Build This House

ComposerMichael Berkeley

Performed by: Milton Road Primary School Choir led by Choir Leaders Anna-Louise Lawrence and Becky Sharp, and the Choristers of King’s College conducted by Stephen Cleobury.

Location: This piece and its historical context are closely linked with King's College, University of Cambridge, CB2 1ST.

This audio file is a recording & edit by Historyworks:


Hearken unto me, you Holy Children
Hearken, Hearken, Hearken, Hearken
Sing a Song of Praise
Bless the Lord in all his Works.
Blessed be the Lord God of our Fathers
Who hath put such a thing into the King's heart
To build this house,
And set up an Holy Temple to the Lord.
Hearken, Hearken, Hearken, Hearken
Hearken unto me ye Holy Children
Hearken, Hearken, Hearken, Hearken.

Historical Context:

On the 25th March 1441, King Henry the Sixth (1421-1471) laid the foundation stone for  what was then called the King's College of Our Lady and St Nicolas, more commonly known today as King's College. This was the first of many steps towards creating the College that currently exists. The history of how King's College came to be as it is today is one that spans many centuries, monarchs, and architects.

Located north of the current college, between the Chapel and Senate House Passage, was the original site where Henry VI laid the foundation stone for King's College. The King envisioned this to be part of a larger complex, requiring the surrounding land and property to make way for an accompanying Chapel. The area that the King intended to develop contained the parish church of St. John Zachary and was densely covered by shops, houses and hostels. All of these were granted to the King in 1445 by the Mayor. This also included the common land beside the river, the Salt Hythe quay, and a number of private properties. Only one individual, a draper who owned two properties within this area, was able to delay the purchase of his property until 1452, when he finally sold them for a higher price.

Although contemporary building-accounts no longer exist, the Chapel’s first stone is believed to have been laid at the Altar by the King on St. James' Day (25th July), 1446. The chapel was the only part of the design for King's College that was carried out during the reign of King Henry VI, but it was not ready for use until at least half a century after his death. Identifiable by its white colour, the limestone masonry provides a visual indication of how work stalled on the chapel as a darker sandstone, visible above it, was used later to complete the structure.

In commissioning the plans for King’s College and acquiring the land required for its construction, King Henry VI began a process that transformed Cambridge, moved the townspeople and their trades from along the river, creating the backs and the quads and gardens along the river.  For this song on the app, we have called it “Build This House” to marvel at the passage of time and the lives and deaths of those who have experienced Cambridge. In 1728 Maurice Greene composed a piece entitled ‘Hearken Unto Me Ye Holy Children’ to be performed as part of the the Founder’s Day service which takes place each year on the 25th March, and this forms the basis for the lyrics of Michael Berkeley’s composition.

Image by Frederick L. Greggs.

To find out more about the history that has inspired this composition and its lyrics you can visit the Historyworks website.

See below a fun film showing the route and the process of the Cycle of Songs journey: 

Note for children: listen to the sound of the flute to learn the melody for your part in this song - Jon Calver has kindly made this special track to help you learn your part - so please don't be put off to hear just a flute instead of a voice!

King's College

Build This House


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