Stephen Perse came to Cambridge in 1565, aged 17, to study at Gonville and Caius College. He was to remain in Cambridge for the rest of his life, engaged in both University and town affairs. He was successful enough to be made a Fellow of the College in 1571, and continued to study there, obtaining the degree of MD in 1581. As was customary, he was ordained, in 1573.

Within his college and the University Perse undertook the usual offices, but particularly as college Bursar. It was in his affairs outside College that Perse attained his permanent memory and this Blue Plaque.

He lived in stirring times, with a growing population nationally and an expanding economy, which nevertheless was by-passing many poorer people. Cambridge experienced this situation too, with cheap new housing and subdivided older houses being created to house immigrants from the countryside looking to better their fortunes in town. It was difficult for many of them to gain a toehold, and there was much unease in both the corporation and the University about the situation.

Unusually for an academic, Perse was an engaged and astute man of business, involved in property dealing and money lending. Although neither sounds totally salubrious in a University setting, there was a need for both in the community, and Perse recognised this need. In the course of his dealings he enriched himself, but at his death was then able to leave much of his wealth to a number of good uses in the town, beside his bequests to his college.

His scheme to provide loans to young businessmen did not take off, but other plans did. He left some sums towards the maintenance of the new Hobson’s Brook and of Newmarket Road (both essential to health and prosperity) but his major plan was the founding of a Grammar School and Almshouses.

The school was to provide up to 100 free places for boys from Cambridge, Barnwell, Chesterton and Trumpington, and poor students were to have preference over rich. Successful pupils were to have preference in elections to Perse scholarships, and Perse Fellowships at Gonville and Caius.

The school hall with its fine hammerbeam roof was completed in 1628 and now houses the principal displays of the Whipple Museum.

Following moves in the nineteenth century, the School was established in Hills Road in 1888. The Girls’ School (now the Stephen Perse Foundation), in Panton Street, was founded in 1881. Both are successful Independent schools for pupils aged from 11 to 18, with departments for younger pupils.

The Perse Alms-houses were originally built alongside the school, on the corner with Pembroke Street. They were to house six needy local people and to provide them with £4 a year. The alms-houses were rebuilt in the nineteenth century at Newnham, and are still in use.

Stephen Perse was buried in Gonville and Caius College chapel, where his memorial may still be seen.