Marie de Valence was the College’s first and arguably most far-sighted benefactor. The widow of the Earl of Pembroke was granted letters patent by Edward III on Christmas Eve 1347 to found a house of thirty scholars in Cambridge and empowered to confer on them up to three messuages of land in the town and advowsons to the value of £100. In her will she left 100 livres and a strip of the Orchard.
Over the centuries, as the College expanded, former students, Fellows and friends of Pembroke made gifts to the College to enhance it. They made gifts for the growth and upkeep of its buildings, but also silver, books, and financial support for its scholars, including the poet Edmund Spenser (1569).
Master of the College between 1450 and 1480, Laurence Booth gave the original chapel (now the Old Library) its stained glass windows (1463), stalls, a rood screen, a loft and figures of saints and doctors of the Church. He paid to enhance the music in the College and to set the garden with saffron. He also gave to the College the houses known as ‘The Island’, which were situated between the College and St Botolph’s. In his Will he bequeathed the manor and advowson of Orton Waterville in Huntingdonshire. Booth also took steps to protect the gifts received from Henry VI after he had been deposed by Edward IV.
Through his ecclesiastical career as Bishop of Hereford, Norwich and then Ely, he was imprisoned throughout the interregnum in the Tower of London. While in the Tower he vowed that if he were released he would devote part of his fortune to some holy purpose. Upon his release in 1659 he decided that this purpose would be the gift of a chapel to Pembroke, where he had been a student, and later, a Fellow. In 1662, Wren’s nephew Christopher Wren was invited to design a new chapel, which was consecrated in 1665. After his death in 1667 Wren left instructions that he was to be buried there. Bishop Wren bequeathed the College 29 stall cushions and the first choice of his furnishings of his chapel at Ely House, Holborn.
Sir Robert Hitcham
The Hitcham Building, situated on the south range of Ivy Court, was built between 1659 and 1661 thanks to monies bequeathed by Sir Robert Hitcham. Sir Robert had been a pensioner in the College in 1587 and went on to have a distinguished legal career. In 1636 he bought the castle, manor and advowson of Framlingham in Suffolk and left them in his Will to the College. Money from the sale of some of this land was used for both the Hitcham Building and the cloisters with rooms above to link the Chapel to Old Court. Pembroke still owns Framlingham Castle to this day, although since 1913 it has been looked after by English Heritage under a Deed of Guardianship.