A Cambridge College is celebrating the vision and generosity of twin sisters who were its founding benefactors, with the dedication of a Cambridge Blue Plaque. The Plaque was unveiled at the beginning of June after CambridgePPF took on the Blue Plaque Scheme early last year.

Westminster College held a formal unveiling of the Blue Plaque at its Open Day on Saturday 1st June, in memory of Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson who not only donated the strategic site on which the College is located, but were also biblical scholars, linguists and intrepid explorers at a time when this was unusual for women.

The ceremony was carried out by Professor Janet Soskice, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University and an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College. The Blue Plaque, is only the seventh to be given to women.

The twin sisters Agnes and Margaret were brought up as Presbyterians in Irvine, Ayrshire, inherited a fortune and taught themselves 12 languages. Following the donation of the Cambridge site, Westminster College relocated from its original base in London in 1899.

The sisters travelled widely across Europe and the Middle East at a time when such journeys by Victorian women were unheard of, making some remarkable discoveries along the way which have had profound significance for biblical scholarship. They were both awarded honorary doctorates by the major Universities of Scotland, Germany and Ireland for their work on ancient manuscripts.

Today Westminster College is a theological college, resource centre and research hub for the United Reformed Church (URC). Its principal purpose is training for the ordination of ministers, but is also used more widely for training within the denomination.

Rev Neil Thorogood, Principal of Westminster College said: “This is an important day for our community as we recognise the contribution made by Agnes and Margaret not only in providing the site for our College, but also the incredible story of their achievements at a time when women were not considered pioneers in their field.

“It is very fitting that they can now be remembered in perpetuity with the Cambridge Blue Plaque so future generations will be able to view it and learn more about Westminster’s heritage.”

The Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Blue Plaque schemes commemorate people and events that have made a significant impact on the area, the UK or, indeed, the world. This scheme is run by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future largely through the fantastic efforts of volunteers.

Only six of the Plaques have been given to women who include Gwen Raverat, artist, illustrator and wood engraver and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, leading suffragist and co-founder of Newnham College.