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Grand University buildings used for administration and ceremonies

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Front Facade
Neo Classical Architecture
Old Schools
The Senate House is a key ceremonial building belonging to the University of Cambridge. It is situated in the centre of the city, just off the King’s parade on Senate House Hill.

Front facade of the Senate House, built in 1730
This impressive neo-classic building was built in 1722-1730, designed by prominent architect James Gibbs. The site had previously been used for housing, but an Act of Parliament in June 1720 allowed the University to purchase the land. Thomas Crosse, a previous Vice-chancellor of the University, laid the first stone at a ceremony on 22nd June 1722. Made of Portland stone, its striking façade is a well known symbol of Cambridge.

The Old Schools, the first central teaching and administration buildings of the University, dating back to 1350
The building was once used to host the meetings of the Council of the Senate, where upon new Vice-chancellors for the University would be voted for, and vital governing decisions made. The council no longer meets at the Senate House and the opulent building is used mainly for degree ceremonies, with the majority of degree class lists being posted up outside at the end of each year. The Senate House therefore is a hive of activity around May, when the degree classifications are released and this famous building has seen many students laugh or cry upon learning the outcome of years of hard work.

The view of the Senate House from the nearby church of St Mary the Great

Did You Know?

The Senate House recently became the focus for the 800 year celebrations when it was lit up in a spectacular light show featuring some iconic images from the University's past and present.

Senate House light show to celebrate 800 years of the University
Photo © dumbledad (CC)
One of Cambridge University’s most well known legends also took place at the Senate House. Residents awoke on the morning of the 8th June 1958 to find a classic Austin Seven van perched on the apex of the Senate House roof! The secret of this engineering feat remained a mystery for many years and only recently was is it revealed. A party of engineering students from the nearby Gonville and Caius College had resourcefully pulled the van up onto the roof via an ingenious network of pulleys and counterweights, probably to simply prove that they could!

An Austin Seven placed on top of the Senate House by students in 1958!
Photo believed to be in the Public Domain
Visitor Information
The Senate House and Old Schools are not open to the public. Tel: 01223 766 886

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