Former Cambridge Medical School, now the Zoological Laboratory. A listed building designed by Edward Schroder Prior (1852-1932) in 1899 and built 1900-04, of ashlar. It is large, imposing building gaining presence from its corner location, which is emphasized by the height and boldness of façade at the turn, with the central part of its huge transomed and mullioned window flanked by columns. The brief listing text describes it as being in "the Free classical style," which was required of Prior in this instance (as against his usual Gothic) and as having three storeys and a basement with altogether thirty windows. The text concludes, "Three portions break forward with open pediments. Original detailing and a good staircase. Upper part altered: Rear rebuilt." Geometric variation (between semi-circular and triangular pediements, for example), rustication and keystones are used a important features, with even the basement expressed on the outside with statement windows. In this sense, despite its classicism, style expresses function in true Gothic spirit. It stands in central Cambridge, the corner being that of Downing Street and Corn Exchange Street.

This was Edward Prior's most impressive institutional work, costing "upwards of £34,000" (Rolleston 30). It was built to house not just the medical department, though that was important enough, but also the departments of surgery, midwifery and pharmacology, and the Humphry Museum — as well as, at least temporarily, some other associated departments, like that of medical jurisprudence. It was opened along with some other new buildings, such as the Sedgwick Museum, by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra (see Rolleston 30). Prior must have been much appreciated at the time: he would later become a fellow of Caius College (1912-20), and Slade Professor of Fine Art (1912-32). But Reginald Turnor writes rather disparagingly that he "imposed ... a certain amount of roguery on the university" both in his architectural designs there, and in his teaching (91). It is worth noting that the lettering here was cut by Eric Gill, working on his first such commission (see MacCarthy 85).

Text by Jacqueline Banerjee. Photograph by Magnus Maske, slightly modified for perspective, with thanks to both Maske and Wikipedia; it is available for reuse, with attribution, on the Creative Commons License. Click on the image to enlarge it.


MacCarthy, Fiona. Eric Gil. Ebook ed. London: Faber, 2011.

Rolleston, Sir Humphry Davy. The Cambridge Medical School: A Biographical History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932.

Turnor, Reginald. Nineteenth Century Architecture in Britain. London: Batsford, 1950.

"Zoological Laboratory, Cambridge." British Listed Buildings. Web. 11 June 2016.

Created 11 June 2016