Trinity College is a
college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other
college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduate, and over 160 Fellows (however, counting only the student body but
not Fellows, Trinity has somewhat fewer students than Homerton
Trinity considers itself to be "a
world-leading academic institution with an outstanding record of
education, learning and research".
sister college, Christ Church, Oxford, it has traditionally been considered the most
aristocratic of the Cambridge
colleges — and it has generally been the academic institution of
choice of the Royal Family
(King Edward VII,
King George VI,
Prince Henry of
William of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Prince Charles were all
undergraduates). The Push Guide to Which University
(2005) called it "arguably the grandest Cambridge college" and it
has been called "the most magnificent collegiate institution in
The proportion of state school to private school pupils at Trinity
is roughly 2:3, though in 2006 it had the lowest state school
intake (39%) of any college. Although this figure fluctuates
slightly from year to year, on a rolling three-year average Trinity
has admitted a smaller proportion of state school pupils (42%) than
any other Oxbridge college. It first admitted women undergraduates
in 1978; women had been admitted as graduate students from 1976,
and the College appointed its first female fellow in 1977.
Trinity has a strong academic tradition, with members having won 32
(of the 85 Nobel Prizes awarded
to members of Cambridge University
), four Fields Medals
(mathematics), one Abel Prize
(mathematics) and two Templeton Prizes
(religion). It had the
highest proportion of students gaining Firsts in their exams of any
college in 2008.
Trinity has many notable alumni — including princes, spies, poets
and prime ministers (it has educated six British prime ministers
) — but
perhaps its two most distinguished are Isaac Newton
and Ludwig Wittgenstein
Trinity has many college societies. Its rowing
club is the First and Third Trinity Boat
. Trinity's May Ball
, named after
the Boat Club, is one of the largest of Cambridge's May Balls.
also has the oldest mathematical university society in the United Kingdom, the Trinity Mathematical
The first formalised version of the rules of football
, known as the Cambridge Rules
, was drawn up by Cambridge
student representatives of leading boarding schools at Trinity
College in 1848.
college was founded by Henry
VIII in 1546, from the merger of two existing colleges:
Michaelhouse (founded by Hervey de
Stanton in 1324), and King’s
Hall (established by Edward
II in 1317 and refounded by Edward III in 1337).
time, Henry had been wiping out and seizing church lands from
abbeys and monasteries. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge, being both religious institutions and quite rich,
expected to be next in line.
The king duly passed an
Act of Parliament
that allowed him
to suppress (and confiscate the property of) any college he wished.
The universities used their contacts to plead with his sixth wife,
. The queen persuaded
her husband not to close them down, but to create a new college.
did not want to use royal funds, so he instead combined two
colleges (King’s Hall and
Michaelhouse) and seven hostels (Physwick (formerly part of
Gonville and Caius College,
Cambridge), Gregory’s, Ovyng’s, Catherine’s, Garratt,
Margaret’s, and Tyler’s) to form Trinity.
Contrary to popular belief, the monastic lands supplied by Henry
VIII were alone insufficient to ensure Trinity's eventual rise. In
terms of architecture and royal association, it was not until the
Mastership of Thomas Nevile (1593–1615) that Trinity assumed both
its spaciousness and courtly association with the governing class
that distinguished it until the Civil War. In its infancy Trinity
had owed a great deal to its neighbouring college of St
John's: in the exaggerated words of Roger Ascham Trinity
was little more than a colonia deducta.
four Masters were educated at St John's, and it took until around
1575 for the two colleges' application numbers to draw even, a
position in which they have remained since the Civil War. In terms
of wealth, Trinity's current fortunes belie prior fluctuations;
Nevile's building campaign drove the college into debt from which
it only surfaced in the 1640s, and the mastership of Richard Bentley
(notorious for the
construction of a hugely expensive staircase in the Master's Lodge,
and Bentley's repeated refusals to step down despite pleas from the
Fellowship) adversely affected applications and finances.
Most of the Trinity’s major buildings date from the 16th and 17th
centuries. Thomas Nevile
, who became
Master of Trinity in 1593, rebuilt and re-designed much of the
college. This work included the enlargement and
completion of Great
Court, and the construction of Nevile’s Court between Great Court and the river Cam. Nevile’s Court was completed in the late
17th century when the Wren Library, designed by Sir
Christopher Wren, was built.
20th century, Trinity College and King’s
College were for decades the main recruiting grounds for
the Cambridge Apostles, an elite,
intellectual secret society.
name of the college is The Master,
Fellows and Scholars of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the Town and University of
Buildings and Grounds
The Great Gate
- King’s Hostel (1377-1416, various architects): Located to the
north of Great Court, behind the Clock Tower, this is (along with
the King’s Gate), the sole remaining building from King’s Hall.
Gate: The Great Gate is the main entrance to the college, leading
to the Great
Court. A statue of the college founder, Henry VIII, stands in a niche above
the doorway. In his hand he holds a table leg instead of the
original sword and myths abound as to how the switch was carried
out and by whom. In 1704, the University’s first astronomical
observatory was built on top of the
gatehouse. Beneath the founder's statue are the coats of arms of
Edward III, the founder of
King's Hall, and his five sons of who survived to maturity, as well
as William of Hatfield, whose shield is blank as he died as an
infant, before being granted arms.
- Great Court (principally 1599-1608, various architects): The
brainchild of Thomas Nevile, who
demolished several existing buildings on this site, including
almost the entirety of the former college of Michaelhouse. The sole remaining building of Michaelhouse
was replaced by the current Kitchens (designed by James Essex) in 1770-1775. See 360° panorama of Great Court from the BBC. The
Master's Lodge is the official residence of the Sovereign when in
- Nevile’s Court (1614, unknown architect): Located between Great
Court and the river, this court was created by a bequest by the
college’s master, Thomas Nevile,
originally ⅔ of its current length and without the Wren
Library. The appearance of the upper floor was
remodelled slightly two centuries later.
- Bishop’s Hostel (1671, Robert
Minchin): A detached building to the southwest of Great Court,
and named after John Hacket, Bishop of
Lichfield and Coventry. Additional buildings were built in 1878 by
- Wren Library (1676-1695, Christopher
Wren): Located at the west end of Nevile’s Court, the Wren is
one of Cambridge’s most famous and well-endowed libraries.
Among its notable possessions are two of Shakespeare’s First Folios, a
14th-century manuscript of The Vision of Piers Plowman, and
letters written by Sir Isaac Newton. Below the building
are the pleasant Wren Library Cloisters, where students may enjoy a
fine view of the Great Hall in front of them, and the river and
- New Court (or King’s Court; 1825, William Wilkins): Located to the
south of Nevile’s Court, and built in Tudor-Gothic style, this
court is notable for the large tree in the centre. A myth is
sometimes circulated that this was the tree from which the apple
dropped onto Isaac Newton; in fact
Newton was at Woolsthorpe when he deduced his theory of gravity.
Many other “New Courts” in the colleges were built at this time to
accommodate the new influx of students.
The Clock Tower
- Whewell’s Courts (1860 & 1868, Anthony Salvin): Located across the street
from Great Court, these two courts were entirely paid for by
William Whewell, the then master of
the college. The north range was later remodelled by W.D. Caroe. Note:
Whewell is pronounced “Hugh-well”.
- Angel Court (1957–1959, H.
Located between Great Court and Trinity
- Wolfson Building (1968–1972, Architects Co-Partnership):
Located to the south of Whewell’s Court, on top of a podium above
shops, this building resembles a brick-clad ziggurat, and is used
exclusively for first-year accommodation. Having been renovated
during the academic year 2005–06, it is once again in use.
Boar Court (1989, MJP
Architects and Wright): Located to the south of the Wolfson
Building, on top of podium a floor up from ground level, and
including the upper floors of several surrounding Georgian
buildings on Trinity, Green and Sidney Street.
also College rooms above shops in Bridge
Street and Jesus
Lane, behind Whewell’s Court and graduate accommodation
in Portugal Street and other roads around Cambridge.
- Burrell's Field (1995, MJP
Architects ): Located on a site to the west of the main College
buildings, opposite the Cambridge University Library.
- Fellows’ Garden: Located on the west side of
Road, opposite the drive that leads to the
Fellows’ Bowling Green
- Fellows’ Bowling Green: Located behind the Master’s Lodge
- Master’s Garden: Located behind the Master’s Lodge.
Fields: Located on the western side of Grange
Road, next to Burrell’s Field, with sports
- New Fields
The Great Court Run
Court Run is an attempt to run round the perimeter of Great
Court (approximately 367 m), in the 43 seconds during the
clock striking twelve.
Trinity Great Court
Students traditionally attempt to
complete the circuit on the day of the Matriculation Dinner. It is
a rather difficult challenge: one needs to be a fine sprinter to
achieve it, but it is by no means necessary to be of Olympic
standard, despite assertions made in the press.
It is widely believed that Sebastian
successfully completed the run when he beat Steve Cram
in a charity race in October 1988.
Sebastian Coe's time on 29 October 1988 was reported by Norris McWhirter
to have been 45.52
seconds, but it was actually 46.0 seconds (confirmed by the video
tape), while Cram's was 46.3 seconds. The clock on that day took
44.4 seconds (i.e. a "long" time, probably two days after the last
winding) and the video film confirms that Coe was some 12 metres
short of his finish line when the fateful final stroke occurred.
The television commentators were more than a little disingenuous in
suggesting that the dying sounds of the bell could be included in
the striking time, thereby allowing Coe's run to be claimed as
One reason Olympic runners Cram and Coe found the challenge so
tough is that they started at the middle of one side of the Court,
thereby having to negotiate four right-angle turns. In the days
when students started at the corner, only three turns were
Until the mid 1990s, the run was traditionally attempted by first
year students, at midnight following their Matriculation Dinner.
Following a number of accidents to drunk undergraduates running on
slippery cobbles, the college now organises a more formal Great
Court Run, at 12 noon: the challenge is only open to freshers, many
of whom compete in fancy dress.
One Sunday each June (the exact date depends on the university
term), the College
perform a short concert immediately after the clock
strikes noon. Known as Singing from the Towers
, half of
the choir sings from the top of Great Gate, while the other half
sings from the top of the Clock Tower (approximately 60 metres
away), giving a strong antiphonal
Midway through the concert, a brass band performs from the top of
Queen’s Tower. Later that same day, the College Choir gives
a second open-air concert, known as Singing on the River,
where they perform madrigal (and
arrangements of popular songs) from a raft of punts on the river.
'tradition', however, this latter event dates back only to the
mid-1980s, when the College Choir first acquired female members. In
the years immediately before this an annual concert on the river
was given by the University Chamber Choir.
Another tradition relates to a duck (known as the Mallard), which
resides in the rafters of the Great Hall. Students occasionally
move the duck from one rafter to another (without permission from
the college), having been photographed with the mallard as proof.
This is considered difficult and access to the Hall outside
meal-times is prohibited. In addition, the rafters are high so it
has not been attempted for several years. During the Easter term of
2006, several pigeons entered the Hall through the windows in the
pinnacle, and one knocked the Mallard off its rafter. It was found
intact on the floor, and revealed to not be made out of wood as
previously believed. It is currently held by the College catering
staff. It is unknown whether it will be reinstated.
Bicycles and chair legs
For many years it was the custom for students to place a bicycle
high in branches of the tree in the centre of New Court.
Usuallyinvisible except in winter, when the leaves had fallen, such
bicycles tended to remain for several years before being removedby
the authorities. The students then inserted another
bicycle.Similarly, the sceptre held by the statue of Henry VIII
mounted above the medieval Great Gate was replaced with a chair leg
as a prank many years ago. It has remained there to this day: when
in the 1980s students exchanged the chair leg for a bicycle pump,
the College replaced the chair leg.
college remains a great rival of St
John’s who are their main competitor in sports and
academia (John’s is situated next to Trinity).
given rise to a number of anecdotes and myths. It is often cited as
the reason why the older courts of Trinity generally have no J
staircases, despite including other letters in alphabetical order.
more likely reason remains the absence of the letter J in the
Roman alphabet, and it should be
noted that St John’s College's older courts also lack J staircases.
are also two small muzzle-loading cannons on the bowling green
pointing in the direction of John’s, though this orientation may be
coincidental. Generally the colleges maintain a cordial
relationship with one other, and Trinity's benefaction and
association with her neighboring colleges has always far outweighed
such rivalries; compatriotism led famously to the splitting of the
atomic nucleus in 1932 by Ernest
and John Cockcroft
Trinity and St John's respectively.
Trinity College undergraduate gowns are dark blue, as opposed to
the black favoured by most other Cambridge colleges. Unlike any
other Cambridge college the porters
always wear black bowler hats
tradition is shared with Trinity's sister college Christ Church,
As with many other Cambridge colleges, the
grassed courtyards are generally out of bounds for everyone except
the Fellows. Only one of two meadows on "the Backs" (riverside area
behind the college) is accessible to students. Other lawns are
accessible to graduates in formal gowns.
Each evening before dinner, grace is recited by the senior Fellow
presiding. The simple grace is as follows:
- Benedic, Domine, nos et dona tua,
- quae de largitate tua sumus sumpturi,
- et concede, ut illis salubriter nutriti
- tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus,
- per Christum Dominum nostrum.
If both of the two High Tables are in use then the following
antiphonal formula is prefixed to the main grace:
- A. Oculi omnium in te sperant Domine:
- B. Et tu das escam illis in tempore.
- A. Aperis tu manum tuam,
- B. Et imples omne animal benedictione.
Following the meal, the simple formula Benedicto
Scholarships and prizes
The Scholars, together with the Master and Fellows, make up the
Foundation of the College
In order of seniority:
receive funding for graduate
studies. Typically one must graduate in the top ten percent of
one's class and continue for graduate study at Trinity. They are
given first preference in the assignment of college rooms and
number approximately 25.
The Senior Scholars
consist of those who attain a
degree with First Class
or higher in any year after the first of an
, but also, those who
obtain an extremely good First in their first year. For example in
the Mathematics tripos a result in the top three would be required
to gain this position early. The college pays them a stipend of
£250 a year and also allows them to choose rooms directly following
the research scholars. There are around 40 senior scholars at any
The Junior Scholars
are precisely those who are
not senior scholars but still obtained a First in their first year.
Their stipend is £175 a year. They are given preference in the room
ballot over 2nd years who are not scholars.
These scholarships are tenable for the academic year following that
in which the result was achieved. If a scholarship is awarded but
the student does not continue at Trinity then only a quarter of the
stipend is given. However all students who achieve a First are
awarded an additional £200 prize upon announcement of the
All final year undergraduates who achieve first-class honours in
their final exams are offered full financial support for proceeding
with a Master’s
degree at Cambridge
(this funding is also sometimes available for good students who
achieved high second-class honours). Other support is available for
degrees. The College also offers a
number of other bursaries and studentships open to external
applicants. The highly-regarded right to walk on the grass in the
college courts is exclusive to Fellows of the college and their
guests. Scholars do however have the right to walk on Scholar’s
Lawn, but only in full academic dress.
Trinity in Camberwell
College has a long-standing relationship with the Parish of St
George’s, Camberwell , in South London.
Students from the College
have helped to run holiday schemes for children from the parish
since 1966. The relationship was formalized in 1979 with
the establishment of Trinity in Camberwell as a
registered charity (Charity Commission no. 279447 ) which exists
‘to provide, promote, assist and encourage the advancement of
education and relief of need and other charitable objects for the
benefit of the community in the Parish of St George's, Camberwell, and the neighbourhood thereof.’
Trinity in Literature
"Near me hung Trinity's loquacious clock,
William Wordsworth, The Prelude
(1850), Book Third, describing his view from St John's
Who never let the quarters, night or day,
Slip by him unproclaimed, and told the hours
Twice over with a male and female voice.
Her pealing organ was my neighbour too;
And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of thought,
"One night, just before ten o'clock, he [Maurice]
slipped into Trinity and waited in the Great Court until the gates
were shut behind him. Looking up, he noticed the night. He was
indifferent to beauty as a rule, but "what a show of stars!" he
thought. And how the fountain splashed when the chimes died away,
and the gates and doors all over Cambridge had been fastened up.
Trinity men were around him — all of enormous intellect and
culture. Maurice's set had laughed at Trinity, but they could not
ignore its disdainful radiance, or deny the superiority it scarcely
troubles to affirm. He had come to it without their knowledge,
humbly, to ask its help. His witty speech faded in its atmosphere,
and his heart beat violently." — E.
graduate of King's College Cambridge, writes of Trinity College in his novel, Maurice (completed 1914, published
'[B]ut here I was actually at the door which leads into
the library itself.
I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like
a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown
instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman,
who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are
only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the
college or furnished with a letter of introduction.
That a famous library has been cursed by a woman is a matter of
complete indifference to a famous library. Venerable and calm, with
all its treasures safe locked within its breast, it sleeps
complacently and will, so far as I am concerned, so sleep for
ever.' — Virginia Woolf describes her
attempt at entry to the Wren, A Room
of One's Own (1929)
Many apocryphal stories have been told about the college's wealth.
Trinity is sometimes suggested to be the second, third or fourth
wealthiest landowner in the UK (or in England) — after the Crown Estate, the
National Trust and the Church of
England. (A variant of this legend is repeated in the Tom Sharpe novel Porterhouse Blue.) This story is
frequently repeated by tour guides. In 2005, Trinity's annual
rental income from its properties was reported to be in excess of
legend is that it is possible to walk from Cambridge to Oxford on land
solely owned by Trinity. Several varieties of this legend exist —
others refer to the combined land of Trinity College, Cambridge and
College, Oxford, of Trinity College, Cambridge and Christ Church,
Oxford, or St John's College, Oxford and St John's College, Cambridge. All are most certainly false.
Trinity is often cited as the inventor of an English, less sweet,
version of crème brûlée,
known as "Trinity burnt cream", although the college chefs have
sometimes been known to refer to it as "Trinity Creme Brulee". The
burnt-cream was first introduced at Trinity High Table in 1879, in fact differs quite
markedly from French recipes, the earliest of which is from
Also see :Category:Alumni
of Trinity College, Cambridge, and :Category:Fellows
of Trinity College, Cambridge
image:Francis Bacon 2.jpg|
Sir Francis Bacon
image:Sir Isaac Newton by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg|
Sir Isaac Newton
image:Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson - Project Gutenberg eText
Baron Alfred, Lord
image:John William Strutt.jpg|
Russell, 3rd Earl Russell
image:John Dryden portrait.jpg|
Sir Francis Galton
Godfrey Harold Hardyimage:James
image:William Fox Talbot.jpg|
image:Amartya Sen 20071128 cologne.jpg|
image:Arthur James Balfour00.jpg|
Trinity Nobel Prize winners
Trinity Prime Ministers
Other Trinity politicians include Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of
Essex, courtier of Elizabeth I;
William Waddington, Prime
Minister of France; Jawaharlal
Nehru, Prime Minister of India, Erskine Hamilton Childers,
President of Ireland; Rajiv Gandhi,
Prime Minister of India; Lee Hsien
Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore; and The Viscount
Whitelaw, Lady Thatcher's Home
Secretary and subsequent Deputy Prime Minister.
The head of Trinity College is the Master. The first Master was
John Redman who was
appointed in 1546. The role is a Crown appointment, made by the
Monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister. Nowadays the Fellows
of the College, and to a lesser extent the Government, choose the
new Master and the Royal role is only nominal. In modern times the
Master has customarily been of the highest academic
The last three Masters have all been fellows of the college. The
current master is The Lord Rees.
For a full list, see List of Masters of
Trinity College, Cambridge.
Deans of Chapel
Trinity is the wealthiest Oxbridge college
with an independent financial
endowment of approximately £621 million (as of 2005).
Of this amount approx. £75 million is part of the college's
Amalgamated Trust Funds, which is dedicated for specific
land, including holdings in the Port of Felixstowe and the Cambridge Science Park, is insured for approx. £266.5 million (this
does not include all fixed assets).
In 2009, Trinity acquired a stake in the O2
- Student figures from the 2006–2007 Cambridge Reporter
- Trinity College, Cambridge
- Cambridge 2005/2006 admissions statistics by
- Cambridge 2004/2005 admissions statistics by
- Oxford 3-year average admissions statistics by
- Trinity College web site, .
- See Tompkins Table
- Student breaks 'Chariots of Fire' record
Times Online article. October 27, 2007.
- Reginald H. Adams, The College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge
(Oxford: Perpetua Press, 1992).
- Cambridge Trinity Burnt Cream
- Dinner Menu
- . By way of comparison, the second wealthiest college in
John's) has an estimated endowment of c. £504 million, and the
richest college in Oxford (St. John's) has about £200 million.