When institutions tear down their walls to make renovations, you’d be shocked to hear how many times they find a piece of history hiding there. For example, one school ripped down their white boards to install state-of-the-art smart boards when they found a history lesson from nearly 100 years ago. What an unexpected treat.
When Cambridge University in England tore apart their building, they discovered something similar. History was living behind the walls. Never could they have guessed that a treasure trove of artifacts was in such close proximity to the historians and collectors who would want them.
A maintenance crew renovating part of Selwyn College, a Cambridge University college founded in 1882, tore down the walls and uncovered an area known as a “gyp.” This was a small room used to house servants who would prepare tea and toast for the ultra-wealthy students every morning. But what was in this gyp had historians going bonkers. Check it out now!
Behinds the wall, the gyp had a Victorian-era cooking stove made out of solid iron. Besides the cooking appliance, which itself is a huge find for historians, they discovered a stash of postcards, letters, and collectable cigarette cards – all which belonged to a poor servant more than a hundred years ago.
When the maintenance workers first saw what they found, they examined the postcards. The dates on them were marked between 1912 and 1916. They were shocked. THIS is what life was like at Selwyn College one hundred years ago…
Part of the collection included images of the Selwyn College chapel at the time – which looked like a gorgeous worship space. This gave the find additional historic value and promise.
The maintenance manager at the college was astonished by the find. Not only because it was old, but because that very room had been refurbished twice in recent years.
The college’s maintenance manager, Doug Benzie, told reporters: “Some of my guys were stripping out the old wooden panels in one of the kitchens, and they called me to say you wouldn’t believe what we found.”
With the evidence in their collection, the Selwyn archivists has begun the search to discover who the cigarette cards and items belonged to.
To start that search, the archivist is contacting the descendants of those who occupied the rooms during those years. This takes a lot of effort and she hopes to uncover some kind of mystery or event that went down at Selwyn College more than 100 years ago.
According to the school’s website: “The College opened in time for the beginning of the academic year in 1882, when 28 undergraduates were admitted. The teaching staff comprised the Master, the Tutor and one non-resident lecturer… The College was one of the first in Cambridge to go mixed, admitting women in 1976. More expansion took place in the 2000s with two phases of development based on a new court, Ann’s Court, named after Ann Dobson – Chris and Ann Dobson providing almost all of the funding for this development.”
Besides the search for a human connection, the school has plans to display the stove and a selection of cards and letters to educate people about the school’s history and entice new students to enroll.
Do you think such a history would make prospective students want to attend the school?
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