Pembroke College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, located in Pembroke Square. As of 2009, Pembroke had an estimated financial endowment of £44.9 million.


In the early seventeenth century, the endowment of Thomas Tesdale—a merchant from nearby Abingdon—and Richard Wightwick—a clergyman from Berkshire—enabled the conversion of the Broadgates Hall, which had been a University hostel for law students since its construction in the fifteenth century, to form the basis of a fully fledged college. The letters patent to found the college were signed by King James I in 1624, with the college being named after William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain and then-Chancellor of the University.

Following its foundation, the college proceeded to expand around Broadgates, building what is now known as "Old Quad" in the 1600s. Built in stages through the seventeenth century out of the local Cotswold limestone, space restrictions saw the south-side of the Quad built directly on top of the old City Wall. A Chapel was built in 1732, and the introduction of further accommodation in 1846, and the Hall in 1848 to designs by Exeter based architect John Hayward created "Chapel Quad"—widely considered one of the most beautiful Quads in the University. The Chapel was designed and built by William Townsend, although the interior was dramatically redesigned by Charles Kempe—a Pembroke graduate—in 1884. Pembroke alumnus Dr. Damon Wells is a significant benefactor of the College over many years; he enabled the restoration of the Chapel in 1972, and continues to support the Chaplaincy and History Fellowship. The Chapel which is still used for regular worship bears his name.

Further expansion of the college came in the 1960s, after the closure of Beef Lane to the north of Chapel Quad. The private houses north of the closed road were acquired by the College in a piecemeal fashion and reversed so that access was only possible from the rear. The new area is now known as "North Quad", which was formally opened in 1962. A modern annex was built near to college on the banks of the Isis at Grandpont, provides accommodation for almost a hundred undergraduates, usually those in their final year. The building is commonly known as "The GAB", after being named after the diplomat Sir Geoffrey Arthur—a former master of the college (1975–1985).

In 2010. the college began a major new development south of the main site, to which it will be linked by a bridge over Brewer Street. The new buildings are expected to be completed in 2012.

Samuel Johnson was one of the College's more famous alumni, 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 are displayed around the college. James Smithson, whose bequest founded the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (despite him 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. Meanwhile Senator J. William Fulbright, who established the Fulbright Program, was a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke in the 1920s.

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.

Pembroke was described by John Betjeman, in Summoned by Bells:

Admissions scandal

In March 2002 two Oxford fellows resigned after allegations that they had offered a place to an undercover reporter in return for a donation of £300,000. Rev John Platt, chaplain of Pembroke, and Mary-Jane Hilton, head of fund-raising, apparently attended a taped meeting where the offer was made to a journalist, posing as a wealthy banker father of a fictitious son.

Coat of arms

The arms of Pembroke College were granted by the College of Heralds on 14 February 1625, the formal blazon describing it as:

Both James I, as founder of the college, and the Earl of Pembroke are commemorated in the arms. The former, representing the union of the crowns as James I of England and James VI of Scotland, is symbolised by the rose (of England) and the thistle (of Scotland). The three lions rampant are taken from the Earl’s personal coat arms.


Pembroke offers a broad range of courses, covering almost all the subject areas offered by the university; exceptions include Literae Humaniores (Classics). 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. The college has maintained a close relationship with the Saïd Business School and with an intake of eight students per year, has more Economics & Management undergraduates than any other college.

The JCR and MCR

Pembroke is home to a JCR (undergraduate community) notable for its artistic wealth and sporting prowess. The JCR is one of the wealthiest in Oxford due to the purchase and sale of a Francis Bacon painting in the early 20th century (see below), and has used those funds to support a socially progressive student support scheme and an impressive artistic acquisition programme. The MCR is housed in a suite of historic rooms and is noted for its connections with a wide range of nations. Its current patron is Lord (John) Kerr, former head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ambassador to the United States.

The college is also home to the Emery gallery and the JCR art fund, founded by the sale of a Francis Bacon painting for £400,000, which is empowered to make significant contemporary purchases for the college.


The college has a strong sporting reputation across the university. Recent years have seen the JCR achieve particular success at rugby, 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 boat clubs, with the men's and women's boats currently both sitting 2nd on the river in Summer Eights. 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 former students
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan, current ruler of Jordan
  • William Adams, religious writer and essayist
  • Patience Agbabi, performance poet
  • Michael Bettaney, a former MI5 intelligence officer convicted of Official Secrets offences in 1984
  • Francis Beaumont, playwright
  • Gaspar Bergman, film director
  • William Blackstone, jurist and barrister
  • Edmund Bonner, bishop, known as 'Bloody Bonner'
  • Kevin Brennan, Labour politician, MP for Cardiff West
  • Thomas Browne, seventeenth-century author
  • William Camden, antiquarian and historian
  • Oz Clarke, oenophile and broadcaster
  • David Cracknell, former Sunday Times Political Editor
  • Mary Creagh, Labour politician
  • Julian Critchley, journalist and Conservative politician
  • Denzil Davies, Labour politician
  • Maria Eagle, Labour government minister
  • J. William Fulbright, Democratic U.S. Senator representing Arkansas
  • David Allen Green, lawyer and legal writer
  • Tim Griffin, Republican Member of Congress representing Arkansas
  • Charles Hawtrey (19th century actor)
  • George Procter Hawtrey, actor and playwright
  • Michael Heseltine, former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister and publisher
  • Walter Isaacson, author and President and CEO of the Aspen Institute
  • Samuel Johnson, lexicographer, biographer, writer, poet
    Samuel Johnson's desk, in Broadgates.
  • Roz Kaveney (as Andrew J. Kaveney), writer
  • Charles Kempe, Victorian stained glass designer.
  • John Kerr, Baron Kerr of Kinlochard, diplomat
  • Philip Lader, former American Ambassador to the UK, businessman
  • Richard G. Lugar, American Republican Senator
  • Sir John Mummery, Lord Justice of Appeal
  • Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister 1998-2002, 2010-
  • Tarik O'Regan, composer
  • Professor X (as Charles Xavier), civil rights activist
  • John Pym, parliamentarian and critic of Charles I of England
  • Win Rockefeller, American philanthropist, Lt. Governor of Arkansas
  • William Shenstone, 18th Century poet
  • Radek Sikorski, Polish politician and current Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • James Smithson, mineralogist, benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • John Snagge, BBC newsreader and commentator
  • The Rt Revd Thomas Shaun Stanage, DD, Anglican Bishop in South Africa
  • Samuel John Stone, Anglican clergyman and hymnwriter (The Church's One Foundation)
  • Honeysuckle Weeks, actress
  • George Whitefield, leader of the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century
  • Mom Rajawongse Sukhumbhand Paripatra, Governor of Bangkok
Academics, fellows, and teachers

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

  • R. G. Collingwood
  • John Eekelaar (F.B.A.) *
  • Peter J. King *
  • Martha Klein *
  • John Richard Krebs, Baron Krebs (F.R.S.)
  • Piers Mackesy, military historian, F.B.A.
  • Christopher Melchert *
  • Naci Mehmet
  • Guy Newbury *
  • Zbigniew Pełczyński
  • J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Timothy Ware)


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Building Activity

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