Pembroke College

The Library by Alfred Waterhouse, Pembroke College, Cambridge

On 4 March 2016 two SJCF governors, Sophie Fernandes and John Hall, and Richard Foley, the Clerk and Chief Executive of the Foundation, were the guests of the Master of Pembroke College, the Rt Hon. the Lord Smith of Finsbury  (still better known to many as Chris Smith, the former MP for Islington South and Finsbury, the first secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, and formerly chairman of the Environment Agency).

The purpose was to meet the current holders of Sir John Cass’s Foundation Scholarships at the College. Each year, the College selects a student in financial hardship to be the recipient of a scholarship worth £10,000 per annum during the course of his or her studies. (Fees alone are £9,000 per annum.) Students selected have been resident within the Foundation’s area of benefit in London. To date there have been three recipients. Over dinner, the SJCF trio were pleased to meet the scholars and their directors of studies and to hear about their academic progress (along with many other beyond-the-formal-syllabus accomplishments which can be gained while studying in Cambridge University).

And of course the College itself impresses in so many ways. The third oldest of the Cambridge colleges, founded in the 14th century, it was the first to have its own chapel. The present chapel, dating from 1665, was Christopher Wren’s first commission before he got to work in post-Fire London. Almost opposite is the Library designed by Alfred Waterhouse and dating from 1875-77. (Think the Natural History Museum in South Kensington). Reginald Tumor opined that his ‘brick and stone and fatuous turrets insult its Wren chapel as abusively as its medieval courts’.¹ Waterhouse wanted to go much further, sweeping away much of the medieval and later accretions, but the College drew back and sacked him.

Buildings and good company aside, the main point of the good-will visit is to remind us that the Foundation still seeks to enrich the educational experiences of young people not just as groups at their places of study, but also as individuals. We wish the Sir John Cass Foundation scholars at Pembroke and their tutors well, and look forward to hearing about their subsequent careers.

John Hall


¹ And as seems appropriate, a footnote on the buildings at Pembroke: start with a look at and then visit Cambridge at your leisure if you are able.