Mary de St. Paul, daughter the Count of Châtillon and widow of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, "maid, wife and widow all in a day" (her husband, being unhappily slain at a tilting at her nuptials, lies under a superb canopy in Westminster Abbey), sequestered herself on that sad accident from all worldly delights, bequeathed her soul to God, and her estate to pious uses, amongst which, this, a principal, that she founded in Cambridge the Hall or House of Mary de Valence-it was soon after called Pembroke Hall-in 1347.
It was built on the outer or south side of the king's ditch, which ran along the site of Pembroke Street, and just on the south of Trumpington Gate.
The Old Court, now partly demolished and the Old Court of Corpus, were the earliest closed quadrangles in Cambridge, the first examples of the several buildings requisite for a College being combined in one quadrangle.
The original front towards the street, with the low entrance arch, remains of what Queen Elizabeth called "domus antiqua et religiosa."
Restorations were in parts effected, and good dormer windows put in by G. Scott, jun. Great alterations have been made in the other parts of the College.
Much of the early structure, including the hall and master's lodge, were removed some in the late 19th century; and the pleasant garden, where Ridley, the Master burnt at the stake in Oxford, loved to stroll, is much changed. Ridley's Walk, still remains on the south of the new lodge.
The Countess obtained ecclesiastical permission to erect a Chapel for the use of the scholars; and in the Treasury are preserved the original papal bulls (on parchment, with the bulls or seals attached) granted by Innocent VI. and Urban V. Both are dated at Avignon, and give permission, the one for the Chapel and the other for the Campanile of the Chapel.
The room at the north-west corner of the first court, called the Old Library, is the original chapel, the Italian windows having been inserted about 1690, when it was converted into a library.
The beautifully carved oak door and the elaborate plaster ceiling and well-carved bookcases are of the same period. A part of the Campanile of this early Chapel may still be seen in the corner of an adjacent living-room, and its position is indicated by a slight bulging of the wall of the court.
The present Chapel, in Corinthian style, was built in 1663, by Sir Christopher Wren, at the cost of his uncle, Dr. Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely. The east end was added by G. Scott, junior. The glass in the central window is in memory of Sir G. G. Stokes.
The small cloister on the north of the chapel, called "Hitcham's Cloister," was built in 1666 out of the proceeds of the Framlingham estate, bequeathed to the College by Sir Robert Hitcham, and was consecrated with a view to the interment of the students.
The Hall, occupying the usual position on the opposite side of the court to the entrance gateway, was recently built upon the site of that which was the oldest hall in Cambridge. It is in Modern Gothic style by Waterhouse.
Portraits of the Foundress, of Sir Robert Hitcham and Henry VI., are over the dais, of Pitt over the fireplace, of the Rev. C. E. Searle opposite, and Spenser and Fox lower down, and of Ridley, Bradford and Andrews over the screens. On the dais are a bust of Pitt by Chantrey, one of Gray by Thornycroft, and one of Sir G. G. Stokes.
In the Combination Room, a handsome and comfortable room beyond the hall, are portraits of Grindal, of Bishop Wren, of Roger Long, of Sir H. Maine, of Gray, of Gray's friend and fellow-poet Mason by Sir Joshua Reynolds, of Adams and Stokes, also a charming portrait of Pitt when a young man, by Gainsborough. The panelling is from the old hail; the date of it is 1635.
The Second or Ivy Court, placed according to the usual practice behind the first court and communicating with it by the passage between the hall and the kitchens, has its eastern side open.
The north side appears, from its older collegiate fashion, to have been first built, but the date is not known ; then the eastern part of the south side (about 1630), and lastly the part of this side nearest the hall, which is in Renaissance style, in 1659.
This is called the "Hitcham building" having been built from the proceeds of the bequest above-mentioned. The rooms believed to have been occupied by Pitt are on the first floor at the west end of the south side of this court ; those occupied by Gray being on the same staircase.
Between the years 1870 and 1875, buildings of red brick and stone, in Modern Gothic (French Gothic) style, by Waterhouse, were erected, viz. : the south part of the front, the block containing the Library and lecture rooms, the Hall and the Master's Lodge. The next important work is a large and handsome stone building by Gilbert Scott, jun., on the eastern side of the College, facing Pembroke Street and Tennis Court Road.
To connect this with the older courts a new wing has been added to Scott's work and a block of brick buildings placed to the east of the Ivy Court, the two being joined by a bridge along the street front over the entrance to the Master's Lodge. The architect was Mr. W. D. Caroë and the work was finished in 1908.
The visitor entering the first court will be struck by the glimpse through the break between the Hall and the Chapel, by the quaint piece of cloister, and by the general grouping and effect of the new and the old buildings and the garden between them.
The picturesqueness of the second court, and the architectural style and good white stone of the new eastern building will further attract him; though he may feel that the domus has lost some of its claim to the term antiqua. If he turns into the room on the left side of the entrance gateway, he will be rewarded by the sight of an exquisitely decorated ceiling, and some good carving, which embellished the ends of the old bookcases.
The Library was originally over the hall, subsequently on the site of the early chapel, and now forms a conspicuous feature of the part of the college erected by Waterhouse. It contains the entire collection of books of Bishop Andrewes; two of Gaxton's books-the Golden Legend, and Gower's Confessio Amantis-and some three hundred manuscripts
There is a large and beautifully laid out fellows' garden occupying the space between the College and Free School Lane, which is continuous with the master's garden, and forms one of the charming points of Cambridge. Scott's building is seen from it with great advantage.
Bishop Wren died in 1667, aged 82, and was buried in the chapel; and the mitre and staff were carried at his funeral.
Archbishops Rotherham, Grindal and Whitgift, Bishop Andrewes, the poet Gray (the manuscript of the Elegy in his own neat handwriting is in the College), and William Pitt, were members of this College; also Dr. Wharton, the anatomist, who died 1673, and Sydenham; nor must we forget the three martyrs, John Bradford, Nicolas Ridley and John Rogers, who suffered 1555-6.
Spenser, the "prince of poets," entered as a sizar in 1569, being then in his sixteenth year, and took his B.A. degree in 1572; his name appears in the treasury accounts, 1570, and again in 1571, as "Aegrotat" and having commons allowed him in consequence.
Bishop Andrewes also occurs as "Aegrotat" in this same column. The carefully-preserved mulberry tree, said to have been planted by Spenser, in the garden, rivals in interest Milton's mulberry tree at Christ's, and Erasmus' mulberry tree at Queens', though it may be doubted whether mulberry trees were introduced into England so early as the time of Spenser. It was much injured by the severe storm in October, 1881.
Famous alumni include Ted Hughes, Clive James and Bill Oddie.
Website: Pembroke College