Why Peterhouse is better than Trinity

ELOISE DAVIES defends our oldest and smallest college against its “Worst College” title.

apathy College decadence dodo eccentric old Peterhouse port roof Thatcherite wind worst

A dreadful slur against Cambridge’s oldest and smallest college appeared in The Tab last year. It was crowned Cambridge’s worst college, dismissed with the words:

Libellous filth

As befits their traditional, conservative and slow-moving natures, Petreans didn’t rush to respond. Doubts were raised in some quarters as to whether they’d got round to installing the internet yet.

As the old joke goes:

How many Petreans does it take to change a lightbulb?

Petrean: “Change…? Lightbulb..?” 

But now the time has come for David to rise against the Goliaths. Trinity, John’s, Emma… Run while you still can.

A completely independent, unbiased, wise and morally sound investigator* has been on a mission to this proudly obscure and insular corner of Cambridge. The truth is out: Peterhouse is indisputably the best college of all. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. It’s the oldest.

All other colleges are essentially footnotes to this great institution. This puts at our disposal several fun facts to impress grandparents.

Have you heard that Peterhouse’s-Hall-is-the-oldest-secular-building-in-Europe-still-used-for-its-original-purpose? (Always said as one word.) You will have done if you’ve spent more than 10 minutes here. Probably more than once. Suck on that Churchill.

Not that we are to be outdone in the ugly building department either. The William Stone Building is a triumph of brutalism-meets-can’t-be-bothered. It’s also allegedly the tallest known building without foundations. It may be a myth, but that’s little comfort on a windy day.

Pray that the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t pop by for tea

2. It is small.

On the minus side, there is no keeping a secret. On the plus side (if you are personally dull but very nosy), you know everyone else’s secrets.

This works well with the college’s enormous riches. Travel grant for a month in Italy? Yes please. India? Why not. Ibiza? We’ll think about it.

3. The Room Points system.

Points are awarded for academic performance and extracurricular participation, so disproportionate numbers of Petreans will always be found fighting for obscure societies’ presidencies. “I might claim 8 for the presidency of Flying Pig Society,” mused one devious Petrean recently.

The real reason I’m writing this? Half a room point per article, my friend.

4. The Deer Park.

No green spaces? Are you colour blind?

10 points if you can spot the resident albino hedgehog

5. The… err… unique level of sporting prowess.

Reports suggest that some Petreans may have heard of football. Some have even been seen playing a game that (vaguely) resembles it.

Peterhouse entered the most teams to croquet cuppers last year. One team scraped through to the second round.

We’re quite good at pool.

6. The Spirit of Old Fashioned Eccentricity.

The college mascot is a dodo. This says a lot.

Peterhouse’s tweed jacket to undergraduate ratio must be the highest in the university. At times, you could be forgiven for forgetting what century you were in. The cult of the amateur is alive and well, exemplified by one bold group who walked to Oxford last Michaelmas in tweed. Satchels full of Madeira were their only supplies. Many other activities which would fit in in the early 20th century continue to thrive…

Nobody ever climbs on that roof, for example

7. Port.

The Dean likes port. About three times a term he likes port so much that he over-buys by a few dozen bottles and has to invite the whole college to help him finish it.

Dining in general is a feature. Formal is cheap and daily, as The Tab recently discovered. Quality may match as a result. But it’s guaranteed to be so dark you won’t see what you are eating, and the breadth and quality of potato choice is legendary.

This should be combined with a trip to the bar, which has a ‘pick and mix’ attitude to it’s stock. This necessitates innovative and exciting combinations. Vodka and apple anyone?

The real must-do Peterhouse cocktail special, however, is the elegantly named ‘Quick Fuck’.

Average Petrean supper

8. The Thatcherite heritage.

Revel in the terrible reputation enjoyed by the Peterhouse set of the 1980s.

Maurice Cowling and his right wing cronies continued their heroic efforts to revolutionise the history of the 19th century in the face of any disapproval and unpopularity thrown at them. Such pugnacious insularity still epitomises Peterhouse.

The mysterious Adonian dining society continues today. The room where Michael Portillo (aptly named given reason 7) allegedly lost his anal virginity deserves a blue plaque.

9. Apathy.

When one Petrean was asked what they thought about the worst college title, they said, “Why are you writing this? We haven’t given a shit what anyone thought since 1284.” Said another, “The doings of lesser mortals do not interest us.” A third added, “There are other colleges?!”

Further Petreans were asked for comment, but none were available. They just didn’t care.

20 points if you can guess which century this was taken

10. Erm.

Talking of which, I’ve come to my Petrean senses. Why write more? We’re quite happy to continue being obscure, misrepresented but self-satisfied.

See you around,  if I ever feel the need to visit the outside world again (unlikely).

Meanwhile I’m off to play some croquet. Badly, of course.

*The author may in fact go to Peterhouse, study history, have rather underdeveloped culinary tastes and think David Mitchell is pretty funny. But that’s beside the point.