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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


It’s 75 years since it became part of the University of Cambridge, but Madingley Hall has thrived through continual reinvention across six centuries. Inside ICE take a whirlwind tour of the Hall’s past lives before peeking into its possible future.

While Madingley Hall has been in University hands since 1948, its origins date back another 400 years, when John Hynde began building what we know of today as the east and south wings, likely as a spectacular hunting lodge. Fast forward to 1756, and you’ll find worldfamous landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown at work, replacing the formal, Dutch-style garden with his trademark naturalistic, rolling parkland setting.

In 1861, Madingley briefly became the grandest of student digs when Queen Victoria rented the Hall as a residence for her son, the future King Edward VII, while he studied at the University. Sadly, the royal stay was curtailed by the sudden death of Edward’s father, Prince Albert.

After the Second World War, the University purchased the Hall from the Harding family – a portrait of Colonel Walter Harding still hangs in the firstfloor gallery – and set about a programme of building and landscaping that remains at its heart today. The estate was initially used as a postdoctoral hall of residence in the 1950s and 60s before being repurposed for adult education in the mid-1970s.

ICE comes to Madingley

“The purchase agreement covered houses, the church, the public house, the Hall and several hundred acres of land,” says Dr Jim Gazzard, Director of Continuing Education at ICE. “It became the home of the Board of Extra-Mural Studies [now ICE] in 1975, at a time when local and national governments were keen to fund residential learning for adults. But as nearly all our teaching took place in the regions, at first, the Hall was mainly used for administration.”

UCL historian, Prof. Mark Freeman, who is writing a book about ICE’s recent history, agrees that there was a growing emphasis on adult residential courses in the 1970s and highlights that there were other benefits of using such a grand setting. “Madingley Hall was the right size and a very attractive place for students, especially in an age of growing car ownership,” says Mark.

“It provided an opportunity to give the Board of Extra-Mural Studies a college feel, with Latin grace, and formal dinners. They put on string quartet concerts for the public in the summer, and the old buildings and extensive gardens helped Madingley Hall offer a Cambridge experience that students seemed to enjoy.”

Today, as well as being in regular use for ICE courses, Madingley Hall is part of the community, used for events and learning by organisations such as the NHS, rehearsals and public recitals by arts groups like the Lucy Cavendish Singers, and as a B&B, restaurant and wedding venue by families and individuals.

There are also suggested walking and running routes for the visitors who enjoy the gardens and estate each year. The estate walk, for instance, leads to the Cambridge American Cemetery, sited on 30 acres of land from the Madingley estate gifted by the University to the US people in honour of the country’s World War II servicemen. It includes over 3,800 headstones and a Wall of the Missing listing more than 5,100 servicepeople.

Stewardship of society’s heritage

An experienced team look after the dayto-day operations and upkeep of the Hall environment. “When you have a building as steeped in history as this, you’re trying to pass it on to the next generation in a better condition than you found it,” says Jim. “We have an excellent, dedicated team of stewards here, including our Head Gardener, Richard Gant, and General Manager, Rob Clarke. They’re custodians of a place that, over almost 500 years, has constantly evolved.”

That sense of renewal is infused within the fabric of the building itself, as architectural historian and Course Director of ICE’s Architecture apprenticeship, Dr Timothy BrittainCatlin, points out. “It’s a fascinating case study in endlessly remodelling historic buildings, and that’s a very important lesson for all architects,” says Timothy. “Madingley Hall has been remodelled about five times, so it’s a fantastic example for educating architects about working with the historic environment. It’s generally better if you can remodel something and not rebuild it.”

Continuing the reinvention

In his role as the Institute’s Director of Continuing Education, Jim agrees that a sustainable approach will help Madingley continue to prosper through its future incarnations. “We hold the NUS Green Impact Platinum award, but there’s much more we need to do ensure a sustainable building that’s fit for the challenges ahead,” he says, speaking in terms of both environmental and social responsibility.

“A big question for us is ‘How do we share this with the community?’ The next iteration of Madingley has to be about lowering the walls further to give local people a greater sense of belonging and ownership and inspiring young people to want to ensure the building’s prosperity.”

The public value of making the Hall more open and accessible was made plain during the pandemic lockdowns when it was used as a restorative living space by exhausted doctors and nurses working long hours at nearby Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The gardens also became a green oasis for people and a new outdoor café evolved into a meeting place for cycle clubs and walkers, among others.

“This is an environment that people really want to be in, and we’ve got to encourage that,” concludes James. “I hope we can get more people involved in looking ahead to define what they want from Madingley Hall.”

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