Senate House (University of Cambridge)

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Class lists for Part III of the Mathematical Tripos, June 2005
The Senate House viewed from the Great St Mary's tower.
The Senate House viewed from King's Parade.
Senate House Passage in the snow with Senate House on the right and Gonville and Caius College on the left.
 Light show on the Senate House, for the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the university
Light show on the Senate House, for the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the university.

The Senate House of the University of Cambridge is now used mainly for degree ceremonies. It was formerly also used for meetings of the Council of the Senate. The building, which is situated in the centre of the city between King's and Gonville and Caius Colleges, was designed by architect James Gibbs, based to an unclear extent on designs by the gentleman-architect Sir James Burrough,[1] and built in 1722–1730 by Gibbs in a neo-classical style using Portland stone.[2] The ceremony to lay the first stone was performed by Thomas Crosse, then Vice-Chancellor, on June 22, 1722.[3] The site was previously used for houses, which were purchased by an Act of Parliament, dated June 11, 1720. It was officially opened in July 1730, although the western end was not completed until 1768.


The Senate House was originally intended to be one side of a quadrangle, however the rest of the structure was never completed.[4] It forms part of the Old Schools Site.

At the end of the academic year, class-lists for most degrees are posted up on the outer wall of the building. The results of Part II and Part III of the Mathematical Tripos, however, are read out to the waiting students from the balcony of the Senate House, after which piles of class-lists are thrown to the ground like confetti in a time-honoured manner.

During the night of June 7–8, 1958, a party of engineering students from Gonville & Caius College placed an Austin Seven van (from which they had removed the engine and rear axle) on the apex of the Senate House roof.[5][6]

As part of the University's 800th anniversary celebrations, the side of the Senate House was illuminated with a light show, illustrating aspects of the history of the university.[7]

Protesters including students, Cambridge residents and sixth-form students occupied the grounds of Senate House on the 24th November, 2010 as part of the national 'day of action' called by students.


  1. ^ Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600 - 1850, 3rd ed. 1995, s.v. "Burrough, Sir James".
  2. ^ John Britton; Edward Wedlake Brayley; Joseph Nightingale; James Norris Brewer, John Evans, John Hodgson, Francis Charles Laird, Frederic Shoberl, John Bigland, Thomas Rees, Thomas Hood, John Harris (1809). The Beauties of England and Wales, or, Delineations, topographical, historical, and descriptive, of each county. Printed by Thomas Maiden, for Vernor and Hood [and 6 others]. p. 97. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ Cooper, Charles Henry (1866) "Memorials of Cambridge (Volume 3)", Cambridge: Wm Metcalfe.
  4. ^ "Images of Senate House, Cambridge, by James Gibbs". Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  5. ^ Nigel Balchin; Peter Davy. "A van that went up in the world". Archived from the original on August 11, 2007. Retrieved September 5, 2007. 
  6. ^ Patrick Sawer, Cambridge University's 1958 car on roof prank secrets revealed, The Daily Telegraph, June 28, 2008.
  7. ^ "Bells sound around the world as light show launches 800th Anniversary". January 16, 2009. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 

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Coordinates: 52°12′20″N 0°07′03″E / 52.205586°N 0.117378°E / 52.205586; 0.117378 (Senate House (University of Cambridge))