Stephen Perse

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Statue of Dr Stephen Perse, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Stephen Perse (1548 – 30 September 1615) was an English academic and philanthropist.

He was probably educated at Norwich School, and took his B.A. degree at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge in 1569, where he was elected to a fellowship.[1] Ordained in 1573, he was subsequently permitted to change his fellowship to "physick" and took the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1581.

Perse amassed a fortune of around £10,000, probably from profits on business loans. He gave money to the University library, for the establishment of the road now known as Maid’s Causeway, and for the public water supply from the springs at Nine Wells to Cambridge along the stream now known as Hobson’s Conduit.

In his will, Perse gave a significant sum of money for the establishment of "a Grammar Free Schoole", and adjoining almhouses for six poor widows. The school was to teach five score scholars born in Cambridge, Barnwell, Chesterton or Trumpington, with some of the boys able to proceed to scholarships at Gonville & Caius College.[2] [3]

The Perse School was founded in 1615 at its original site in Free School Lane, Cambridge.[4] His foundation is commemorated by a blue plaque on the site.[5] In 1881, the Perse School for Girls was established, now part of the Stephen Perse Foundation.

The grave of Stephen Perse is commemorated by a memorial in the college chapel[6] and he is remembered at the College's annual Perse Feast. His epitaph there reads:

Christian surnamde Stephan Perse I hight
Sole life with God alone, my crowne my light
With living God eternall life I live
This now my song: to sole God praise I give

This epitaph by me Perse was devizd
To none else my thoughts better were comprizd.


  1. ^ "Pearse, Stephen (PRS565S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ "Perse: A History of the Perse School 1615-1976", S.J.D. Mitchell, Oleander Press, Cambridge 1976.
  3. ^ "A History of the Perse School, Cambridge", J.M. Gray, Bowes and Bowes, Cambridge 1921.
  4. ^ The original Perse School (now the Whipple Museum)
  5. ^ Cambridge Blue Plaques Archived 26 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Find-a-grave - Dr Stephen Perse

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