Charles Cockerell: Designs for Cambridge University Library

Scope and Content

[1] 65 drawings: (1-4) first competition, 1829; (5) study for the third competition, 1835; (6-64) plans, elevations, sections of design for the whole library and north wing, and details of the north wing construction and furnishings, c.1836; (65) perspective of the proposed south front with portico; and (1a-f) 6 letters to John Willis Clark from M.M. Cockerell, widow of Frederick Pepys Cockerell, and J.E. Goodchild, clerk in C.R. Cockerell's office (1884), arranging to show drawings for the University Library and Fitzwilliam Museum.

[2] 43 drawings, 1836-40: (1-5) a set of plans for the whole library; (6-43) plans, elevations, sections and details of the north wing, and many copies of contract plans.

[3] 45 drawings, c.1837: (44-88) plans, elevations, and sections and details of the north wing.

[4] 67 drawings: c.1829-39: (1) M.R. James, Fitzwilliam Museum, to H.G. Aldis, University Library, 26 March 1907, presenting drawings, sent c.1900 by Mrs. Cockerell to J.W. Clark; (2-4) plan, drawing of Old Schools east facade (possibly a pre-Cockerell drawing), and perspectives of the existing library; (6-12) plans, elevations and sections for the first competition, 1829; (13-16) second design, plans, aerial perspective, and sections for the first competition; (17-19) variant scheme, c.1829-30; (20-31) plans, elevations, sections and perspective for the second competition, 1830; (32-33) plans, c.1831; (34-38) various plans and elevations, c.1835; (39-43) plans, elevations and perspective for the third competition, 1835-36; (44-59) plans, elevations and sections for the whole library, c.1837; and (60-68) elevations and details for the north wing, 1837-39.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1829 a competition was held for a new Cambridge University Library on the site of the Old Schools and existing Library. The designs of Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863) were selected in preference to those of Decimus Burton, William Wilkins and Rickman and Hutchinson. Cockerell also submitted a more ambitious proposal. This, and the scale of the proposed work, led to a second competition, 1830, won by Rickman and Hutchinson. There was a pamphlet war over the proposals, 1831-35. A third competition, 1836, was won by Cockerell. The north range (the Cockerell Building, now Gonville and Caius College Library) was begun in 1837 and completed in 1842. Cockerell produced other schemes for a complete rebuilding, but the north range was the only part executed.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented to the Library by Mrs. F.P. Cockerell, per J.W. Clark, 1887 (MS.Add.9272/1-3) and c.1900 (MS.Add.9272/4); transferred from the Rare Books Department, 1994.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Summary Catalogue.

Custodial History

The collection was formerly placed by the Library in class Tab.a.2-5, but was never catalogued there.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds other drawings, MS.Add.6630, consisting mostly of rough sketches, c.1829-37, and the estimate and observations in the first competition, 1829. These were presented to the Library by Mrs. Noel, C.R. Cockerell's granddaughter, 1930.


For a description of these drawings, especially MS.Add.9272/4, see David Watkin, 'Newly discovered drawings by C. R. Cockerell for Cambridge University Library', Architectural History, 26: 1983, a copy of which can be found with MS.Add.9272/4.