Cambridge 2000: university: Trumpington Street: Fitzwilliam Museum

Description: university: Trumpington Street: Fitzwilliam Museum
Date built: 1837-1845; 1846-1847; 1870-1875
Architect: George Basevi; C.R. Cockerell; E.M. Barry
university: Trumpington Street: Fitzwilliam Museum (George Basevi, C.R. Cockerell, E.M. Barry) map for university: Trumpington Street: Fitzwilliam Museum
Date photograph taken: 06 Apr 2000 (Alternative map: Google map)

A monumental building and one of the treasures of Cambridge, with the interior as rich as the exterior.

Richard the 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam left his extensive art collection and 100000 pounds to the university when he died in 1816. The collection was originally housed on the New Museums Site. The university acquired the current site from Peterhouse in 1821 but because of existing leases could do nothing until a competition was held in 1834, which Basevi won in 1835. Even then it took over ten years until the present museum opened.

Basevi died in 1845 falling from the west tower of Ely Cathedral. At that point most of the exterior had been done. C.R. Cockerell (1846-1847) and much later, after sufficient funds had been raised, E.M. Barry (1870-1875) finished the original wing of the building, including modifying the main door.

There are two sets of lions on either side of the main portico, the left pair just visible in the photograph. These were sculpted by William Grinsell Nicholl, who was also responsible for the capitals on the Corinthian columns and also, more significantly, the sculpture on the pediment (representing the nine Muses).

The collection itself is eclectic, although not in the same class as the best museums in London, and in some ways overshadowed by the rich Victorian decoration (restored in 1999-2001) of the interior of this part of the museum.

The rear provides another interesting view.

There have been many extensions over the years, including three by Dunbar Smith and C.C. Brewer, one by David Roberts (largely hidden from the outside world) and one by David Roberts and Geoffrey Clarke.

In 2002-2004 an inner courtyard was covered over and converted to office and exhibition space, meeting rooms, a gift shop and restaurant.

In 2014 the black iron railings and gates were repainted the once again trendy green, with gold finials.

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