Pembroke College
University of Cambridge
Old Court, Pembroke College
Old Court, Pembroke College
Pembroke College heraldic shield
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)
Scarf colours: dark blue, with two equally-spaced narrow Cambridge blue stripes
LocationTrumpington Street (map)
Coordinates52°12′07″N 0°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
FounderMarie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke
Established1347; 677 years ago (1347)
Named afterAymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
Previous names
  • Marie Valence Hall (1347–?)
  • Pembroke Hall (?–1856)
Sister collegeThe Queen's College, Oxford
MasterThe Lord Smith of Finsbury
Undergraduates484 (2022-23)
Postgraduates282 (2022-23)
Endowment£184.5m (2018)[2]
Pembroke College, Cambridge is located in Central Cambridge
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Location in Central Cambridge
Pembroke College, Cambridge is located in Cambridge
Pembroke College, Cambridge
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,[3] 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".[4] 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.


Engraving of Marie de St Pol, foundress of Pembroke College, Cambridge

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.[5] 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 and burial at Denny Abbey, to the north of Cambridge, 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.[6]


Old Court

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

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.[7]

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

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"[8] (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.[9]


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 :[10]

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.[10]


Pembroke holds Formal Hall 4 evenings a week depending on their qualifications: a separate Hall is held for BA students. 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 an annual May Ball.

According to popular legends, Pembroke is inhabited by ghosts occupying the Ivy Court.[11]

Student life

Pembroke's boathouse on the River Cam

Pembroke College has both graduate and undergraduate students, termed Valencians,[4][12] 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.[13][14]

There are many sports and societies organised by members of the college. Amongst the most established are Pembroke College Boat Club and the Pembroke Players, the college's dramatic society 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 67th year. Pembroke College Association Football Club (PCAFC) and Women's Association Football Club (PCWAFC) compete separately in collegiate competitions. Chrembroke Hockey Club (PCHC) compete jointly with Christ's College, and Pirton RUFC, the rugby union team, are merged with Girton College.

Female undergraduates were first admitted to the college in 1984.[15]

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.[16]

In the summer the college offers the eight-week Pembroke Cambridge Summer Programme.[17] As well as the academic content, trips are made to locales such as London, and the programme has a series of formal halls and events such as croquet matches and punting on the River Cam.[18] This is also the programme for which the prestigious Thouron Prize is awarded, fully supporting nine American undergraduates from Harvard, Yale, and UPenn.[19] In addition, there is the Pembroke College, Cambridge 1976 Scholarship,[20] awarded to three outstanding undergraduates from the University of California.

People associated with Pembroke

See also the categories Fellows of Pembroke College, Cambridge and Alumni of Pembroke College, Cambridge

For a more comprehensive list, see List of Masters of Pembroke College, Cambridge and List of Honorary Fellows of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Name Birth Death Occupation
Trevor Allan 1955 Noted legal philosopher
Lancelot Andrewes 1555 1626 Master; Dean of Westminster; Bishop of Chichester, Ely, Winchester; leading member of the translation committee which produced the King James Bible
C.F. Andrews 1871 1940 Priest and activist for the Indian independence movement
David Armitage Bannerman 1886 1979 Ornithologist
Robert Bathurst 1957 Actor
Richard Beard (author) 1967 Novelist and non-fiction writer
Clive Betts 1950 British politician
John Bradford 1510 1550 Fellow, prebendary of St. Paul's, Martyr
Peter Bradshaw 1962 Author and film critic
Tim Brooke-Taylor 1940 2020 Comedian, member of The Goodies
Marcus Buckingham 1966 Award-winning author and motivational speaker
William Burkitt 1650 1703 New Testament commentator, vicar and lecturer of Dedham, Essex
Roger Bushell 1910 1944 Leader of "The Great Escape"
Rab Butler 1902 1982 British politician; served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.
Christopher Clark 1960 Regius Professor of History, University of Cambridge.
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 2021 Novelist, poet and literary critic
Maurice Dobb 1900 1976 Economist
Simon Donaldson 1957 Mathematician; Fields Medallist (1986)
Ray Dolby 1933 2013 Inventor who bequeathed US$52.6 million to Pembroke[21]
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; President of the Weizmann Institute of Science
Rick Edwards 1979 Television presenter
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
Roger W. Ferguson Jr. 1951 Economist, Vice Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, President and CEO of TIAA, Honorary Fellow
Ian Fleming 1935 Organic chemist, emeritus professor of the University of Cambridge and emeritus fellow
William Fowler 1911 1995 Nobel prize winner for Physics
Arthur Gilligan 1894 1976 England cricket captain
Alexander Grantham 1899 1978 Governor of Fiji, later 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 Member of Parliament (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
Philip Hinchcliffe 1944 Television producer
Ted Hughes 1930 1998 Poet
Eric Idle 1943 Comedian, member of Monty Python
Clive James 1939 2019 Critic, journalist and broadcaster
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 Clarinettist
Leslie Peter Johnson 1930 2016 Germanist
Anna Lapwood 1995 Organist, conductor and broadcaster
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
Simon McDonald 1961 Diplomat, Head of the British Diplomatic Service
D. H. Mellor 1938 2020 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, member of The Goodies, 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 2018 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 and astrophysicist
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; current Master
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
Leonard Whibley 1864 1941 Greek scholar
David White 1961 Garter Principal King of Arms
Yorick Wilks 1939 Computer scientist, professor of artificial intelligence
Roger Williams 1603 1683 Statesman, theologian, founder of Rhode Island
George Crichton Wells 1914 1999 Dermatologist, first described Well's syndrome
Ed Yong 1981 Science journalist and author
Timothy Winter 1960 Academic, theologian and Islamic scholar

Institutions named after the college

Pembroke College in Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island

Pembroke College in Brown University, 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.[22]

In 1865 Pembroke College, Cambridge 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 there was named in honour of Pembroke College and the history of women's efforts to gain access to higher education.[23]

See also

World War I Memorial


  1. ^ University of Cambridge (6 March 2019). "Notice by the Editor". Cambridge University Reporter. 149 (Special No 5): 1. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Recommended Cambridge College Accounts (RCCA) for the year ended 30 June 2018". Pembroke College, Cambridge. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  3. ^ Walker, Timea (2 February 2022). "Pembroke College". Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Valencians return for inaugural careers event". Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40/555; dated 1399, first year of King Henry IV; sixth entry".
  6. ^ "American inventor bequeaths largest-ever donation to Cambridge's Pembroke College". Cambridge News. 3 December 2015. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Rattee and Kett" (PDF). Capturing Cambridge. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  8. ^ Pembroke College, Cambridge (2019). "The Time and The Place: A campaign for Pembroke".
  9. ^ "Mill Lane development". Cambridge Independent. 2 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Pembroke College coat of arms". 18 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Pembroke College website".
  12. ^ "A Valencian to-do list". Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Cambridge students cancel fancy dress party fearing 'potential for offence'". The Guardian. 11 March 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Cambridge University college cancels 'racist' Around the World in 80 Days party '". Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  15. ^ "What Difference does Diversity Make? | Pembroke". Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Semester Abroad Scheme". Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  17. ^ Pembroke College, Cambridge (April 2023). "International Programmes at Pembroke College".
  18. ^ "The Pembroke Cambridge Summer Programme" (PDF). 2023.
  19. ^ UPenn. "John Thouron Prize".
  20. ^ "Scholarships | Pembroke". Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  21. ^ "University of Cambridge Receives $52.6 Million Bequest | News | PND". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Brown's History: A Timeline". Brown University.
  23. ^ "History | Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women". Retrieved 4 February 2020.