Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

Murray Edwards College is a women-only constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It was founded as "New Hall" in 1954. Like most Cambridge colleges, it did not bear a benefactor's name. This situation changed in 2008 following a donation of £30 million by alumna Ros Edwards (née Smith) and her husband Steve Edwards to secure the future of the college as a college at the University of Cambridge in perpetuity. In recognition of this, New Hall was renamed Murray Edwards College, honouring the first President, Dame Rosemary Murray and the donors.[7][8][9]

Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge
Fountain Court in July 2019
Fountain Court in July 2019
Arms of Murray Edwards College
LocationHuntingdon Road (map)
Full nameMurray Edwards College, founded as New Hall, in the University of Cambridge[1]
Named after
Sister collegeSt Anne's College, Oxford
PresidentDorothy Byrne[3]
Endowment£55m (2020)[6]
Murray Edwards College, Cambridge is located in Cambridge
Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
Location in Cambridge


The Kaetsu Centre provides conference facilities and accommodation for New Hall
Accommodation block
Interior of the dome and dining hall
The Murray Edwards College porters' lodge, with the dome over the dining hall in the background

New Hall was founded in 1954, housing sixteen students in Silver Street where Darwin College now stands. This was at a time when Cambridge had the lowest proportion of women undergraduates of any university in the United Kingdom, and when only two other colleges (Girton and Newnham) admitted female students.

In 1962, members of the Darwin family gave their home, "The Orchard", to the College. This new site was located on Huntingdon Road, about a mile from the centre of Cambridge. The architects chosen were Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who are known for their design of the Barbican in London, and fundraising commenced. The building work began in 1964 and was completed by W. & C. French in 1965.[10] The new college could house up to 300 students.

In 1967, one of the College's PhD students, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a researcher in the university radio astronomy group, discovered the first four pulsars, leading to a Nobel Prize for her supervisor, and for Jocelyn Bell-Burnell herself, ultimately a position as a Research Professor at the University of Oxford.

In 1975, the College's President Dame Rosemary Murray became the first woman to hold the post of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Since then, two subsequent presidents, Anne Lonsdale and Jennifer Barnes, have become Pro-Vice-Chancellors of the University of Cambridge.

In early 2008, Cambridge decided to rename the college as Murray Edwards College, leading to protests.[11][12] There was some opposition to this as the new name of the college incorporated a man's surname, despite the college being reserved for women students.[11]

Men-only Cambridge colleges were converted into mixed-sex colleges in the 1970s and 1980s. Since the 2006 announcement that the University of Oxford's last remaining women-only college, St Hilda's, would also admit men,[13] Cambridge is the only university in the United Kingdom that partially maintains a female-only student admissions policy, represented by Newnham College, Murray Edwards College, and up until October 2021,[14] Lucy Cavendish College.[15] The fellowship and staff at Murray Edwards College are nevertheless recruited from both sexes. In addition, male students from the University are allowed into college and will often be seen taking supervisions or meeting up with friends. [16]


New Hall received its Royal Charter in 1972. The Arms of the college are emblazoned as follows:

Sable a Dolphin palewise head downwards to the dexter in chief three Mullets fesswise a Bordure embattled Argent

In plain English, this means: on a black background, place the following features in silver. Vertically in the centre, place a dolphin with head downwards to the left. On top, place three stars horizontally across. Bordering the arms, place a square wave representing the battlements of a castle.

The black castellation round the arms marks the college's location on Castle Hill. The three stars are borrowed from the Murray coat of arms, while the heraldic dolphin symbolises a youthful spirit of exploration and discovery, and a kindly intelligence.

The college had designed a new logo to mark its transition from New Hall to Murray Edwards College. It was based on the design of the interior of the dining hall (the "Dome") and was called the 'spark'.[17][18] However, on consultation with its alumnae, the college decided to continue to use its arms in official materials.


Like many of the other Cambridge colleges, Murray Edwards College was not built all at one time but expanded as the need arose, over several time periods. The College therefore has several accommodation blocks of differing styles. In order of construction:

  • Orchard Court (also known as Old Block) recalls the original name of the grounds now occupied by the College, which was formerly known as The Orchard, a large house part-owned by Norah Barlow, granddaughter of Charles Darwin. It is divided into the Wolfson, Nuffield and Spooner Wings, named after donors to the College during its first few decades. Part of the original structure was designed in the 1960s and completed in 1965.[19] In 2009, part of this block was refurbished to improve fire safety and living standards. Some bedrooms are split across two levels, meaning students have an upstairs and downstairs to their dorm.
  • Pearl House (formerly known as New Block), named after Valerie Pearl, the second President of the College. The building was constructed with funding from the Kaetsu Foundation. All rooms are en suite. Wheelchair access is available to each floor via the central lift. Opened in 1994.[20] First year undergraduates are usually accommodated in this block.
  • Buckingham House. The current building was a replacement for another building of the same name that stood on this site, and was opened in 2001.[21] All rooms are en suite. The building is wheelchair accessible and has a lift. Contains a 142-seat auditorium which is used for lectures, film festivals and concerts.[22]
  • Canning and Eliza Fok House is named after the Hong Kong entrepreneur Canning Fok and his wife Eliza Fok, who donated the funds for constructing this accommodation block. All rooms are en suite. The building is wheelchair accessible and has a lift. Opened in 2008.[23] Canning and Eliza Fok House is specifically built to accommodate the growing population of graduate students at Murray Edwards, and has a large shared kitchen/living area between 8 bedrooms.

The first buildings of the College on Huntingdon Road were designed by the architects, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, and are listed Grade II* (particularly important buildings of more than special interest).[24] This includes:

  • The Dome, which features artwork as well as a rising servery (a bar that rises from the floor for special events). This is where the cafeteria is located. Students take their meals here, including Saturday brunch, often cited as the best brunch in Cambridge. Formals are held here, around two times a week.
  • The Fountain Court, a popular spot where students gather to take pictures before events such as formal or matriculation.
  • The Library, which was designed to reflect the interior of a Cathedral. Students can request heaters, blankets, tea, coffee and biscuits as they study. Yoga sessions are held here and it is open 24/7.
  • Orchard Court


The College gardens have an informal style, initially planned and planted by the first president, Dame Rosemary Murray. The gardens include a greenhouse originally belonging to the estate of the Darwin family, where banana plants are now grown during the winter months.

In 2007, Murray Edwards College (then New Hall) became the first Cambridge College to participate in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.[25][26] The theme of the presented garden was The Transit of Venus, and was awarded a Bronze Flora medal in the Chic Garden Category.[27][28] After the show, this garden was recreated in a slightly larger form and is now displayed beside the library.

As part of the Cambridge tradition of May Week, the college hosts an annual garden party that is popular with students from across the university. The garden party features a new theme each year and is well received by those in attendance. In Michaelmas (the Autumn/ Winter term), the college celebrates 'Apple Day' in the gardens, a day of autumnal activities such as apple picking, cooking, crafting and bonfires.

Unlike other Oxbridge colleges, the students at Murray Edwards are encouraged to enjoy the gardens and walk on the lawns, meaning it is common to spot students sunbathing, studying, taking picnics or even relaxing on the small beach that is erected in the Summer. The gardens are maintained by professional staff, and recently also by fellows and students. Since 2012, gardening allotments have been provided for fellows, undergraduates and postgraduates for growing herbs and vegetables, in addition to the flowers and herbs already planted by the gardeners.


The college maintains a fund for graduate research, including the Stephan Körner graduate studentship for studies in philosophy, classics or law.[29]

Women's Art CollectionEdit

Murray Edwards is home to the New Hall Art Collection, the largest collection of women's art in Europe, and the second largest in the world (the largest being the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.).

The artwork can be seen throughout College, and students are encouraged to request pieces to be brought into their bedrooms as decoration.

The New Hall Art Collection was started in the early 1990s, when the College had few pieces of art and most of them were portraits of old gentleman. The College wrote to 100 women artists and asked each to donate one piece of art, and more than 75% of the artists approached agreed to give a piece of work.[30] Donations have continued since, and the Art Collection now contains work by many famous women artists, including:[31]


New HallEdit

Murray Edwards CollegeEdit

Notable alumnaeEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Edwards' Endowment". Murray Edwards College website. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  2. ^ University of Cambridge (6 March 2019). "Notice by the Editor". Cambridge University Reporter. 149 (Special No 5): 1. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Dorothy Byrne admitted as President of Murray Edwards College". Murray Edwards College. University of Cambridge. 16 September 2021. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Undergraduate Admissions: Murray Edwards College". University of Cambridge website. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  5. ^ "Key Facts and Figures: Board of Graduate Studies: Board of Graduate Studies". University of Cambridge website. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Annual report and Financial Statements Year ended 30 June 2020" (PDF). Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  7. ^ Polly Curtis "After 50 years as plain old New Hall, Cambridge college gets a £30m donation – and a new name", The Guardian, 18 June 2008. Retrieved on 18 June 2008.
  8. ^ "Official site FAQ". Murray Edwards College'. Archived from the original on 15 January 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  9. ^ "Record £30 million gift provides a bright future for Cambridge College". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  10. ^ "New Hall Archives". Janus. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  11. ^ a b Wilce, Hilary. "Cambridge alumnae protest at plans to rename New Hall college". The Independent. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  12. ^ Curtis, Polly. "After 50 years as plain old New Hall, Cambridge college gets a £30m donation – and a new name". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  13. ^ Martin, Nicole (8 June 2006). "St Hilda's to end 113-year ban on male students". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  14. ^ "Lucy Cavendish to become mixed-gender college, admitting students from age 18". Varsity Online. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  15. ^ "Single-sex colleges: a dying breed?". HERO. June 2007. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  16. ^ "Can sisters still do it by themselves?". The Independent. London. 1 August 2002. Retrieved 19 May 2010.[dead link]
  17. ^ "Official site FAQ". Murray Edwards College'. Archived from the original on 15 January 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  18. ^ "Official Logo Image".[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Orchard Court". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  20. ^ "Pearl House". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  21. ^ "Building and Refurbishment Projects". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  22. ^ "Buckingham House". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  23. ^ "Canning and Eliza Fok House". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  24. ^ "The Buildings". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  25. ^ "New Hall to achieve Cambridge first at Chelsea Flower Show". University of Cambridge. 17 January 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  26. ^ "Chelsea Flower Show 2007". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  27. ^ "The Transit of Venus". BBC. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  28. ^ ""New Hall over the moon at Chelsea Flower Show 2007."". University of Cambridge. 23 May 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  29. ^ "Murray Edwards College – Graduate Funding". Murray Edwards College. Archived from the original on 7 September 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  30. ^ "What's the point of a museum of art by women?" The Guardian (London). 28 July 2008. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  31. ^ "New Hall Art Collection". Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  32. ^ "Dame Barbara Stocking DBE elected as fifth President". Murray Edwards College website. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  33. ^ Johnson, Jamie (10 May 2018). "Liv Garfield wins business woman of the year title". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 11 May 2018.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 52°12′51″N 0°06′31″E / 52.2142°N 0.1086°E / 52.2142; 0.1086 (Murray Edwards College)