A Welsh wonder in the Porters’ Lodge

  • 31 March 2023

Phil Schneider could be considered Gonville & Caius College’s answer to Gareth Bale. The Porter from North Wales and North London is planning his retirement later this year.

But unlike the former Tottenham and Real Madrid footballer who quit after captaining Wales at the World Cup, Phil is more likely to be found at an observatory than on the golf course.

Phil is a Welsh-speaking Tottenham supporter. He was born in Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) in the Menai Strait, and moved to Edmonton aged nine.

He was an apprentice carpenter, achieving his City and Guilds under the guidance of his stepfather. But the death of his mentor saw a career change in 1980 to follow in his uncle’s path as a Metropolitan Police officer.

Phil worked as a Police Constable for six years, moved into traffic policing – and interactions with celebrities including footballers – until in 2010 he retired from the Met. His career included being a motorcycling outrider at high-profile events like the funeral of Princess Diana in September 1997 and the annual Pride parade.

He then became a civil servant, supervising in the Met’s police control room at Hendon. The Met at that time fielded 15,000 calls daily and dispatched officers to emergencies from its three control rooms.

Phil joined Caius in April 2016, and believes the skills learnt policing have served him well.

“I love working here. I’ve loved every minute of it,” Phil says.

“It’s just getting used to different situations, learning how people think, what affects them. How stressful things can affect people.

“You go into a stressful situation and try to diffuse it as best you can. Those kind of experiences help you when you come to look after the welfare of the students.

“It’s people training. It gives you a toolkit you can use.”

Two men standing behind a desk marked Gonville & Caius, one wearing a vicar's uniform

Phil with Tom Brittney, the Grantchester actor, during a break in filming near Old Courts

Phil lives in south Cambridgeshire with his wife Jane, to whom he has been married for over 40 years. The couple have two sons in their mid-30s and two grandchildren.

He is a member of both Cambridge Astronomical Association and Bedford Astronomical Society, with star-gazing his hobby.

The student interaction – he speaks Welsh with some of them – and variety of a porter’s role is what appeals to Phil. He has also enjoyed educating a few students.

He says: “A physics student couldn’t understand why the microwave was sparking in his gyp room. They’re combination ovens with a metal stand for the grill and he forgot to take it out!

“I had a long chat with him about physics and microwaves. He did OK after that!”

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