History of the Library

The College has had a library since 1351, shortly after its founding in 1347. The College initially occupied the site of what is now known as Old Court – the front court that faces you as you come into Pembroke from the main entrance. The Old Court site contained everything that the College needed: chapel, hall, kitchen, Master’s lodgings, student accommodation and, finally, a library.  The exact loaction of the original Library is uncertain although it is thought that it might have been housed in a first-floor room at what would have been the south-west corner of the Old Court, double height, with a tall Gothic window looking onto Trumpington Street. One hundred years later, in 1452, a new library was constructed above the then Hall. After the construction of Wren’s Chapel in 1665 on the south side of Old Court, the original chapel (on the left as you enter Pembroke from the main entrance) was turned into the College Library.

This remained the case for 200 years. Then in 1875, the architect Alfred Waterhouse designed a new Library for the College, which has been used for that purpose until the present day; the previous site of the old College Library is now known as the ‘Old Library’. (Waterhouse also designed the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London, as well as many other buildings in Oxford and Cambridge, including the Red Buildings in Pembroke.) In 2001, local architect Tristan Rees-Roberts added the modern extension to the Library, which includes a specialised Law Library and the Yamada Reading Room for meetings and teaching sessions.