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Merton Hall - School of Pythagoras

Merton Hall / School of Pythagoras, Northampton Street

History of Merton Hall or the School of Pythagoras

Merton Hall – School of Pythagoras

Merton Hall Plan

Royal Commission Survey of Cambridge 1959: the building is L-shaped and so orientated that the external angle points due S; in accordance with the precedent of a contract of 1374, in the following account the wings are described as if extending due E and due N.

Merton Hall

In 1271 Richard Dunning conveyed the house to Merton College and in deeds of 1270 relating to the transfer it is described as the stone house in which Eustace, father of Richard Dunning, formerly dwelt. It consisted of a Hall raised on a vaulted Undercroft, comprising the present E wine of c. 1200; the hall fireplace being well to the E suggests, on the analogy of Boothby panel manor, Line., that space for a solar was left at the W end, but the architectural evidence, so far as it is ascertainable in the present damaged state of the stonework, shows that the NW return is also an original feature. In the following account the last is called, without prejudice, the Solar Wing. In 1374 an agreement was made with Adam Mathie and John Meppushal, masons, to rebut the W wall and a length of 18ft of the S wall from the foundations to the height of the old walls, to build four buttresses, two being at the angles and two according to the usage and discretions of masons, and to rebuild the broken vault, the door (‘hostium’) under the vault and the steps leading up to the hall (‘aula’), in all the sum of £30 13s. 4d. the stone house was in disrepair in the 16th cent. and suffered much destruction in the 18th the 19th cents. the piers and vault of the undercroft have been almost entirely;y destroyed and the hopped roof of the hall is of the 19th cent. The North Wing, in extension of the Solar Wing, was built in the 16th cent. and lengthened in the second half of the 17th cent. The interior has been altered and modernised and the plaster stripped from the outside of the 16th cent wall to reveal the timbers.

School of Pythagoras, 1783

Merton Hall of c. 1200 though much damaged and in part rebuilt is important as one of the few domestic buildings of so early a period surviving in this country. Only about a dozen houses of the kind remain in town and country, all more or less altered.

Merton Hall

This was the legendary birth-place of Cambridge University. In the Supplement to Ingulph’s History of Croyland Abbey is the story that after a serious fire at the abbey, the abbot sent monks to raise money for rebuilding. They came to Cambridge and like it so much that they stayed and started teaching.

The legendary birth-place of Cambridge University, from Leaflets of Local Lore by Urbs Camboritum (Cambs Collection)


George Smith Cunningham, 39, dentist, b Scotland

George Cunningham practised at 2 King’s Parade. He is considered to have been one of the greatest dental surgeons of his time. He produced a report into the disease affecting those in the match trade known as ‘Phossy Jaw”. He developed a new system of preventing decay in the teeth of children. He died after a short illness after collapsing in London in March 1918. It is not known whether this was influenza related. He was an expert skater and also fluent in Esperanto.


George Cunningham, dentist

School of Pythagoras, date unknown


George Cunningham, dentist




3rd Baron Rothschild

The Lord Rothschild Nathaniel M Victor, b 1910, Ministry of Supply and Scientist (Chief Air Raid Warden Borough of Cambridge)

Barbara Judith Hutchinson, Lady Rothschild

The Lady Rothschild Barbara Judith Victor (nee Hutchinson), b 1911

St John Hutchinson

St John Hutchinson, b 1884, King’s Councel and Barrister

Mary Hutchinson, b 1889

Jeremy N Hutchinson

Jeremy N Hutchinson, b 1915, barrister (RNVR London Division)

John B Hayward, b 1905, author and literary journalist

Robert W Stanners, b 1889, university lecturer (Deputy Chief Air Raid Warden)

Algernon Wagstaff, b 1890, butler


Kathleen Magrath, b 1910, lady’s maid

Elsie May Brown, b 1905, housemaid


Lord Rothschild

The Rothschilds moved out in this year




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