Pembroke College, Cambridge

Colleges of the University of Cambridge
Pembroke College
Full name The College or Hall of Valence Mary (commonly called Pembroke College) in the University of Cambridge
Founder Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke
Named after Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
Established 1347
Previously named Marie Valence Hall (1347-?)
Pembroke Hall (?–1856)
Master Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury
Undergraduates 442
Graduates 264
Sister college Queen's College, Oxford
Location Trumpington Street (map)
College website
JPC website
MCR website
Boat Club website

Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college is the third-oldest college of the university and has over seven hundred students and fellows. Physically, it is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its founding, as well as extensive gardens.

As of 2014 the college has a financial endowment of £67 million.[1] Pembroke has a level of academic performance among the highest of all the Cambridge colleges; in 2013, 2014 and 2016 Pembroke was placed second in the Tompkins Table.

Pembroke is home to the first chapel designed by Sir Christopher Wren and is one of the six Cambridge colleges to have educated a British prime minister, in Pembroke's case William Pitt the Younger. The college library, with a Victorian neo-gothic clock tower, is endowed with an original copy of the first encyclopaedia to contain printed diagrams.

The college's current master is Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury.


Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke (1303-1377) founded Pembroke College, Cambridge. Christmas Eve 1347, Edward III granted Marie de St Pol, widow of the Earl of Pembroke, the licence for the foundation of a new educational establishment in the young university at Cambridge. The Hall of Valence Mary ("Custos & Scolares Aule Valence Marie in Cantebrigg'"), as it was originally known, was thus founded to house a body of students and fellows.[2] The statutes were notable in that they both gave preference to students born in France who had already studied elsewhere in England, and that they required students to report fellow students if they indulged in excessive drinking or visited disreputable houses.

The college was later renamed Pembroke Hall, and finally became Pembroke College in 1856.

Marie was closely involved with College affairs in the thirty years up to her death in 1377. She seems to have been something of a disciplinarian: the original Foundation documents had strict penalties for drunkenness and lechery, required that all students’ debts were settled within two weeks of the end of term, and gave strict limits on numbers at graduation parties.

In 2015, the college received a bequest of £34 million from the estate of American inventor and Pembroke alumnus Ray Dolby, thought to be the largest single donation to a college in the history of Cambridge University.[3]


Old Court

Bird's eye view of Pembroke College, Cambridge by David Loggan, published in 1690.
The Gatehouse is the oldest in Cambridge, dating from the 14th century

The first buildings comprised a single court (now called Old Court) containing all the component parts of a college – chapel, hall, kitchen and buttery, master's lodgings, students' rooms – and the statutes provided for a manciple, a cook, a barber and a laundress. Both the founding of the college and the building of the city's first college Chapel (1355) required the grant of a papal bull.

The original court was the university's smallest at only 95 feet (29 m) by 55 feet (17 m), but was enlarged to its current size in the nineteenth century by demolishing the south range.

The college's gatehouse is the oldest in Cambridge.


Pembroke College chapel interior in September 2014
The Trumpington Street Façade with the College Chapel on the right, the first building to be built by Sir Christopher Wren
South Range of Ivy Court, 1870

The original Chapel now forms the Old Library and has a striking seventeenth-century plaster ceiling, designed by Henry Doogood, showing birds flying overhead. Around the Civil War, one of Pembroke's fellows and Chaplain to the future Charles I, Matthew Wren, was imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell. On his release after eighteen years, he fulfilled a promise by hiring his nephew Christopher Wren to build a great Chapel in his former college. The resulting Chapel was consecrated on St Matthew's Day, 1665, and the eastern end was extended by George Gilbert Scott in 1880, when it was consecrated on the Feast of the Annunciation.


The College gardens in Library Court

An increase in membership over the last 150 years saw a corresponding increase in building activity. The Hall was rebuilt in 1875–6 by Alfred Waterhouse after he had declared the medieval Hall unsafe. As well as the Hall, Waterhouse built a new range of rooms, Red Buildings (1871–72), in French Renaissance style, designed a new Master's Lodge on the site of Paschal Yard (1873, later to become N staircase), pulled down the old Lodge and the south range of Old Court to open a vista to the Chapel, and finally built a new Library (1877–78) in the continental Gothic style.

Waterhouse was dismissed as architect in 1878 and succeeded by George Gilbert Scott, who, after extending the Chapel, provided additional accommodation with the construction of New Court in 1881, with letters on a series of shields along the string course above the first floor spelling out the text from Psalm 127:1, "Nisi Dominus aedificat domum…" ("Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but vain that build it").

Building work continued into the 20th century with W. D. Caröe as architect. He added Pitt Building (M staircase) between Ivy Court and Waterhouse's Lodge, and extended New Court with the construction of O staircase on the other side of the Lodge. He linked his two buildings with an arched stone screen, Caröe Bridge, along Pembroke Street in a late Baroque style, the principal function of which was to act as a bridge by which undergraduates might cross the Master's forecourt at first-floor level from Pitt Building to New Court without leaving the College or trespassing in what was then the Fellows' Garden.

In 1926, as the Fellows had become increasingly disenchanted with Waterhouse's Hall, Maurice Webb was brought in to remove the open roof, put in a flat ceiling and add two storeys of sets above. The wall between the Hall and the Fellows' Parlour was taken down, and the latter made into a High Table dais. A new Senior Parlour was then created on the ground floor of Hitcham Building. The remodelling work was completed in 1949 when Murrary Easton replaced the Gothic tracery of the windows with a simpler design in the style of the medieval Hall.

In 1933 Maurice Webb built a new Master's Lodge in the south-east corner of the College gardens, on land acquired from Peterhouse in 1861. Following the war, further accommodation was created with the construction in 1957 of Orchard Building, so called because it stands on part of the Foundress's orchard. Finally, in a move to accommodate the majority of junior members on the College site rather than in hostels in the town, in the 1990s Eric Parry designed a new range of buildings on the site of the Master's Lodge, with a new Lodge at the west end. "Foundress Court" was opened in 1997 in celebration of the College's 650th Anniversary. In 2001 the Library was extended to the east and modified internally.


The Croquet Lawn in New Court, designed by George Gilbert Scott

Pembroke's enclosed grounds also house some gardens, sporting vegetation. Highlights include "The Orchard" (a patch of semi-wild ground in the centre of the college), an impressive row of Plane Trees and a bowling green, re-turfed in 1996, which is reputed to be among the oldest in continual use in Europe.

A panorama of Old Court showing the college's dining Hall, library and chapel.

Student life

Pembroke's boathouse

Pembroke College has both graduate and undergraduate students, termed Valencians, after the College's original name, and its recreational rooms named as "parlours" rather than the more standard "combination room". The undergraduate student body is represented by the Junior Parlour Committee (JPC). The graduate community is represented by the Graduate Parlour Committee (GPC). In March 2016, the Junior Parlour Committee was featured in national newspapers after it cancelled the theme of an "Around The World In 80 Days" dance party.[4][5][6][7]

There are many clubs and societies organised by the students of the college, such as the boat club Pembroke College Boat Club and the college's dramatic society the Pembroke Players, which has been made famous by alumni such as Peter Cook, Eric Idle, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Clive James and Bill Oddie and is now in its 60th year.

International programmes

Pembroke is the only Cambridge college to have an International Programmes Department, providing opportunities for international students to spend a semester (mid-January to mid-June), or part of the summer, in Cambridge. The Spring Semester Programme is a competitive programme for academically outstanding students who wish to follow a regular Cambridge degree course as fully matriculated members of the University. There are around thirty places each year.[8]

In the summer the College offers the eight-week Pembroke-King's Programme (PKP). As well as the academic content, trips are made to locales such as London, and the programme has a series of formal halls, which are described as "three-course candlelit meals" serving "interesting" fare in Pembroke's historic dining hall.[9] The Pembroke-King's Programme is also the programme for which the prestigious Thouron Prize is awarded, fully supporting nine American undergraduates from Harvard, Yale, and UPenn.[10]

People associated with Pembroke

See also: Category:Alumni of Pembroke College, Cambridge and List of Masters of Pembroke College, Cambridge
William Pitt the Younger, the youngest ever British Prime Minister and an alumnus of the College
Sir George Gabriel Stokes, Lucasian Professor, a mathematician and physicist at the College who made important contributions to fluid dynamics
Abba Eban, Israeli Foreign Minister and VP of the United Nations General Assembly, who studied Arabic and Hebrew as a Fellow at the College
Edmund Spenser, the English Elizabethan poet remembered for his epic poem The Faerie Queene
The statue of Roger Williams at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island
Name Birth Death Occupation
Lancelot Andrewes 1555 1626 Master, Dean of Westminster, Bishop of Chichester, Ely, Winchester
C.F. Andrews 1871 1940 Author and supporter of Indian Independence
David Armitage Bannerman 1886 1979 Ornithologist
John Bradford 1510 1550 Fellow, prebendary of St. Paul's, Martyr
Clive Betts 1950 British politician
Tim Brooke-Taylor 1940 Comedian
Marcus Buckingham 1966 Award-winning author and motivational speaker
William Burkitt 1650 1703 New Testament commentator, Vicar & Lecturer of Dedham, Essex
Roger Bushell 1910 1944 Leader of "The Great Escape"
"RAB" Butler 1902 1982 British politician
Peter Cook 1937 1995 Comedian
Jo Cox 1974 2016 British aid worker and politician.
Richard Crashaw c.1613 1649 Anglican cleric and later Catholic convert, poet associated with Metaphysical poets and religious poetry, Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge
William Crashaw 1572 1626 Appointed preacher at the Inner Temple, Anglican divine and poet, author of anti-Catholic tracts and pamphlets
Seamus Deane 1940 Novelist, poet and literary critic
Maurice Dobb 1900 1976 Economist
Ray Dolby 1933 2013 Inventor and bequests $52.6 Million to Pembroke[11]
C. H. Douglas 1879 1952 Engineer; pioneer of the Social Credit movement
Timothy Dudley-Smith 1926 Hymn writer and clergyman of the Church of England
Abba Eban 1915 2002 Statesman
Edward James Eliot 1758 1797 British politician
William Eliot, 2nd Earl of St Germans 1767 1845 British politician
Archibald Fargus 1878 1963 Cricketer, scholar, clergyman
Femi Fani-Kayode 1960 Former Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism
Ian Fleming 1935 Organic chemist, alumni, emeritus professor of the University of Cambridge and emeritus fellow
William Fowler 1911 1995 Nobel prize winner
Arthur Gilligan 1894 1976 England cricket captain
Alexander Grantham 1899 1978 Governor of Hong Kong
Thomas Gray 1716 1771 Poet
Stephen Greenblatt 1943 Literary critic, pioneer of New Historicism
Bendor Grosvenor 1977 Art historian
Malcolm Guite 1957 poet and author (Sounding the Seasons, The Singing Bowl), priest, singer-songwriter, currently Bye-Fellow and Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge; BA, MA, 1980.
Rupert Gwynne 1871 1924 MP for Eastbourne 1910–1924.
Naomie Harris 1976 Actress
Tom Harrisson 1911 1976 Ornithologist, anthropologist, soldier, co-founder of Mass-Observation
Samuel Harsnett 1561 1631 Master, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, later Archbishop of York and theological writer
Oliver Heald 1954 British politician
Tom Hiddleston 1981 Actor
Ted Hughes 1930 1998 Poet
Eric Idle 1943 Entertainer, comedian, member of Monty Python
Clive James 1939 Novelist
Atma Jayaram 1915 1990 Former Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau
Peter Jeffrey 1929 1999 Actor
Humphrey Jennings 1907 1950 Film-maker
Bryan Keith-Lucas 1912 1996 Political scientist
Emma Johnson 1966 Clarinetist
Robert Macfarlane 1976 Writer
David MacMyn 1903 1978 Rugby union international (Scotland and Lions) player and administrator
Sir Henry James Sumner Maine 1822 1888 Jurist and Historian
Peter May 1929 1994 Cricketer
D. H. Mellor 1938 Philosopher
Messenger Monsey 1694 1788 Physician
Tom Morris 1964 Theatre director and producer
Sir Allan Mossop 1887 1965 Chief Judge of the British Supreme Court for China
David Munrow 1942 1976 Musician, composer, music historian
Richard Murdoch 1907 1990 Actor, comedian
Bill Oddie 1941 Comedian, Ornithologist
William Pitt 1759 1806 British politician; Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804–06
Rodney Porter 1917 1985 Nobel prize winning Biochemist
George Maxwell Richards 1931 President of Trinidad and Tobago
Nicholas Ridley c.1502 1555 Bishop of London, Martyr
Quintin Riley 1905 1980 Arctic explorer
Edmund Grindal c.1519 1571 Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York, Bishop of London
Michael Rowan-Robinson 1942 Astronomer
Martin Rowson 1959 Cartoonist
Hugh Ruttledge 1884 1961 Mountaineer
Tom Sharpe 1928 2013 Novelist
Indra Sinha 1950 Novelist
Christopher Smart 1722 1771 Poet, hymnist, journalist, actor
Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury 1951 British politician
Edmund Spenser 1552 1599 Poet
George Gabriel Stokes 1819 1903 Mathematician, physicist
John Sulston 1942 Chemist, Nobel prize winner
Peter Taylor, Baron Taylor of Gosforth 1930 1997 Lord Chief Justice
Peter Taylor 1942 Author and journalist
Karan Thapar 1955 Writer, Journalist, Broadcaster, Editor
William Turner 1508 1568 Physician
P. K. van der Byl 1923 1999 Rhodesian politician
Lawrence Wager 1904 1965 Geologist, explorer and mountaineer
Wavell Wakefield, 1st Baron Wakefield of Kendal 1898 1983 Rugby player
Yorick Wilks 1939 Computer Scientist
Leonard Whibley 1864 1941 Greek scholar
Roger Williams 1603 1683 Statesman, Theologian, founder of Rhode Island
George Crichton Wells 1914 1999 Dermatologist, first described Well's syndrome

Institutions named after the college

Pembroke College, the former women's college at Brown University in the United States, was named for the principal building on the women's campus, Pembroke Hall, which was itself named in honour of the Pembroke College (Cambridge) alumnus Roger Williams, a co-founder of Rhode Island.

In 1865 Pembroke College donated land for the formation of the Suffolk memorial to Prince Albert. The land at Framlingham in the county of Suffolk was used to build a school, The Albert Memorial College. The school today is known as Framlingham College and one of its seven houses is named Pembroke House in recognition of the contribution Pembroke College has made to the School.

In 1981, a decade after the merger of Pembroke College into Brown University, the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women was named in honour of Pembroke College and the history of women's efforts to gain access to higher education.

See also

World War I Memorial


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Coordinates: 52°12′06″N 0°07′09″E / 52.2017°N 0.1192°E / 52.2017; 0.1192 (Pembroke College)

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