Pembroke College, Cambridge

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Pembroke College
University of Cambridge
Pembroke College Cambridge.JPG
Old Court, Pembroke College
Arms PembrokeCollege Cambridge.svg
Arms of Pembroke College, Cambridge: Arms of Valence (Barry (of ten) argent and azure, an orle of French martlets gules) dimidiating St Pol (Châtillon): (Gules, three pales vair a chief or with a label of three points azure for difference)
Location Trumpington Street (map)
Coordinates 52°12′07″N0°07′12″E / 52.202°N 0.120°E / 52.202; 0.120 Coordinates: 52°12′07″N0°07′12″E / 52.202°N 0.120°E / 52.202; 0.120
Full nameThe College or Hall of Valence Mary (commonly called Pembroke College) in the University of Cambridge
AbbreviationPEM [1]
Founder Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke
Established1347;674 years ago (1347)
Named after Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
Previous names
  • Marie Valence Hall (1347–?)
  • Pembroke Hall (?–1856)
Sister college The Queen's College, Oxford
Master The Lord Smith of Finsbury
Endowment £184.5m (2018) [2]
Boat club
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Red pog.svg
Location in Central Cambridge
Location map Cambridge.png
Red pog.svg
Location in Cambridge

Pembroke College (officially "The Master, Fellows and Scholars of the College or Hall of Valence-Mary") is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college is the third-oldest college of the university and has over 700 students and fellows. It is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its founding, as well as extensive gardens. Its members are termed "Valencians". [3] The college's current master is Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury.


Pembroke has a level of academic performance among the highest of all the Cambridge colleges; in 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018 Pembroke was placed second in the Tompkins Table. Pembroke contains the first chapel designed by Sir Christopher Wren and is one of only 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, has an original copy of the first encyclopaedia to contain printed diagrams.


Portrait of Marie de St Pol, foundress of Pembroke College Portrait of Mary Countess of Pembroke (4672101).jpg
Portrait of Marie de St Pol, foundress of Pembroke College

Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke (1303–1377), a member of the de Châtillon family of France, founded Pembroke College, Cambridge. On 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. [4] 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 30 years until 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. [5]


Old Court

Bird's eye view of Pembroke College, Cambridge by David Loggan, published in 1690. Pembroke College, Cambridge by Loggan 1690 - gbooks prG KpObd3UC PA80-IA1.png
Bird's eye view of Pembroke College, Cambridge by David Loggan, published in 1690.

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 Cmglee Cambridge Pembroke College chapel.jpg
Pembroke College chapel interior in September 2014

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.


An increase in membership over the last 150 years saw a corresponding increase in building activity. The Hall was rebuilt in 1875–1876 to designs by Alfred Waterhouse after he had declared the medieval Hall unsafe. As well as the Hall, Waterhouse designed a new range of rooms, Red Buildings (1871–1872), 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 designed a new Library (1877–1878) in the continental Gothic style. The construction of the new library was undertaken by Rattee and Kett. [6]

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 Murray Easton replaced the Gothic tracery of the windows with a simpler design in the style of the medieval Hall.

Library Court Pembroke College Gardens.jpg
Library Court

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.

In 2017, Pembroke College launched a new campaign of extension called the "Time and the place" (or the Mill Lane project), on the other side of Trumpington Street. The project is to enlarge the size of the college by a third, with new social spaces, rooms and offices. [7]


Pembroke's enclosed grounds include garden areas. 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.

Coat of arms

The arms of Pembroke College were officially recorded in 1684. The formal blazon combines the arms of De Valence (bars), dimidiated with the arms of St. Pol (vair). It is described as : [8]

Barry of ten argent and azure, an orle of five martlets gules dimidiated with paly vair and gules, on a chief Or a label of five points throughout azure. [8]


Pembroke holds Formal Hall on every evening. Students of the college must wear gowns and arrive on time for Latin Grace, which starts the dinner. Like many Cambridge colleges, Pembroke also has its annual May Ball.

According to popular legends, Pembroke is inhabited by ghosts occupying the Ivy Court. [9]

Student life

Pembroke's boathouse Pembroke College boathouse - - 991199.jpg
Pembroke's boathouse

Pembroke College has both graduate and undergraduate students, termed Valencians, [3] [10] 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. [11] [12]

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 including 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. [13]

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. [14] 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. [15]

People associated with Pembroke

Trevor Allan 1955Noted legal philosopher
Lancelot Andrewes 15551626Master; Dean of Westminster; Bishop of Chichester, Ely, Winchester; leading member of the translation committee which produced the King James Bible
C.F. Andrews 18711940Priest and activist for the Indian independence movement
David Armitage Bannerman 18861979 Ornithologist
Robert Bathurst 1957Actor
Richard Beard (author) 1967Novelist and non-fiction writer
Clive Betts 1950British politician
John Bradford 15101550Fellow, prebendary of St. Paul's, Martyr
Peter Bradshaw 1962Author and film critic
Tim Brooke-Taylor 19402020Comedian, member of The Goodies
Marcus Buckingham 1966Award-winning author and motivational speaker
William Burkitt 16501703New Testament commentator, vicar and lecturer of Dedham, Essex
Roger Bushell 19101944Leader of "The Great Escape"
Rab Butler 19021982British politician
Christopher Clark 1960Regius Professor of History, University of Cambridge.
Peter Cook 19371995Comedian
Jo Cox 19742016British aid worker and politician.
Richard Crashaw c.16131649Anglican cleric and later Catholic convert, poet associated with Metaphysical poets and religious poetry, Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge
William Crashaw 15721626Appointed preacher at the Inner Temple, Anglican divine and poet, author of anti-Catholic tracts and pamphlets
Seamus Deane 19402021Novelist, poet and literary critic
Maurice Dobb 19001976Economist
Simon Donaldson 1957Mathematician; Fields Medallist (1986)
Ray Dolby 19332013Inventor who bequeathed US$52.6 million to Pembroke [16]
C. H. Douglas 18791952Engineer; pioneer of the Social Credit movement
Timothy Dudley-Smith 1926Hymn writer and clergyman of the Church of England
Abba Eban 19152002Statesman; President of the Weizmann Institute of Science
Rick Edwards 1979Television presenter
Edward James Eliot 17581797British politician
William Eliot, 2nd Earl of St Germans 17671845British politician
Archibald Fargus 18781963Cricketer, scholar, clergyman
Femi Fani-Kayode 1960Former Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism
Ian Fleming 1935Organic chemist, emeritus professor of the University of Cambridge and emeritus fellow
William Fowler 19111995Nobel prize winner for Physics
Arthur Gilligan 18941976England cricket captain
Alexander Grantham 18991978 Governor of Fiji, later Governor of Hong Kong
Thomas Gray 17161771Poet
Stephen Greenblatt 1943Literary critic, pioneer of New Historicism
Bendor Grosvenor 1977Art historian
Malcolm Guite 1957Poet 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 18711924 Member of Parliament (MP) for Eastbourne 1910–1924.
Naomie Harris 1976Actress
Tom Harrisson 19111976Ornithologist, anthropologist, soldier, co-founder of Mass-Observation
Samuel Harsnett 15611631Master, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, later Archbishop of York and theological writer
Oliver Heald 1954British politician
Tom Hiddleston 1981Actor
Philip Hinchcliffe 1944Television producer
Ted Hughes 19301998Poet
Eric Idle 1943Comedian, member of Monty Python
Clive James 19392019Critic, journalist and broadcaster
Atma Jayaram 19151990Former Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau
Peter Jeffrey 19291999Actor
Humphrey Jennings 19071950Film-maker
Bryan Keith-Lucas 19121996Political scientist
Emma Johnson 1966Clarinettist
Leslie Peter Johnson 19302016Germanist
Anna Lapwood 1995Organist, conductor and broadcaster
Robert Macfarlane 1976Writer
David MacMyn 19031978 Rugby union international (Scotland and Lions) player and administrator
Sir Henry James Sumner Maine 18221888Jurist and Historian
Peter May 19291994Cricketer
Simon McDonald 1961Diplomat, Head of the British Diplomatic Service
D. H. Mellor 19382020Philosopher
Messenger Monsey 16941788Physician
Tom Morris 1964Theatre director and producer
Sir Allan Mossop 18871965Chief Judge of the British Supreme Court for China
David Munrow 19421976Musician, composer, music historian
Richard Murdoch 19071990Actor, comedian
Bill Oddie 1941Comedian, member of The Goodies, ornithologist
William Pitt 17591806British politician; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–06
Rodney Porter 19171985Nobel prize winning Biochemist
George Maxwell Richards 19312018President of Trinidad and Tobago
Nicholas Ridley c.15021555 Bishop of London, Martyr
Quintin Riley 19051980 Arctic explorer
Edmund Grindal c.15191571Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York, Bishop of London
Michael Rowan-Robinson 1942Astronomer and astrophysicist
Martin Rowson 1959Cartoonist
Hugh Ruttledge 18841961Mountaineer
Tom Sharpe 19282013Novelist
Indra Sinha 1950Novelist
Christopher Smart 17221771Poet, hymnist, journalist, actor
Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury 1951British politician; current Master
Edmund Spenser 15521599Poet
George Gabriel Stokes 18191903Mathematician, physicist
John Sulston 1942Chemist, Nobel prize winner
Peter Taylor, Baron Taylor of Gosforth 19301997 Lord Chief Justice
Peter Taylor 1942Author and journalist
Karan Thapar 1955Writer, journalist, broadcaster, editor
William Turner 15081568Physician
P. K. van der Byl 19231999Rhodesian politician
Lawrence Wager 19041965Geologist, explorer and mountaineer
Wavell Wakefield, 1st Baron Wakefield of Kendal 18981983Rugby player
Leonard Whibley 18641941Greek scholar
Yorick Wilks 1939Computer scientist, professor of artificial intelligence
Roger Williams 16031683Statesman, theologian, founder of Rhode Island
George Crichton Wells 19141999Dermatologist, first described Well's syndrome

Institutions named after the college

Pembroke College in Brown University Pembroke College Campus, Providence, R.I (61959).jpg
Pembroke College in Brown University

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. [17]

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. [18]

See also

World War I Memorial War Memorial at Pembroke College, Cambridge.jpg
World War I Memorial

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