Newgrave College is the nineteenth founded college of the University of Aldergate.
Neogravians have about the same reputation among Aldergatians that Aldergatians have with the Daily Mirror – that is to say, they’re a bunch of self-satisfied, self-aggrandizing maniacs who would set light to their own grandmothers to prove a pet theory about grandmaternal combustion.
Among Newgrave’s admittedly lengthy list of notable alumni is the late Sir Reginald Cardew, 50th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aldergate.
Ironically – or perhaps predictably – Aldergate’s least-humble college had the humblest of origins. Literally, not euphemistically; in fact, the University’s decision in 1630 to open its doors to the plague victims who had been turned away by the University of Cambridge remains a point of historical pride. At the time, however, it appears to have been an entirely humanitarian act by Isaac Barnet, 27th Vice-Chancellor of the University.
Having led Aldergate through the rebuilding period following the Vail Calamity of 1622, Barnet appears to have viewed the plague outbreak as an opportunity for both penance and redemption. When the existing Colleges expressed reluctance to taking in the flood of stricken patients, he lobbied for the chartering of “Mercy College” – and, in anticipation of success, ordered the seizure of the merchant district north of Guildford to house the new arrivals.
Barnet himself succumbed to a sudden and unrelated illness mere weeks after the arrival of the first plague victims, and before a full complement of founding scholars had been assembled to complete the charter of Mercy College. His successor, however, shared Barnet’s vision of a new college (if not, perhaps, his motivation for creating it). The appointment of Isadora Barcourt, a Professor at Garton and Perse, suggests that Regent House wished to move past the relative political passiveness of the Barnet years – a promise which her tenure as VC thoroughly fulfilled.
Under Barcourt, the Plague District became a modern and better-ordered version of what Vail had once been: a laboratory for the expansion and application of medical learning. Unlike Vail, however, patient welfare appears to have been given at least token consideration. Survival rates far exceeded those seen elsewhere, though this was likely due predominantly to the strict standards of hygiene maintained at the insistence of the Guilders next door. Nevertheless, roughly one in five of Aldergate’s ailing guests ended up on the dissection table, then in the charnel kiln, and finally in a trench on the east bank of the Fay.
By the time the epidemic subsided and the matter of the new college was once more taken up, Regent House had thoroughly recovered from its charitable mood. However, agreeing to officialize the original charter resolved the question of responsibility for the now-deserted plague district. When the call for founding scholars was ordered, Barcourt immediately presented a pre-arranged slate composed largely of Gapers, Fitzies, and revanchist Vailies. Thus, Newgrave became the first college founded entirely in a spirit of superiority – a spirit that endures in the College of Empire to this day.
Newgrave College is an English Baroque love letter to Aldergatian exceptionalism.
The picture is from Hampton Court Palace, but it might as well be Newgrave Quad – just swap out the fountain for a marble statue of an armored Athena holding up an armillary sphere, and you’re there.