Alumni & Friends Launch Day June 2019

Westminster College Unveils Cambridge Blue Plaque

To Commemorate Intrepid Founding Sisters


A Cambridge College is celebrating the vision and generosity of twin sisters who were its founding benefactors, with the dedication of a Cambridge Blue Plaque.

Westminster College held a formal unveiling of the Blue Plaque at its Open Day on Saturday 1st June, in memory of Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson who not only donated the strategic site on which the College is located, but were also biblical scholars, linguists and intrepid explorers at a time when this was unusual for women.

The ceremony was carried out by Professor Janet Soskice, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University and an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College. The Blue Plaque, awarded by Cambridge City Council, is only the seventh to be given to women.

The occasion also marked the launch of a new Association of Alumni and Friends of the College and was attended by more than 160 former students and friends.

The twin sisters Agnes and Margaret were brought up as Presbyterians in Irvine, Ayrshire, inherited a fortune and taught themselves 12 languages. Following the donation of the Cambridge site, Westminster College relocated from its original base in London in 1899.

They travelled widely across Europe and the Middle East at a time when such journeys by Victorian women were unheard of, making some remarkable discoveries along the way which have had profound significance for biblical scholarship. They were both awarded honorary doctorates by the major Universities of Scotland, Germany and Ireland for their work on ancient manuscripts.

Today Westminster College is a theological college, resource centre and research hub for the United Reformed Church (URC). Its principal purpose is training for the ordination of ministers, but is also used more widely for training within the denomination, including flexible learning in blocks of a week, which was introduced recently.

Speaking at the Open Day, Rev Neil Thorogood, Principal of Westminster College said: “This is an important day for our community as we recognise the contribution made by Agnes and Margaret not only in providing the site for our College, but also the incredible story of their achievements at a time when women were not considered pioneers in their field.

“It is very fitting that they can now be remembered in perpetuity with the Cambridge Blue Plaque so future generations will be able to view it and learn more about Westminster’s heritage.

“I am delighted that this occasion also marks the formal launch of our Alumni and Friends Association which we hope will bring our Westminster community closer together, encouraging former students and affiliates to be part of our life in College and to join us for future events.”

The Cambridge City Blue Plaque scheme was launched in 2001 to honour the most famous people or events associated with the city, whose contribution has made a significant impact on the area, the UK and the world. Currently 32 have been awarded, following stringent assessment, including for Dr John Addenbrooke, Sir Frank Whittle, Alan Turing and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

Only six of the Plaques have been given to women who include Gwen Raverat, artist, illustrator and wood engraver and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, leading suffragist and co-founder of Newnham College. The Blue Plaque Scheme is run by the charity, Cambridge Past, Present & Future.


Notes for editors

Westminster College

As a resource to the national and local church and a full participant in the theological training of students within the Cambridge Theological Federation, Westminster College is a place where all those in ministry can study and deepen their faith. It is a place for refreshment and learning available to all of those involved in the life of the Church from many different traditions, people from other faiths and those with no faith commitment.

A long-term partner on the Westminster site, is the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide and the central offices of the Cambridge Theological Federation. The Woolf Institute, a centre for dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims of world renown, is based in a brand new building on the College site, as is the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.


At the Cambridge Blue Plaque unveiling, left to right: Robert Pope, Vice Principal, Westminster College; Peter Ball and Sam White, both Teaching Staff, Westminster College; Professor Janet Soskice, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University and an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College; Magalie Cooper, Bursar, Westminster College; Jane Mclarty, Teaching Staff, Westminster College; and Neil Thorogood, Principal, Westminster College.

June 2019

Further press information from: Lesley Crosland at Crosland Communications on 01638 662188 Email:

Well-being Wednesday- Stress Awareness Month

A great blog from on how to manage stress…

“According to a survey carried out by Forth, 85% of UK adults experience stress on a regular basis”.

Signs of stress

Some of the common symptoms of stress to watch out for can be split into four areas: psychological, emotional, physical and behavioural. The symptoms that affect you will often accumulate until you are forced to take notice of them, such as:


– Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody.

– Experiencing chest pain and a rapid heartbeat.

– Being in a constant state of worry.

– An increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine or drug use.


Tips for reducing work-related stress

Be organised: Planning ahead to stay organised can greatly decrease stress at work. This can result in less time spent rushing in the morning to avoid being late and being more efficient with your work.

Walking lunches: One way you can help combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and de-stress is by taking a walk during your lunch break. This can help clear your mind, lift your mood and improve your fitness.

Eat well: Long working hours and heavy workloads can often create a vicious circle of not eating properly and skipping meals, resulting in you feeling sluggish and low. Eating well balanced meals will help you to keep healthy and maintain your energy for busy days at work.


Tips for reducing personal stress

Talk: Take time out to talk to someone with an empathetic ear and get their perspective on things. It could be a friend, a family member or a colleague. If you can talk to your manager about how you feel, they may be able to support you.

Exercise: Regular exercise can help lower stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins, as well as improving your sleep and self-esteem in the process.

Reduce your caffeine intake: High quantities of caffeine can increase stress and anxiety. However, people’s sensitivity to caffeine can vary greatly. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.


How to get involved

To help raise awareness of Stress Awareness Month, you can spread the word on social media by using the hashtag #StressAwarenessMonth.

Another way to help promote the event is by simply being more open with your friends and colleagues regarding stress. Share your coping mechanisms and try to act more considerately around people who appear to be stressed.

If you want to test your stress levels, click here to access the Stress Management Society’s online stress guide.


If you feel as though you have issues with your stress levels, or if you have any other wellbeing concerns, please call our helpline on:

0800 030 5182



Well-being Wednesday: Sport Training

Once the wind dies down and we’re not in fear of being blown away, listen to this podcast on training yourself in sport.

Kelton Wright describes this podcast pack as taking her from a reluctant jogger to planning a trail marathon.


Tune in for where it might take you.


Celebrating Women in Cambridge

Friday 8th March is the International celebration of Women around the world throughout history. 

Our wonderful Archivist, Helen, has put together a list of notable women who have made a difference to Cambridge across time. 



Clare College, the second oldest after Peterhouse – was founded in 1326 and generously endowed by Lady Elizabeth de Clare, Lady de Burgh, granddaughter of Edward I.

Pembroke – Mary de St Pol, widowed Countess of Pembroke, was granted a licence for the foundation of her College on Christmas Eve in 1347, by Edward III.

Queens’ College – charter granted by Margaret of Anjou in 1448 (wife of Henry VI); then under the patronage of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV.

Christ’s College – founded by William Byngham in 1437, but generously endowed by Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, in 1505 (and named Christ’s at that point).

St John’s – Lady Margaret Beaufort then went on to found St John’s College in 1511 (after her death in 1509),_Cambridge


Girton College founded 1869, moved to Cambridge 1873. Granted University Status 1948
Newnham College founded 1871.
New Hall (now Murray Edwards) founded 1954.


Queen Mother was the first woman to receive a Cambridge degree, at Senate House, on 21st October 1948. Honorary Doctorate of Law degree.

Pathé video at

1.       Jane Goodall, primatologist – studied chimpanzee behaviour in Tanzania – Darwin
2.       Thandie Newton, actress – Downing
3.       Zadie Smith, novelist – King’s
4.       Queen Margarethe of Denmark – Girton
5.       Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, Astrophysicist  – New Hall
6.       Germaine Greer, author, critic – Newnham
7.       Diane Abbot, Labour MP – Newnham
8.       Sylvia Plath, poet – Newnham
9.       AS Byatt, author – Newnham
10.   Clare Balding, sportswoman and presenter – Newnham
11.   Mary Beard, Professor of Classics – Newnham
12.   Rosalind Franklin, one of the discoverers of DNA – Newnham
13.   Emma Thompson, actress – Newnham


Cambridge’s first lady mayor was elected in 1925. Eva Hartree had previous studied at Girton, taking a Tripos in 1895.

Second lady Mayor was Florence Ada Keynes, in 1929 – mother of John Maynard Keynes

See also a selection of women Councillors from the ‘Women Workers’ series in the Cambridge Independent Press, Jan to June 1930. Online images at:


From the team of ladies at Westminster College, Happy International Women’s Day! 

Rustic Aesthetic Inspiration for your Wedding

Rustic venues, such as converted barns and historical buildings, are becoming somewhat of a popular choice for many brides these days. The wooden panels and beams are a gorgeous aesthetic for photographs and videography, and often don’t take a lot of décor work for it to still look amazing.

If you’re not into a glitz & glam wedding, and prefer a toned down country affair, check out these rustic wedding ideas below to help you pull together your ideal day!

Couples looking to create their own centrepieces and favours can take inspiration from some of these ideas- or even recreate them!


  1. Floating Candle Lights

Very simple, yet very effective. You can buy single Mason Jars for less than £2 in most shops. If you want to buy in bulk, HobbyCraft sell a pack of 12 jars for £5.00, which you can find here: , to not spend anything, make sure to ask family and friends wash and save their old jars to reuse! If you’re budgeting around florists, these cute and easy jars can be made for such a small expense.

The best part about plain jars is that you can dress them up any way you want. Use chalkboard stickers, fairy lights, ropes or ties, flowers and plants.

Fill the jars with water like the image above, place a tea light candle (removing the casing it comes in) on top of the water and voila! If you’re feeling extra jazzy, pop in some petals that will float with the candle.

As an alternative to water, try sand! You can then add more décor to the inside around the candle without it falling to the bottom. You also won’t need to worry about only using tea lights. Go for votive or pillar candles to stand out.

Place these jars down the aisle, or have them leading to the drinks reception area or notable place.

Be sure to check with your venue that these are safe to leave, or make sure there is always someone on hand to supervise, especially if windy!


2. Drink Arrangement

Although this adds a little more expense on behalf of the bride and groom, these arrangements allow your guests to relax and have fun in your quirky setting. Instead of leaving a tab behind the bar, choose a selection of drinks to have out in fun places. We LOVE this ‘beer barrel’ and ‘Pimp your Prosecco’ station (found on Pinterest). These also provide perfect photo opportunities for guests to view later on (photographers- get your cameras ready).

Of course, you don’t want to leave anyone out, so create alternative stations for non-drinkers and children. This Homemade Lemonade stand oozes cuteness, and makes those not able to have an alcoholic beverage still enjoy the fun and feel special! Hobby Craft sell plain glass bottles for £1.50 each (or £9.00 for a pack of 12), so you can fill them with whatever you desire! Complete with eco-friendly straws to look super cool and save the planet!


3. Framed Guestbook

Guest books can often be neglected in the blur of the wedding night. Have your guests fill in little wooden hearts and drop them in the frame! It takes a lot less time and also looks lovely! It won’t get tucked away in storage like an ordinary book, the frame can be hung up on the wall or placed on a shelf to be looked at for years after.

For couples with a lot of guests, how about this puzzle board? These can be handmade especially for you and family and friends can fill in each puzzle piece to have them connect a whole board together. The meaning behind this is wonderful and brings everyone together.




4. Table Plan

A spin on your table plan. These can be made as small or as big as you need, depending on your guest count. If you are looking to make your wedding as personalised as possible, this is the perfect addition. Put yours and your partners’ crafty skills to the test and make the table layout your own! Items here can be picked up for a small expense in craft shops, or even £1 shops!


Try it and see!




5. Snack vans/street food

Although adding a little more expense, this can really personalise your wedding and fit with the rustic vibe you are aiming for. You’ll find a lot of ideas like this on Pinterest, but we’ve found a couple that we really like. You might be planning that lovely sit down meal followed by speeches, but fast forward to the depths of the night, when a few glasses of wine or some hard-core dancing has your guests pining for snacks!

Like the drinks stations, this gives your guests the opportunity to grab something whilst up and about for photos, dancing or games!

There are traditional vans such as Fish & Chips and Ice Cream, or cultural food such as Taco/Fajitas, Indian street food and Pizza! For snack alternatives, this popcorn cart is also up there with our favourites. Check them out by clicking on the images!

Aside from providing the tasty goods later in the night, these little trucks provide the perfect rustic aesthetic for your day. Please check with your venue before booking!




Check out our Pinterest boards for more wedding day inspiration!