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History | Michaelhouse Centre | The University Church, Cambridge History – Michaelhouse Centre
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History

An ancient church building with its roots in the 11th Century, years of fascinating history and now a vibrant café and community centre with a contemporary feel. How did all that happen?

It is likely that there was a church on this site in the 11th Century.

In 1324 Hervey de Stanton, Chancellor of England and Lord Chief Justice, founded Michaelhouse College and immediately ordered the rebuilding of St Michael’s church, in the decorated style.  Hervey de Stanton died a year later and was buried in the then unfinished chancel.

The Master of Michaelhouse College had been installed as Vicar; the college used the south chancel aisle for its chapel and Gonville Hall used the north aisle.

Two centuries later the Master of Michaelhouse and Chancellor of the University, John Fisher, opposed the reformist measures of Henry VIII, an opposition which later led to his execution. Henry’s reforms included Michaelhouse and King’s Hall in the Dissolution of the monasteries, and their lands were combined for the building of the magnificent Trinity College.

For nearly 350 years St Michael’s continued as a parish church, and in 1908 was merged with Great St Mary’s. In the mid-1960’s the interior was converted to serve as a church hall for the parish. Though expensive, the conversion was not successful; critics thought it detracted greatly from the 14th century church while also being expensive to maintain.

A small wooden door in the corner of the entrance hall provides access to what was once a set of four bells and a ringing chamber. The bells were removed in 1951 and the tower is now not accessible to the public.

In 2000 work started on a second major conversion, seeking better to honour the fine historic building and with the aim of serving the wider community while sustaining itself financially. The conversion cost £1.3 million and the Michaelhouse Centre (full name The Michaelhouse Centre Cambridge Limited) opened its doors in November 2002.

Michaelhouse’s founding charter states its main objectives as being to advance the Christian faith, and to advance education particularly in the arts. Michaelhouse has become a trendsetter and remains one of very few ‘conversions’ where regular daily services are still performed

We are a registered charity (number 1068472) and operate under a licence granted by Great St Mary’s. It remains a fully consecrated building. The trustees are drawn from Great St Mary’s and other churches and denominations in Cambridge. The Michaelhouse Friends, an enthusiastic body of people, sponsor activities and provide active support.