Lutyens Architecture

The contact between Fr Martin D'Arcy, the newly appointed Master (1933), and Sir Edwin came about through a friendship with Lady Horner. When D'Arcy told her that he was not happy with plans drawn up for a new building, she suggested that he consult her friend, the famous architect - with the Government Buildings in New Delhi and many other grand buildings to his name - Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Up to that date the Hall was lodged in a handsome building leased from St John's and conveniently placed next to the Lamb & Flag public house. D'Arcy was astonished when Sir Edwin replied that he would be happy to offer alternative plans, at a very reasonable rate, as he would be proud to have a building in Oxford. A site was found in Brewer Street, behind the city wall that borders Pembroke. Very central, it had the disadvantage of being very narrow but quite long, as it stretched from Brewer Street to Rose Place, and was partly occupied by Micklem Hall, a well-known "digs" belonging to Christ Church that had to be preserved as it dated back to the 16th century.

Keeping his distinctive neo-classical style (which he was using to good effect in his designs for the giant new Liverpool Cathedral) Lutyens designed an L-shaped building, along one side of the site, with hopes of eventually completing a quadrangle. Construction began in 1935 and the community could occupy it in 1936. Great care went into the Main Chapel, every detail of which was designed by Lutyens, on the first storey level, with a lecture room beneath it. The ground floor consists of two long rooms, the Refectory and Library, and there are two floors above with single rooms (on a corridor plan rather then the staircase plan common in many Oxford colleges). The kitchens are in the basement, and several smaller chapels were distributed through the building to cope with individual massing priests. 

D'Arcy issued pleas to his numerous contacts for suitable art works to decorate the new Hall, and they responded with great generosity: notable features are the carving of St Ignatius and his first companions, a large panel from Andalucia, which decorates the Front Hall; the Stations of the Cross by Frank Brangwyn in the Chapel, along with a reproduction of the Michelangelo Madonna and Child from Brangwyns's birthplace in Bruges; paintings and statues, many on early Renaissance wooden panels. A little later, during the World War II, Charles Mahoney was invited to decorate the Lady Chapel with murals, and these create a unique prayer space, the only major work of this artist that survived the war. In the 1950s a South Wing was added, which houses the Common Room, and most recently Pembroke added a handsome extension on the West side so that a spacious quadrangle now completes the complex.

Rev'd Joseph A. Munitiz,SJ