Plan Secretary and Treasurer. At this period the badges of office were hats of different style, ‘holy joe’, bowler, trilby, baseball cap, passed on from generation to generation...

Wesley House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, CB5 8BJ

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