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Fen Court at Peterhouse

A Grade II Listed Building in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.2007 / 52°12'2"N

Longitude: 0.1171 / 0°7'1"E

OS Eastings: 544780

OS Northings: 257942

OS Grid: TL447579

Mapcode National: GBR L79.SJR

Mapcode Global: VHHK2.ZY8B

Plus Code: 9F426428+7R

Entry Name: Fen Court at Peterhouse

Listing Date: 23 January 2003

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1350395

English Heritage Legacy ID: 489964

Location: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2

County: Cambridgeshire

Electoral Ward/Division: Market

Built-Up Area: Cambridge

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Cambridge St Mary the Less

Church of England Diocese: Ely

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23-JAN-03 (West side)
Fen Court at Peterhouse


College residential building. 1939-40. By Hughes and Bicknell for the Master and Fellows of Peterhouse. Gault brick and in situ and precast cast concrete with 2nd floor roughcast and end stacks. Purple brick piers and pilotis. Flat roofs with glazed lantern. International Modern style. 'T' plan, the head of the 'T' being close to the Museum of Classical Archaeology (q.v.). 3 storeys and basement. Ranges of metal framed Crittall windows of 4-6 lights to ground and 1st floors and 2-6 lights to 2nd floor. Roughcast sill and lintel bands on lower floors to fronts facing the fen, mainly separate sills and lintels elsewhere. 2-window range at 1st floor to east facing south, 6-window range to west, curved at the end. The 4-window wing projecting forwards southwards is raised on pilotis but there is a basement underneath. The main entrance is in the head of the T underneath this wing on its axis. A stone moulded doorcase has a lintel carved with St Peter sinking in the waves and inscribed 'DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI' MCMXL. This was done in situ by Anthony Foster, a pupil of Eric Gill.

INTERIOR. Staircase hall has open well staircase with simple metal balustrade and wooden handrail. Glass brick full height window. Light well above has curved end with window opposite to end and part of each side. Above this is the tall circular lantern with continuous glazing. Rooms and sets have hardwood woodwork in different woods on each floor: doors with moulded architraves and a wall in each set has fitted bookshelves and cupboards with fire surrounds and panelling over.

This building has special architectural interest for the quality of its austere detailing, as being the only pre-war Cambridge college accommodation building in the International Modern style and the forerunner to other college buildings constructed at both Oxford and Cambridge after the war. The T plan was an inspired solution to a difficult site, giving as many views out over the fen as possible, the pilotis providing open access to the lawn looking over the fen for those in Gisborne Court (q.v.). It is also of historical interest as being built during the war. The Bursar had wisely assembled all the materials on site before hostilities were declared and the builders were those who had been deployed to help in repairs following any bomb attack on Cambridge. The basements were designed to serve as air-raid shelters, being constructed in reinforced concrete one foot thick and equipped with gas-tight doors. The building was funded by a bequest from Prof.W.Emery Barnes (d.1939) and the principal design architect, Hugh Castrees Hughes (1893 -1976), was a former Scholar of Peterhouse. The building 'captures something of the heroic and optimistic freshness of the best of the modern movement' (Ray) as well as being an important prototype constructed at a time of exceptional adversity.

Kersting A.F. and Watkin D.J., Peterhouse: an Architectural Record 1284-1984, 1984.
Architects' Journal, 23/10/1941, pp.276-277.
Architectural Review, 10/1941, pp.105-107.
Pevnser, N. The Buildings of England, Cambridgeshire, 1967, p.111.
Taylor, N. Cambridge new Architecture, 1964, pp.26-7.
Ray, N. Cambridge Architecture, 1994, p.104.

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