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St Edmund's College
St Edmund's College Chapel and Norfolk East Wing
St Edmund's College Chapel and the original Norfolk Building
Arms of St Edmund's College, Cambridge.svg
Arms of St Edmund's College
Blazon: Arms of Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk (quarterly of four: Howard, Brotherton, Warenne, FitzAlan) with a canton of St Edmund of Abingdon (Or, a cross fleury gules between four Cornish choughs proper) all within a bordure argent
University University of Cambridge
Location Mount Pleasant, Cambridge (map)
Full name The Master, Fellows and Scholars of St Edmund’s College in the University of Cambridge
Latin name Collegium Sancti Edmundi
Abbreviation ED
Motto Per Revelationem et Rationem (Latin)
  • Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk
  • Baron Anatole von Hügel
Established 1896
Named after Edmund of Abingdon
Previous names St Edmund's House
Age restriction 21 and older
Sister college Green Templeton College, Oxford
Master Catherine Arnold
Undergraduates 188 (2022-23)
Postgraduates 528 (2022-23)
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St Edmund's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in England. Founded in 1896, it is the second-oldest of the three Cambridge colleges oriented to mature students, which accept only students reading for postgraduate degrees or for undergraduate degrees if aged 21 years or older.

Named after St Edmund of Abingdon (1175–1240), who was the first known Oxford Master of Arts and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1234 to 1240, the college has Catholic roots. Its founders were Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, and Baron Anatole von Hügel (1854–1928), the first Catholic to take a Cambridge degree since the deposition of King James II in 1688. The Visitor is the Archbishop of Westminster (at present Cardinal Vincent Nichols).

The college is located on Mount Pleasant, northwest of the centre of Cambridge, near Lucy Cavendish College, Murray Edwards College and Fitzwilliam College. Its campus consists of a garden setting on the edge of what was Roman Cambridge, with housing for over 350 students.

Members of St Edmund's include cosmologist and Big Bang theorist Georges Lemaître, Norman St John-Stevas, Archbishop Eamon Martin, of Armagh, Bishop John Petit of Menevia, and Olympic medalists Simon Schürch (Gold), Thorsten Streppelhoff (Silver), Marc Weber (Silver), Stuart Welch (Silver) and Simon Amor (Silver). St Edmund's was the residential hall of the university's first Catholic students in 200 years – most of whom were studying for the priesthood – after the lifting of the papal prohibition on attendance at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 1895 at the urging of a delegation to Pope Leo XIII led by Baron von Hügel.



St Edmund's House was founded in 1896 by Henry Fitzalan-Howard, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, and Baron Anatole von Hügel as an institution providing board and lodging for Roman Catholic students at the University of Cambridge.

After Catholic Emancipation, in particular after the Universities Tests Act 1871, students who were Roman Catholics were admitted as members of Oxford and Cambridge universities. However, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith decreed that it would be next to impossible for the ancient English universities to be frequented without mortal sin, stressing the dangers of an increasing atmosphere of liberalism and scepticism. This decision was met with public outcry from the wealthy laity, who wished for their sons to attend Oxbridge colleges. After a petition led by Anatole von Hügel, this ban was lifted in 1895 by Pope Leo XIII with the condition that a chaplain be appointed, a library with Catholic books be founded, and public lectures on philosophy, history and religion be established. As a result, the Universities Catholic Education Board (later Oxford and Cambridge Catholic Education Board) was founded and Edmund Nolan was appointed Chaplain. The Duke of Norfolk purchased property in Cambridge and the Cambridge University Catholic Chaplaincy was established at St Edmund's House in November 1886.

In its early days the college functioned predominantly as a lodging house, or hall of residence, for students who were matriculated at other colleges. Most of the students, at that time, were ordained Catholic priests who were reading various subjects offered by the University. The college was established in the buildings of Ayerst Hostel, which had been set up for non-collegiate students by the Anglican priest William Ayerst in 1884. In 1896 Ayerst Hostel closed due to lack of funds, and the property was transferred to the Catholic Church. The founding master of St Edmund's House was Edmund Nolan, then vice-rector of St Edmund's College, Ware.

Collegiate Status

Attempts to have St Edmund's House become a constituent college of the University of Cambridge were undertaken at various junctures, but were met in pre-ecumenical days by continuing opposition from the predominantly Protestant membership of the University’s governing Regent House. Among motives cited were that the college was not self-governing and its assets were held in trust by an external body, namely, the Catholic Church.

The chapel was consecrated in 1916 by Cardinal Francis Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster. A new dining hall was constructed in 1939 and the membership of the college increased steadily as it became a recognised House of Residence of the university, without college status.

In response to growing postgraduate student numbers in the early 1960s, the Regent House of the University established several Colleges primarily for postgraduate students, and St Edmund's House became one of the graduate Colleges in the University (the others being Wolfson College, Hughes Hall, Clare Hall and Darwin College). This spurred further progress regarding St Edmund's status within the University, and in 1965, the College was permitted to matriculate its own students and new fellows were elected. In 1975 St Edmund's acquired the status of an "Approved Foundation", and after the transfer of the College assets from the Catholic Church to the autonomous governing body comprising the Masters and Fellows of the College in 1986, the College changed its name from "St Edmund's House" to "St Edmund's College". It received university approval for full collegiate status in 1996, and this was confirmed by the grant of its royal charter in 1998. The college now accepts students of all faiths and none.

Buildings and grounds

Norfolk Building

The Norfolk Building is the oldest building on site, dating back to 1896 as the former Ayerst Hostel; it provided accommodation for Edmund Nolan, the first Master of St Edmund's, along with the first four students of the college. Known for its clean Gothic revival style, the building underwent a three-phase extension scheme designed by Roderick Gradidge in 1989, and now houses 21st-century amenities including the Combination Room, Dining Hall, Kitchens and a Porter's office.

Main Court, St Edmund's College
College Chapel and Norfolk Building in the foreground with Okinaga Tower in the background


The chapel is a Grade II listed building designed by the architect Benedict Williamson CSSP and was consecrated by Cardinal Francis Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster in 1916. Notable for its simplicity and Gothic Revival architecture, the chapel is a Catholic foundation, although it is open to members of other Christian denominations. In 2003, a stained-glass window depicting the ministry of Saint Boniface of Crediton (c. 675 - 754 AD), the apostle to Germany, was donated by Stephen Frowen and blessed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.

A bronze sculpture of the college patron, St Edmund of Abingdon, is located at the front of the chapel, his left hand holding a Bible. The statue is the work of Rodney Munday, an alumnus of St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and was commissioned by the College in 2007. The Chapel Schola and Choir perform in concerts in collaboration with St Edmund Hall, Oxford and St Edmund's College, Ware in commemoration of their Patron Saint.


St Edmund's continues to expand and develop ints buildings. In 2000, a new residential building housing 50 students was opened, named after Richard Laws, one of the former Masters. In 2006, two new residential buildings, including rooms for 70 students as well as apartments for couples, were opened; these were named after the former Master of the College, Sir Brian Heap, and the former Vice-Master, Geoffrey Cook.

In 2016, major plans were announced for the development of two new courts and several buildings. While contemporary, the buildings' external features and material will be in the traditional architectural vernacular that is found elsewhere in the College. Brick buildings will form the perimeter of the two new courts and a new multi-million pound student centre will frame the west side of the College. The expansion plans received planning consent from Cambridge City Council in June 2017.

Okinaga Tower

Created in 1993 by the bequest of the Teikyo Foundation, the Okinaga Tower is the college's tallest structure. Designed by architect Roderick Gradidge in 1989 it houses the Master's Lodge, as well as a suite with views of the city and was opened by Betty Boothroyd, Speaker of the House of Commons.

Courts and other buildings

Old Court, built in the early 2000s, is located to the west of the Norfolk Building, and surrounded by New Edwardian buildings: Brian Heap Building, Richard Laws Building, Geoffrey Cook Building and the Library Building. It was constructed to accommodate growing student numbers at this time, and most of its constituent buildings are student dormitories.

New Court, constructed in 2019, consists of student accommodation, Mount Pleasant Halls, occupying the site of a substantial office block formerly on the site and giving St Edmund College a frontage to the main thoroughfare of Huntington Road.

The College Sporting Grounds is located west of the Richard Laws Building, and offers a full-sized soccer pitch for college sports and other outdoor activities.

White Cottage St Edmund's
White Cottage with Mount Pleasant Halls in the background

The College Orchard is south of the Sporting Grounds, and consists of expansive lawns with 5 apple trees, outdoor seating, and a barbecue pit for students.

White Cottage is a modest 18th-century brick farmhouse which pre-dates the college buildings on the site and is painted white, situated adjacent to Mount Pleasant Halls against which it appears an incongruous survival. White Cottage was the first home of the Von Hugel Institute, a Catholic Institute for Critical Enquiry working in the fields of Christianity and society. The Institute was founded in 1987 to preserve the Roman Catholic legacy of the College when control of the College itself was ceded to its autonomous Governing Body in 1985 in order to achieve university collegiate status.

Bene't House is a detached Edwardian house, south-east of the Norfolk Old Wing. Named after St Benedict of Nursia (c.480 - 547 AD), it has since 2018 contained the facilities and offices for the Von Hugel Institute.


Academic profile

St Edmund's is one of the most international colleges of the university, with students from over 80 countries (2018-2019 academic year). The full spectrum of academic subjects is represented in the college. The fellowship of the college (academic staff) represents many academic disciplines, spread across arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, medicine, and veterinary medicine.

The college has one research institute attached to it: the Von Hügel Institute founded in 1987 to carry out research on Catholic Social Teaching. Describing itself as a 'Catholic Institute for Critical Enquiry' it works in the fields of Christianity and society, and seeks to preserve the Roman Catholic legacy of St Edmund's College when control of the College itself was ceded to its autonomous Governing Body in 1985 in order to achieve university collegiate status. The Von Hügel Institute is therefore a link to the Roman Catholic origins of the college.

The overall examination results of the college's comparatively few undergraduates tend to be in the middle among the Cambridge colleges, with St Edmund's ranking 21st on the Tompkins table in 2018.

Dining Hall

Student life

The college is younger than some of the more traditional colleges of the university. Despite this St Edmund's maintains many ancient Cambridge traditions including formal hall, albeit with modifications. Fellows at most Cambridge and Oxford colleges dine at a "high table" (separately from the students); however, St Edmund's has no such division, allowing undergraduates, postgraduates and Fellows to mix over dinner and other social activities. St Edmund's students are still required to wear their academic gowns during formal halls, ceremonies, and college occasions. The St Edmund's gown is fashioned from distinctive black cloth with close detailing around the neck and sleeves. The robe may only be worn by members of St Edmund's College, Cambridge. The college has a long sporting tradition, including the St Edmund's College Boat Club, the St Edmund's College Hockey Club (SECHC) and the St Edmund's College Cricket Club (SECCC). SECHC (merged with St Catherine's College Hockey Club) won 2024 Cuppers and SECCC reached the 2023 Cuppers finals. In recent years members have competed in varsity teams representing Cambridge against Oxford University in a wide variety of sports, most notably, at The Boat Race, The Varsity Match, the University Match (hockey) and The University Match (cricket).

On 15 September 2017, a team of four rowers from the college broke the World record for the 'Longest Continual Row' in the male 20-29 small team category by over an hour. The following year, on 13 April 2018, a team of ten rowers from the college went on to set the British and World record for "One Million Meters" on the indoor rowing machine in the male 20-29 large team category.

People associated with the college

Further information: Category:Alumni of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, Category:Fellows of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, and Category:Masters of St Edmund's College, Cambridge


  • Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, historian and great-grandson of Lord Acton
  • Joaquín Almunia, Spanish politician and member of the European Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs
  • Simon Amor, rugby union coach, member of the England Sevens team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games
  • Malcolm Baker, Robert G. Kirby Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, former Olympic rower
  • Johan Bäverbrant, Swedish diplomat
  • Aidan Bellenger, historian and former Benedictine monk
  • Alexander Bird, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge
  • William T. Cavanaugh, director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, and professor of Catholic studies at DePaul University
  • James Chau, Journalist, television presenter, and United Nations goodwill ambassador
  • Christian Cormack, rowing cox
  • Captain Sir George Sampson Elliston, Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Blackburn from 1931 to 1945
  • Chito Gascon, Chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines
  • Alex Hughes, Archdeacon of Cambridge
  • Hilary Lofting, Australian novelist, travel writer, journalist and editor. Eldest brother of Hugh Lofting (author of The Story of Doctor Dolittle).
  • Louise Lombard, actress
  • Greg Loveridge, former cricketer who played for New Zealand in 1996
  • Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
  • Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano, Guatemalan attorney and human rights activist
  • Alexander Masters, author, screenwriter, and worker with the homeless. Masters was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in Stuart: A Life Backwards.
  • Anna Mendelssohn, writer, poet, and political activist
  • Robert Noel, Officer of Arms (herald) at the College of Arms
  • Chris Oti, former rugby union player
  • Richard Phelps (rower), rower who competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics
  • Norman St John-Stevas, Baron St John of Fawsley, legal scholar, former master of Emmanuel College, and Leader of the House of Commons under Margaret Thatcher was a resident at St Edmund's House for his undergraduate studies in late 1940s and early 1950s. During his time he was the president of the Union Society
  • Christopher Stearn, former first-class cricketer
  • Thorsten Streppelhoff, Olympic Silver medalist and German M8+ rower at the 1996 Atlanta and 1992 Barcelona Games
  • Tony Underwood, rugby union international
  • David Wallace, scholar of medieval literature, Judith Rodin Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Patrick Walsh, Irish prelate of the Roman Catholic Church and from 1991 until 2008 he was the 31st bishop of Down & Connor
  • Luke Walton, American Olympic rower
  • Marc Weber, Olympic Silver medalist and German M8+ rower at the 1996 Summer Olympics
  • Stuart Welch, Olympic Silver medalist and Australian M8+ rower at the 2000 Summer Olympics


  • Denis Alexander, Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund’s College and an Emeritus Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge
  • Allen Brent, scholar of early Christian history and literature
  • Sir Martin Evans FRS FMedSci, Laureate of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • Andy Harter, computer scientist
  • Sir Brian Heap, biologist who was the master of the college from 1996 until 2004. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1989 and held the post vice-president and foreign secretary from 1996 to 2001
  • Richard Edwin Hills, emeritus professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge
  • Kevin T. Kelly, Roman Catholic priest and moral theologian
  • Edward Kessler, Founder President of The Woolf Institute and a leading thinker in interfaith relations, primarily Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations
  • Ilyas Khan, technologist and businessman
  • Nicholas Lash, Roman Catholic theologian
  • Georges Lemaître, cosmologist and Big Bang theorist, was a visiting academic at the college in 1923–24, while collaborating with Sir Arthur Eddington
  • Helen Mason, theoretical physicist
  • Josef W. Meri, American historian of Interfaith Relations in the Middle East in the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
  • Simon Mitton, astronomer and author. Elected member of the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  • Mark Ranby, former New Zealand rugby union player
  • Chris Rapley, scientist
  • Somak Raychaudhury, Indian astrophysicist
  • C. J. Ryan, priest and scholar of Italian studies
  • Brian Stanley, historian
  • Bob White, Professor of Geophysics in the Earth Sciences department at Cambridge University (since 1989) and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1994

Honorary Fellows

List of Masters of St Edmund's College

St Edmund's House

  • 1897–1904: William Ormond Sutcliffe
  • 1904–1909: Edmund Nolan
  • 1909–1918: Thomas Leighton Williams
  • 1918–1921: Joseph Louis Whitfield
  • 1921–1929: John Francis McNulty
  • 1929–1934: Cuthbert Leonard Waring
  • 1934–1946: John Edward Petit
  • 1946–1964: Raymond Corboy
  • 1964–1976: Garrett Daniel Sweeney
  • 1976–1985: John Coventry
  • 1985–1996: Richard Laws

St Edmund's College

  • 1996–2004: Brian Heap
  • 2004–2014: Paul Luzio
  • 2014–2019: Matthew Bullock
  • 2019–present: Catherine Arnold

See also

  • Listed buildings in Cambridge (west)
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