Puritan Origins

Emmanuel's founder, Sir Walter Mildmay was a Puritan, and he intended his college to educate Protestant preachers. Emmanuel was thus distinctive in its non-conformity, and grew rapidly.

Stained glass window of Laurence Chaderton, with Hall in the background

The original Chapel (now the Old Library) reflected its non-conformity in pointing north-south, a deliberate statement that there was no need to point west-east. Surplices were not worn and communion was received sitting down (rather than kneeling): practices that attracted criticism at Hampton Court in 1603. Five Fellows and members of the College were involved in the new translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible, including the Master, Laurence Chaderton: a number second only to Trinity. Perhaps surprisingly given the nonconformists' reputation, the Fellows knew how to relax, too, and outraged Lancelot Andrews, future Master of Pembroke, for playing bowls in the Fellows’ garden on Sundays!

In the 1630s, many Puritan clergy went into exile to avoid persecution. Of the first 100 postgraduates who migrated to New England, one third were Emmanuel men. Cambridge in Massachusetts was named in compliment to an Emmanuel preacher Thomas Shepherd; another, John Harvard (BA 1632), emigrated in 1637. He died the following year and left his books and half his estate to the new college that was thus to bear his name and become the first American University.