With over 8 centuries of history, every corner in Cambridge has a story to tell, if the walls could talk, they’d tell you about all of the incredible people that have walked the paths in years gone by: famous writers, scientists, philosophers and mathematicians many of whom changed the world we live in today…
Unsurprisingly, many of Cambridge’s famed characters are celebrated in paintings, sculptures, gardens and all manner of commemorations, including of course meeting and dining rooms.
We caught up with a few of our venues to find out more about the name behind the room...
The Oriel Room at the Pitt Building is arguably the most stunning meeting room in Cambridge, this impressive vaulted gothic room takes its name from the oriel window facing Pembroke College where William Pitt the Younger, Britain’s youngest prime minister, had been an undergraduate. From 1963 to the present day the Oriel Room has hosted meetings of the University Press Syndicate, at which every book and journal published by Cambridge University Press & Assessment receives its official stamp of approval.
The Alison Shrubsole meeting room at Homerton College is named after one of the College’s former principals, Alison Cheveley Shrubsole. Alison was once charged with founding a school in Kenya which involved visiting remote schools by air, the only means of transport. Undeterred, Alison took flying lessons and with no roads or landing strips, she found a novel way to ensure a safe arrival - she kept a brick by her side in the cockpit and on approach to the school she was visiting, she would let it drop if it bounced, she knew the ground below was firm enough to land!
The team at Westminster College told us that their favourite room is the Assembly Room, the room is named after the Westminster Assembly of Divines, who met in London in 1643-1653 to plan a new structure for the Church. In 1899, when Westminster College was built, the room was the Principal's study. The three walls of floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookcases stored all the Principal's books, and the windows overlooked the Principal's Lawn... and as Westminster has always been a theological training college, the fireplace tiles are decorated with scenes from the Bible…
The Pompeiian Room, is a hidden gem of national artistic interest at Hinxton Hall Conference Centre. The former drawing room is covered from floor to ceiling in striking and strongly coloured nineteenth-century figurative panels inspired by wall paintings excavated from the mid-eighteenth century onwards in Pompeii and Herculaneum. It is characterised by an eclectic mix of Roman-inspired wall paintings depicting illusionistic landscapes, enthroned Roman gods, mythical creatures, and delicate female figures.
It has now been discovered that the room was completed around 1845. In a bundle of notes compiled by a certain Reverend Frederick Philip de Freville (born in 1857 and a descendant of the builder of the Pompeian Room) the following quote was uncovered: 'When Edward de Freville reacquired the Hall around 1834 ‘he added the large drawing room and dining room and the offices and justice room. The drawing room walls were painted by Italian artists in imitation of frescoes then lately discovered at Pompeii.’
Few visiting the Whale Hall at the University of Cambridge’s Museum of Zoology will be in doubt about where the space got its name from. Look up and you can see the perfectly preserved skeleton of a fin whale! The whale had originally washed ashore in Pevensey, near Hastings in November 1865 and after a period as a tourist attraction, it found its way to the Museum, which had opened the year before.
Putting the whale on display for the first time was a massive operation, it weighs around 80 tonnes and required custom-made ironwork to hold its bones together, reportedly made in the University’s Engineering Department, it still holds the skeleton together today.
The Stephen Hawking Room at Trinity Hall is named, as you might surmise after one of the world’s most brilliant minds, Professor Stephen Hawking who studied for his PhD in cosmology at Trinity Hall from 1962 to 1965. Professor Hawking attended the official room naming ceremony at Trinity Hall in October 2015 and said: “As much as I would like to say that I spent all my early Cambridge research career at Trinity Hall thinking about the universe and everything, I spent some of my time enjoying this beautiful setting by the river. It is therefore a privilege to have this room overlooking Latham Lawn named in my honour.”
The Jocelyn Bell Burnell Room at Murray Edwards College is named in honour of Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell who discovered pulsars in 1967 while she was a postgraduate student at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College) carrying out research at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory. Pulsars at the time were an unknown object in the universe; her work resulted in a Nobel Prize (but not to her), inspired the artwork on a Joy Division album cover, and in 2018 led her to donate all of a £2.3 million prize to help under-represented groups become physicists.
The Kathleen Lyttelton Room at Selwyn College was refurbished and renamed in 2018 in honour of Mary Kathleen Lyttelton, one of the women who had been involved with the Suffragist movement and worked towards gaining the right to vote for women.
Kathleen Lyttelton was an activist with an interest in improving the lives of women, including extending suffrage to include women. Whilst in Cambridge, she co-founded with Millicent Fawcett the Cambridge Association for Women's Suffrage, joined the Executive of the Central Society for Women's Suffrage, and worked with the Cambridge Women's Refuge and the Cambridge Association for the Care of Girls. She also founded, along with Louise Creighton, the Cambridge Ladies Dining Society, which provided the opportunity for women to dine together and have discussions at a time when spouses were excluded from High Table dining. They remained in Cambridge until 1893 when they moved first to Eccles and later to Hampshire.
All of the rooms mentioned are available for events, why not book one today and add your name to the story!