Pembroke College, Oxford

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and subject to a disclaimer.

Pembroke College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its main buildings are on Pembroke Square.

History and buildings

The College was founded in 1624 using money given by Thomas Tesdale and Richard Wightwick. It was named after William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, the patron of William Shakespeare, who was Chancellor of the University at the time. The official founder was King James I, and it is in his name that Pembroke students are permitted to wear silver tassels in their caps. Part of the College occupies buildings formerly used by the mediæval Broadgates Hall.

The main buildings of the College – based around three quadrangles: Old Quad, Chapel Quad, and North Quad – date mainly from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, and are built of Cotswold limestone. The Geoffrey Arthur Building (GAB), a modern annex built nearby on the banks of the River Thames at Grandpont, provides accommodation for almost a hundred undergraduates, usually those in their final year.

Old Quad, into which the college's main entrance opens, dates from the early seventeenth century. Its gravel surface was grassed over in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The Chapel Quadrangle, which contains the Chapel and the Dining Hall, was completed in 1848; until the North Quad was opened in 1962, Chapel Quad was known as "New Quad" or, sometimes, "the Grass Quad".

Pembroke was described by John Betjeman, in his long autobiographical poem Summoned by Bells:

How empty, creeper-grown and odd
Seems lonely Pembroke's second quad
Still, when I see it, do I wonder why
That college so polite and shy
Should have more character than Queen's
Or Univ, splendid in the High.


Pembroke offers a broad range of courses, covering most of the subject areas offered by the university. In particular, the college has had a strong involvement with management studies, being the first traditional Oxford College to appoint a Fellow in the field.[1] The college has maintained a close relationship with the Saïd Business School. Significant gaps include physics and classics.

The JCR and MCR

Pembroke, in common with all underagraduate Oxford colleges, has a Junior Common Room (undergraduate community) and a Middle Common Room (graduate community). The JCR is the wealthiest in Oxford as a result of the purchase and sale of a Francis Bacon painting in the early twentieth century (see below), and has used those funds to support a socially progressive student support scheme and a substantial artistic acquisition programme (works now being displayed in the Emery gallery]]. The MCR's current patron is Lord (John) Kerr, former head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ambassador to the United States.


The college has a strong sporting reputation across the university. Recent years have seen the JCR achieve particular success at rugby, and cricket, football, hockey, and darts. The MCR has been particularly strong at women's boxing, polo, and cricket.

Pembroke College Boat Club is one of Oxford's strongest. In 2003, Pembroke became the first college to win the "Double Headship Trophy" for having both men's and women's eights head the river.

Notable old members

Samuel Johnson is one of the College's more famous old members, though he did not complete his degree (he was later awarded an honorary degree by the University); lack of funds forced him to leave Oxford after about a year and a half. Two of his desks and various other possessions (his teapot, mug, and the like) are on display in the Senior Common Room, the library, and elsewhere in the college.

James Smithson, whose bequest founded the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., despite his never having visited the United States, was an undergraduate at Pembroke, under the name "James Lewis Macie" — he changed his name to that of his natural father after the death of his mother.

Senator J. William Fulbright, who established the Fulbright Fellowships, was a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke in the 1920s.

Other notable old members include:

Academics, fellows, and teachers

Although he had been an undergraduate at Exeter College, J.R.R. Tolkien was a Fellow of Pembroke from 1925 to 1945, and wrote The Hobbit and the first two books of The Lord of the Rings during his time there.

Among the College's more recent Masters was Roger Bannister, the first man to run the mile in under four minutes.

(The names of current members are followed by links to their College pages)