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Cambridge Universities oldest and smallest College

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Old Court
The Hall
Peterhouse in Cambridge is the oldest College of the University. It is stooped in history and seen many great people through its doors over the centuries. It was founded in 1248 by Hugo de Balsam, the Bishop of Ely. He had originally tried to house some students in The Hospital of St John the Evangelist, now St John’s College. Yet after continued disagreements between the Brethren of the hospital and the students, the bishop had to re-house them near Little St Mary’s. This church then had the name St Peter without Trumpington Gate, and hence the band of scholars became known as Peterhouse.

Peterhouse College, Established 1284
Source WikiMedia (PD)
Over the years the Masters and Fellows of the college have been very involved in the politics and religious happenings of their times. Under Elizabeth I and Mary I, the Master was Andrew Perne. His shrewd and pragmatic views meant that he and Peterhouse became favored by both Monarchs, even amid the battle of the Papist-Protestant views of Mary and Elizabeth. Matthew Wren was the Master in the 1600s, and he was imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell for 18 years for his views. In more recent times, the 1980s, the College became known for being highly conservative, and involved greatly with Thatcherite Politics. There even became an intellectual movement linked to Margaret Thatcher’s politics called the Peterhouse right, which various fellows of the college were closely linked to. Conservatives Michael Portillo and Michael Howard were both educated at Peterhouse. 

The view of the Old Court

Pretty buildings around the Old Court

Inside the Hall

Did You Know?

Peterhouse has turned out some exceptional engineers, including Charles Babbage, the inventor of the 1st mechanical computer, Christopher Cockerel, the inventor of the hovercraft and Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine.

The College Clock on the end wall of the Chapel

Peterhouse Chapel, built in 1628

Inside the chapel

The John Snetzler Organ from 1763

Did You Know?

The poet Thomas Gray left Peterhouse after being the victim of a practical joke played by undergraduates. Gray is supposed to have been afraid of fire, and had attached a bar outside his window to which a rope could be tied. After being woken by a fire made of shavings, Gray climbed down his rope but landed in a tub of water which had been placed below his window!

Part of the inner court
Visitor Information
Peterhouse College is open to visitors daily, 9am to 5pm. Entrance is FREE. Tel: 01223 338 200

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