The Third Court was built in two stages. The old College Library, which forms the north range, was built in 1624. The west and south ranges followed in 1669-72 when the College had recovered from the Civil War, during which it had suffered at first from being a Royalist institution in a largely Parliamentary city.
Features to notice:
- the Library was the gift of John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. He determined that the style of architecture should be traditional, even old fashioned for its time, so that it is almost an early example of Gothic Revival. It has a fine window facing the river, over which John Williams's Latin initials can be seen: ILCS, standing for Iohannes Lincolniensis Custos Sigilli, John of Lincoln, Lord Keeper of the Seal.
- the ingenious architectural device of a great window with nothing behind it, used to hide the join between the Library and the cloistered range built along the river bank in the early 1670s, and to ensure that the western end of the Library still benefited from south light.
Through the round-headed door in the south range, which was the back entrance to the College from 1672 until 1831, is a small courtyard to the left, which in the summer forms part of the modern College cafeteria, and on the right the 'Kitchen Bridge' across the river Cam. From here there is a good view of the Bridge of Sighs to the north, and, to the west and south, New Court and the St John's and Trinity College 'Backs', the name traditionally given to the lawns and gardens of the Colleges to the west of the river.