Pembroke celebrates the Drapers’ Company’s 650th anniversary

by Sally March

This week marks the 650th anniversary of the granting of the first Royal Charter to the Drapers’ Company by Edward III.

As part of their anniversary celebrations, the Drapers held a Summer Fayre at their hall in Throgmorton Street, in the City of London, on 4 and 5 July 2014. Pembroke was invited to attend the event, along with 30 of the other causes the Drapers support, which range from the Welsh Guards to the Carers Trust.

The Drapers’ Company generously supports a research fellowship at Pembroke and Dr Sanne Cottaar (2013), the current post-holder, attended the Fayre on 5 July, meeting members of the Company and their families and sharing about her research on global seismology. Sanne was accompanied by two former Drapers’ Fellows, Professor Mike Payne FRS (1978) and Dr Torsten Meißner (1994), who also discussed their work and Pembroke’s longstanding relationship with the Company. Dr Meißner took along copies of Linear A and Linear B tablets, which unsurprisingly drew a great deal of interest from attendees of all ages.

Pembroke’s first contact with the Drapers was in 1655, when the Fellowship wrote to the Company asking for financial support, stating that the College, founded in 1347, was, ‘become so universally Decayed and Ruinous, that the very walls thereof are ready to fall downe at every beholders feete.’

In response to this picturesque plea, the Drapers’ sent the very generous sum of £150, roughly approximate to £23,000 today, for repairs.

300 years later the relationship was revived when the Drapers agreed to give £1,500 a year for seven years to cover the stipends of three Junior Research Fellows. Subsequent gifts have enabled the College to elect a Drapers’ Research Fellow nearly every year. Dr Cottaar is the 64th holder of the Fellowship.

Research Fellowships are an important part of the academic structure as they allowing young academics to focus on their work without other commitments, enabling them to build up a body of research which can lay the foundation for their future careers. A prestigious and respected position, competition is so strong for the Drapers’ Research Fellowship that in 1980 the College decided to restrict it to candidates in the humanities and the sciences in alternating years

The list of former holders of the Fellowship is distinguished. 24 have subsequently been appointed become professors in subjects as diverse as chemistry, music and philosophy. Five have been appointed to Fellowship of the Royal Society and a further five to a Fellowship of the British Academy. However, perhaps the most famous holder was Dr Ray Dolby (1957), whose interest in music recording led him to the development of audio noise reduction systems, which were widely used in both professional recording studios and broadcasting. These advances in turn were responsible for bringing high-quality sound to movie theatres throughout the world. Later developments in digital audio data reduction techniques resulted in the adoption of Dolby Digital as a standard in movies

Pembroke owes the Drapers’ Company its thanks for the support it has given the College over three and a half centuries and was honoured to be invited by the Company to participate in its recent celebrations. Pembroke offers its congratulations to the Drapers on reaching this landmark. Here’s to the next 650 years!

Dr Torsten Meißner, Dr Sanne Cottaar and Professor Mike Payne

Dr Torsten Meißner, Dr Sanne Cottaar and Professor Mike Payne

Dr Cottaar discussing hre research

Dr Cottaar explains her research to a member of the Drapers’ Company








To learn more about the Drapers’ Company, please visit their website:


The full name of the Drapers’ Company is: The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London.

The Drapers’ Company is one of the one of the ‘Great 12′ Livery Companies, ranking at three in order of precedence. Today there are 110 livery companies. The Butchers were known to have a hall outside the City walls as early as 975, but the Company with the oldest known charter (1155) is the Weavers’ Company (source: The newest is the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars, which attained livery status in February 2014.

Established to regulate the exercise of trades and crafts in the medieval period, today the livery companies are primarily philanthropic organisations. In 2010 the 110 livery companies gave a total of £41.85 M to charitable causes.