St John's College, Cambridge: Wikis


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Colleges of the University of Cambridge

St John's College

View over the rear buildings of St John's from the Chapel.
College name The College of St John the Evangelist of the University of Cambridge
Founder Lady Margaret Beaufort
Named after The Hospital of St John the Evangelist
Established 1511
Admittance Men and women
Master Chris Dobson
Undergraduates 534
Graduates 340
Sister colleges Balliol College, Oxford
Trinity College, Dublin
Location St John's Street (map)
St John's College heraldic shield
Souvent me Souvient
(Old French, "I often remember")
College website
Boat Club website
David Loggan's engraving of the College, circa 1685.

St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.

The college has fixed assets of £567,390,000; while this is overshadowed in absolute terms by Trinity College, it does however grant St John's the largest endowment per student of any Oxbridge college.[1] The college's alumni include nine Nobel Prize winners, six Prime Ministers, three archbishops, at least two princes, and two Saints.[2]

The full formal name of the college is "The Master, Fellows and Scholars of the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge".[3] The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort. In constitutional terms, the college is an eleemosynary corporation established by Charter dated 9 April 1511. The aims of the College, as specified by its Statutes, are the promotion of education, religion, learning and research. The college is a charity under English law, being an exempt charity under the terms of Schedule 2 of the Charities Act 1993.[4]

St John's College is well-known for its choir, and its famed May Ball was ranked the "seventh best party in the world" by Time magazine.[5] Amongst Cambridge undergraduates the college is also well-known for its formidable rugby club.[6]



The college was founded on the site of the 13th century Hospital of St John in Cambridge at the suggestion of Saint John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and chaplain to Lady Margaret. However, Lady Margaret died without having mentioned the foundation of St John's in her will, and it was largely the work of Fisher that ensured that the college was founded. He had to obtain the approval of King Henry VIII of England, the Pope through the intermediary Polydore Vergil, and the Bishop of Ely to suppress the religious hospital and convert it to a college. The college received its charter on April 9, 1511. Further complications arose in obtaining money from the estate of Lady Margaret to pay for the foundation and it was not until October 22, 1512 that a codicil was obtained in the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In November 1512 the Court of Chancery allowed Lady Margaret's executors to pay for the foundation of the college from her estates. When Lady Margaret's executors took over they found most of the old Hospital buildings beyond repair, but repaired and incorporated the Chapel into the new college. A kitchen and hall were added, and an imposing gate tower was constructed for the College Treasury. The doors were to be closed each day at dusk, sealing the monastic community from the outside world.

Over the course of the following five hundred years, the College expanded westwards towards the River Cam, and now has eleven courts, the most of any Oxford or Cambridge College. The first three courts are arranged in enfilade.

  • Baker, Thomas & Mayor, John Eyton History of the College of St John the Evangelist, Cambridge, Reissued by Cambridge University Press 2009, ISBN 978-1-108-00367-4

Buildings and grounds

The Main Gate of St John's College on St John's Street, decorated with the arms of the foundress.
The Great Gate (1516)
St John's distinctive Great Gate follows the standard contemporary pattern employed previously at Christ's College and Queens' College. The gatehouse is crenelated and adorned with the arms of the foundress Lady Margaret Beaufort. Above these are displayed her ensigns, the Red Rose of Lancaster and Portcullis. The College Arms are flanked by curious creatures known as yales, mythical beasts with elephants' tails, antelopes' bodies, goats' heads, and swivelling horns. Above them is a tabernacle containing a socle figure of St John the Evangelist, an Eagle at his feet and symbolic, poisoned chalice in his hands. The doors date from 1665-6, and the fan vaulting above was constructed by William Swayne, the master mason of King's College Chapel.[7]
First Court (1511-1520)
First Court is entered via the Great Gate, and is highly architecturally varied. First Court was converted from the hospital on the foundation of the college, and constructed between 1511 and 1520. Though it has since been gradually changed, the front (east) range is still much as it appeared when first erected in the 16th-century.[8] The south range was refaced between 1772-6 in the Georgian style by the local architect James Essex, as part of an abortive attempt to modernise the entire court in the same fashion. The most dramatic alteration to the original, Tudor court however remains the Victorian amendment of the north range, which involved the demolition of the original mediaeval chapel and the construction of a new, far larger set of buildings in the 1860s. These included the Chapel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, which includes in its interior some pieces saved from the original chapel. It is the tallest building in Cambridge. The alteration of the north range necessitated the restructuring of the connective sections of First Court; another bay window was added in order to enlarge the College's hall, and a new building constructed to the north of Great Gate. Parts of First Court were used as a prison in 1643 during the English Civil War.
Dining Hall (1511-1516, extended 1863)
The College's Hall has a fine hammerbeam-roof, painted in black and gold and decorated with the armorial devices of its benefactors. The hall is lined to cill-level with linenfold panelling which dates from 1528-9, and has a five-bay screen, surmounted by the Royal Arms. Above is a hexagonal louvre, dating to 1703. The room was extended from five to eight bays according to designs by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1863. It has two bay windows, containing heraldic glass dating from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries.[9]
St John's College Chapel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott
Pershore Abbey served as the inspiration for the College chapel's tower
College Chapel (1866-9, Sir George Gilbert Scott)
The Chapel of St John's College is entered by the north west-corner of First Court, and was constructed between 1866-9 in order to replace the smaller, mediaeval chapel which dated back to the 13th-century. When in 1861 the College's administration decided that a new building was needed, Sir George Gilbert Scott was selected as architect. He had recently finished work on a similar project at Exeter College, Oxford, and went about constructing the Chapel of St John's College along similar lines, drawing inspiration from the Church of Saint Chapelle in Paris.
The benefactor Henry Hoare offered a downpayment of £3000 to finance the chapel's construction, in addition to which he promised to pay £1000 a year if a tower were added to Scott's original plans, which had included only a small fleche. Work began, but Mr Hoare's death in a railway accident left the college £3000 short of his expected benefaction. The tower was completed, replete with louvres but left without bells. It is based on Pershore Abbey[10]. The tower is 50 metres high, and is the tallest structure in Cambridge (followed by the Cambridge University Library and King's College Chapel). The Chapel's antechamber contains statues of Margaret Beaufort and John Fisher. Inside the building is a stone-vaulted antechapel, at the end of which hangs a 'Deposition of the Cross' by Anton Rafael Mengs, completed around 1777. The misericordes and panelling date from 1516, and were salvaged from the old chapel. The chapel contains some fifteenth-century glass, but most was cast by Clayton and Bell, Hardman, and Wailes, in around 1869.[9] Freestanding statues and plaques commemorate College benefactors such as James Wood, Master 1815-39, as well as alumni including William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and William Gilbert. The College tower can be climbed, and is accessed via a small door on First Court.
The Chapel is surrounded on three sides by large tabernacles which form part of the external butresses. Each contains a statue of a prominent College alumnus, alumna or benefactor. The persons commemorated are, beginning with the buttress next to the transept on the south side:
Second Court at Night
The interior of the Old Library
The 16th century dining hall has a hammerbeam roof
Second Court (1598-1602)
Second Court, built from 1598 to 1602, has been described as 'the finest Tudor court in England'. Built atop the demolished foundations of an earlier, far smaller court, Second Court was begun in 1598 to the plans of Ralph Symons of Westminster, and Gilbert Wigge of Cambridge. Their original architectural drawings are housed in the College's library, and are the oldest surviving plans for an Oxford or Cambridge college building.[11] It was financed by the Countess of Shrewsbury, whose arms and statue stand above the court's western gatehouse. The court's Oriel windows are perhaps its most striking feature, though the dominating Shrewsbury Tower to the west is undoubtedly the most imposing. This gatehouse, built as a mirror image of the College's Great Gate, contains a statue of the benefactress Mary Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, added in 1671. Behind the Oriel window of the north range lies the Long Gallery, a promenading room that was, prior to its segmentation, 148 feet long. In this room, the treaty between England and France was signed that established the marriage of King Charles I of England to Queen Henrietta Maria. In the 1940s, parts of the D-day landings were planned there.
Chapel Court
Located to the west of the Chapel tower.
North Court
Located to the north of Chapel Court.
Located to the east of Chapel court, facing St John's Street. It is used partly as a car park for fellows, and also as a night entrance to the College.
The College Library (1624)
The Old Library was built in 1624, largely with funds donated by John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. Hearing of the College's urgent need for greater library space, Williams donated £1,200 anonymously, later revealing his identity and donating a total of £2,011 towards the library's total cost of £3,000.[12] The Library's fine bay window overlooks the River Cam, and bears the letters ILCS on it, standing for Iohannes Lincolniensis Custos Sigilli, or John of Lincoln, Keeper of the Seal. The original intention of the College had been to construct an elegant, classical building supported by pillared porticos, but Bishop William insisted on a more traditional design. Thus, though the College lays claim to few examples of neo-classical design, the College Library stands as one of the earliest examples of English neo-Gothic architecture.
Third Court (1669-1672)
Third Court is entered through Shrewsbury Tower, which from 1765 to 1859 housed an observatory. Each its ranges was built in a different style. Following the completion of the College Library in 1624, the final sides of Third Court were added between 1669 and 1672, after the College had recovered from the trauma of the English Civil War. The additions included a fine set of Dutch-gabled buildings backing onto the River Cam, and a 'window-with-nothing-behind-it' that was designed to solve the problem of connecting the windowed library with the remainder of the court.
Kitchen or Wren Bridge (1696-1712, Robert Grumbold)
This was the first stone bridge erected at St John's college, continuing on from Kitchen lane. The crossing's chief distinction is the use of illusory intaglio; Wren's bridge is carved from a limestone monolith incised to give the appearance of masonry.[13] The crossing lies south of the Bridge of Sighs, and was a replacement for a wooden bridge that had stood on the site since the foundation's early days as a hospital. Though Sir Christopher Wren submitted designs for the bridge, it was eventually built on a different site by a local mason, Robert Grumbold, who also built Trinity College Library. As with the Library, Grumbold's work was based on Wren's designs, and the bridge has become known more famously as 'the Wren Bridge'.
Kitchen Court
This tiny court, formed within the walls of the old Kitchen Lane, is used as an outdoor dining area.
St John's College Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs (1831, Henry Hutchinson)
Though it bears little resemblance to its namesake in Venice, the bridge connecting Third Court to New Court, originally known as New Bridge, is now commonly known as the Bridge of Sighs. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Cambridge, and was described by the visiting Queen Victoria as 'so pretty and picturesque'.[14] It is a single-span bridge of stone with highly decorative Neo-Gothic covered footwalk over with traceried openings. There is a three bay arcade at the East end of the bridge.
New Court (1831-1987, Rickman and Hutchinson)
The 19th century neo-Gothic New Court, probably one of the most famous buildings in Cambridge, was the first major building built by any of the colleges on the west side of the river. Designed by Thomas Rickman and Henry Hutchinson, New Court was built between 1826 and 1831 to accommodate the College's rapidly increasing numbers of students. Despite the College's original intention to get the architects to build another copy of Second Court, plans were eventually accepted for a fashionably romantic building in the 'Gothic' style. It is a three-sided court of tall Gothic Revival buildings, closed on the fourth side by an open, seven-bayed cross-vaulted cloister and gateway. It is four storeys high, has battlements and is pinnacled. The main portal has a fan vault with a large octagonal pendant, and the interior of the main building retains many of its original features including ribbed plaster ceilings in the mock-Gothic style. Its prominent location (especially when seen from the river) and flamboyant design have led it to be nicknamed "The Wedding Cake". Hutchinson was suitably proud of his creation, and it is said that he once dashed up a staircase to reprimand an undergraduate for spoiling its symmetry by sitting too near one of its windows.
The Master's Lodge and Garden (Sir George Gilbert Scott)
St John's Master's lodge is located in a grassy clearing to the north of Third Court. It was built at the same time as the new Chapel was being constructed, and has Tudor fittings, wainscot, portraits and other relics from the demolished north wing of First Court. It has a large garden, and in the winter its westmost rooms have excellent views of the College's old library, the River Cam, and the Bridge of Sighs.
Cripps Building (1966-67, Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya)
This buildings, behind New Court, was built in 1966-67 to meet a post-1945 expansion in the numbers of students. It has two courts, and was designed by architects Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya. The building was listed after receiving an award from the British Architectural Instituation, and is considered an exemplar of the later 20th-century architectural style. It is named after its benefactor, Sir Humphrey Cripps (see Sir Humphrey Cripps). The Cripps Building forms two courts, Upper River Court and Lower River Court.
The Fisher Building
The Fisher Building was named after John Fisher and was designed by Peter Boston and completed in 1987.
The School of Pythagoras
The School of Pythagoras was built around 1200, predating the foundation of the College (1511). It is the oldest secular building in Cambridge.
Merton Hall and Merton Court
Merton Hall is so called because from 1266[15] until 1959 both the School of Pythagoras and Merton Hall were property of Merton College, Oxford. Merton Court is the College's eleventh and westernmost court.
All Saints' Yard
Currently under construction, All Saints' Yard is located directly opposite the College's Great Gate. The complex is formed from the buildings of the so-called 'Triange Site', a collection of structures owned by the College. The project has a budget of approximately £9.75 million, and should be completed by October 2009. The centrepiece of the Yard is Corfield Court, named for the project's chief benefactor, Charles Corfield. The site can be entered through one of two card-activated gates, or through the School of Divinity. The School of Divinity is the largest building on the site, and was built between 1878-1879 by Basil Champneys for the University of Cambridge's Divinity Faculty on land leased by St John's College. Control of the building reverted to St John's when the Faculty of Divinity moved to a new building on the Sidgewick site in 2000.


The Second Court of St John's College


The interior of the Chapel.

St John's College Choir has a tradition of religious music and has sung the daily services in the College Chapel since the 1670s. The services follow the cathedral tradition of the Church of England, Evensong being sung during Term six days a week and Sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings. The Choir is currently directed by Mr Andrew Nethsingha, who has previously been Director of Music at Gloucester and Truro Cathedrals. The boys of the choir are all educated at the St John's College School. During university vacations the choir carries out engagements elsewhere. Recent tours have taken it to places including the Netherlands, the USA and France. The choir has made a large number of recordings.

The Choir has an extensive discography dating back to the 1950s, when it was signed to the Decca/Argo label under George Guest. More recently, the Choir has completed a sequence of recordings of English 20th century choral for Naxos, which sold over 200,000 copies.[16] The Choir now records with Hyperion Records, and has released four discs to date with the label: one of the music of Mendelssohn, a collection of music for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, Christmas at St John's, a recording of the choral and vocal music of Jongen and Peeters and most recently, a collection of the music of Bairstow. The Choir has received invitations to perform throughout the world, recently touring in France, Austria, the Netherlands, Estonia, Hungary and America.

The men of the choir, or choral scholars, also form their own close harmony group, The Gentlemen of St John's. Their repertoire spans the 15th century through to the modern day, and concert tours have taken them to Europe, the USA and Japan. They provide a mixture of classical a capella music and folksongs, as well as covers of recently chart hits and light-hearted entertainment.


The College motto is souvent me souvient, supplied by Lady Margaret Beaufort, and written in Mediaeval French. It is inscribed over gates, lintels and within tympana throughout the college, functioning as a triple pun. It means 'I often remember', 'think of me often' and, when spoken (exploiting the homonym souvent me sous vient), 'I often pass beneath it' (referring to the inscriptions). The college shares its motto with Christ's College, Cambridge and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

College Grace

The College Grace is customarily said before and after dinner in Hall. The reading of Grace before dinner (ante prandium) is usually the duty of a Scholar of the College; Grace after dinner (post prandium) is said by the President or the Senior Fellow dining. The Graces used in St John's have been in continuous use for some centuries and it is known that the Ante Prandium is based upon mediaeval monastic models. The Grace is said shortly after the fellows enter the Hall, signalled by the sounding of a Gong, and accompanied by the rining of the College's Grace Bell. The Ante Prandium is read after the Fellows have entered, the Post Prandium after they have finished dining:

Latin English
Ante Prandium (Before Dinner) Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine, et tu das illis cibum in tempore, aperis manum tuam, et imples omne animal benedictione. Benedic, Domine, nos et dona tua, quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi, et concede ut illis salubriter nutriti, tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. 'The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord: and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand: and fillest all things living with plenteousness. Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which out of thine abundance we are about to receive, and grant that by their saving nourishment we may have power to fulfill the obedience due to thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
Post Prandium (After Dinner) Infunde, quaesumus, Domine Deus, gratiam tuam in mentes nostras, ut his donis datis a Margareta Fundatrice nostra aliisque Benefactoribus ad tuam gloriam utamur; et cum omnibus qui in fide Christi decesserunt ad caelestem vitam resurgamus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Deus pro sua infinita clementia Ecclesiae suae pacem et unitatem concedat, augustissimam Reginam nostram Elizabetham conservet, et pacem universo Regno et omnibus Christianis largiatur. Pour forth, we beseech thee, Lord God, thy grace into our minds, that we may use these gifts, given by Margaret our Foundress and other Benefactors, to thy glory, and together with all who have died in the faith of Christ rise again to life in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. May God, of his infinite mercy, grant his Church unity and peace, preserve our most august queen, Queen Elizabeth, and grant peace to the whole Realm and to all Christians.

Traditions and Legends

Eating Swan

The College arms

Fellows of St John’s College are the only people outside the Royal Family legally allowed to eat unmarked mute swans. Swan traps were originally built into the walls of the college alongside the river, but these are no longer used.[17] The Crown (the British monarch) retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century, and was extended to the College via ancient Royalist ties.

College Ghosts

According to popular legend, St John's College is inhabited by a number of ghosts. In 1706, four fellows exorcised some ghosts from a house opposite the College by the simple method of threatening to fire their pistols at the positions the moans and groans were coming from. Second court is apparently still haunted by the ghost of the former undergraduate, James Wood. Wood was so poor that he could not afford to light his room, and would often do his work in the well-lit stairway.[18]

New Court's Clock Tower

New Court's central cupola has four, blank clock-faces which are the subject of various, apocryphal explanations. One legend maintains that limitations on the number of chiming clocks in Cambridge, rendered the addition of a mechanism illegal. No such limitation is known to exist - a far more probable explanations include that Hutchinson's fear the installation of a clockface would spoil the building's symmetry, or that the college's financial situation in the early nineteenth century made completion impossible.

Other legends explaining the absence of clockfaces claim that St John's College and its neighbour, Trinity College, were engaged in a race to build the final (or tallest) clocktower in Cambridge - which ever was finished first (or was tallest) would be permitted to house the 'final' chiming clock in Cambridge. Supposedly, Trinity's Tower was finished first (or, in another version of the same story, was made taller overnight by the addition of a wooden cupola), and its clock was allowed to remain.

In truth, the completion of New Court and Trinity's Clock (which is in King Edward's Tower) was separated by nearly two centuries. Trinity's famous double-striking was installed in the seventeenth century by its then-Master, Richard Bentley, a former student of St John's, who dictated that the clock chime once for Trinity, and once for his alma mater, St John's.

The College Shield and Arms

St John's College and Christ's College, Cambridge both bear the arms of the Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, mother of Henry VII. These arms are recorded in the College of Arms as being borne by right, and are described as: Quarterly: 1 and 4 azure three fleurs-de-lis gold (France, Modern); 2 and 3 gules three lions passant gardant or (England); all within a border compony silver and azure. In addition, both foundations use the Beaufort crest, an eagle displayed arising out of a coronet of roses and fleurs-de-lis all gold, but their title to this is more doubtful. When displayed in their full achievement, the arms are flanked by mythical yales.

College life

View over the rear buildings of St John's from the Chapel. Visible are second, third and New Court, the Cripps Building, backs and College playing fields.

The buildings of St John's College include the Chapel, the Hall, two libraries, a bar, and common rooms for fellows, graduates and undergraduates. There are also extensive gardens, lawns, a neighbouring sportsground, College School and boat-house. On-site accommodation is provided for all undergraduate and most graduate students. This is generally spacious, and some undergraduate rooms comprise 'sets' of living and sleeping rooms. Members of the College can choose to dine either in the Hall, where silver service three-course meals are served, or in the buttery, where food can be purchased from a cafeteria-style buffet. College Catering is organised by Michelin Star Chef Bill Brogan, overseer of the intercollegiate Stewards' Cup.

The College maintains an extensive library, which supplements the university libraries. Most undergraduate supervisions are carried out in the college, though for some specialist subjects undergraduates may be sent to tutors in other colleges. The college owns its own punts which may be borrowed by students, dons and staff.

The fleet of punts is kept in a purpose-built punt pool behind the Cripps Building. The School of Pythagoras is now used as a drama space. It predates the College proper, and is said to be the oldest building continuously in use by a university in Britain. It was originally the private house of the Merton Family. In addition to its Nobel prize winners, St John's traditionally ranked highly in the Tompkins Table of undergraduate degree results, though its rating has fallen over the past four years.[19].

Sports and activities

The college has a rich sporting history, enjoying much success in most of the major sports on offer in cambridge.The Red Boys, St John's College Rugby Club, have won the Division One League title for the last eight years in a row and the cuppers trophy for the last five making it one of the most successful collegiate sports teams in Cambridge's history. It has several has notable alumni including current RFU executive Francis Baron, Rob Andrew, and Battlestar Galactica actor Jamie Bamber. The women's team (Red Girls) has also experienced success last year, securing the inter collegiate cup on the same day that the red boys won the double for the fifth year in a row. The college rowing club, the Lady Margaret Boat Club (LMBC), is the oldest in the University, and was founded in 1825. Despite many gruesome rumours concerning the name of the club, it was merely the most successful of the many boat clubs established in the College in the 19th century. In a similar fashion the traditional rival of the LMBC, the Boat Club of Trinity College, is known as 'First and Third' in a reference to its formation from two original clubs.

Scholarships and prizes

Every year the college awards scholarships to a handful of graduate students under the Benefactors' Scholarships Scheme.[20] The scholarships include the Craik Scholarship, the J.C. Hall Scholarship, the Luisa Aldobrandini Studentship Competition, the Paskin Scholarship and the Pelling Scholarship. Competition for these scholarships is very fierce as students from any country reading for any graduate degree—not only members of the college—can apply.

May Ball

St John's hosts perhaps the most famous May Ball in Cambridge, which is traditionally held on the Tuesday of May Week. The Ball was ranked the 'seventh best party in the world' by Time Magazine, and is one of the most sought after in Cambridge.[5] In recent years, tickets have only been available to Johnians and their guests. Highlights include an extravagant fireworks display and a variety of musical acts - in 2008 including Dizzee Rascal and Lesley Garrett.

List of previous May Ball Acts

2009 Calvin Harris and The Puppini Sisters
2008 Dizzee Rascal, Shy FX, Lesley Garrett and I Was a Cub Scout
2007 Just Jack and Good Shoes
2006 Hot Chip
2005 Röyksopp
2004 Scissor Sisters and Flight of the Conchords

St John's and the abolition of the British slave trade

Several of St John's graduates were deeply involved in the efforts to abolish the British Slave Trade which culminated in the Act of 1807. In particular, Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, Thomas Gisborne and Thomas Babington were active in the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and other abolitionist efforts.[21]

As part of the commemoration of the bicentenary of the 1807 Act, and as a representative of one of the Ivy League universities offering American historical perspective on the Triangular Trade, President Ruth J. Simmons of Brown University (herself a direct descendant of American slaves) gave a public lecture at St John's College entitled "Hidden in Plain Sight: Slavery and Justice in Rhode Island"[22] on February 16, 2007. St John's College hosted some of the key events relating to the commemoration,[23] including an academic conference and a Gospel Mass in the College Chapel with the London Adventist Chorale.

Famous alumni

See also Category:Alumni of St John's College, Cambridge. See also Category:Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge. A more extensive list is located on the St John's website

The following is a list of notable people educated at St John's College Cambridge. When available, years of attendance are provided as indicated in the College Register or in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Over 1000 former members of St John's College appear in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.[24] Students of St John's were the most heavily featured in Varsity's 2008 and 2009 lists of the hundred most influential people in Cambridge.[25]

Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom


William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Elizabeth I's chief advisor, attended St John's College from 1535.
William Wilberforce, the prominent abolitionist, attended St John's College from 1776.
Famous former student of St John's College, the current Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh (See also: Dr Manmohan Singh Scholarship)

Nobel Prize Winners

Science, mathematics, and technology

Arts and Literature

William Wordsworth attended St John's College from 1787



St John's College Royal Medal Winners

Three Royal Medals, known also as the Queen’s Medals, are awarded annually by the Sovereign upon the recommendation of the Council of the Royal Society, “two for the most important contributions to the advancement of Natural Knowledge (one in the physical and one in the biological sciences) and the other for distinguished contributions in the applied sciences”. The first Royal Medal was awarded in 1826 and previous recipients include thirty-eight Johnians.

Name Year Rationale[26][27][28][29][30]
John Herschel 1836 For his paper on nebulae and clusters of stars, published in the Philosophical Transactions for 1833
James Sylvester 1861 For his various memoirs and researches in mathematical science
John Langley 1892 For his work on secreting glands, and on the nervous system
Charles Pritchard 1892 For his work on photometry and stellar parallax
Arthur Schuster 1893 For his spectroscopic inquiries, and his researches on disruptive discharge through gases and on terrestrial magnetism
Percy MacMahon 1900 For the number and range of his contributions to mathematical science
William Burnside 1904 For his researches in mathematics, particularly in the theory of groups
Augustus Love 1909 On the ground of his researches in the theory of elasticity and cognate subjects
William Hicks 1912 On the ground of his researches in mathematical physics
Grafton Smith 1912 No citation.
William Sollas 1914 For researches in palaeontology
Joseph Larmor 1915 On the ground of his numerous and important contributions to mathematical and physical science
William Rivers 1915 On the ground of his important contributions to ethnography and ethnology
William Bateson 1920 On the ground of his contributions to biological science, and especially his studies in genetics
Frederick Blackman 1921 For his researches on the gaseous exchange in plants & on the operation of limiting factors
Albert Seward 1925 For his researches on the palaeobotany of Gondwanaland
John Marr 1930 For his pioneer work in the accurate zoning of the palaeozoic rocks
Patrick Laidlaw 1933 For his work on diseases due to viruses, including that on the cause and prevention of distemper in dogs.
Alfred Harker 1935 In recognition of his distinguished work and influence as a petrologist
Paul Dirac 1939 For the leading part he had taken in the development of the new quantum mechanics
William Topley 1942 For his outstanding work on experimental epidemiology and immunology
Harold Jeffreys 1948 For his distinguished work in geophysics and his important contributions to the astronomy of the solar system
Edward Appleton 1950 For his work on the ele [sic] transmission of electromagnetic waves round the earth and for his investigations of the ionic state of the upper atmosphere
Frederic Bartlett 1952 In recognition of his creation of an experimental school of psychology which has established under his leadership an outstanding position recognized internationally as without superior
Nevill Mott 1953 In recognition of his eminent work in the field of quantum theory and particularly in the theory of metals
John Cockcroft 1954 In recognition of his distinguished work on nuclear and atomic physics
William Hodge 1957 In recognition of his distinguished work on algebraic geometry
Rudolf Peierls 1959 In recognition of his distinguished work on the theoretical foundations of high energy and nuclear physics
Raymond Lyttleton 1965 In recognition of his distinguished contributions to astronomy, particularly for his work on the dynamical stability of galaxies
Frank Yates 1966 In recognition of his profound and far-reaching contributions to the statistical methods of experimental biology
Joseph Hutchinson 1967 In recognition of his distinguished work on the genetics and evolution of crop-plants with particular reference to cotton
Charles Oatley 1969 In recognition of his distinguished work in the wartime development of radar and latterly for the design and development of a highly successful scanning electron microscope
Frederick Sanger 1969 In recognition of his pioneer work on the sequence of amino acids in proteins and of nucleotides of ribonucleic acids
Fred Hoyle 1974 In recognition of his distinguished contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology
Abdus Salam 1978 In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the physics of elementary particles with special reference to the unification of the electromagnetic and weak interactions
Roger Penrose 1985 For his fundamental contributions to the theory of gravitational collapse and to other geometric aspects of theoretical physics
Eric Denton 1987 In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the physiology of marine animals, to marine biology generally, and his leadership of UK marine science
Robert Hinde 1996 In recognition of his contributions to the field of animal behaviour and the dominant influence it achieved on the emerging field of ethology
Christopher Dobson 2009 For his outstanding contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms of protein folding and mis-folding, and the implications for disease

Masters of St John's College

Name Start of service End of Service
Robert Shorton 9 Apr. 1511 July 1516
Alan Percy July 1516 Nov. 1518
Nicholas Metcalfe Dec. 1518 4 July 1537
George Day 27 July 1537 6 June 1538
John Taylor 4 July 1538 10 Mar. (?) 1546
William Bil 10 Mar. 1546 10 Dec. 1551
Thomas Lever 10 Dec. 1551 28 Sept. (?) 1553
Thomas Watson 28 Sept. 1553 12 May (?) 1554
George Bullock 12 May 1554 20 July 1559
James Pilkington 20 July 1559 19 Oct. (?) 1561
Leonard Pilkington 19 Oct. 1561 11 May (?) 1564
Richard Longworth 11 May 1564 17 Dec. (?) 1569
Nicholas Shepherd 17 Dec. 1569 21 July (?) 1574
John Still 21 July 1574 1577
Richard Howland 21 July 1577 25 Feb. (?) 1587
William Whitaker 25 Feb. 1587 4 Dec. 1595
Richard Clayton 22 Dec. 1595 2 May 1612
Owen Gwyn 16 May 1612 1634
William Beale 20 Feb. 1634 1644
John Arrowsmith 11 Apr. 1644 May 1653
Anthony Tuckney 3 June 1653 25 June (?) 1661
Peter Gunning 5 June 1661 6 Mar. 1670
Francis Turner 11 Apr. 1670 3 Dec. (?) 1679
Humphrey Gower 3 Dec. 1679 27 Mar. 1711
Robert Jenkin 13 Apr. 1711 7 Apr. 1727
Robert Lambert 21 Apr. 1727 24 Jan. 1735
John Newcome 6 Feb. 1735 10 Jan. 1765.
William Samuel Powell 25 Jan. 1765 19 Jan. 1775.
John Chevallier 1 Feb. 1775 14 Mar. 1789.
William Craven 29 Mar. 1789 28 Jan. 1815.
James Wood 11 Feb. 1815 23 Apr. 1839.
Ralph Tatham 7 May 1839 19 Jan. 1857
William Henry Bateson 2 Feb. 1857 Mar. 1881
Charles Taylor 12 Apr. 1881 12 Aug. 1908
Sir Robert Forsyth Scott 21 Aug. 1908 18 Nov. 1933
Ernest Alfred Benians 7 Dec. 1933 13 Feb. 1952
James Mann Wordie 13 Dec. 1952 1959
J S Boys Smith 1959 1969
Philip Nicholas Seton Mansergh 1 Oct. 1969 12 July 1979
Francis Harry Hinsley 1979 31 July 1989
Robert Aubrey Hinde 1989 1994
Peter Goddard 1994 5 Jan. 2004
Richard Nelson Perham 5 Jan. 2004 30 Sep. 2007[31 ]
Chris Dobson Oct. 2007 44th, and current, Master[31 ]

Dates for masters up to 13 Dec. 1952 are taken from[32]

Many of the later dates are taken from the college magazine, The Eagle

In popular culture

The video of High Hopes , one of Pink Floyd last songs, contains numerous scenes set in the St Johns College.


  1. ^ St John's endowment per student is approximately £540,371 (567,390,000 / 1050). By way of comparison, the richest Cambridge college, Trinity College, has an endowment per student of approximately £517,500 - £22,871 less (621,000,000 / 1200).
  2. ^ College website -biographical history page
  3. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.1
  4. ^ St JOHN's COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE, Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 30 June 2007
  5. ^ a b Varsity Website
  6. ^ Varsity Website, St John’s domination of college rugby.
  7. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.10
  8. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.3
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.11
  11. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.13
  12. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.20
  13. ^ 'An Architectural History of the University of Cambridge', Willis p.224
  14. ^ 'A History of St John's College', produced by Tim Rawle Associates, Cloister Press, p.24
  15. ^ Martin, G.H (1997). A History of Merton College. Oxford University Press. pp. 17 and 342. ISBN 0-19-920183-8.  
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^'s&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk
  19. ^ see Tompkins Table
  20. ^ Benefactors' Scholarships Scheme
  21. ^ St John's Bicentenary 2007
  22. ^ St John's College Webcasts - Listen to webcasts from the College
  23. ^ University of Cambridge: 15 February 2007: Cambridge marks 200th anniversary of slavery's abolition
  24. ^'s+College,+Cambridge&imageField.x=13&imageField.y=4&imageField=Go
  25. ^
  26. ^ "The Royal Medals (recent)". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-11-26.  
  27. ^ "Royal Medal Winners: 2007 - 1990". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-11-26.  
  28. ^ "Royal Medal Winners:1990 - 1950". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  29. ^ "Royal Medal Winners:1949 - 1900". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  30. ^ "Royal archive winners before 1900". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-12-06.  
  31. ^ a b The Election of Chris Dobson as Master (University of Cambridge Press Release)
  32. ^ A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3 (1959; Editor J. P. C. Roach)


  • Baker, Thomas, History of the College of St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge, edited by John E.B. Mayor, 2 vols.; Cambridge University Press, 1869 (reissued by the publisher, 2009; ISBN 9781108003759)
  • Crook, Alec C., From the foundation to Gilbert Scott. A history of the buildings of St John's College, Cambridge 1511 to 1885; Cambridge, 1980.
  • Crook, Alec C., Penrose to Cripps. A century of building in the College of St John the Evangelist, Cambridge; Cambridge, 1978.
  • Henry, N.F.M. & Crook, A.C. (eds), Use and Occupany of Rooms in St John's College. Part I: Use from Early Times to 1983; Cambridge, 1984.
  • James, M.R., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of St John's College, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1913 (reissued by the publisher, 2009; ISBN 9781108003100)
  • Miller, Edward, Portrait of a College. A history of the College of Saint John the Evangelist in Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1961 (reissued by the publisher, 2009; ISBN 9781108003544)
  • Mullinger, James Bass, St. John's College; (University of Cambridge College Histories) London, 1901.
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England. Cambridgeshire; 2nd ed.; Harmondsworth, 1970; pp. 148-149.
  • Roach, J.P.C., A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, Volume 3, 1959
  • Willis, Robert & John Willis Clark, The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge. And of the Colleges of Cambridge and Eton; Vol. II; Cambridge, 1886. pp. 263-271.

External links

Coordinates: 52°12′29″N 0°7′0″E / 52.20806°N 0.116667°E / 52.20806; 0.116667 (St John's College)

Simple English

St John's College is a college of the University of Cambridge. It was started by Lady Margaret Beaufort in 1511. It is geographically one of the largest colleges of the University of Cambridge, and the third largest in terms of its membership. It is the second richest of all the Oxbridge colleges. The college is also known for its famous choir.

Other websites

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