Cambridge - A personal view

Cambridge History - a personal view


All photos by me. More at my flickr photostream, please visit !

Nota Bene These pages are not being maintained at the moment. There are two main reasons for this: I used to have an office in the city centre right next to the Central Library, which houses the Local History Collection. I could nip into it at lunchtime to do a bit of reading. I no longer work in the town centre and a trip in is a 15 minute cycle. More importantly the Central Library has been closed for rebuilding for several years now, and the Local History Collection has been inaccessable. In these circumstances I have had to give up (for now). I am still happy to get emails about these pages but I cannot answer questions - I don't have the time or the sources, sorry.

This is good: aerial view of Cambridge with places of interest tagged.

Someone suggested I get a link from the Tourist Office. I don't want to do that as a) I'd have to start being truthful,accurate and responsible, and b) I'd have to stop being rude about tourists. However, I can put a link in to them: The Tourist Info centre and while I'm at it here are a few other Cambridge related links:

Addenbrooke's Hospital
Approaching Cambridge from London on the train, you will see on the right a large chimney, visible day and night. This is the landmark which signals to all the locals that it is time to put the book away and don the coat because you will be in Cambridge Station within a few minutes. The chimney is at the centre of Addenbrooke's Hospital, just to the South of the city. Addenbrooke's sprawls over a vast site, with a large central building and dozens of outbuildings, set in a sea of car parks, which are currently (Oct 05) being built upon. The main entrance is somewhere in the middle. It can be easily recognised both by the signs and by the large number of people, staff and patients, smoking outside, some of them clearly just not quite sick enough and wanting that extra bit of nicotine to make sure their stay at the hospital is worthwhile. Inside is the Concourse and the Food Hall, and beyond that the hospital proper arranged along a very long central corridor. The Concourse hosts newsagents, banks, a hairdresser, a florist etc. The Food Hall caters mainly for staff and visitors, but also the occasional patient wanting a change from hospital food. Thus you can be queueing for your burger between someone in a button-up-the-back hospital smock with a portable drip, and a collection of medical staff in those pyjama-like blueish turquoise scrubs they wear nowadays (I think they're colour coded, either that or it's a fashion statement. And talking of fashion, doctors only started wearing their stethoscopes around their necks after the success of ER - before that in this country they all stuffed them into pockets. Now they wear them like mayoral chains of office. You need a status symbol to mark all those years at Med school, besides bags under your eyes and a serious drinking habit). During the day it is busy, later it can be a heartbreaking place as you mainly get patients then, often very sick. The saddest sight I have ever seen, which moved me to tears then and now in recollection, was a poor translucent little girl, desperately ill, staring at the "Happy Meal" her exhausted and broken parents had just bought her. It's not a place you go for fun. Having said that, the Concourse has an area for changing sales, one day CDs, the next day shoes, etc. I once overheard a lady in a wheelchair with one leg, probably a recent amputee, saying to her carer as she was wheeled past a display of shoes "Oh well, at least now I only have to buy one". The long central corridor houses art exhibitions, sometimes good sometimes not - the Professor of Surgery, Prof Sir Roy Calne is a keen amateur artist. There is a well known double portrait of him by the artist John Bellany, a former patient. In 1968, he (Calne, not Bellany) performed the first liver transplant at Addenbrooke's. More facts: Addenbrooke's Hospital was named after John Addenbrooke (1680-1719, bursar of Catharine Hall, now St Catharine's College) who left funding for the first hospital in his will. It opened in Trumpington Street on 13 October 1766 with 20 beds. The new hospital opened on Hills Road in 1961 (officially 1962). The Rosie Maternity Hospital on the same site opened in 1983. Since 1993, Addenbrooke's, Fulbourn Hospital, the Rosie and associated community services have been the Addenbrooke's NHS Trust. It now has around 1200 beds, and is a regional centre for just about everything, one of the top hospitals in the country. It claims to be biggest employer in Cambridgeshire, employing over 6000 staff. More statistics (their website is great for this sort of thing, from which these are all pinched) - in Addenbrooke's Hospital there are: 16,500 doors, 15 acres of window glass (equivalent of 12 full-size football pitches), 58 lifts, 250 miles of pipe-work hidden in false ceilings and ducts. Furthermore: in 2001 400 appendices were removed, the number of cotton wool balls used during a year would fill an Olympic swimming pool, the length of all the corridors and walkways added together is 6 miles, and the Hospital uses enough toilet rolls in one week to last an average family for over 10 years.

The Amateur Dramatics Club originally started in a few rented rooms at the famous Hoop Inn on Bridge Street (now the shop next to Fired Earth, which is currently a clothes shop, but which changes frequently). It was originally frowned on by the University authorities, and elaborate escape precautions were taken against an unannounced visit by the Proctors. It achieved respectability when Edward VII joined (the current Queen's youngest son is not the first royal Edward with thespian inclinations). Now around the corner in Park Street. The bar was in my undergraduate years one of the most pretentious places on Earth, although it has been extensively and tastefully refurbished since I don't know if the atmosphere has changed. The home (along with the cellars of the adjacent Union building) of the Footlights.

The glamorous entrance to the Footlights club

All Saint's Passage
Because of Christian religious restrictions on moneylending (which seem strangely to have been forgotten nowadays) Jews had an essential place in the medieval economy. As a major trading centre, Cambridge would have had a sizeable Jewish population - before their expulsion from Cambridge in 1275 they were based mainly in the region between All Saints Church and the Round Church, an area subsequently known as Old Jewry. Hence All Saint's Passage was once called Jews' Street, Vico Judaeorum or Pilats Lane. Queen Eleanor, widow of Henry III, demanded that all Jews be expelled from land she owned, which included Cambridge, so in 1275 after various pogroms (including a particularly violent one in 1266) they were deported to Huntingdon before being expelled from England altogether in 1291. The Passage was also once known as Dolphin Passage, named after a famous inn. The Dolphin Inn was a favourite of undergraduates - a playright fellow, Thomas Randolph (early 17th C), referred to students studying mainly at Mitre College and the Dolphin Schools - the Mitre being another popular inn (but not referring to the present pub called the Mitre, this one was on King's Parade). The church of All Saints in the Jewry which gave the passage its current name was demolished in 1865 as it jutted out over the pavement of Trinity Street, which made it very narrow at this point. The churchyard remains, and is often used for craft fairs (basically whenever there's likely to be a large enough population of tourists in town to warrant it). The church was rebuilt on Jesus Lane, opposite Jesus College, which gave rise to its popular nickname St.Opposites (it is for this same reason that Sidney Sussex College is often referred to as Sidney Sainsburys). All Saints', Jesus LaneThe new All Saints is no longer used (other than as an occasional rather uncomfortable venue for music and plays, and for pottery exhibitions). It is a handsome church, and some of the interior decoration is by the William Morris company, but the local church-going population is too small to keep it open. As it is no doubt a listed building it will probably be left to fall down of its own accord, and some monstrosity then put in its place.

Arbury and King's Hedges
Estate Agents commonly refer to this area as "North Chesterton", because it doesn't have a good reputation. If you are looking for cheaper city housing (although no housing in Cambridge can really be called cheap) then 90% of the properties you will be offered will be in this area. It's not that it's a particularly large area, but it's obvious that a lot of people want to move out. It's actually not as grim as most people would expect, but then most people have clearly never been there. Certainly it's a lot more pleasant than edge-of-town housing estates in most other cities of this size. The current drift of City planning is to extend the residential area eastwards, and much development is taking place in the region of King's Hedges Road. Sainsburys wished to build another large shopping complex here, and went to ridiculous lengths to drum up support, but there was considerable opposition based on the inadequacy of the roads in the area to handle the increased traffic. Iron Age remains (the name Arbury means earthwork) and a large Roman villa have been found here, and it is clear that the area was the major source of agricultural produce for the Roman town on Castle Hill.

The area south of the river to the east of the City centre is called Barnwell, the name meaning Children's Well (although other possible derivations have been proposed, eg Warrior's Well). It was the site of two of the major early (Norman) religious foundations. The first and more important of these was Barnwell Priory, and the second was the Leper Hospital of St.Mary Magdalene. Little of either remains: of the Priory there is not much more than an outhouse - the Cellarer's Chequer (on Priory Road), and a lot of relevant street names (Priory Road and Abbey Road are obvious, Beche Street is named after Sir Everard de Beche, an early benefactor of the Priory (and, I'm afraid, notorious anti-Semite even by the standards of his day). The Frater Hall is on the site of the Frater, an old word meaning refectory, or dining hall). The Priory was for several centuries second only to Ely Cathedral in importance in East Anglia, the Bishopric of Ely being founded only 5 years before the Priory. The Abbey was sold off and destroyed at the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539, stone from its buildings being reused all over the city. Abbey House once had the reputation as the most haunted building in England, with 6 different frequently reported and distinctly unfriendly ghosts. Of the Hospital only the Chapel remains, sometimes known as the Leper Church. The Hospital was reported empty by 1279. The Chapel has been used as an inn and a stable as well as a chapel, and was extensively restored by the Victorians. In Victorian times the area filled up with brickworks and heavy industry, and acquired a considerable reputation for crime. It contained the majority of the town's brothels (along with Castle End, the area just north of Northumberland Street). The area still has a fair amount of light industry hidden away, and the interesting Industrial Museum on Riverside. The criminal reputation has not entirely gone as Riverside is still one of the best places in town to go if you want to get your car nicked. The brickworks were responsible for the attractive distinctive grey-yellow bricks you'll find in older houses all over the City. The large Railway Sidings site, along with the Gas and Sewage works have been redeveloped. Large residential buildings and a major supermarket development have appeared. A new footbridge is due to be built between Riverside and the bit of Chesterton on the other side of the river.

Black Squirrels

The first time I saw one of these I thought I was hallucinating. They are a "melanistic phase" of the ordinary Grey Squirrel, i.e. not a distinct species, melanism being the opposite of albinism. They're relatively rare in Europe, but do crop up in various bits of East Anglia, and in particular in North Cambridge. I see one hopping about in my back garden fairly frequently. If you manage to get really close you can see that they're actually very dark brown, just like a black cat. The photo was taken by the Astronomy Dept on Madingley Road.

The Botanical Garden
The first Botanical Garden was on the site of the gardens of the Austin Friars, now the University's New Museums Site. It was only 5 acres, and was rather cramped (and, apparently, plagued by jackdaws). The present garden is south of the city on a site formerly known as Empty Common. The original garden's gates are now on the Trumpington Street side. Due to lack of money the eastern half was let out as allotments, and only planted in the 1950's. Both the original garden and this one are watered by Hobson's Conduit, which runs down the West side of the new garden.

Bradwell's Court
A shopping mall-ette (should that be Petty Mall ?) which used to lie between St.Andrews Street and Drummer Street Bus Station, demolished in 2006. Due to the University and Colleges and the Council pushing development in different areas the City ended up with two shopping foci in the 80's, Lion Yard with the "Historic" City Centre (we know it's been there a long time, calling it the Historic City Centre as the Council invariably does makes it sound like a theme park - Cambridge World, the retail experience), and the Grafton Centre. Bradwell's Court was used as a thoroughfare in an attempt to bridge the two. Bradwell's Court was built in 1962 on the site of what was Bradwell's Yard (Bradwell was a local builder) and Christ's Lane. Up on the side wall of Christ's next to Bradwell's Court you could still see the old street sign for Christ's Lane, even though the street itself disappeared - but it will reappear once the redevelopment is complete.

Bridges and Ferries
The "bridge" in "Cambridge" is the Great Bridge (now more commonly known as Magdalene Bridge) or, rather, a distant ancestor. The Romans probably built a bridge on or near this site. Other bridges have followed, of wood, stone, or steel. The Cam today looks relatively tame and easy to cross, but before man came along it was wider and shallower and edged by fen and bog, making it extremely hard to cross. Thus the relatively solid ground in this area made it not just the best but the only place to cross either by ford or by bridge what was quite an effective geographical boundary. Not surprisingly, a town appeared. The Cam is now well supplied with bridges of various kinds, but this is only recently the case. Apart from the Great Bridge most river crossings before the Edwardian period required a ferry, of which there were several. From West to East these were: Bate's Ferry on the site of Victoria Bridge; a ferry by the Fort St.George replaced by a footbridge in 1927; Dant's ferry replaced by the Cutter (aka Pye) footbridge (between Pembroke and Emmanuel Boat Houses - rebuilt in 2005); the Horse Grind ferry at Chesterton by the Green Dragon pub; B.Jolley's ferry from the Pike and Eel pub; and the Ditton Plough ferry. All of these were so-called "Grind" ferries, they were pulled across by a chain wound by hand. The Horse Grind ferry was unusual in that the grind was powered by a horse, hence the name. This ferry was the main ferry used for wagons and livestock, with another separate ferry for pedestrians. The adjoining road is still called Ferry Lane despite the fact that the footbridge has been there for over 60 years (since 1935) - similarly there is still a Ferry Path leading to the Fort St.George footbridge. There was a major accident at the Ditton Plough ferry in 1905 when drunken undergraduates tried to climb aboard an already full ferry after the May boat races. It overturned and three women were drowned. The absence of a ferry or bridge on this site means that Fen Ditton is probably harder to get to from the town centre now for cyclists or pedestrians than it was in Edwardian times and before.

Bridge Street and Portugal Place
The area of the city around St.John's and Magdalene Colleges used to be full of little streets like Portugal Place. They were demolished either by these Colleges for modern extensions or by the City Council for the Park Street Car Park. Only Magdalene comes out of this with any credit as it had its new court designed by Edward Lutyens, and only one of Lutyens buildings was in place when the college ran out of money - which preserved the Tudor buildings along Bridge Street. Most of these were brothels at one time or another, they certainly were when Defoe visited the city in the 18th C - the shop now occupied by Bowns (which is, I'm told, one of the best up-market ladies clothing outlets in town) was once the Cross Keys Inn. If you look closely at the outside you can still clearly see the carved wooden gargoyles (see photos), certain large anotomical features of which leave you in no doubt as to what went on in there! For a long time these buildings were in danger of being shaken to bits by the ludicrous weight of traffic down Bridge Street. From January 1997 the council experimented with closing Bridge Street to most traffic, which has made the situation more tolerable. From 2001 the street had an extensive facelift, and in particular one pavement has been planted with attractive inset brass flowers (Marguerites apparently) as a "street art" project (made by Michael Fairfax), with new bollards and a large decorated brass pillar (also by Michael Fairfax) at the Castle Hill end. The facelift continued - until recently all the shops were painted white which had gradually weathered to a dingy blueish-grey. In 2005 they were all painted in a range of pastel colours - it makes the street look like a washed out Ballamory, but is a great improvement. Bridge Street has curiously metamorphosed into a major concentration of assorted restaurants over the past few years, with many more than a dozen in the short distance between the Round Church and the bottom of Castle Hill. Unlike for example Mill Road, which specialises in curry houses, there are numerous ethnicities represented with a good tapas restaurant, an excellent Japanese restaurant and a very good Vietnamese place, among others. There are several others which should be avoided at all costs, but I'd better not say which in case they sue ! Portugal Place contained the original Book Shop and Art Gallery of Gordon Fraser, whose company is now well known for greeting cards. Portugal Place gets its name from the Port once shipped in vast quantities by barge to the nearby Quayside, and from there to College High tables.

brass Marguerites

Cambridge Blue and Porterhouse Blue
At the first boat race between Oxford and Cambridge, Oxford wore dark blue and Cambridge wore pink. For the second such race one of the Cambridge oarsmen bought some light blue ribbons. This is just as well as "Cambridge pink" doesn't have quite the same ring about it, although I would love to see our boaties today wearing pink with blue ribbons. As on so many occasions Cambridge has here defined itself as "not Oxford". Porterhouse Blue is the famous comic book by Tom Sharpe, which has defined the popular view of University life for a generation now. It still has a ring of truth about it, I'm afraid to say (although condoms are rather easier to get hold of now...). Many assume it's based on Peterhouse because of the similarity in names and its rather conservative reputation, but Sharpe was actually an undergraduate at Pembroke.

Cambridge Fields
Cambridge used to be flanked by two large commons, the East field and the West field. The West field is now the college backs and the residential and University buildings around Grange Road. Parts of the East field remain as Midsummer, Stourbridge and Coldhams Commons. Cows and horses can still be found on all three of these (or could before Foot and Mouth), which results in the bizarre collection of cattle grids and gates which surround them. Cambridge was unusual in having two such fields, most other English towns having one. Revenue from the West field went to churches on the North of the river, while the East field funded the southern churches. One consequence of the flanking fields was that the town was critically short of dry building land for much of its history, and so after the Acts of Enclosure (early 1800s) freed some of the fields for building there was something of an explosion. This is why so much of the housing around the city is so similar - most of it was built within a short space of time.

Usually somewhere around the third division. Desperate to move from the tiny and inadequate Abbey ground on Newmarket Road (the last time I went about a dozen balls were lost by being kicked out of the stadium !), but lack of money, a suitable site, and enthusiasm from the council has put it all on ice. They are now trying to raise the funding to rebuild on the current site. Probably most well known now as the second favourite team of Nick Hornby (as in Fever Pitch) - Hornby was an undergraduate at Jesus College. Among other things Hornby tells of the habit of opposing team fans of gathering in the adjacent allotments and throwing cabbages over the stadium wall at the Cambridge fans. There is another football team in town - non-league Cambridge City with a small ground at Mitcham's Corner, more commonly used for car boot sales than football.

Castle Hill

See - it's not completely flat

This is, surprisingly enough, a real hill. The Roman town of Durolipons (or possibly Durcinate, or Curcinate, or Durovigutum, or Camboritum, nobody seems too sure) was here, extending roughly from the river up to the Mount Pleasant Junction. There was a Castle on the Castle Mound site in Roman times, probably wooden. The Normans built a stone castle, and this was later extended and improved, particularly by Cromwell. From soon afterwards, however, the only part standing was the gatehouse. The first stone of the county gaol came from the old Castle, and the present Shire Hall was built using bricks from the gaol. Admirable recycling. The major use of the Castle was always as a prison, it was not much use as a defensive structure (apart from a brief period during the Civil War) as the town seems to have been invaded by pretty much anybody passing by ("It's a nice day, let's go and invade Cambridge !"). The gatehouse of the Castle was demolished in 1842 to make way for the Assize Courts, which were themselves demolished in 1953 - both demolitions subject to howls of protest, ignored as they always are. There is a good view from the top of Castle Mound, the site of the old Castle Keep. On the townward slope of the hill is the tiny old St.Peter's Church, the smallest church in the county, built on the site of a Roman temple. There is also the (most excellent) Kettles Yard Museum and Kettles Yard House, and the very interesting Folk Museum. The area immediately north of Northumberland Street, Castle End, was for many centuries the major red light district of the town. The Three Tuns Inn (also known as Whyman's Inn) on Castle Hill was a favourite haunt of Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman. It was demolished in 1936.

Chariots of Fire
Much of this film was actually made at Eton, which makes it a little confusing for Cambridge residents and visitors trying to place the buildings. Trinity Great Court is considerably larger than the court depicted in the film, which makes Abraham's Great Court Run rather more impressive. Since the film Trinity undergraduates have run round the court after their matriculation dinner (with the clock chimes suitably slowed down) as a sort of initiation ritual. The number of accidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption (shame !) has lead to the suppression of the event by the college authorities. The name "Chariots of Fire" has now been given to a half marathon/fun run around the city.

Christ's Pieces
This is a lot funnier now than when the name was invented. In the old days you weren't allowed to laugh about anything to do with God because he didn't have a sense of humour, but she's got one now so it's ok. Actually it's just a collection of pieces of land next to Christ's College (although originally owned by Jesus College - "Jesus's Pieces" is just as funny, but harder to say). Now it's known mainly as "the bit of green between the town centre and the Grafton Centre". It sports extremely attractive flower beds in summer, a small Bus Station, and most of the town's collection of drunks and homeless people. The siting of the Bus Station here caused major protests, and not just from the University. Enlarging it caused further major protests. It is now accepted that the City Council cannot expand the Bus Station on this site, although it badly needs more room as it is cramped and the surrounding roads are dangerous. The sensible option is for the Coaches to arrive at a different site, and this will probably happen one day when funding, a suitable site, and the political initiative coincide (ie don't hold your breath). The Bus Station is on Drummer Street - the name deriving from Drusemere, which means muddy pool - the pool being fed by Hobson's Conduit. Christ's Pieces now features the Princess Diana Memorial Rose Garden - not every city resident (this correspondent included) approves of the expenditure of large amounts of our council tax on this eyesore, although it does give the homeless people who congregate here something to look at, and I'm sure they think the money was well spent. It is frequently and extensively vandalised.

Cromwell's Head
Another local boy made good - or very very bad depending on your point of view. He was born in Huntingdon and subsequently lived in Ely. He was a student at Sidney Sussex College, and later went on to become the City's MP (1640). His subsequent career is well known and partially covered elsewhere on these pages, so I wont go into it. What is less well known is his fate after death. His body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey on the Restoration (1661) and it was ritually hanged and beheaded at Tyburn in London (roughly where Marble Arch is now). His body is probably buried anonymously somewhere in that area but his head was passed around through various supporters, for a long time being kept in a biscuit tin. In 1960 it was gifted to Sidney Sussex College and it is buried in or near Sidney Sussex Chapel in a secret location (known only to the Master of the College and one other) as it is suspected that even today feeling runs high enough for somebody to attempt to dig it up. No member of the Royal Family set foot in the college until 1996, although it is presumably now forgiven. There was a portrait of Cromwell in the dining hall which was hidden behind a curtain, legend had it that this was in case the Queen dropped in for tea. In fact the portrait was opposite the main window and was hidden to prevent light damage. It has now been moved to a darker location and replaced with a less valuable portrait which doesn't require a curtain.

Cambridge now has three, the Grafton Centre multiplex, another multiplex just South of the Railway Station, and the (excellent) Picturehouse. The St.Andrews Street ABC closed in July 1997, and in July 1999 reopened as the Picturehouse, an arts-oriented cinema above a pub (Wetherspoons Regal, reputed to be the largest pub in Europe). In its later days as a conventional cinema it was clearly struggling against the competition of the multiplex. It did boast the biggest screens and so did well on blockbusters, but clearly not well enough. It was once a concert venue - most notably host to The Beatles in 1963. It was built on the site of Ye Olde Castel Hotel, a very attractive building (photographs exist) which burned down in 1934, despite being a favourite haunt of the firemen from the firestation which was then less than a hundred yards down the road. The Hotel was established in 1243 (partially rebuilt in 1620), so this was a considerable loss. The name lives on in the Castle pub next to the cinema. The Arts Cinema, Market Passage, closed in June 1999. It was owned by the same organisation that owns the Arts Theatre, and was sold off for redevelopment to buoy up the loss-making theatre. It hosted a Film Festival every summer which lasted for two weeks and was the third biggest in the country (after London and Edinburgh). It was regarded with great affection by many, despite becoming increasingly squalid - the building having been constructed in 1866 and never properly maintained. It has now (2002) been redeveloped as a bar. Cambridge has had a great many other cinemas come and go. Marks and Spencers on Market Square is on the site of the old Victoria, which was a vast art deco barn, and at one time the Victoria Assembly Rooms. I was very fond of the old Victoria cinema, and maintained a one-person boycott of Marks and Spencers when it was redeveloped that lasted for all of 5 minutes before I succumbed to their extensive range of upmarket TV dinners and reasonably priced cotton socks. The bingo hall on Hobson Street was once the Central, later the Odeon. There was also the picturesque (pardon the pun) Kinema on Mill Road (formerly Sturton Town Hall), recently demolished having been derelict for years. The building on the corner of Mill Road and Covent Garden, now the Salvation Army shop, is on the site of the Playhouse, the first purpose built cinema in Cambridge. If you look at the Covent Garden side wall you can still see the grafitti cut into the brickwork over the years by people queuing to get in. The Tivoli at Mitcham's Corner has been through many uses and is now a pub, for a while The Fresher and Firkin, but now The Graduate.

Coe Fen, Lammas Land, Sheep's Green, Laundress Green
These are the swampy patches of land by the river around Fen Causeway and extending to the Mill Pool, far too damp ever to have been built on. Sheep's Green is fairly self-explanatory. Coe Fen may be a corruption of cow, but is more likely a corruption of coo - middle English for Jackdaw. The level of Coe Fen was raised by using it as a rubbish dump. Laundress Green really was used by college laundresses in the days when the best source of water for washing was the river. Lammas Land relates to Lammas Day, the first of August and the traditional harvest festival day, it's nothing to do with Tibetan monks or South American ruminants. Many areas of green around the town were designated lammas lands in law, that is they were common lands for 9 months of the year, but for the sole use of their owners for the remainder (Lammas Day being the day they changed ownership). The so-called Deer Park on the other side of the river behind Peterhouse is just a garden now - the last deer was eaten by the fellows of Peterhouse long ago. There is a bathing station on Sheep's Green which has been in use for centuries. It was originally men only and the tradition was to bathe nude, ladies being punted past were supposed to avert their eyes. It is now mixed, and many hardy users still bathe in the nude.

Coldham's Common
This is a bleak windswept wilderness between Coldham's Lane and the Football Ground, bisected by a railway line. Not much used by people, but the horses, bunny rabbits and wild flowers seem to like it. Just over Newmarket Road to the North was the Leper Hospital, and Barnwell Junction. Sometimes used as overflow parking for the Football Ground, which I imagine is not appreciated by the wild flowers and the bunny rabbits. It used to be used as an unofficial golf course (a lot of rough, and not much green).

There are a lot of these, they are all interchangeable. Apart from New Hall and Newnham. And Homerton. And Peterhouse and Magdalene. And Hughes Hall and St.Edmunds. And Girton. Ok, so they're all different, apart from Fitzwilliam. If this document included College histories as well it would be twice as long, so I've chosen not to include these, and to concentrate on the City instead - but as the University and City are historically and geographically intertwined there are numerous references to the University and the Colleges.

There are many college buildings in Cambridge named Cripps', which indicates that they were significantly funded by the Cripps' Foundation. This was a charity established in 1956 by the Cripps family to fund projects for Education, Health and the Church. The family made its money by manufacturing parts of pianos, and later moved into car components and such diverse fields as velcro manufacture and holiday resorts. It is probably unfortunate that the Foundation was providing money during the late 50s and 60s when the assorted architects of the UK were taking one of their periodic holidays from aesthetic considerations. As a result the name is attached to some of the ugliest buildings in Cambridge. What a good way to make sure people remember you.

How people in Cambridge get around, mainly. It's flat, there's nowhere to park, students can't afford cars. The City Council calls Cambridge "Cycle City" in an attempt to appear eco-friendly. The County Council, who are in charge of such things, impose cycle bans on various bits of street. Whether the majority of people think this is a good thing or a bad thing is submerged in the ferocity of the argument. Certainly the public enquiries conclude it's a bad thing, but these are ignored by the County Council, because they can. Many cyclists don't help their case by ignoring traffic lights and not having lights at night. Stopping cyclists at night without lights is a favourite hobby of the Police, and quite right too. The most common source of argument on local newsgroups is "who is the most stupid, cyclists or drivers ?" - the answer clearly being "anyone who chooses to consider this a topic worthy of argument". Everyone, cyclist or driver, is united in just one thing - the foreign language students who flock here in summer are a bloody menace and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a bike. Cycling three-abreast, holding hands, the wrong way down a one-way street (which I have seen more than once) may be amusingly continental, but is not going to endear you to the locals and you may end up as amusingly continental road kill.

De Freville Estate
The truly wealthy people in Cambridge live around Newnham and West Cambridge or in the Queen Edith's area. Many who are merely extremely well off live in the area around De Freville Avenue, between Chesterton Road and the river. This area mainly grew up after the Victoria Bridge was opened. In its early days many of the inhabitants worked in the Pye radio works. This large site was taken over by the even larger site of Philips Electronics (and subsequently an offshoot, Sepura), occupying much of the southern half of Chesterton.

Development and Redevelopment
Excuse me a lengthy rant, but this is something that is on my mind. A fairly constant theme of these pages has been the destruction and rebuilding cycle that has taken place in Cambridge over the centuries, exactly the same as in every other European city of any age. This has taken place on the small scale, with individual buildings being replaced, and on the larger with whole areas being redeveloped. Usually the change is not for the better, but this is often a little unfair. The ancient Three Tuns pub on Castle Hill was knocked down in the early 1900s and replaced by a mock Tudor pub. Dreadful, we would think today - but the pub had never been maintained properly over the centuries and was on the verge of falling down. If it had survived into the age of listing (Note for non-English readers, buildings of historical or architectural merit can be listed, which either means they must be preserved entirely or restored using matching materials, depending upon the degree of listing, grade 1 being the highest) then the owner would have been forced to replace every brick to stop it falling down, in which case it might have become more Disney medieval than genuine. Tree Court at Caius College replaced some attractive and solid but not particularly memorable houses and has given rise to the range facing the Senate House, which is almost as iconic of Cambridge as King's Chapel. The chapel itself was fronted by houses at one time, which would have spoiled all those millions of tourists' photos. So some development is worthwhile. Larger scale developments on the other hand are often not. Lion Yard is completely unforgiveable, and one hopes that the same development would not be allowed today. The whole area behind it is becoming (as of mid 2005) the Grand Arcade development but there is little of any merit left in this area to mourn, although if they removed the ugly modern canopy from Robert Sayle it would be revealed as an attractive Edwardian shopfront (which is expected to be retained in the Grand Arcade development I'm glad to see). Another attractive Edwardian building on this site was destroyed to build the hideous Norwich Union building on the Downing Street/St.Tibbs Row corner - they preserved the statue of cherubs from over the door and it sat somewhat incongruously over the new entrance. This building was in turn demolished to build the Grand Arcade.

Moving up in scale Cambridge still has largely the same pattern of roads as the medieval city, the major difference being the loss of Milne Street which was covered over by an earlier major redevelopment project - King's College. Milne Street ran parallel to King's Parade but nearer the river. The two ends are left as Queens' Lane and Trinity Lane, and the middle section ran under the back of the Chapel. Milne Street provided access to the riverside docks, or "hithes", which were in the area now covered by the King's and Clare College gardens.

Moving up in scale again, the City now has a Green Belt, a post-war invention designed to halt endless suburbian expansion and to give the City what you might think of as "breathing room". As in other places where this has been tried there are several consequences: so called brownfield sites, disused industrial areas within the green belt, become attractive development sites, and this is going on at the Riverside gas works, sewage works and Railway sidings sites in Barnwell. Secondly there is pressure for housing development to "jump" the green belt, and this has happened at Cambourne and Bar Hill. There are plans for more new villages of this sort south of Addenbrokes and between Cambridge and Ely on various disused airfields. One problem with this is that public transport does not keep up, so there will be an increase in traffic on arterial roads, but there is no room in the city for parking, so where do we put Park and Ride schemes - in the green belt ! This is a third consequence, there is an irresistable temptation to nibble away at the green belt. The University is a major offender here. The West Cambridge site would be the largest building site in Europe if all the planned buildings were to be built at once. The University has further plans in the mostly still rural area between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road. In 2004 this hit the national newspapers with headlines like "University plans 3 new colleges" to be built in this area. As usual with newspaper reports concerning the University this is complete rubbish. The Cambridge housing stock is ageing and ridiculously expensive, and much of what there is is used as student or graduate lodgings. There is a need for low cost housing for those who provide our vital infrastructure but who are not enormously well paid (which includes a lot of University staff, as well as bus drivers and shop workers etc). Any houses built within reach of the centre will probably be bought up by the wealthy young employees of the high tech industries, so everyone else will continue to be forced out to the villages beyond the green belt unless more of the green belt is built on (and for all of the weasel words about sensitive development and respecting the landscape this is fundamentally what is meant). The employees of the high tech companies need somewhere to live if the high tech companies are to stay here, so there is a choice: preserve the green belt and stiffle the city, or build on it and surround the city with boring little brick boxes out to Ely and beyond. A choice I'm glad I don't have to make.

This is a word which is mainly used outside of Cambridge. Inside, these creatures are more commonly known as Fellows, ie the senior members of the colleges. From the Latin Dominus (Master). They are, despite popular opinion, a mixed bunch: young, old, male, female (and in some cases both !), and from a range of social backgrounds. I am one myself. Many are quite mad. They tend to live to a great age, which just goes to show that you should ignore Doctors when they tell you that a diet of Port and Creme Brulee is bad for you.


Cake shop on Trumpington Street. The best Chelsea Buns in the known Universe. They briefly opened another branch on Regent's Street, but it didn't last very long. Fitzbillies suffered a major fire in 1998, reopened on an adjacent site for a while, but has now moved the shop back while retaining the adjacent site as a restaurant.

Fitzwilliam Museum
Founded in 1816 by a bequest of Richard 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam. The collection was moved around between various temporary quarters while the University decided what to do with it. The present building was finally built in 1848. The architect, Basevi, didn't live to see it as he fell from scaffolding while working on the maintenance of Ely Cathedral. For about 20 years from the mid-70s shortage of money meant that the Museum was open on a "split-shift" with the upper and lower parts of the collection not open at the same time. This extremely annoying situation finally ended in 1996. It receives 250,000 visitors annually, and should by rights receive more as it contains some wonderful things. One guidebook reports a local legend that the lions at the entrance awake at midnight and prowl the streets looking for children still awake. Just the sort of legend that is designed to keep children wide awake all night and turn them into axe-murderers. Of course, if it was true, the lions would be permanently stuffed with undergraduates from Peterhouse and Pembroke (not that many are particularly digestible). There were decorative ponds at the front until the 2005 remodelling - they were originally dug as water reservoirs to be used in the event of incendiary bombs dropping on the museum during WWII.

A small village to the south east of the city which is known mainly for the large psychiatric hospital on its outskirts. For this reason the pubs of Fulbourn tend to be full of mad people who smoke and drink too much, ie Doctors. Fulbourn is the site of the wells that provide the City with water.

Foreign Language Students
See also Parker's Piece and Cycling in Cambridge. There are a great many schools here intended to teach the young and wealthy of continental Europe how to speak English. This might work better if they didn't cluster together quite so much, but being free from parental supervision and young they seem to spend much of their time studying Applied Gynaecology and Advanced Lung Cancer. The students go back to their own countries having learned a great deal about the British (mainly how we don't like them very much), and thinking they know how to ride a bike. Apparently they think we smell bad and eat too many potatoes, which is probably true.

The Fosters and The Turk's Head

Fosters', now Lloyds, Bank

The rather attractive Tudor shop on Trinity Street now occupied by a clothes shop was once the Turk's Head Coffee House, one of the earliest coffee houses in the country (17th century). It was much frequented by students. The upper floors later became the Turk's Head Carvery, but it is now entirely given over to floral prints. The building was once the home of Fosters' Bank, which later moved to the truly splendid building on Sidney Street opposite Petty Cury. The name can still be seen carved over the door, but it was taken over by Lloyds shortly after the move. The older part of the Sidney Street building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse - it looks nice enough from the outside, but it's the tiled interior that is really special, go and look ! The bank was apparently founded by the Foster brothers, Richard and Ebenezer, for the benefit of the workers at their mills, of which there were three in Cambridge, including the large one still known as the Foster Mills next to the Railway Station. This has been through several hands but is now owned by Rank Hovis. Ebenezer's house was Anstey Hall in Trumpington, the grounds of which have now been despoiled by the large new Waitrose supermarket.

Garden House Hotel
When Europe and the US were erupting in student protest in 1968, Cambridge had its own little example - the Garden House riots. Students encouraged by some notoriously left-wing fellows protested against a "Greek Night" at the hotel (sponsored by the Greek Military Government of the time) and ended up causing some relatively minor damage. The whole situation was quite ugly, and in retrospect rather pathetic, and ended up causing a lot of resentment against the University authorities, who punished only a representative sample of those involved (ie those who didn't run away from the Proctors fast enough !). The hotel is the most expensive in Cambridge, but not otherwise interesting.

The Guildhall
The first recorded property on this site belonged to one Benjamin the Jew. The building was granted to the town by Henry III in the 1220's. How it became vacant and what happened to Benjamin is not known, it was well before the official expulsion of the Jews from Cambridge (which was itself some 20 years before they were expelled from the country altogether). Part of it was used as the town gaol, an adjoining synagogue (Benjamin clearly being wealthy) was leased to the Franciscan order. The Franciscans moved some 50 years later to a purpose built convent on the site of what is now Sidney Sussex College. The vacated premises became the Town Hall, or Tolbooth as it was more commonly known, its principal function being the disposition of tolls for entry into the town and trading at the market. The building was raised on arches with the market stalls below (the present Market Square being largely filled with buildings at that time which were not cleared until the great fire of 1849). A Shire Hall was built on the open space in front in 1747, again on arches with stalls beneath. The Shire Hall and the Tolbooth were connected by a wooden bridge over an alley (Butter Row, containing stalls which sold dairy produce, surprisingly enough). After new Law Courts were built on Castle Hill in 1842 the Shire Hall and the new Town Hall (built in 1782 on the site of the old one) were amalgamated into a Guildhall. The current Guildhall was built on the site of these twin buildings (along with a few other adjoining houses) in the 1930's. It was constructed in two parts, and if you look closely at the front you can just about see a line where the bricks don't match. It is not particularly attractive, but it is listed (which is just as well given the architectural delights that the cash-strapped council would no doubt visit on us otherwise). The council is thinking of ways of turning the lower reaches into shops - perhaps they should raise the whole lot up on arches and stick market stalls underneath - there is historical precedent.

Gog Magogs
Gog and Magog are, of course, the names of giants from the Book of Revelations who storm around on the Day of Judgement destroying things. When they get here they're going to be pretty pissed off to find they have an inconspicuous blink-and-you'll-miss-'em range of low hills just south of the City named after them. The hills got this name because of the large phallic pre-Saxon figure once cut into the turf (as at several other famous sites in southern England), who was christianised into the Biblical giant. He's apparently still visible if you know what you're looking for, but is very overgrown. An iron age camp, Wandlebury, was situated on top.

Grafton Centre
It's large, it's ugly, and large parts of it were vacant for a very long time after it was built. It's now home to many typical mall shops and seems to be permanently full of surly teenagers. It has now grown an extension which houses a multiplex cinema specialising in films that appeal to surly teenagers. There are plans to extend it further by knocking down many of the shops on the North side of Burleigh Street. Sources differ as to where the name comes from: one says it is named after the man who first bought gas lighting to Cambridge, John Grafton, from his works on nearby Maid's Causeway; another says that it was named after the Duke of Grafton, a property owner in the area. As the family name of the Duke of Grafton was Fitzroy and as the Grafton centre stands on Fitzroy Street the latter explanation seems more likely. Augustus Henry FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton, was briefly Prime Minister (1768-70) and also Chancellor of the University (also from 1768).

This is a small village just south west of Cambridge. Most of the houses were built to house workmen and college servants. Now very rich people live there. It has several very nice pubs, a few picturesque thatched cottages, and pleasant walks along the Cam where you can watch people falling off punts. It also has the Orchard, which is an orchard - which also has a tea shop and a lot of deck chairs in which people lounge and read newspapers when the weather permits. A civilised place with a long history of distinguished loungers. Grantchester is also the home of novelist (?) and Tory (??) Jeffery Archer, about whom I had better say nothing. Lord Archer lives in Granchester Vicarage, once the lodgings of the poet Rupert Brooke, who wrote a well known poem about the place ("and is there honey still for tea ?" etc). His reference to the church clock standing still is not just a reference to the timelessness of the place but to the fact that the clock stuck (but not at 10 to 3, it was altered to that as a sentimental gesture after Brooke died) for many years. Slightly beyond Grantchester along the river is Byron's Pool. This has long been used for bathing, Lord Byron was not the first or last, but the name stuck fairly soon after he achieved fame. It was once a Mill pond - probably the Mill that formed the location of the story told in Chaucer's Reeve's Tale.

Great St. Mary's and Little St Mary's
Great St. Mary's, also known as St Mary the Great or, technically, St Mary the Great with St Michael, or just GSM. There has been a church on this site since 1205, the current building dating from between 1478 and 1608 (the tower in particular took them a while). It became the University Church and was used for meetings, debates and degree ceremonies before the Senate House opposite was built in 1730. University sermons still take place there regularly. Many of the major figures of the Reformation preached here (along with the nearby St Edwards) - consequently it was the scene of much Protestant burning and other assorted nastiness. A friend and local artist, Issam Kourbaj has a plan to build a wooden spire on top of the GSM tower, housing a Camera Obscura. This will be called the Eye Cone. Everyone agrees it's a great idea, it just needs funding, so go to Issam's website and click a few links to find out how to send him money. The University Vice-Chancellor from 1545, Matthew Parker, originally wanted a spire added when he had the tower rebuilt, but it was never finished. Parker, incidentally, has been suggested as the source of the expression "Nosy Parker" because of a supposed reputation as a busybody, but as the earliest recorded use of the term isn't until 1907 this seems unlikely. GSM is called "Great" St Mary after a Saint Mary who was particularly great, as opposed to St Mary the So-So, St Mary the Entirely Average, and St Mary the Spectacularly Insignificant. Actually, no, I made that bit up. It is called "Great" St Mary to distinguish it from another St Mary down the road - the church next to Peterhouse College which is consequently called Little St Mary, or St Mary the Less. St Mary the Less churchyard The church on this site was originally called St Peters - it briefly became the lodging place of the first scholars in Cambridge who subsequently moved next door and set up a college, hence the name "Peterhouse". In 1352 it was rebuilt and rededicated to St Mary, which required the additional "Little". The graveyard garden at the rear is particularly lovely - although it is neat and tidy at the moment - it was until recently romantically overgrown which made it a secluded jungle in the middle of town. This usage of "Great" and "Little" doesn't seem to have made it to the US. It is common in this country - for example you will often find paired villages, "Great Flabbiebotham" (3 houses and a pub) at the bottom of the hill with "Little Flabbiebotham" (1 house and a pub) at the top. We also persist in calling our country "Great" Britain, which doesn't necessarily imply that we're best at everything.

This isn't a healthy place, never has been. The traditional time for major illness is about 3 weeks into Michaelmas term when scholars from all over the world congregate here to exchange ideas and airborne viruses. It's also cold, damp and windy, and in years past (and to a lesser extent still) prone to extensive flooding. The common square fortress-like construction of the colleges was designed more to keep the wind out than the students in - apart from at Caius College where Dr.Caius designed a court with the south side open specifically to let fresh air blow through, to clear the unhealthy vapours. Hygienic practices left a lot to be desired by modern standards - Trinity Lane is marked on some old maps as Pisspot Lane and there was a Foul Lane (now swallowed up by Trinity College) which was effectively an open sewer thought responsible for much illness at Trinity Hall. The King's Ditch was used for the same purpose. Clean drinking water was in short supply before the construction of Hobson's Conduit and an earlier piped water scheme that now provides the water for Trinity Great Court Fountain. During the plague years (the Black Death 1349-1390, and periodically for the next 300 years) Cambridge was often largely deserted in the summer months as people fled to the countryside. Over one third of the population died during the Black Death period of plague or famine. There were pesthouses (temporary hospitals where plague victims were taken) on Midsummer Common and later on Coldham's Common. There is an apocryphal story that so many people died of the plague in one street in central Cambridge that it was just walled off and left. When the wall was taken down many years later the street was green with grass, and hence became Green Street (Festering Corpse Street was presumably outvoted). This did actually happen in other parts of Britain (notably Edinburgh) but not here. Green Street was named after the owner of the land when the first houses there were built - the ends of the street were once largely blocked off by buildings, but it was not walled up on purpose.

Hills, Pieces, Rows and Leys
Cambridge has several peculiar place designations beyond the usual streets and roads:

Hobbs Pavilion
Sir Jack Hobbs (1882-1963) was a cricketer, famous amongst those people with nothing better to do with their minds than remember cricketers. His dad was a groundsman at Jesus College and young Jack grew up in Cambridge. Parker's Piece was once the main location for both town and University cricket (although the University has since moved to the adjacent Fenner's ground) and the pavilion was named in his honour. The cricket pavilion has now been converted into a restaurant. This used to be a very good creperie, run by the lovely Mr & Mrs Hill, but they have now moved on to pastures new and the restaurant is a lot less interesting than it was.

Thomas Hobson was a 17th Century carrier, that is he transported goods, and sometimes people, between Cambridge and London. He acquired a considerable fortune and gave much of it to charitable works, such as the Conduit and the Spinning House. The well known phrase "Hobson's Choice" ie no choice at all, is popularly derived from his practice of renting out the next horse in line rather than allowing people to choose. However the phrase was in contemporaneous use in some places as "Hudson's choice" so the story may be an early urban legend. He was based in the George Hotel on Trumpington Street, now part of St.Catherine's College, and specifically his stables were on the site of the Chapel. Hobson's Street had no connection to him at all, it used to be called Walls Street (although Cambridge never had City walls, it wasn't big enough to warrant them).

Hobson's Conduit
Hobson's Conduit on Trumpington Street Hobson's contribution to this is uncertain, he didn't instigate it, but he was probably one of the several people who funded it. Why it acquired his name is not known. Hobson's New River as it was sometimes called was originally intended to flush out the sewage from the King's Ditch. Accordingly in the 17th century a stream running in from the South of Cambridge called the Vicar's Brook was forked and some of the water fed via a channel right down the centre of Trumpington Street to the Ditch at the junction with Pembroke Street. This didn't work very well for clearing the sewage but was very successful for providing drinking and bathing water, and so two other forks were made from the Conduit Head at what is now Lensfield Corner. One was piped down Tennis Court Road and eventually to Market Square, where it emerged at a monument also confusingly called Hobson's Conduit, and later at the fountain. The other was piped down Lensfield Road and Regents Street where it emerged into open runnels down St.Andrews Street and past Christ's. Offshoots fed several college ponds and pools. The Trumpington Road channel proved dangerous as people often fell in and it was eventually diverted into the open runnels that still exist down either side of the road. People still fall in, even when sober, I know I have. The runnels along St.Andrews Street were covered over for a long time, but have recently been marked by channels and nice iron covers, and the water now runs along the gutter outside Christ's by the taxi rank, especially so people climbing into the taxis get wet feet. The monument that used to be in Market Square is now at Lensfield Corner, but there is occasional talk of moving it back.

The Holiday Inn
This was built during the period when the Prince of Wales was making such a fuss about new buildings sensitively matching older buildings in their surroundings. The Hotel is basically a brick cube with architectural details stuck on. Stuck on in the literal sense, they're made of fibreglass - one of the columns on the front fell off shortly after it was built. If you look at the back of the hotel, which sensitively matches the architecture of the Lion Yard car park, you'll see that there are several different brick colours used in bands. They were clearly in such a hurry to throw up this carbuncle that they couldn't even be bothered to use matching brick types. An Architecture text book I once saw used this building as an object lesson in what not to do. The sooner it falls down, the better. The only good thing about it was that nothing was demolished to clear the space, the buildings that used to exist here (the old Corn Exchange and the Masonic Hall) went long ago. The area used to be an open space called St.Andrew's Hill, and it was Cambridge's second major marketplace, specialising in animals (known as the beast market or hog market at various times). The town abbatoir was on Slaughterhouse Lane, now Corn Exchange Street, the former home of the University Computer Lab. Coincidentally, the New Museums Site next door to the Holiday Inn was built on the site of the Old Botanical Gardens, and these were on the site of the gardens of the Austin priory, known as Holiday's Gardens. The Holiday Inn has recently been renamed the Crowne Plaza.

It is quite obvious to any visitor that Cambridge has a larger number of homeless people than you would expect for a town of its size. In fact it has the third largest number of homeless people per capita of any town in Britain, after London and Oxford. The reason is that the large number of tourists and students are a ready source of income. The boozy, boorish students are a small minority, a large number of them have a clear idea of how well-off and privileged many of them are, and they do give generously. Furthermore Cambridge is a nice, attractive, prosperous place with full employment, and if you are homeless and rootless then it's better than most cities you could name. Unfortunately it is also cold and damp, and there are not as many shop doorways or other sheltering places as in the larger cities, and the hostels are invariably full. Government initiatives and the activities of Shelter, the homeless charity, and the Big Issue have helped a lot (and at the risk of sounding party political the current Government deserves more praise for this particular achievement than it gets). Unfortunately the initiatives tend to focus on London, which has the most visible problem (it has 20% of the national homeless total but receives 80% of the funding). The charity Wintercomfort does its best in the Cambridge area, and does very well. However, its activities have been hampered by what many see as heavy-handed treatment by the Police. In 1999 the Director of Wintercomfort, Ruth Wyner, and a Day Centre Manager, John Brock, were sentenced to 5 and 4 years respectively for not informing the Police that drug trading took place on Wintercomfort premises. Their not unreasonable claims that they weren't there when it took place and didn't know the extent of it, and that even if they did then shopping the very people they were trying to help to the Police was hardly a way to win their trust, were ignored. They became known as the Cambridge Two, and a national campaign was started to press for their release and for a change to the drug laws to prevent this sort of stupidity from happening again. In July 2000 their sentences were cut at appeal and they were both freed, but their convictions have not been overturned. I have tended not to put links in this document as they go out of date too quickly, but these are I think worthwhile: Wintercomfort and The Cambridge Two.

The Hunnybuns

At the back of Marks and Spencers Market Square branch is a small graveyard belonging to the adjacent Holy Trinity Church. Several of the stones belong to a family called the Hunnybuns, dating back to the 1700's. There are no Hunnybuns left in Cambridge now, at least according to the phone book. Shame. One of them ran the famous Coaching House called The Hoop, roughly where the tile shop on Bridge Street is now. There was also a Hunnybun's carriage repair shop on Hobson Street.

Pembroke College seems to have had more than its fair share of comedians: Tom Sharpe, Clive James, Peter Cook, Eric Idle, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie were all there, as was the cartoonist Martin Rowson. Other well known funny Cantabridgians include Jonathan Miller, John Cleese, Douglas Adams, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Graeme Garden, Steven Fry, Hugh Laurie, Griff Rhys Jones, Sandi Toksvig, Rory McGrath, Tony Slattery, Rob Newman, David Baddiel, Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, David Mitchell, Robert Webb and probably many more too funny to mention. Many of these first practised their trade as members of Footlights, which also produced Emma Thompson, and many many others. A recent and unlikely Cantabridgian is Ali G (aka Sacha Baron-Cohen/Borat).

An Interesting Demographic Detail
A recent survey revealed that Cambridge has the 6th highest gay population in England and Wales, after Brighton, London, Manchester, Blackpool and Bournemouth (yes, Bournemouth). Quite surprising for a little town in the fens. Oxford came 9th. How they arrived at these figures was not mentioned - I don't remember being asked at the last census, perhaps they just guessed. Tracking sales of Cher albums perhaps, or counting the Birkenstocks and dividing by two (jokes copyright to ""). Do bisexuals count as half ?

The Kite
An area just North of Parkers Piece and South of Maid's Causeway/Newmarket Road that includes the Grafton Centre, and is vaguely kite-shaped. It used to consist almost entirely of small attractive Victorian houses of the sort that still surround Mill Road, and which now command ridiculously high prices. Instead a large part of it is now covered in ugly modern shopping centre. Older city residents still mourn the restaurants gone from this area, particularly Waffles. The area was afflicted with planning blight for a long period before the bulldozers moved in. There are still some very good pubs here, eg The Tram Depot and the Free Press.

The King's Ditch
The King's Ditch followed a line curving South from the Cam by Magdalene College, along Park Street, across the back of Sidney Sussex, along Hobson Street, across Lion Yard and its car park, and down Pembroke Street and Mill Lane back to the Cam. This was the fortification that marked the southern boundary of medieval Cambridge, and was largely built by Henry III. The river marked the other boundary, although there was an additional military encampment outside the boundary around Castle Hill. A Roman road (called the Via Devana in some histories, but that name is an 18th century invention) approached along what is now Regents Street and St.Andrew's Street to a (probably wooden) gate in the ditch, the Barnwell Gate. There was another gate at Trumpington Street, and another roughly where Magdalene Bridge is now, from which the Roman road continued on what is now the Huntingdon Road. Space inside the medieval Ditch was limited as much of the land by the river was too wet for large buildings, so several of the early colleges were built just outside, eg Peterhouse and Pembroke. The Ditch was open to the Cam at either end, but wasn't deep enough to flood throughout so by the Elizabethan period became an open sewer running through the expanding town. Hobson's Conduit was originally conceived as an attempt to flush out the ditch, for which it proved largely unsuccessful. The Ditch was never much use as a defence, but it did serve to channel traders through one of the town gates if they wished to visit the markets at Market Hill and Peas Hill. This made it much easier to collect a toll. It was filled in in stages during the late 17th Century. Portions of the ditch were uncovered during the 2005 archaeological investigations prior to the building of the Grand Arcade. The existing ditch around the back of Jesus College was an offshoot.

King's Parade and Trinity Street
Along with Market Square and the Rose Crescent McDonalds this is the only bit of Cambridge most tourists get to see. Surprisingly some of the shops are still useful to residents (I'm a particular fan of Nomads). Recently resurfaced and generally tidied up. Once the main route through the city, it is now blocked off (with rising bollards to allow buses through) at Senate House Hill. At night both streets are remarkably dim due to the strange vertical streetlamps (Richardson Candles, produced for the Festival of Britain in 1951) which don't work very well, but which look nice. The railings outside the Senate House are among the oldest iron railings in the country, which is why they weren't melted down to make tanks during the war like so much other public ironwork. Undergraduate exam results are posted on boards outside the Senate House, but the gates in the railings are only open in the daytime, with the result that late arrivals keen to know their results have been known to climb over. I mention this only because there's a particular railing against which I still hold a grudge having nearly impaled myself upon it.

King Street
A remarkable number of pubs for such a short road (5 at present), but there used to be three times as many. A pub crawl along the street was known as the King Street Run, hence the pub by that name. Many record shops. Unfortunately the Garon book and CD shop has recently (2001) closed down, and the even more excellent Parrot Records is now an ex-Parrot, due to competition from other discount record shops such as Fopp. Several of the shops have a distinctively Italian feel, most particularly the lively if somewhat nicotine-encrusted Clown's coffee bar (which received a large proportion of my student grant). Most of the shops underneath the building at the back of Christ's (known as "the typewriter" for reasons that are apparent if you look at it from inside the college) were vacant for four or five years after it was rebuilt in the early 90's. Occupied shops, no matter what they sell, do more for the character of a town than empty ones, but empty shops can presumably be written off against tax. Most of these shops have now been taken over by Giulio's, which mainly sells designer menswear - there are several other excellent shops of this type making King Street the place to go for interesting menswear. The road also features the residential building at the back of Sidney Sussex, which is remarkably unfortunate. The alley next to what used to be Garon, Milton's Walk, was the scene of a notorious and grisly murder in 1921 (Alice Lawn, a shopkeeper from King Street) and was subsequently long known as Cut Throat Alley. The road was named for W.King of King and Harper, originally a bicycle repair business in Sussex Street, but later manufacturers of motorcycles (and prize winning ones at that, the Harleys of their day, the early 1900s). King himself won many international races.

Lensfield Road
Not in itself particularly interesting unless you are a chemist - the huge and ever expanding University Chemistry department takes up most of the South side. The two ends, however, have unusual names. The Regent Street end is called Hyde Park Corner, despite the fact that there is not and has never been a park here, called Hyde Park or anything else. There is a theory that there was once a house on the corner owned by a woman called Peck who later married someone called Hyde. So it is really Hyde-Peck corner, the similarity to Hyde Park corner in London causing the name to change. I find this totally unconvincing. The Trumpington Street end is known as Spittle or Spital End. This is a common medieval abbreviation of hospital (hence Spitalfields in London on the site of St.Mary's Spital). The hospital in this case was St.Anthony and Eligius, the last parts of which were demolished in the mid nineteenth century. The name Lensfield Road itself simply derives from John Lens, a local landowner.

Lion Yard
Like any English town with a long history, Cambridge used to sport a vast number of coaching inns (far more than most towns of its size - the city is still over-supplied with pubs). The Eagle and the Baron of Beef/Mitre (now two pubs either side of an archway, inside can still be seen the sign Blackmoor Head Yard)are still just about recognisable as such. One of the most famous was the Red Lion. This fell gradually into disrepair and closed, and the other shops on the south side of Petty Cury likewise emptied. They were replaced with a characterless small shopping mall called Lion Yard, now universally disliked (even after its recent refit). Rumours of collusion between the Council and the developers were rife at the time. Before the security gates were installed it was where the drunks went when it was too cold to sit on Christ's Pieces, now they use the Bus Station. There is a well hidden and rather desolate roof garden which was intended to symbolise friendship with Cambridge's twin city of Heidelburg - a pretty poor symbol. There is also one of Cambridge's few nightclubs, currently called 5th Avenue, formerly going by the unwieldy Cindarella Rockafellas (or Cindy's as it is still commonly known), and before that as Ronelles. The name changes every few years, but the club doesn't - a sweaty meatmarket with a tiny dancefloor. Somewhat more hospitable to students than the other central discos, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. Several other ancient inns were demolished as part of the same development, most notably the Falcon. Queen Mary (Tudor) watched a play held in the yard there (and enjoyed it greatly, so the story goes, so presumably it involved killing Protestants). Much more recently a party in the Falcon to launch a poetry magazine was the meeting place of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath (he had just left Pembroke, she was on a scholarship to Newnham). Plath planned a novel based on her time in Cambridge, to be called Falcon Yard, but it was still unfinished when she had her tragic appointment with a gas oven. The shop on the Sidney Street corner (for a long period Dorothy Perkins) was the site of the town Post Office before the redevelopment (one of the sites, it has moved around quite a bit over the years, gradually increasing in size). This was built on the site of yet another large and famous old coaching inn, the Wrestlers. St.Tibbs Row at the back of Lion Yard is now almost entirely buried by the Lion Yard Car Park. It used to be a major thoroughfare boasting several major Inns and pubs, most notably The Bun Shop (the name of which has moved around the city and is now attached to an establishment on King Street). St.Tibbs Row will be the site of a major city centre shopping development, Grand Parade. This may be saved from Lion Yard style mediocrity by the fact that much of the floor space will be occupied by a new Robert Sayle (aka John Lewis) department store.

One-way system
The distance from the front of the Guildhall to the back of the Guildhall on foot is about 200m. It is said that the distance by car thanks to one-way restrictions and blocked roads is about 3 miles.

Major Employers
The first car to be driven in Cambridge, a Peugeot, was owned by the Hon.C.S.Rolls (later to make rather nice cars himself with Mr.Royce) while an undergraduate. If the town had known what the motor car had in store for it he'd have been thrown out of the city before he could say "my other car is a Porsche". Marshall, the catering manager of the Pitt Club saw an opportunity when the wealthy young members needed somewhere to have their cars repaired and stored. Marshall's motor dealership and other enterprises are now one of the city's major employers, along with the University and Colleges (of course), and Phillips in Chesterton. Phillips took over the Pye "Granta" radio works. W.G.Pye's original employment was making scientific apparatus for the Cavendish laboratories. Heffers is something of a local institution. The main branch is not as big as Blackwells in Oxford, but it's close. Not bad as Mr.Heffer was barely literate when he started his business career. He originally managed a pub, despite being temperance, but was loaned the money to start a small stationers and bookshop in Fitzroy Street (nobody ever became poor by selling books in Cambridge (actually I have recently been informed that this is not true !) ), and became a University Constable (commonly known as Bulldogs) to earn a little more money. He sold hymn books at evangelical meetings and thus raised enough money to expand. The firm has shops all over the city, the main branch is in Trinity Street - their previous shop in Petty Cury closed shortly before the Lion Yard redevelopment in the early 70s. Heffers have recently (1999) been taken over by Blackwells but will retain the name. There was a haberdashers on the site of theEaden Lilley department store on Market Street since 1750. William Eaden took over the existing haberdashers, his daughter later married David Lilley, and hence the name. It grew to cover a large part of the area between Market Street and Green Street, but first sold off its outlying sections to other shops and underwent a major redevelopment, and then closed completely. The site has become a large bookshop (just what Cambridge is short of), which I'm glad to see has kept Eaden Lilley's hyper-efficient air conditioning system. There are still branches of Eaden Lilley in other parts of East Anglia - for a while it reopened just its delicatessen nearby, but this has now also closed.

Market Passage and Rose Crescent
The Rose and Crown was a large Inn, Rose Crescent is built on what was the back yard. It contains the Gardenia restaurant ("Gardies", a popular late night haunt of the hungry insomniac - they do an excellent vegetarian kebab), and a small McDonalds. The City Council managed to keep McDonalds out of Cambridge for years, but as the previous occupant of this site was also a restaurant (well, cooked food dispenser, anyway) the Council couldn't oppose in this case as there was no change of use. The owner of the Gardenia site, Caius College, is currently (Mar 2004) trying to shut it down so they can turn part of it into student accomodation - an enormous petition has been organised to oppose this, I'll keep you posted. French Connection at the Market end used to be a tobacconist (Bacon's, from 1810 to 1983, frequent haunt of many a famous nicotinephile, eg Tennyson, Edward VII), and there is still a large plaque there with "Calverley's Ode to Tobacco" to prove it.

Ode to Tobacco
(written at Cambridge in 1852)
A tribute to this firm

Thou who, when fears attack
bidst them avaunt, and black
care, at the horseman's back
 perching, unseatest;
Sweet, when the morn is grey;
sweet when they've cleared away
lunch; and at close of day
 possibly sweetest:

I have a liking old
for thee, though manifold
stories, I know, are told,
 not to thy credit:
how one (or two at most)
drops make a cat a ghost -
useless, except to roast -
 Doctors have said it:

How they who use fusees
all grow by slow degrees
brainless as chimpanzees,
 meagre as lizards:
Go mad, and beat their wives:
plunge (after shocking lives)
razors and carving knives
 into their gizzards.

Confound such knavish tricks!
Yet know I five or six
smokers who freely mix
 still with their neighbours:
Jones - (who I'm glad to say
asked leave of Mrs J.-----)
daily absorbs a clay
 after his labours.

Cats may have had their goose
cooked by tobacco-juice:
still why deny its use
 thoughtfully taken?
We're not as tabbies are:
Smith, take a fresh cigar !
Jones, the tobacco-jar !
 Here's to thee Bacon !
Calverley was a fellow of Christ's known for his eccentricity, his parodies of literary notables, and his love of tobacco. I wonder what he would say of today's smoking ban. Market Passage was also the yard of an inn, the Black Bear. The adjacent site, formerly the Eaden Lilley department store, has been redeveloped as Borders, the American bookstore chain.

Market Square
For what is today a rather undistinguished and tatty square this area has a long and varied history. There used to be buildings behind Great St.Mary's, so Market Hill was small and L-shaped. These buildings burned down in the great fire of 1849 and the opportunity was taken to create the rectangular area generally now known as Market Square. The original stalls were mostly on the area occupied now by the Guildhall, in arcades underneath the Shire Hall. Hobson's Conduit stood close to what is now the Guildhall, but when the Square was created it was moved to its current site on Lensfield Corner. The railings around the Conduit were traditionally used to tie criminals condemned to a public whipping. The water from the conduit was used in a new fountain positioned in the middle of the square. This fountain originally had a decorated stone arch over it, but this was later removed to give the rather sad relic we have today. There was also at one time a Market Cross (removed in 1786) from which public pronouncements were read. It could also be used for public punishment, a Mayor once insulted by an undergraduate asked that the miscreant be nailed by his ear to the cross while apologising (the request was later withdrawn, no doubt much to the undergraduate's relief). The Duke of Northumberland here proclaimed support for Queen Mary after his failed uprising in the name of his daughter, Lady Jane Grey. It didn't work, Bloody Mary wasn't noted for her forgiving nature. The market square also saw the bizarre burning of the Protestant Scholar's coffins, and the more predictable burning of Luther's books. The stalls in the market were kept in strict divisions, with one area for meat, another for vegetables etc, rather than the random distribution we have now. The City Council has repeatedly planned to make Market Square more attractive, and recently had a competition to chose a new fountain. The winner was a column with a gold ball on top which water flowed over. I rather liked it but hardly anybody else did. Popular opinion seems to be in favour of moving Hobson's Conduit back, presumably into the centre of the square rather than to its original position, and I don't suppose it'll be used for public whippings. The Council also wants to re-cobble the Square, and put down some test areas on the Petty Cury side. However, it then decided to spend our Council Tax on the poor and needy and shelved all redevelopment plans for the time being - leaving a rather confusing patchwork effect. The Market stall holders would have had to move from the Market Square during redevelopment and several plans were floated as to where they would go, including King's Parade. They opposed it strongly and breathed a large sigh of relief when the plans were dropped.

Midsummer Common
When people died of the plague, which they did here in great numbers as it has always been an unhealthy place, they tended to be buried in large open pits rather than in individual graves. Cambridge's early plague victims are all under Midsummer Common (victims from the 1665 plague are at Coldham's Common). In years past the County council has wanted to dig it all up to build an underground car park, but that idea seems to have disappeared (probably due to lack of funding rather than common sense and local outrage). It is true that Midsummer Common is several degrees colder than surrounding streets, probably due to being next to the river and not anything to do with the hundreds of people anonymously buried there. Site of the annual fireworks and Strawberry Fair. There is also a rather boring fun fair in mid summer which is a descendant of the original medieval Midsummer Fair, originally the fair of Barnwell Priory - not the same event as Sturbridge Fair, which was much larger. The Common was once the property of the Nunnery of St.Radegund, part of which now survives as Jesus College chapel. The Nunnery also had the right to a fair, the Garlick Fair, which was held on open land by what is now Park Street. Midsummer Common is also the site of the Fort St.George (an excellent pub), and Midsummer House Restaurant. The full name of the Fort St. George is "The Fort St.George in England" - after 10 pints of Guiness it helps to be reminded which country you're in - the other Fort St.George is in Madras, India. Midsummer House is the most notoriously expensive restaurant in Cambridge, and holds an ever-increasing and apparently well earned number of Michelin stars. An interesting public lavatory has just (2005) appeared at the South end of the common - it looks like a huge copper woodlouse, and is apparently known as "the armadilloo".

Mill Road
You can tell how long students have been here by how far they've travelled down Mill Road. Very, very few have even made it as far as the railway bridge. (This doesn't include students from Hughes Hall, who live there, which is cheating). It is narrow and overburdened with traffic, and hence one of the most polluted streets in Britain, and very dangerous for cyclists. The roads branching off contain many of the most expensive houses per square foot in town, which just goes to prove that given the choice people really want to live in tiny Victorian shoe boxes with no gardens and no parking. Mill Road hosts many of the more interesting shops in town, including the famous Arjuna, a health food shop of long standing, and the Curry Queen. This is often said to be the best Indian Restaurant in town, but in my opinion a) this isn't saying much, most of them are not that good, and b) the non-smoking section is two small tables next to the toilets so it doesn't get much patronage from me. The Golden Curry towards the bridge is far better. Home also of CB1, the City's first Internet cafe, which sells cheap books and very nice cakes (CB2 on nearby Norfolk Street has opened recently). The old peoples' home with the nice garden opposite Tenison road used to be one of the town's workhouses in the Victorian period (the Cambridge Union, the other being the Spinning House). It was built in 1838, later became an Infirmary and was taken over in 1948 by the NHS as a maternity hospital. This closed in 1983 when the Rosie Maternity Hospital opened on the Addenbrokes hospital site (I fondly wished that the Rosie Maternity Hospital had been named after someone called Rosie Maternity, but apparently it was named after Rosie Robinson, mother of David Robinson, the local businessman who also founded Robinson College). The large Salvation Army shop is on the site of the windmill that gave the road its name. This was ancient, but was destroyed in a storm in 1840. The Playhouse cinema was later built on the site, and when this closed in 1956 it became a supermarket, before eventually being taken over by the Sally Army. The Kinema, a lovely small cinema near the end of Gwydir Street was demolished at the end of 1996, very sad. The Library by the railway bridge has recently closed due to lack of funds (now where have we heard that one before) and is now up for redevelopment - various laudable plans including a combined arts centre and winter shelter for the homeless are being considered. The end of Mill Road townwards of the railway bridge is a conservation area, rather surprisingly, and this places ridiculous restrictions on what the shopkeepers are allowed to do with their shops (eg they're not allowed to put up vandal-proof shutters at night, although several do regardless).

Mitcham's Corner
Designed by the Devil on a bad hair day. This is a road junction at the point where there is a bridge over the river and the conjunction of several major roads (Chesterton, Victoria and Milton), so to be fair to the planners it's a bit of a tricky problem. It's a nightmare if you don't know it because you have to get into the correct lane very early, and can easily end up being forced in completely the wrong direction. Very dangerous for cyclists, most of whom sensibly cycle round on the pavements. Site of the very good but quite expensive restaurant, 22's, and one of Cambridge's very small number of sex shops (this is the one that was frequented by the Cambridge Rapist, an infamous creature from about 20 years ago. The owner famously described it at the time as "just a family sex shop".) The name comes from C.Mitcham's, a mens outfitters in several premises just on the North side of Victoria Bridge, long since gone.

Modern Buildings
See Holiday Inn, Grafton Centre, Petty Cury, Lion Yard, almost any College building named Cripps or Wolfson, King Street, the University's New Museums Site, the (aptly named) Queen's Building at Emmanuel. Or, rather, try to avoid seeing them. See instead Architects, Planners, and whoever commissioned these monstrosities burning in Hell, on an extremely badly built level called Mediocrity. To be fair there is some fine or at least interesting modern architecture to be found here: the Judge Institute, the Law building, St.John's library, that curious little domed brick shed outside Newnham, the Schlumberger tent, one or two buildings in the Science Park, the new Maths faculty on Clarkson Road. Robinson College is interesting, in a pompous sort of way (see it now before it falls down !). I should stress that I am actually a fan of modern architecture on the whole, it's just that there are far too many poor examples in this town.

The Arup Building, New Museums Site - is this the ugliest building in Cambridge ?

Part of the Cavendish Labs - or is this ?

Thomas Hobson is a Cambridge figure generally given a favourable press as although clearly an astute businessman he was also a philanthropist, giving his money and name to a number of projects. John Mortlock is the Cambridge historical figure most clearly representing the other side of human nature. He opened the first bank in Cambridge in 1780 near Rose Crescent, moving soon after to the building that is now Barclays Bank on Bene't Street. He became MP for Cambridge in 1784 and later mayor. He served as mayor 13 times over the next twenty years, alternating in the post with his sons and business partners. During this period he ran the city as a private fiefdom, selling off city property (and some property that wasn't strictly his to sell) to friends at knock-down prices, and diverting taxes and city funds into his own pockets and those of his cronies. The amazing thing is that he made no secret of it, using city money to buy the influence that made him mayor, again and again. A banker and a politician called Mortlock - you could just tell he'd turn out to be a baddie. The only positive side of the story is that the freeholds of several premises were sold to cronies on extraordinarily long leases, which has in some cases prevented their subsequent redevelopment, preserving buildings which would otherwise have long since been bulldozed.

Newmarket Road
All of the warehouse-style retailers live along here, so if you want to buy a fridge or a sofa this is the place to come. It is completely characterless, windswept and very busy. It features The Wrestlers, a pub which does decent Thai food, and the Football ground, but little else of note. A major night club/disco development was planned for here, but local resident opposition stopped it - which is a little surprising as the vast amount of traffic already makes this the noisiest part of town. It still has a lot of pubs, but a century ago was home to the largest collection in the city, with almost every other property being a pub. As an alternative drinking establishment the Barnwell People's Coffee Palace opened just around the corner on East Road (I mention it mainly just because I love the name !). This later became the White Ribbon Temperance Hotel, before disappearing in the Grafton Centre development.

This is a curious undergraduate hobby which is apparently peculiar to Cambridge. It involves, quite simply, climbing up buildings - and it has to be done at night as the University authorities are understandably none too impressed. Practitioners have two bibles, "Night Climbers of Cambridge" by Whipplesnaith from the 30's, and "Cambridge Nightclimbing" by Hederatus from the mid-60's. "Hederatus" and his friend "Brian" were sent down from Sidney Sussex for being found on the top of the Senate House. The book reveals that they had previously climbed just about every building in town larger than a phone box (and also consumed superhuman quantities of curry and cigarettes). They were responsible for a famous "Piece in Vietnam" banner between two of the spires of King's Chapel. In my opinion sending down was too good for them as they had quite happily done damage to stonework and lightning conductors. The activity still goes on, recent activities at the new Law Faculty have earned two undergraduates a well deserved telling-off. Look guys - it's not big and it's not clever, pack it in. An undergraduate friend of mine once stole a large pink plastic hippo from the yard of a shop in Silver Street while out nightclimbing. He placed it on the Backs next to Kings, where it sat for several months before anybody got around to returning it. It probably features in several thousand tourist photographs !

Parker's Piece
A single piece of land once farmed by Edward Parker, surprisingly enough. Edward Parker was a cook at Trinity College, the previous owners of the land, and was granted the lease in 1587. Notable now as the main gathering place of foreign language students in mating season (June - September). They cluster in noisy flocks and admire each others plumage, then they smoke a lot, stick their tongues down each others throats, and try to convince the staff of Oddbins that they're over 18. In the mornings the grass is hidden beneath drifts of cigarette butts. Contains the Reality Checkpoint and Hobbs Pavilion. It used to be a cricket ground for the colleges with dozens of (very cramped) games going on simultaneously. The University now uses the famous Fenners ground nearby, but there will usually be a couple of games going on any afternoon in the summer, mainly featuring portly townsfolk. The piece was also once used for University football. As the University attracted a great many young men from Rugby school who were used to playing football by their rules there was often much confusion. Agreed rules were posted around the Piece to solve such disputes, and the rules later came to form the basis of Association Football as it is still played all over the world.

Peas Hill
The area to the south-west of Market Square, Peas Hill, used to be used as an extension to the main market, mainly dealing in fish. The name is a corruption of pisces, the Latin for fish. It was originally separated from Market Hill by buildings behind St.Edwards Church. The bank at the junction with Market Square, currently HSBC, is on the site of the famous Three Tuns pub much frequented by Samuel Pepys. By the 1900s it had transformed into the Central Temperance Hotel, but was eventually redeveloped by King's College in 1960. In front of it there are extensive cellars accessable from St.Edwards churchyard which were used as air-raid shelters in WWII.

Petty Cury
The only interesting thing about this now is the name. Part of Market Hill was once called Cury Row or Cook's Row (the word cury meaning cook, ie prepared food was sold there - possibly now the location of the infamous "Death" van, a van which sells burgers etc, which appears after dark and dispenses cholesterol to an eager population). This road was full of people selling the same produce, so the Petty prefix was used to distinguish it from the other road. (There was also a Cook's Row at Sturbridge Fair, which sold books, obviously...). For some reason the ancient name has stuck when so many others have disappeared, although it had even older forms as Parva Cokeria, Le Petitecurye, Le Peticurie and Le Pety Cury. It was open to traffic until the 70's, and quite a major thoroughfare. The same shops you'll find in every other High Street in Britain. Popular with buskers, pavement artists, Big Issue salesmen, people who knot beads into hair, and until recently an eccentric old man with mice on his head who raised impressive amounts of money for charity (Snowy Farr OBE, now no longer with us). Strangely, no one has ever had the wit to open an Indian Restaurant here.

Pitt Building
William Pitt was an undergraduate at Pembroke College. After his death a large amount of money was collected to build memorials and statues. Enough was left over to build the Pitt Building opposite Pembroke College, mainly on the site of an inn called The Cardinal's Cap. It is often mistaken for a church. It was the home of the University Press for a considerable period and is still occupied by them, but the Press's main site is now to the South of the City, the distinctive grey domed structure next to the railway line. As well as The Cardinal's Cap, several other inns down Silver Street were demolished giving rise to the quip that the Press was built on beer and bibles, bible publishing having always been a major source of Press income. Part of the Pitt Building housed the University Registry (the University administration) for much of the 19th century. St.Catherine's College would dearly love to have the building, but the Press are in no hurry to move out.

Pitt Club
The Pitt Club buildings on Jesus Lane with the relief profile of Pitt (large nose !) above the door are now occupied by Pizza Express. Surprisingly enough they started out as a swimming baths (the Roman Bath Co.), before being taken over by the Pitt Club as its clubhouse. The Pitt Club is an organisation of undergraduates from the older public schools. The University likes to distance itself from the Club nowadays as it doesn't represent the sort of modern image that the University wishes to present, and it has no official standing. It does have a large number of distinguished former and honorary members, all as you might expect to the right of the political spectrum. A former catering manager of the club, Marshall, did rather well for himself in the motor trade.

Pound Hill and Honey Hill
Pound Hill was an area where stray animals were kept, obviously enough. Honey Hill, on the other hand is a local joke on the fact that the area was particularly muddy. Local residents appear to have chosen to call it Pooh Corner instead. Neither of these are actual hills of course.

The bit of the river that goes down the Backs used to have buildings or College Gardens down either side. This made it hard for boats pulled by horses to navigate this stretch down to the Mills at the mill pond just past Silver Street Bridge as there was no tow-path. They got round this by putting a sunken causeway down the middle of the river that the bargees could use to pole their boats along. Horses also pulled barges by walking along this causeway. The legacy is that there is a hard ridge right down the centre of the river and deep mud to either side. Punting (for anyone who has not seen it) involves propelling a shallow boat (called a "punt") by means of a long pole that is poked into the river bed. The pole can also be used to steer the punt, the trick being not to push it in so hard that it gets stuck. The hard ridge in the river means that those that know about it can move at some speed, while the soft mud means that those that don't hardly make any progress at all. The latter group includes nearly all of the tourists who try it, and the most entertainment to be had from punting is sitting on the bank with a bottle of something watching the tourists lose their poles and fall in. It is possible to punt as far as Grantchester, or slightly beyond (as far as Byron's Pool), but few people have the stamina, or can afford the punt rental. There are several chauffeur punt companies operating during the summer, usually staffed by hard-up students. Interested tourists should head for Magdalene or Silver Street Bridges where you will be accosted by at least half-a-dozen young people with clipboards and (often) straw boaters interested in your trade. These punt-pimps are so numerous and sufficiently annoying if you walk through that area frequently that I have seen locals wearing "No, I don't want to punt !" T-shirts.

The Railway Station
The Railway Station is quite a long way from the city centre. The University insisted that it be built this far from the centre to stop its young gentlemen (they were all male then) from wandering off to the disreputable young ladies of London. Considering that the City's favoured site was Jesus Green, I think the University did the right thing. Actually the City eventually agreed that the chosen location was the most practical, so it's not all the University's fault, and it did a great deal to encourage urban development in the Mill Road/Hills Road areas. It's not that far really, but students have a distorted view of geography. The University retained the right to search the station for undergraduates, and had an Act of Parliament passed so that they could require the railway companies to ban students from travelling, even with a valid ticket (although it is believed that this right was never exercised). They also would not allow trains to run to or from the station on a Sunday, a ban which was not lifted until 1908. The station building is quite pleasing, especially after recent renovation. Less pleasing is the piped music they insist on playing, which is sometimes pleasant, but often banal. The station also often smells interesting because of the large Rank-Hovis mill/research centre next door. At the end of the station car park is the Carter Bridge, a cycle bridge across the tracks which is intended to lead cyclists away from the hideously dangerous Mill Road and its bridge. It's the largest single span bridge of its kind in Britain, or Europe, or the Universe, or something. It's also a bugger to cycle onto from the west end because of the road layout, but is generally a good thing, and great fun to free-wheel down.

Reality Checkpoint
In the middle of Parker's Piece is an old-fashioned lamppost. It has "Reality Checkpoint" painted on the side, and has done since the early seventies, apparently. If ever the words are painted out they reappear again overnight, which just goes to show that there are some truly sad people out there. What does it mean ? Who cares ? I believe the intention is to inform students that from here onwards they can expect to meet a higher proportion of "real" people and to moderate their behaviour accordingly. There are, however, several pubs closer to the town centre than this where talking loudly about your boat's placing in the bumps or your essay crisis is likely to meet with a frosty reception, at best. It is true that cycling across the Piece on a foggy night is a truly eerie experience as the lamppost looms out at you, like a large looming ... lamppost. Stop Press: I passed this recently and couldn't see the words - have they gone ? Anyone know ? Anyone care ? (Yes ! Thankyou C.Dawes who says "With reference to your article, the words Reality Checkpoint have again reappeared in their rightful place, apparently written by two different people as one is in large font, and the other really tiny, the tiny one being, of course 'checkpoint'. Thought this'd help." May 2005). As of Sept. 2007, the word "Reality" appears on all 4 sides of the lamppost, but it is scratched or scrawled, not properly written.

River Cam
North of Cambridge this dribbles into the Great Ouse, and South it merges with the Granta, an old name for the whole thing. The bit that cuts through town like an upside-down "L" comes in two parts, the upper and lower Cam. The upper Cam ends at the Mill pond, and the lower Cam goes past the backs of some of the colleges. People punt on the upper Cam and on the lower Cam to the West of Jesus Lock, and people row on the deeper stretch to the East. The Eastern lower Cam also supports a considerable population of house boats in various states of repair, a description which also matches their occupants. Some of them are neat and lovely, and some of them you wonder how they stay afloat - and the same goes for the boats... The river used to be navigable from the sea by barges as far as the Mill Pond, and river freight was the major source of income for the town (other than servicing the University) until the coming of the railways. The original course of the river past the medieval town was slightly to the West, but it was moved into a deeper channel on the East side of its flood plain in an attempt to dry out sufficient land for building. The area to the West of the river became the Backs, the original river course still clearly visible as ditches. Recent extensive and expensive flood prevention schemes have attempted to put a stop to the major floods, but parts of Riverside and Grantchester flooded in early 2001 and again in late 2001, along with much of the rest of East Anglia. Increased rainfall in this part of the world is said to be a predictable portent of global warming, and we had better just get used to it and evolve webbed feet (or perhaps re-evolve webbed feet - there is some evidence that inhabitants of the fenlands in prehistoric times did indeed have webbed feet !). It doesn't help that this has always been a damp place - most of East Anglia is just a little soil mixed into a lot of water. Older houses in some areas near the river, for example on the river bank opposite Fen Ditton, are raised off groundlevel with steps up to the front door - they knew how to live with the river. Falling in the Cam is said to result in a flu-like complaint called Cam Fever. This is presumed to be due to the pollution, but is in most cases nowadays probably just a hangover. Gwen Raverat, in her biography, relates the story that when Queen Victoria visited the City she asked the Master of Trinity why there was so much paper floating in the Cam - he replied that they were notices telling people not to bathe in the river, which in effect they were - it was actually paper that had been used for wiping bottoms. The situation has since improved, but even recently the notorious shortage of toilets in St.John's College caused many inhabitants of rooms overlooking the river to relieve themselves from their windows - sensible punters tried to get past St.John's as fast as they could. Having college privies dumped on them was a common complaint of the bargees when the river was used for trade. There used to be a University Society called The Dampers for which the single qualification for membership was unintentionally falling in the river.

St.Edmunds Passage
David's Bookshop (David correctly pronounced with a French accent, Dav-eed, like the artist, as the founder was Gustave David, a Frenchman who first started with a market stall in 1896) used to be where The Haunted Bookshop is now. It then moved into the current shop, and a second shop that has now been taken over by part of the Arts Theatre. There was until the Art's Theatre renovation a small vegetarian restaurant here by the name of Nettles. It was tiny, with room to seat about 8 people, but did very good business and the best Apple Crumble ever made, sadly missed. The Haunted Bookshop is reputed to have a ghost in residence upstairs, hence the name.


Kapitza's Crocodile

Although the University has always had more than its fair share of famous men of letters it is probably best known today for its scientists. From Newton, through Darwin, Rutherford, Crick and Watson, and many more, to Hawking today. Prof. Hawking can occasionally be seen trundling around the town - a friend reports seeing him once going down King's Parade at some speed - backwards. Apparently he had a new wheelchair and was having problems with the controls. Tourists commonly have the apple tree outside Trinity pointed out as Newton's famous apple tree. It's nothing like old enough to be the apple tree (which is actually at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincs), but is on the site of the small walled garden the college gave him for his private use. He bought both his first book on astrology (yes, astrology, not astronomy) and his famous prism at Sturbridge Fair (See the excellent and lengthy Quicksilver by Neil Stephenson for a fictionalised account of this event). Issac Newton was, among other things, the inventor of the cat flap. Darwin lived in various places around the city, today marked by plaques, including on the site that is now Boots on Sidney Street, and on Fitzwilliam Street. Several of the specimens he collected are in the Geology Museum on the Downing Site. (The Darwin descendants became prominent citizens with at one time 3 Professor Darwins, one of whom lived in Newnham Lodge, which now constitutes a large part of Darwin College. The local authors Gwen Raverat and Frances Cornford were both originally Darwins). The old Cavendish Laboratory on Free School Lane was the site of many revolutionary experiments in nuclear physics, under the benign dictatorship of Ernest Rutherford. Rumour has it that one room is still sealed off because of the high level of residual radiation. The Russian physicist Piotr Kapitza used to call Rutherford the Crocodile, and there is a crocodile carved (by Eric Gill) into the wall of the Mond Building (New Museums Site) in which Kapitza worked. An alternative but less interesting explanation is that the crocodile is a common symbol in Russia for the unknown, which is why Kapitza chose it. Crick and Watson discovered the structure of DNA while working in the Medical Research Centre shed in the centre of the New Museums Site. For a long period this was used as a cycle shed, but has now been renovated and is in use by the Materials Science Department. I have seen one guide book point out the Eagle Inn on Bene't Street as the site of the discovery, but in fact this is where Francis Crick made a public announcement of their discovery to the presumably rather bemused patrons. His house on Portugal Place was until recently marked with a golden helix.

When I was an undergraduate I travelled around Europe, as many students have done before and since. Due to a combination of incompetence, alcohol, and an inability to tell the difference between "East" and "West" in German, I found myself at 3 in the morning on a train about to cross from Austria into Czechoslovakia (then still communist, one country, and notorious at least in James Bond films as containing the major training centres for the KGB). The large and hostile border guard asked my profession, and on being told I was an undergraduate at Cambridge nodded wisely and said "Ah Cambridge". The 18 year-old soldiers with him, each about 7 feet tall and carrying machine guns, also nodded and said "Ah Cambridge". They clearly didn't speak another word of English. After that point they all became very friendly, and let me through despite the fact that I didn't have enough money for a visa. At the time I found this vaguely worrying. The fact that all the famous post-war spies were Cambridge men is not so surprising when you consider that the entire "intelligence" community and the bulk of the House of Commons and Civil Service were traditionally derived from either Oxford or Cambridge. From Peter Wright's Spycatcher it is clear that there was an equivalent but less notorious Oxford ring to the Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt group. The major recruitment centres were apparently the Joint Services Language School Russian class, and a student society called the Apostles, which had (and has since had) numerous distinguished members, not all of them Communist homosexuals. Spying has a long history here - the Elizabethan playwright (the one who's not Shakespeare), Christopher Marlowe, was employed as a spy while still an undergraduate at Corpus. He was sent to France to spy on the invasion plans of exiled Catholics, and posed as a converted Catholic. This caused him no end of problems when he returned to Cambridge, and the University had to be officially instructed by the court that he wasn't really Catholic, as otherwise they were not allowed to award him a degree.

The Spinning House
Hobson founded the Spinning House as a workhouse, that is a place where the poor were housed and given simple work - usually spinning in this case. The Spinning House also had a small prison for vagrants who refused to work. This use came to predominate, and later the House was used just as a prison for "fallen" women. The University preserved the right to arrest such women right until the end of the 19th Century when there was a notorious case of mistaken identity and two "respectable" women were arrested instead. They were, they claimed, innocent seamstresses out for a country jaunt with a wagon load of undergraduates. It's true that the youngest of the two sisters was only 14, but that was not an uncommon age for prostitutes then. The scandal eventually bought about the end to many of the University's ancient rights and privileges over the townsfolk. The Spinning House was situated on Regent's Street, demolished in 1901, the site was occupied by the Police Station (you can still see "Police Station" clearly inscribed over the door, probably confusing for visitors) and the building is now council offices.

Stourbridge Common
Nobody is too sure when the Sturbridge Fair started, possibly over a thousand years ago. It was given a royal charter in 1211 as a means of raising funds for the Leper Hospital. At its height in medieval times it lasted for weeks and was the largest fair in Europe, stretching from the current Stourbridge Common along the river as far as the current Midsummer Common - an area much larger than Cambridge itself, at the time. Traders came from all over Europe, even as far afield as Venice. Bunyan's Vanity Fair is based on this event. Street names surrounding Stourbridge Common today indicate the produce that was sold in that particular area, such as Oyster Row, Garlic Row and Cheddars Lane. A large area of the fair was given over to what Neil Stephenson, in his fictionalised account of the fair in Quicksilver, calls "speciality prostitutes". Unfortunately the modern street names do not preserve echoes of that particular trade. The fair was discontinued in 1934 due to lack of interest, the Mayor at the time reported that she opened the proceedings to an audience of two women, while the only stall was a Stop-me-and-buy-one ice cream vendor. The modern Strawberry Fair is a significantly scaled down modern revival. The name Stourbridge probably derives from steer-bridge, ie a bridge for oxen - probably something to do with toll money collected for oxen crossing the Magdalene Street bridge as the bridge to the common is recent (and isn't wide enough for oxen !).

Strawberry Fair
A faint memory of Sturbridge Fair, and enormously popular with almost everyone who doesn't have to live near it. Held on Midsummer Common on a Saturday in June, it features stalls selling everything from silly hats to rizlas. There are a vast number of food stalls, beer tents, play areas for children and several stages for live bands. A good time is generally had by all (unless it rains), and a lot of beer and "non-tobacco cigarettes" are consumed. For the latter reason, and because it attracts petty thieves, it's not particularly popular with the Police. The event also attracts "travellers" from far and wide, who seem to think they have a right to occupy the surrounding streets for the following week. On the whole people are well behaved, but there have been disturbances. As the occupants of the Brunswick Walk area are generally retired and respectable, it's not surprising they take exception to travellers urinating in their gardens. However, if the sun shines it can be a highlight of the entire year (I mean the fair, not the urinating crusties !).

A lot of tourists come here, but few are found more than a few hundred yards from King's Parade. The same could be said about the students. The Tourist Office is housed in the old town Library (the words "Free Library" can still be seen over the door), behind the Guildhall, and is very attractive inside. More than 3 million tourists a year visit Cambridge, King's Chapel being one of the biggest tourist attractions in Britain. But as the City's permanent population is only 100,000 (about 92,000 at the 1991 census, not counting students) it's not surprising we tend to feel a little overwhelmed in the summer. Two thirds of the tourists come just for the day.

Town and Gown
Most modern residents would probably think of the pub on Northampton Street by this name when confronted with this phrase (or they would have done before it changed its name !). In fact the history of the City is one long story of conflict between the two factions, both at the low level of street violence up to the official level, for example the University's insistence on the siting of the Railway Station. Stories of violence occur again and again, often resulting in deaths, and often resulting in the townsfolk being imprisoned or worse while the students got off comparatively lightly. In the Civil War the University was staunchly Royalist while the town was equally staunchly Commonwealth. Cromwell was an alumni of Sidney Sussex College and one of the town's Members of Parliament (elected 1640). He occupied the town and largely succeeded in an attempt to stop the University sending financial aid to the King. He also blew up most of the town's bridges, many of which were not rebuilt for a considerable period. The University could place a shopkeeper off-limits to students, effectively depriving them of trade, a practice known as discommoning. The rights of the University over the townsfolk extended up to the end of the 19th Century, when there was a notorious case of wrongful arrest. Today the University and City try to get along, and the University is consulted in planning decisions that affect it as it is the major employer - it is doubtful if it could influence a major decision such as the site of a Railway Station today, but it did have a major influence on, for example, the commercial development of Lion Yard. Undergraduates no longer have to wear a gown when out of college and are for the most part indistinguishable from young townsfolk, and the Proctors no longer patrol the streets looking for miscreants. The main complaint of townsfolk today is that most of the retail property is owned by one or other of the colleges, and the rents are in some areas very high - hardly a cause likely to incite a riot.

Cambridge didn't have trams for long, and never had motor or electric trams - they were all horse drawn. From the Tram depot (now a pub) on East Road the trams went past Parker's Piece, along Lensfield Road and along Trumpington Street to Senate House Hill, and there was another route from the railway station along Hills Road and Regents Street. There is occasionally talk of introducing trams as an environmentally-friendly mode of public transport to counter Cambridge's notorious traffic problems.

Tudor Gruesomeness
The University was a major centre during the Reformation, and so not surprisingly many of its more prominent members had a difficult time while the Tudor monarchs tried to make up their minds as to which was the true path to peace, love and understanding. Queen Mary in particular didn't have a happy relationship with Cambridge, and it's not surprising she earned the nickname "Bloody Mary". Two prominent deceased Protestant theologians earned her displeasure, Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius. Their coffins were removed from their resting places (St.Martin's and Great St.Mary's) and ceremonially burned on Market Hill. What little remained of their remains were later just as ceremoniously reburied on the accession of Elizabeth I. Mary also had the protestant John Hullier burned on Jesus Green. Townsfolk are reported to have stripped the body of remaining identifiable parts afterwards to provide relics. Other prominent local Protestants (many associated with St.Edward's Church) met similar ends elsewhere: Hugh Latimer and Cranmer in Oxford, Robert Barnes at Smithfield, and Thomas Bilney in Norwich. Religion wasn't the only subject that could get you into trouble at this time - several women were hanged on Jesus Green for alleged witchcraft in the reign of Elizabeth I, one of them for owning a frog (thought to be her familiar). What happened to the frog is not recorded.

Unkindness to Animals
The University used to be keen on denying distracting pleasures to its younger members, hence the opposition to the site of the Railway Station, and the strict rules against going to the Newmarket races, theatrical performances, and cricket matches. Many of the pleasures nevertheless favoured by undergraduates involved cruelty to dumb animals (other than their Tutors). The town had at one time cock-fighting on Market Hill and bear-baiting and bull-fighting on Peas Hill. There were also bear pits at Chesterton. The walled garden next to Midsummer House was home of Callaby's famous menagerie, and the words "Callaby Dog Fancier" could be seen there until relatively recently. You could chose from rat fighting - put a terrier in a pen with some rats and bet on how long it takes to kill them, or pigeon-shooting, the pigeon being tied by one leg to a stake. An urban equivalent to fox hunting, cat hunting, undertaken on foot, would be particularly frowned on by the cat friendly Cantabridgians of today (myself included). An undergraduate society, the Trinity Foot Beagles, still practise hunting on foot although not for cats. They are, not surprisingly, consistently the brunt of criticism and demonstrations by animal rights activists.

Yard Butter
A practice peculiar to Cambridge now sadly discontinued. Tradesmen selling butter would divide it into blocks weighing 1 pound and then roll it out into a long cylinder between two flat boards each 3 feet long (or 1 yard, hence the name). They would then carry these cylinders around to peoples houses and sell it by length - so for example if you just wanted a quarter pound then he would give you a 9 inch length. Refrigeration wasn't common, so people tended to buy small quantities more frequently than they do now. This system had the advantage that the tradesman didn't have to carry around a range of weights, just a ruler. The University had jurisdiction over the weights and measures used in the town, enforced by the Proctors. One of the Proctors' symbols of office is still a butter measure - a brass rod of the same dimensions as one of these yard-long butter cylinders that could be compared to a given length of butter to check that the tradesman wasn't cheating his customers. The practice died out with the introduction of rationing in the First World War.

The Zoology Museum Whale

This apparently died a natural death, having swum up onto the beach at Pevensey in Sussex in November 1865 and dried out for no well explained reason. So no Greenpeace boycotts, ok ? It is a Finback whale, almost 70ft long, and would have weighed about 80 tonnes when alive. The carcass was viewed by vast crowds at Hastings cricket ground for some time before the smell persuaded the entrepreneur responsible to sell it to the University, the money being raised by a public subscription. The skeleton now hangs from an overhang of the brutalist Arup Building in the New Museums Site, above the Zoology Museum. It's a nicely surreal touch, and just about makes the otherwise hideous building worthwhile. It was hidden from view for about 10 years by hoardings, but is now exposed to the elements, and more destructively perhaps, the pigeons - which crap on absolutely everything they can sit on in this Site (a valid aesthetic comment if you ask me). Because of the pigeons it needs to be cleaned periodically with special skeleton cleaning brushes (this is true !). It was planned at one time to surround it with a glass case, but the huge cost may prevent that from ever happening.

More to come...

Street Name Changes
The definitive source is "Cambridge Street Names by Gray and Stubbings (CUP 2000). This is a small selection: