The college previously converted the lower section of the church into an auditoriumREPT0N1X/Wikimedia Commons

Pembroke College has submitted a proposal to install a climbing wall inside a grade II-listed church tower.

The College has applied for planning permission for a 10-metre high “rope climbing facility” in the disused Emmanuel United Reformed Church, which the college purchased in 2020.

The church has already undergone work to convert the main ground floor space into a 200-seat auditorium for lectures, music and other performances, and events to be held.

In a planning application to the Cambridge City Council, Pembroke described the proposal as a “unique opportunity to repurpose the 1874 James Cubitt tower”.

The College claimed in the proposal: “Students and Fellows will be awarded the rare views from the top of the tower staircase across Cambridge and the opportunity to experience the lofty height of the existing tower.”

The application also insisted that “structural and architectural interventions will be respectful of the existing fabric and the proportions of the tower geometry”.

It is currently unclear who would be able to use the climbing facility, with the planning application stating that access to the facility would be restricted to “registered users only”. The plans state that only 6-7 people would be able to use the facility at a time.

Proposed safety measures have also been set out by the College, including a panic button for emergencies, and requiring two people who are rescue trained to always be available when the facility is open.


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If approved, the church would not be the first in the country to have a climbing wall installed. St Mark’s in Newcastle, the Grange Free Church in Kilmarnock, and St Benedict’s in West Gorton, Manchester, have all been converted into climbing centres.

Speaking to Varsity about the proposed plans, one member of the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club said: “It’s certainly a novel concept to be able to climb the inside of a church, and it’ll definitely be nice to be able to go climbing without trekking to the outskirts of town. I just hope they make the centre open to all students, not just Pembroke members.”

“I’m sure the night climbers have explored the outside of the church, so I guess it’ll be nice to finally live my dream of scaling a college building without being portered” they added.