Lights, Canapés, Action: Pembroke College’s 400th Anniversary Begins


At the end of a brisk day on 12th January, 2024, around four hundred students and staff members gathered on Chapel Quad, hot drinks and 400-branded cupcakes in hand. What else could attract such numbers to a cold, dark January evening but the desire to join the first of our celebrations commemorating the 400th Anniversary of Pembroke College?

Two photos of the crowd at the launch event and three guests posing in front of the Light Show.


Though the rather fitting number of attendees was sheer coincidence, the event itself was a carefully considered launch of the College’s anniversary year, with months of planning coming together to make it a night to remember. Our internal community of students and staff joined in a spectacular evening of food, drink, and a particularly magical light show, projected onto the front of the Hall and taking guests through the history of the College right up to the present day. Glimpses of portraits, manuscripts and, later on, photos related to our history and legacy appeared in succession, accompanied by an orchestral score which combined with the stunning visuals to create a captivating experience for all those watching. We are immensely grateful for generous funding from an alumnus which allowed the light show to happen.

Inaugurating the anniversary year, the Master, the Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder, addressed the crowd gathered in Chapel Quad. From watchmaking to medical innovation, writing the first comprehensive English dictionary to The Lord of the Rings, the Master highlighted the vast range of achievements our community has produced since a tiny, medieval Broadgates Hall became the College to which we all belong.

Two photos of the crowd watching the Light Show.


It is only through generous support that such success has been possible, though, from the very first donations from Thomas Tesdale and Richard Wightwick which saw the foundation of Pembroke as a College. The Master’s speech acknowledged those who have quietly helped the College forge its path to the successful and ambitious institution it is now, and whose enormous generosity allows us to face our future with confidence and ambition. Echoing Sir Thomas Browne’s vision of a “College of marble” at Pembroke’s foundation ceremony back in 1624, the Master invited students and staff to envision the future of Pembroke as a world-leading academic community, and the College of choice for generations to come.

This marks the beginning of a year of celebrations for all parts of our community. With a packed calendar of events still to come, we look forward to sharing this milestone with you, wherever you may be, over the course of the next year. Here’s to the next four hundred years.

The 400 logo projected onto the front of the Hall.