The colleges and halls: Peterhouse

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.

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, 'The colleges and halls: Peterhouse', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959) pp. 334-340. British History Online [accessed 30 May 2024].

. "The colleges and halls: Peterhouse", in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959) 334-340. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024,

. "The colleges and halls: Peterhouse", A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, (London, 1959). 334-340. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024,

In this section



The official origin of the collegiate body, 'the Scholars of the Bishop of Ely', is to be found in a royal licence of the year 1280, in which Edward I, recognizing the importance of wisdom in Church and State, and desiring that it 'might continually increase by the practice of study', allowed Hugh de Balsham to introduce a number of scholars into the Hospital of St. John, where they were to live according to the rule of the scholars of Merton. The licence imposed the condition that the poor, for whom the hospital had been established, should not be defrauded of anything that was due to them. (fn. 1) Hugh de Balsham, therefore, gave certain properties for the maintenance of the scholars; and furthermore, to the scholars and the hospital jointly he granted the rectory of Thriplow, saving the advowson. Since Thriplow had been the property of the bishops of Ely, he provided compensation for his successors in that see.

Peterhouse. Or four pales gules a border gules charged with golden crowns [Granted 1575]

The official origin of Peterhouse is to be found in the royal charter of 1284, which authorized the removal of the scholars from the hospital and their transference to two hostels outside Trumpington Gate. The dissensions between the scholars of the Bishop of Ely and the brethren of the Hospital of St. John had made the original arrangement unworkable. A separation of the two parties and a reallotment of the property seemed desirable to all concerned; and the adjudication of the bishop had been demanded. Hugh, by various instruments drawn up in 1284, assigned to the scholars the two hostels and the neighbouring church of St. Peter, with its altar-dues and tithes, which had hitherto belonged to the hospital; and he now gave the scholars the rectory of Thriplow which they had hitherto held jointly with the brethren. To the hospital, on the other hand, he transferred the properties which he had granted in 1280 for the support of the scholars. (fn. 2) The hospital, however, and perhaps not without justice, was dissatisfied with the redistribution that had been imposed. The quarrels between the brethren and the scholars continued for a generation after the parties had been separated. The scholars won their case in the Court of Arches in 1320, but that was not sufficient to give them the peaceful enjoyment of the tithes of St. Peter's Church. Further controversy was only ended in 1340 after both parties had agreed to submit to the arbitration of another Bishop of Ely. The rights of the College in the church of St. Peter were now established, though the brethren of the hospital were still prepared to tease the scholars by combining on occasion with refractory tithe-payers. At the same time the Master and Scholars were ordered to pay 20s. a year to the hospital; and this payment, which is still (1952) made to St. John's College, was enforced by a threat of severe ecclesiastical sanctions. (fn. 3)

It had been Hugh de Balsham's aim to provide for scholars a place of residence, an endowment, a rule of common life, and a protected position. The first Cambridge College was founded at a time when the students had suffered greatly from the disturbances and exactions of the townsmen; conflicts of jurisdiction had caused further trouble; the scholars had even attempted to remove their University to another place. It is clear, also, that Hugh de Balsham in founding a College had in mind the example that Walter de Merton had set in Oxford. Hugh's resources, however, were limited, and this accounts for the first experiment that he made at the Hospital of St. John. It accounts also for the initial difficulties under which the scholars of Peterhouse laboured; especially as, according to Simon Montacute, Hugh died too early to achieve what he had in view. He died two years after the removal to St. Peter's parish, leaving 300 marks to the College in his will. With this sum a piece of land was bought and a fine hall was built.


The early history of the College is the story, still obscure, of the gradual acquisition of the site. Even the names of early Masters and scholars are known only from deeds relating to property. The two hostels in which the College had its origin were close to the street and between these and the cemetery of St. Peter's there was a considerable property that had to be acquired later. To the south were the Friars of the Sack and it was fortunate for the College that they were dissolved in 1307. Their main holding and building passed quickly into the hands of the Master and Scholars, and even before this the series of transfers had begun which were apparently intended to bring into College possession the land known as Wynwick's Croft which forms part of the present Grove. It is probable that by the middle of the 14th century Peterhouse had acquired the various holdings that compose the grounds of the College today; the principal exception being the region known as Volney's Croft, the site of the Scholars' Garden and St. Peter's Terrace, which was obtained in the reign of Elizabeth I.

Constitution and Statutes.

In 1344 Simon Montacute, Bishop of Ely, gave the College a body of statutes which refer to still older ordinances that have not been preserved. (fn. 4) Simon's statutes are evidently adapted from those given to Merton College in 1274, though they differ in many points, and especially in having reference to a smaller and poorer society. Constant allusion to the scanty resources of the College is indeed a remarkable feature of the compilation; and at many points the purposes of the bishop have to be postponed; injunctions are not to come into operation until the College is able to afford the charge. In particular, although it is directed that two or three indigent younger scholars shall be introduced into the society, it is stated that this must only take place when the College has grown richer, and furthermore, not until the number of fellows, now fixed at fourteen, is 'notably augmented'. The Master is appointed by the bishop from two men who have been nominated in the first place by the society. A special apology is made for the remuneration that is offered to him, 40s. a year 'over and above his accounts', which is 'all that the present resources of the house can afford'. He is essentially the business manager of the College, and the statutes decree that he shall have two chambers, a servant, and a horse. The scholars, or fellows as they would now be called, are to be elected by the society, and they cannot have 50s. a year like those of Merton. Simon Montacute asks them patiently to bear a more economical régime 'until their means, under God's auspices, shall have received more plentiful increase'. The duties of two deans, and when this shall be possible, two bursars, also an almoner (though again it is admitted that the College is still too poor for any appreciable almsgiving) and finally a porter, when one can be afforded, are prescribed in the statutes. Rules are made for the custody and circulation of the books of the College, which are to be kept in a chest with two locks. An attempt of Edward III in 1345 to appoint a candidate of his own as scholar was defeated by virtue of these statutes; (fn. 5) and the opportunity was taken at the same time to secure royal confirmation of them.

Account rolls of 1374, 1388–9, and 1396–7 give a picture of the College very similar to the one which emerges from these statutes. Over 100 years after the foundation the rectory of Thriplow provided £40 out of a gross income of £91. In 1354–5 William Moschett set up a trust which by 1391–2 completed the transference of nearly 70 acres at Fen Ditton to the College. And in 1401, as a result of the work of Bishop Fordham, who was seriously concerned about the poverty of the College, and of John Newton, Master 1382–97, an influential man who enjoyed the favour of Archbishop Arundel, Peterhouse secured the advowson and rectory of Hinton, completing a transaction upon which successive bishops of Ely had been engaged since 1345. (fn. 6)


The effective building of the Peterhouse that can be recognized today is the work of the 15th century. Only then was the second side of the Old Court begun and the original wing completed. In 1388 the existence of the hall, kitchen, buttery, granary, and bakehouse was recorded. Mention was also made for the first time of a chapel in which the Master, scholars, and residents had the bishop's licence to hold services; a little later it is found to be attached to the chambers of the Master, and it apparently projected into the present fellows' garden. A library, fitted with lecterns, existed somewhere in the early 15th century. In 1418 it possessed 380 books. (fn. 7) It was only after this date, however, that the grand building operations were undertaken. In 1431 the west side of the Old Court was begun and here on the first floor a new library was constructed. Possibly even before this the main section of the north wing of the court had been erected. Reconstructions and extensions were made in the south wing also, along the line of the original hall. It would appear that from St. Peter's Church, which had been rebuilt in the middle of the 14th century and had been dedicated to St. Mary, to the site of the Fitzwilliam Museum, the street was lined with houses. Some of these gave the College a dilapidated appearance in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Until this time the original hostels were in use. The entrance to Peterhouse was from the north, for the College and St. Mary's Church had a common pathway from the street, from which one turned left into the College and right into the church.

Historical Sketch.

From the beginning of the 15th century a remarkable series of surviving account rolls gives us an outline of at least the business history of the College. For the early part of the century there are catalogues of plate and of the books in the library; and it is possible to trace the succession to vacant fellowships from 1422 in the Old Register. The names of some perendinants, who paid for their rooms, are also known, and there are rare references to younger students such as a bibleclerk for example. During the Mastership of John Warkworth (1473–1500) the main building operations were completed and there are signs that the College was becoming more prosperous. Better provision was made for the fellows, and within a few years they were enjoying more than their share of the affluence that had come upon the house. At the beginning of the 15th century Thomas de CastroBernardi had introduced a loan-chest from which fellows might borrow up to 40s. and the corporate body up to 10 marks. (fn. 8) There was a house at Cherry Hinton to which fellows were able to resort in time of plague. Thomas Lane, Warkworth's predecessor as Master, bequeathed lands at Cherry Hinton and in Cambridge to the College, and these supported a chantry at Little St. Mary's, provided a stipend for a fellow to serve as chaplain there, and produced additional revenue for the College. Warkworth himself created another chantry, endowed a further fellowship, and provided an annual 'livery' for distribution amongst the Master and fellows. Simon Montacute had fixed 16s. 8d. as the annual 'livery' of the fellows in certain declarations that he made upon the statutes. He had also prescribed allowances for the sick, and made more elaborate regulations concerning the keeping of accounts. (fn. 9) Another statute of Warkworth's time prescribed that fellows should be chosen equally from two regions, representing roughly the north and south of England. (fn. 10) All these developments, as well as the building of the Old Court, show the importance of the 15th century in the history of Peterhouse and illustrate its increase in material prosperity.

It is only after 1500, when a new era for the University appears to have begun, that flesh can be put upon this skeleton of the business history of the College, and a glimpse secured of its internal life and of the role which it played in the Cambridge story. Henry Hornby, Master 1500 or 1501–18, brought the College into connexion with a group of scholars who have kinship perhaps most of all with Colet, Erasmus, and More. They represented the Renaissance in Cambridge; on the eve of the Reformation they brought orthodoxy and piety and the cause of learning into alliance. And they helped to bring to Cambridge, and to administer there, the benefactions of Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond. Hornby, himself a patron of learning, was dean of chapel, secretary, and chancellor in the household of Lady Margaret. After her death he played an active part in Cambridge as one of the executors and supervisors of her will. A number of Peterhouse men who reached high place in the University were connected with him and his group of scholars. William Burgoyne, a close associate of Hornby and the fellow who succeeded him as Master, held the Lady Margaret Chair of Divinity immediately before Erasmus. John Watson, who was elected a fellow almost at the time of Hornby's appointment as Master, was a humanist who visited Italy and is remembered as a friend of Erasmus. He was one of the Lady Margaret Preachers and in 1517 became Master of Christ's College. Robert Shorton, the first Master of St. John's, and a close associate of Hornby in the foundation and building of that College, under the direction of John Fisher, was mentioned as being still at Peterhouse in the first account roll after Hornby's arrival. All these protégés of Hornby, as they received advancement in the University, were brought into connexion with the benefactions of Lady Margaret; and like Robert Shorton who became almoner to Katherine of Aragon and remained faithful to her cause, they shared the outlook of that humanist circle in which love of learning was combined with Catholic orthodoxy.

The same group wished to make a larger use of Cambridge for the teaching of poor scholars and the training of clergy. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the Mastership of Hornby is an important stage in the remarkable 16th-century development of Peterhouse as an institution for undergraduates; although at least while Lady Margaret lived, Hornby was to an unusual degree an absentee Master. It is evident that in 1516 it was decided that the fellows were enjoying more than their share of the goods of the house; and the Bishop of Ely, whether of his own motion or not it is difficult to say, reminded the fellows of the intentions of the founders as expressed in Simon Montacute's statutes. The bishop ordered the annual reading of the statutes, (fn. 11) and cut down the fellows' commons to 4d. a week. A number of economical ordinances, tending to protect the College against its members and to discipline the fellows, were issued. (fn. 12) The reasons for these steps were made clear when immediately afterwards the election of new fellows brought the number to seventeen for the time being. (fn. 13) At the same time it was decreed that 'there shall always be in the said College eight poor scholars'. (fn. 14) Regulations for poor scholars were drawn up, and Henry Hornby's connexion with them is shown by the fact that he gave money for the weekly commons of the scholars. It does not appear that the poor scholars were always kept to the number of eight, and the great feature of the 16thcentury history of the College was the remarkable growth in the number of undergraduate students who were not poor at all, men for whom the colleges were not originally intended. Nevertheless this development during Hornby's Mastership was an important stage in the history of the College as a teaching institution. Hornby gave Peterhouse the manor of Chewells, in Haddenham, and a moiety of that of Stathern (Leics.) together with the patronage of Stathern church. He also endowed a chantry in the church of St. Mary the Less; and this provided a stipend for another fellow of the College who would act as chaplain.

Strype mentions Peterhouse as one of the colleges which were represented in the circle of early reformers that met at the 'White Hart'; and George Joye, one of the fellows, relates how he escaped in 1527 the martyrdom that Arthur and Bilney had to suffer because he took the hint that Bishop Gardiner had given him in the hall of Peterhouse, and fled to the Continent. (fn. 15) John Edmunds, the Master, and Buckmaster, a fellow of the College, who was then Vice-Chancellor, were chiefly responsible for the interesting task of managing the Senate and securing a favourable reply from Cambridge when Henry VIII sent his question to the University on the legality of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. (fn. 16) Edmunds seems to have had the distinction of being a married clergyman in the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 17) His successor, Ralph Aynesworth, lost the mastership when Mary came to the throne because he was a married man. But it cannot be said that the Reformation produced anything of a religious awakening at Peterhouse. On the contrary, the disturbances and disorders, the rude changes of régime, the forms of tyranny that characterized the mid-16th century, produced unsettled minds, encouraged an unattractive submissiveness to organized power, and resulted, to judge from reproofs that were sent to the Master, in neglect of even the customary religious duties.

When John Bradford, on the eve of his martyrdom under Mary, wrote his touching farewell to Cambridge and said the last things he would ever want to say to a University that had forsaken and betrayed the Gospel, he brought his letter to its climax in a grand apostrophe which opens with the words 'Oh Perne, repent'. Perne, Master 1554–89, has perhaps been too harshly judged. Under Edward VI he joined undoubted Catholics in disputation with Martin Bucer; (fn. 18) in the first Convocation under Mary he spoke against transubstantiation; (fn. 19) and in debate before Elizabeth I he offended the queen by his insistence upon the Church's power of excommunication. He guarded Whitgift from Cardinal Pole's visitors in 1557, and as Vice-Chancellor turned the fury of the persecutors against Bucer and Fagius, who were dead. He was the friend of Parker, Whitgift, and Burghley, and the College benefited from these high connexions. Through his influence Peterhouse men became masters of colleges. (fn. 20) In a time of financial stress he found benefactors for the College. (fn. 21) He resisted, not always entirely in vain, those royal mandates by which, as later in Stuart times, fellows were nominated in contravention of the College statutes and in disregard of the claims of poor scholars of the house. (fn. 22) Finally he left to the College the biggest part of a library which was considered unrivalled in its day; provision for four bible-clerks and two fellows (the latter receiving a fixed £12 a year soon sank into the position of bye-fellows); and money for a new library which was built as an eastern extension of the wing in which the Master had his chambers.

The College in the 16th century was small, having been outstripped by later, wealthier foundations. It probably supplied about 5 per cent. of the men taking degrees. On the earliest extant Bakehouse Roll of 1542 there are 26 names. There were 60 in 1564, 78 in 1572, and 154, an extraordinarily high figure, in 1581. At the inquiry of 1546 the College properties were said to produce £138 per annum net, and expenses to exceed revenue by nearly £50.

In the 17th century Peterhouse was involved in the movements and controversies of the time, and acquired the special distinction and charm that can come to a small College in its historic moment. An early symptom of the connexion of the College with the new religious movement was the departure of Peter Baro from the College and from Cambridge after he had offended the Calvinists in 1596. A sign of royalism was the part it played in 1626 in making the Duke of Buckingham Chancellor of the University. In 1623 the Master, Leonard Mawe, who had already been advanced in his career by a succession of royal mandates, accompanied Matthew Wren, a Pembroke man, as chaplain to Prince Charles on the famous expedition to Madrid in quest of a royal bride. Charles, on his accession, promoted Mawe to the mastership of Trinity and made Wren his successor at Peterhouse; and, although the fellows resented this contravention of their statutes, (fn. 23) the appointment proved of inestimable advantage to the College. Wren 'reduced all the Fellows to one sacred Bond of Unity and Concord and excited the Scholars to Constancy and Diligence in their studies . . . rescued their writings and ancient records from dust and worms and by indefatigable industry digested them into good method and order'. By his high connexions he secured, where the College had failed, the modification of the Warkworth statute. (fn. 24) That statute, imposed by northerners, had divided the country unfairly so that the 13 northern counties had an equal share of fellowships with the 28 southern counties and the whole of Wales. As the College claimed that ten times more students were admitted from the south than from the north the matter had become a great grievance. It was further alleged to be the reason why very few members of the College had risen to high preferment in the Church for a long period. (fn. 25) Wren, furthermore, not only built the College chapel, but entirely transformed the appearance of Peterhouse from the street. In 1632 it was decided that the 'ancient and ruinous chambers' that extended along the street front and then at right-angles to the street against the churchyard of Little St. Mary's should be pulled down. The Perne Library was extended to the street, and the fine woodwork which it now possesses must be attributed approximately to this time. Between the chapel and St. Mary's churchyard new chambers were erected, and a wall was made across the street front. Cosin, who became Master in 1635, carried on the work of Wren, and improved and ornamented the chapel. In spite of substantial subscription-lists the College finances were excessively strained, and poems of Crashaw bear witness to the financial difficulty and to building schemes that had to be left uncompleted. (fn. 26) Above all Wren and Cosin established the Laudian discipline in the College, and challenged the hostility of the Puritans by the bowing and the incense and the idolatrous ornaments in their chapel. At the same time they showed concern for learning and gave great encouragement in matters aesthetic. Peterhouse, for example, gained some distinction in music, while the part-books from the new chapel now form one of the rarest treasures in the library. A Presbyterian writer tells how:
Instead of Aristotle's Organon Anthems and organs I did study on . . . I cousen'd Dr. Cosin and ere long A Fellowship obtained for a song. (fn. 27)
Richard Crashaw, Isaac Barrow, and Joseph Beaumont all belonged to this royalist Peterhouse.

The reaction was disastrous. College plate and College money were sent to the king in 1642. The following years saw the ejection of Cosin, the Master, and all but one of the fellows; the visit of William Dowsing who 'pulled down two mighty great Angells with wings' in the chapel 'and about a hundred cherubims and Angels'; also the imposition upon the College of soldiery who felled twenty great elms in Little St. Mary's churchyard. The new Master, Lazarus Seaman, was often an absentee and the Puritan régime at Peterhouse was troubled and unhappy. Seaman was high-handed and quarrelled with the fellows, one of whom printed a petition to the House of Commons in which he asked for republicanism in the College as well as in the state, and showed the reasonableness of a Peterhouse ruled by fellows without any Master at all. (fn. 28) Finally in 1658 Seaman disregarded the elections that had been made by the society and brought his relations with the College to a crisis by installing his son as a fellow.

It is not surprising, therefore, that records after 1660 give evidence of a conscious effort to restore order after a period of chaos. One fellow, Francius, survived from the years previous to the ejection, and in the reconstitution of the ordered life of the College he proved a valuable repository of tradition. There were few ejections in 1660. Cosin became Master again for a moment, but was early removed to the bishopric of Durham. He gave 1,000 books to the library, endowed a librarianship, and left £200 for the improvement of the chapel. His successor, Bernard Hale, bequeathed to the College lands valued at more than £7,000 including the rectory of Glaston (Rut.) which was earmarked for the Master. After this Matthew Wren, now Bishop of Ely, ignoring the nominations made by the fellows, admitted Joseph Beaumont as Master. The appointment, though high-handed, was a good one, for Beaumont was efficient and energetic and had been a fellow in the time of Cosin. He left in the College, amongst many other papers, a diary which throws great light on the day-to-day life of Peterhouse. It would seem, however, that both in numbers and in quality the College had entered into a period of decline in the latter half of the 17th century.

Fuller, writing before 1655, gave special commendation to a peculiar tradition of the College; (fn. 29) and there is evidence that the tradition was wellestablished even in the 16th century. It was the practice to secure portraits, on boards roughly uniform in size, of benefactors, and later of Masters, and to fit these into the panels of the wainscoted stone-parlour, appending a Latin distich 'on a separate long panel under each, much ornamented with painting'. In the 18th century, however, the stone-parlour fell out of use; the Master now lived in the Lodge across the road, and the fellows began to use what had been the Master's chambers above the parlour. The panels were taken down and moved for a time to the room upstairs, and Cole in the middle of the 18th century became anxious for their fate. 'I was very desirous of preserving this laudable and very curious, and almost singular piece of antiquity in our University', he says; and he took copies of the distich under each of the paintings so that a record of them should remain. (fn. 30) His anxiety was not unreasonable; by 1814 Dyer had to record the loss of one of the boards that held a painting of the two old hostels. And although most of the portraits remain, some of them show signs of having been repainted at an early date and the panel that held the distich has in every case disappeared.

In the 18th century considerable changes took place in the College buildings. The Master's Lodge was acquired in 1727 under the will of Charles Beaumont, son of the former Master. He also left money for the purchase of advowsons. That of Newton (Suff.) was acquired in 1731; Exford (Som.) and Witnesham (Suff.) in 1736. In 1732 it was decided to pull down the building which stood between the chapel and the churchyard, and a new building, faced with Ketton stone, was completed in 1741. The building was set back into Little St. Mary's churchyard and entailed the closing of the old entrance to that church, but an entrance to the College on that side seems to have remained, for in 1750 it was ordered that a porter's lodge should be made 'in the passage from the Cloisters to the Church'. A plan for a new building to the south of the chapel, entailing the destruction of the Perne Library, was not carried out. In 1751 new gates were made towards the street and in 1754 the Old Court was faced with Ketton stone and oblong sash windows were introduced. (fn. 31)

Edmund Keene who became Master when he was 34 years of age, in 1748, was concerned in these later projects. He was an autocrat, and has been accused of a predilection for fellow-commoners, wealthy young men whose mode of life was not beneficial to the cause of learning. In his day the Duke of Grafton, Lord John Cavendish, Sir James Lowther, and Thomas Gray were fellow-commoners. His successor, Edmund Law (1754–87), also impressed his personality upon the College, and the names of John Jebb, Samuel Jebb, and John Disney illustrate the manner in which Peterhouse became affected by the deistical thought of the time. In 1787 the fellows came into conflict with the Bishop of Ely over the choice of a new Master. They prevented him from appointing his own client, and when they sent him two names from which he had the right to select, they nominated their favourite candidate along with another person utterly unfitted for the post, Francis Barnes. They imagined that the bishop would not dare to choose Barnes, (fn. 32) but after endeavouring to appoint a third candidate, he did so, and Barnes remained Master for 50 years. It was said that he was little qualified 'for the discharge of any duty which required the exercise of high notions of morality and a careful regard to what is just, decent and venerable'. Financially the College remained prosperous, however, and not until the close of his period of office was there a decline in the number of students. A gift of £20,000 from Francis Gisborne in 1817 resulted in the building of Gisborne Court (1825–6).

In 1860 new statutes reduced the society to its earlier form, with a Master and fourteen fellows, while the bye-fellowships were abolished, their revenue being transferred to an open scholarship fund. In the years 1866–70 the original stone parlour was considerably enlarged to form the present combination room, and the hall was largely reconstructed, although part of the ancient walls still remain. The architect was Sir Gilbert Scott, but in both cases, as also in the rooms above the stone parlour where the Master had once had his lodgings, William Morris, Burne Jones, and Ford Madox Brown were associated with the work of decoration. In the latter half of the 19th century the names of Lord Kelvin, and for a moment of Clerk Maxwell, as well as of P. G. Tait, E. J. Routh, and Sir James Dewar, signalize a period in which mathematics and science had considerable importance in the College. On 29 October 1872 Kelvin, then Sir William Thomson, became a fellow, after the governing body had ruled that a widower was qualified for election. In 1878 the College showed considerable eagerness to abolish the requirement that three of its fellows should be in holy orders; although it does not appear to have made prolonged or consistent use of its freedom in this matter. In 1882 new statutes put an end to the prohibition on married fellows, and to the requirement that the Master and fellows should be members of the Church of England. The tenure of fellowships was limited to six years, the life fellowship being abolished save as a reward for prolonged service. In 1883–4 Kelvin celebrated the 600th year of the College by providing electric light in the hall and combination room, before it had been installed elsewhere in the University.

In 1894 the College, which already awarded entrance scholarships for chemistry and physics, added history for the first time to the list of possible scholarship subjects. When A. W. Ward became Master in 1900 the decade was opening which was to see great advances in historical study in many Cambridge colleges; and Ward's influence, combined with that of H. W. V. Temperley, whose appointment as college lecturer he brought about in 1904, gave history a predominant position in Peterhouse for a number of decades, while the natural sciences, during part of this period, fell into neglect. In 1925–6 a new building, now called the Hostel, was erected across the road, at the side of the Master's Lodge; in 1929 a new lecture-room was constructed and in 1940 another small building, the present Fen Court, was built at the extreme west of the College where the stables had once stood. Between 1918 and 1939 the undergraduate membership was restricted to about 150, but in 1954 it stood at nearly 200, while the number of fellowships had risen to nearly 20, including 7 professorial fellows. Bye-fellowships had been revived for 20 years. Like other colleges Peterhouse came under revised statutes in 1926.

Notable Pictures.

Walter Curle (1575– 1647), Bishop of Winchester, fellow, painter unknown; Bernard Hale, Master 1660–3, painter unknown; Edmund Law, Bishop of Carlisle, Master 1754–88, by Romney, 1786, his third and last portrait of Law; George Borlase (1744–1809), Professor of Moral Philosophy, fellow, by Romney; William Smyth (1765–1849), Regius Professor of Modern History, fellow, painter probably a member of the Kitcat Club; H. Wilkinson Cookson, Master 1847– 76, by Lowes Dickinson; William Thomson, Baron Kelvin (1824–1907), fellow, by Lowes Dickinson; Peter Guthrie Tait (1831–1901), fellow, by Sir George Reid; Sir James Dewar (1842–1923), Jacksonian Professor, fellow, by Orchardson, 1895; Sir Adolphus W. Ward, Master 1900–24, by Rivière; Field-Marshal Sir William Birdwood, Baron Birdwood of Anzac, Master 1931–8, by Dodd.


Sir John Lee's Dish, Strasburg, 16th cent. Flagon 1625/6, W. C. Jackson. Chalice and paten, c. 1632. Cosin's Two-handled Cup, 1657/8, marked A[nthony] F[icketts] [?]. Alms-Dish, c. 1660, mark a Dolphin's Head [?]. Chapel Candlestick, c. 1670 [?]. Hodges Two-handled Cup, 1708/9, marked N. E. A. Nelme. Mellish Punch Bowl, 1710–11, maker Thomas Farren. Merton Porringer, Exeter 1712. Wren's Ewer and Basin, basin 1719/20 by J. Elston, ewer 1725/6 by S. D. Dr. Porter's Ewer, c. 1725, Reval [?]. Half-pint mug or size, 1742/3, maker John Barnard. Sir John Robinson's Tankard, 1743/4. Arthur Onslow's Inkpot, used when he was Speaker 1728–61, given by his son, George. Lewkener & Hotham's Stoup, 1749/40 [? 50], maker Thomas Whipham. George Onslow's Salver, 1748/9. Punch ladle, 1751/2.

Seals. (fn. 33)

The Old Seal seems to have been used consistently down to the year 1800, save in the period 1644–60 when Lazarus Seaman was the Master imposed by the Parliamentary party. It was last used in 1808. Description: A pointed oval 2 5/16 in. long. Matrix brass. Subject: In the centre the founderbishop in alb, amice, dalmatic, fanon and chasuble, low mitre, and holding his staff in his left hand, the right hand being raised in benediction. On either side of him stand two tonsured scholars in longsleeved gowns with hoods or falling collars. One scholar holds a book. Beneath the bishop's feet is a shield charged with three crowns, two and one, and above his head is a trefoil arch supporting a halflength figure of St. Peter holding two huge keys in his right and a book in his left hand. On his left is a six-rayed star. The saint has a nimbus bearing a cross. Legend: s. comune scolarium domini episcopi eliensis.

The New Seal was used 1644–60 and apparently not afterwards until 1800. Since 1808 it has been used exclusively. Description: A pointed oval 3 in. long. Matrix brass. Device: A shield surrounded by arabesque scroll work, bearing three pallets within a bordure charged with ten crowns. Above the shield two keys in saltire. This seal may be the result of the radical policies and anti-ecclesiastical prejudices of Lazarus Seaman.

Masters of Peterhouse

Gerard de Hoo: occurs 1290, after 21 June.

Robert de Winwick: occurs 1333.

Robert de Mildenhall: occurs 12 May 1338.

Roger de la Goter of St. Botolph: occurs 1338–9 and 1340.

Ralph de Holbeche: occurs Apr. 1344, resigned 1349.

William de Whittlesea: 10 Sept. 1349, resigned 1351, died 5 June 1374.

Richard de Wisbeche: 1351 to c. 1374.

Thomas de Wormenhall: c. 1364, died 1381–2.

John de Newton: 3 Mar. 1382, resigned 1397, died 1414.

William Cavendish: 11 Apr. 1397, resigned 1397.

John de Bottlesham: 27 Aug. 1397, resigned 1400, died 17 Apr. 1404.

Thomas de Castro-Bernardi: 14 June 1400, occurs 1417–18, died 1420–1.

John Holbroke: occurs before 1421, possibly from 1418, probably died 1436.

Thomas Lane: perhaps 1436, occurs 1438, died 1473.

John Warkworth: 6 Nov. 1473, died Oct. 1500.

Thomas Denman: 19 Nov. 1500, died 1500–1.

Henry Hornby: 1500–1, died 1517–18.

William Burgoyne: 18 or 19 Feb. 1518, died before 30 Jan. 1523.

John Edmunds: occurs from Michaelmas 1523, died Nov. 1544.

Ralph Aynsworth: 1544, ejected 1553, died 1554.

Andrew Perne: 4 Feb. 1554, died 26 Apr. 1589.

Robert Some: 11 May 1589, died 1608–9.

John Richardson: 30 Jan. 1609, resigned 27 May 1615, died 20 Apr. 1625.

Thomas Turner: 15 June 1615, died Oct. 1617.

Leonard Mawe: 16 Nov. 1617, resigned 1625–6, died 3 Sept. 1629.

Matthew Wren: 1625–6, resigned 22 Jan. 1635, died 24 Apr. 1667.

John Cosin: 8 Feb. 1635, ejected 13 Mar. 1644, restored 3 Aug. 1660, resigned 18 Oct. 1660.

Lazarus Seaman: 11 Apr. 1644, ejected 1660.

Bernard Hale: 5 Nov. 1660, died 29 Mar. 1663.

Joseph Beaumont: 24 Apr. 1663, died 24 Nov. 1699.

Thomas Richardson: 9 Dec. 1699, died 30 July 1733.

John Whalley: 21 Aug. 1733, probably died 1748.

Edmund Keene: 29 Dec. 1748, resigned 25 Oct. 1754, died 6 July 1781.

Edmund Law: 12 Nov. 1754, died 14 Aug. 1787.

Francis Barnes: 3 May 1788, (fn. 34) died before 2 May 1838.

William Hodgson: 16 May 1838, died 16 Oct. 1847.

Henry Wilkinson Cookson: 3 or 4 Nov. 1847, died 30 Sept. 1876.

James Porter: 28 Oct. 1876, died 2 Oct. 1900.

Adolphus William Ward: 29 Oct. 1900, died 19 June 1924.

Robert, Baron Chalmers: 5 July 1924, resigned 1931, died 17 Nov. 1938.

Sir William Birdwood: 20 Apr. 1931, resigned 1938, died 17 May 1951.

Harold Temperley: 1 July 1938, died 11 July 1939.

Paul Cairn Vellacott: 29 July 1939, died 15 Nov. 1954.

Herbert Butterfield: 17 Jan. 1955.


  • 1. Comm. Doc. ii. 1.
  • 2. Ibid. 1–4.
  • 3. Old Register; T. A. Walker, Biog. Reg. of Peterhouse, i (1927), 9.
  • 4. Comm. Doc. ii. 6–42.
  • 5. Walker, Biog. Reg. i. 11.
  • 6. Ibid. 17.
  • 7. Catalogue in Old Register.
  • 8. T. A. Walker, Peterhouse (1935), 30.
  • 9. Comm. Doc. ii. 46–47.
  • 10. Ibid. 54–55.
  • 11. Ibid. 47–48.
  • 12. Ibid. 48–51.
  • 13. Walker, Biog. Reg. i. 112–16.
  • 14. Comm. Doc. ii. 52–53.
  • 15. John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1877), iv. 754.
  • 16. Lamb, Camb. Reformation Doc. 19–35.
  • 17. B.M. Add. MS. 5843, f. 403.
  • 18. Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1877), vi. 336.
  • 19. Gardiner still thought him a proper person to become Master: Old Register.
  • 20. Camb. Univ. Lib. Baker MSS. A. Perne to Burghley 22 July 1577.
  • 21. Ibid., e.g. Perne to Burghley, 25 July 1583.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Old Register.
  • 24. Ibid.; Comm. Doc. ii. 101–5.
  • 25. Ibid. 97–105.
  • 26. Richard Crashaw, Complete Works, ed. Alex. B. Grosart (1873), ii. 357–71.
  • 27. B.M. Add. MS. 5820, ff. 121–3, 'The Recantation of Penitent Proteus'.
  • 28. Charles Hotham, Petition and Argument of Mr. Hotham . . . before the Committee for the Reformation of the Universities, 10 Apr. 1651.
  • 29. Fuller, Hist. 32.
  • 30. Willis and Clark, Archit. Hist. i. 63–69.
  • 31. College Order Bk. 1707–56.
  • 32. An account of the Late Dispute between the Bishop of Ely and the Fellows of Peterhouse concerning the election of a Master of that College [c. 1788].
  • 33. Based on an account by J. G. D. Clark in the College library.
  • 34. Bp. of Ely nominated, 27 Sept. 1787, and admitted, 3 Oct., D. Longmire, but was compelled to withdraw.