Oxford University - Pembroke College. Image courtesy of Dave_S

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Pembroke College

Pembroke College was founded in 1624 by King James I of England, using part of the endowment of merchant Thomas Tesdale. Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. The college was named after William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain and then-Chancellor of the University.

As with many Oxford colleges, Pembroke originally only admitted men, but in 1979 it admitted its first mixed-sex cohort. As of 2020, Pembroke College had an estimated financial endowment of £63 million. It offers nearly all courses offered by Oxford University.

What's the History of Pembroke College?

Pembroke College in Oxford was founded in the early seventeenth century, thanks to an endowment from merchant Thomas Tesdale and parish priest Richard Wightwick. They converted Broadgates Hall, a former academic hall for law students, into a fully-fledged college. The letters patent that officially founded the college was signed by King James I in 1624. The college was named after  William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke and rumoured patron of William Shakespeare.

The Buildings of Pembroke College

The Old Quad

The Old Quad is where the college first expanded, around Broadgates, in the 1600s. The Quad was built in stages through the seventeenth century and uses the local Cotswold limestone. Some areas south-side of the Quad are built directly on top of the old City Wall.

The Chapel Quad

The Chapel, built in 1732, was designed by William Townsend. The Quad, created by architect John Hayward, is considered one of the most beautiful ones at Oxford University. The Chapel is still used for regular worship.

The North Quad

After the closure of Beef Lane to the north of Chapel Quad (the private houses were acquired by the college in a piecemeal fashion), the area now known as “North Quad” was formally opened in 1962.

The Rokos Quad

The Rokos Quad was officially opened on April 2013 by HRH The Duke of Kent. It is named after the lead donor Chris Rokos. The Quad buildings include a 170-seat multi-purpose auditorium, a café, an art gallery, and function and teaching rooms. The development is linked to the college’s city-centre site via a bridge crossing Brewer Street. 

The Geoffrey Arthur Building

This building is a modern annexe on the banks of the River Isis. It provides accommodation for thirty-six graduates and about forty undergraduates. 

What is it Like to Study at Pembroke College, Oxford?

Pembroke College has a Junior Common Room (JCR) notable for its artistic wealth as well as its sporting prowess. For example, it had a painting by Francis Bacon bought for £150 in 1953 and sold in 1997 for £400,000. The funds were used by the JCR for a student support scheme and an artistic acquisition programme.

Pembroke became the first college to win two rugby honours in one year, in 2018. The women’s team won Cuppers, and the men’s team the Cuppers Bowl. Pembroke College also has a Boat Club that held both the Torpids and Summer Eights men’s headship in 2013.

Where is Pembroke College?

Pembroke College is located on Pembroke Square, St Aldate’s (OX1 1DW), Oxford. Tel 01865 276444.

Pembroke College Coat of Arms.
Arms: Per pale azure and gules, three lions rampant two and one argent, in a chief party per pale argent and or, in the first a rose gules seeded or barbed vert, in the second a thistle proper.

Can you Visit Pembroke College?

Pembroke College is only open to prospective students, alumni, members of the University or those with a connection to the college.

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