University Arms Cambridge

John Simpson
In Cambridge we are aiming to create something with timeless appeal: architecture that honours the traditions and creates an aura that is present in so much of the historic architecture in the city.

John Simpson, Architect


Building work is now underway to transform the University Arms Hotel and is expected to be completed in 2017.

The works involve a comprehensive refurbishment of the interiors and the implementation of leading classical architect John Simpson’s scheme to replace the unattractive 1960s and 1970s extensions with attractive new classical buildings dramatically enlarging the hotel and giving Cambridge its much-needed world class hotel with excellent new rooms, a destination restaurant, bar, gym and conference facilities.


Our plans reference the history of this important hotel and seek to regenerate a key gateway to the city centre.

The University Arms holds a special place in the history of Cambridge. Cambridge’s oldest hotel, the University Arms has grown and evolved in line with Cambridge’s expansion as a City. It is and always has been a destination for visitors to Cambridge, sitting on one of the key gateways to the City. Our plan is to continue the evolution and revivify a once pioneering hotel (it was the first in Cambridge to get loos and electricity) placing it at the heart of what Cambridge has to offer its residents and visitors.

A short history:

1830 Hotel Commissioned

Land owned by Jesus College on the east side of the city was developed with fashionable terraces of houses. The University Arms Hotel is commissioned by Joseph Berry, a local property developer.

1834 Hotel Opens

Joseph Berry’s new hotel opens. It contains 15 bedrooms with assorted dining and function rooms and catered for the posting coach trade, making it a higher quality establishment.

1891 Hotel Extended

Marcus Bradford takes over the running of the hotel with ambitious plans to expand it. With some difficulty, he persuades Jesus College to allow him to extend the hotel to the north. This extension not only provides more rooms but, with a WC on each floor, improves the sanitary provision of the hotel considerably. The University Arms also becomes the first hotel in Cambridge to have electric lighting.

The University Arms in the 1890s


1896 Further Expansion

The hotel’s popularity leads to the start of further extension works, with a new dining room, numerous bedooms and cellars in the basement.

1900 Expansion Complete

Extension works are completed, with the University Arms now one of the largest hotels in Cambridge with 60 rooms.

An historic postcard


1904 Motor Garage

With the increasing popularity of the motor car, Marcus Bradford takes another risk with the decision to turn the stableyard into a garage, with a steel and glass roof.

1904 Hotel Ownership

Bradford buys the hotel from Jesus College, giving him the freedom to create the ballroom in another extension.


The Winter Garden is created at the north end of the hotel, removing the tennis courts and gardens.

Skipper plan



Later owners of the hotel commission the architects Feilden and Mawson to alter the hotel dramatically. The original hotel building and stableyard are demolished and a new modernist style building is added across the front.


Feilden and Mawson are appointed again to design a new building along the Park Terrace side.


De Vere Hotel Group buys The University Arms.


The hotel is bought by funds advised by Melford Capital Partners. New proposals are brought forward to revitalise and renew the hotel and make it fit for purpose for the twenty first century.


Planning permission is granted to transform the University Arms into a new landmark hotel.


Stripping out of the hotel begins. Following a public consultation, a licence application is made for the use of a very small area of Parker’s Piece to enable the contractors to partially demolish, refurbish and extend the existing buildings.


East Anglian company RG Carter Projects Ltd is appointed as the principal contractor for the scheme, which represents a £50m direct investment in the local economy supporting hundreds of construction jobs in the area.

The Architect

John Simpson is widely acknowledged as the leading architect in the country of beautiful buildings that are both inventive yet classical and traditional so that they fit into the context of existing and often historic buildings.

Professor David Watkin, Emeritus Professor of the History of Architecture, University of Cambridge

The University Arms hotel renewal is being led by John Simpson, one of the world’s leading traditional architects.

His practice established in 1980, John Simpson’s work garnered numerous accolades. Outstanding examples include:

The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace

The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace

Entrance loggia and interiors at Kensington Palace

Entrance loggia and interiors at Kensington Palace

Beyknton Buildings, Eton College (currently rising)

Beyknton Buildings, Eton College (currently rising)

Beyknton Buildings, Eton College (currently rising)

Peterhouse, The Birdwood Building

More information about John Simpson Architects can be found on the practice’s website

You can hear directly from John Simpson about his designs for the University Arms hotel by visiting our Home page.

For media enquiries, please contact us.


For a world-class city… Cambridge has a disappointing hotel offer in terms of the quality of much of its hotel stock

Cambridge Hotel Futures 2012

Architectural – At the heart of our plans to restore the hotel is the removal of the unattractive buildings from the 1960s and 70s that obscure the attractive buildings from Regent Street. We hope to replace these modern buildings, setting them back from the street in line with the buildings that adjoin, with an attractive, new classically designed building that references the history of the hotel and the site, Cambridge’s better-known architectural vernacular and the buildings in the immediate vicinity. No less importantly, by doing this we have the opportunity to re-model the hotel interior to create excellent new rooms, a double-height entrance lobby, a destination restaurant and bar that will be designed by a world-renowned interior designer, gym and conference facilities.

New hotel provision – There are strong arguments for bigger and better hotel facilities in central Cambridge. The City is a severely undersupplied hotel market with growing demand for corporate visitors and tourists not being met by improvements in the quantity and quality of hotel rooms in the City centre. The Cambridge Hotel Futures Report was commissioned in 2012 by the Cambridge City Council seeking to understand better how to encourage and provision for new hotel space to meet anticipated demand over the next 20 years. Since new City centre sites are hard to come by, much of this additional stock cited as necessary by the report must come from refurbishing and expanding existing hotels. We believe our plans are key to alleviating this undersupply problem in Cambridge.

Positive Contribution – We believe that the project will make a positive contribution to an important gateway into the City centre. It will open up and improve the relationship between the street and the entrance of Parker’s Piece. It will create a destination and place for people to meet in the City centre.

Furthermore the plans will see an improvement to the traffic flows on Regent Street and Park Terrace with a new and improved servicing plan. The Porte Cochere will make more obvious the currently confusing and hazardous traffic flow coming into and out of the hotel and all parking will be by valet at the side entrance on Park Terrace.

The hotel will bring more employment to the City, likely employing up to 100 more people.

If we get planning consent, the hotel will comprise:

  • A new, neo-classical façade along Regent Street and Park Terrace replacing the 1960’s building
  • The new buildings set back considerably from the street with a new Porte Cochere providing better visibility and sightlines for road users on Regent Street. This will help manage dropoffs and pick-ups whilst expanding the existing pavement and improving the western corner entrance to Parkers Piece
  • A new destination bar and restaurant, with new access directly onto Parker’s Piece to be designed by a world-renowned interior designer
  • 190 rooms of excellent quality
  • A new dedicated service bay on Park Terrace to improve arrangements for hotel servicing and improve the traffic flow

The project will offer a host of local benefits:

  • Around 70 new hotel rooms, desperately needed in Cambridge to help it meet its economic potential, hosting visitors for business, academic and leisure purposes, as outlined in the Cambridge Hotel Futures Report 2012
  • A major improvement to the Parker’s Piece and Regents Street area, improving not only architectural aesthetics, but also traffic flows and visitor footfall. This is a major gateway into Cambridge – it deserves more great architecture
  • A new restaurant and bar, which will be designed for the use of Cambridge residents
  • A £50m direct investment in the local economy, with tens of millions more through the construction multiplier effect, benefiting local suppliers
  • Up to 100 new jobs within the hotel and many more through the construction supply chain.




R.G. Carter Construction, the hotel’s appointed contractor for the second phase of the redevelopment, will start to occupy a small section of Parker’s Piece from Monday 13 July. The compound created will be used for the demolition and construction of the new building. The first enabling works will include relocating cycle parking and creating a perimeter path around the compound. Once these are complete, a perimeter fence will be put up to create a safe working area.



R G Carter has been appointed as the Principal Contractor for the partial demolition, refurbishment and extension of the University Arms Hotel, Cambridge. RG Carter will be working alongside Cambridge City Council to achieve the sign-off of planning conditions so that a site compound can be established. A road-use plan to minimise traffic in the city centre at the busiest times of the day is also set to be agreed.



The redevelopment plans for the University Arms are progressing well. Asbestos removal and some initial stripping out of the property has taken place.



The University Arms Hotel in Cambridge will be closed for refurbishment to make way for a multi-million pound investment to restore the landmark site to its former glory.

Public Consultation Day


A presentation on the proposed use of an area of Parker's Piece to allow for the refurbishment of the University Arms Hotel is to be held at 7.30am to 10am and at 5pm to 9pm on Thursday 9th October 2014 at the University Arms Ball Room which is accessed from Parker’s Piece towards the rear of the hotel building. Comments will be invited on Cambridge City Council’s intention to grant a 2 year licence for the occupation by contractors working on the hotel’s refurbishment of open space land representing just 2 per cent of the total land area of Parker’s Piece.

Closure of the University Arms Hotel


The University Arms Hotel will be closed for refurbishment from Sunday 28 September 2014 to make way for a multi-million pound refurbishment to restore the landmark site to its former glory. The current collection of buildings will be transformed into a new hotel with an additional 73 rooms and a new bar and restaurant. The 1960s façade will be removed and replaced by a new, neo-classical façade on Regent Street and Park Terrace.

Planning Consent Granted


We are delighted to announce that Cambridge City Council unanimously granted planning consent for our scheme to restore the University Arms Hotel. We look forward to updating you with our more detailed plans in due course.

University Arms Hotel restoration submitted to Cambridge City Council


Today, the development team behind the University Arms Hotel restoration project submitted a proposal to Cambridge City Council to replace the hotel’s unattractive 1960s and 70s extensions with an attractive, classical building designed by esteemed restoration architect John Simpson.

University Arms website launched


Today, the development team behind the University Arms Hotel restoration project has launched its website, which provides a history of the hotel, key details of the proposed restoration, and an interview with the architect John Simpson.

University Arms Hotel public exhibition held


The University Arms Hotel this week hosted a public exhibition of proposals to restore it to its former glory as a beautiful, landmark hotel.


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