Against my will, in the course of my travels, the belief that everything worth knowing was known at Cambridge gradually wore off. In this respect my travels were very useful to me.Bertrand Russell
I’m not sure the above is an argument against studying at Cambridge or in favour of travelling. I prefer to think of it as the latter!
I left you all at the stunning Kings College chapel. Now let’s continue our walk.
From Kings we walked past the Old Schools which house the Cambridge University offices and formerly housed the Cambridge University Library. My photos below are of the entrance gate on the west side. This building was designed by George Gilbert Scott, who was also responsible for the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial, among many others.
We walked through Senate Passage and emerged on to Kings Parade by Senate House. This is where all the university degree ceremonies are held. It was designed and built by James Gibbs in 1722–1730, in a neo-classical style using Portland stone.
Gonville and Caius College
We passed, but didn’t go into, Gonville and Caius College, named for its two founders. Gonville, Rector of Terrington St Clement in Norfolk, first founded the College as Gonville Hall in 1348. When it went into decline in the 16th century a former student and Fellow, John Keys, who also spelled his name as the Latin Caius, came to the rescue and re-founded his old College of Gonville Hall as ‘Gonville and Caius College’. My assumption is that the two stone figures above the Great Gate which show men holding buildings must be Gonville and Caius.
We continued our walk north along Trinity Street, passing the Great Gate of Trinity College which was built at the beginning of the 16th century. Above the gate is a carving of King Henry VIII who founded the College in 1546, one of the very last acts of his life. It was formed by amalgamating two existing colleges, King’s Hall and Michaelhouse. Look carefully at the carving on my photo below. Henry is holding a chair or table leg in his right hand! It is thought that this was substituted for the original sword, but no one knows when, or how, although it seems likely to have been a student prank.
St John’s College
A little further on we came to another Great Gate, that of St John’s College. The statue above it is of St John the Evangelist, with an eagle (his traditional symbol and an emblem of the College). He carries a poisoned chalice with a snake twined around it, representing the legend that once, while at Ephesus, John was given a cup of poisoned wine to drink. Before drinking, he blessed the cup and the poison departed the cup in the form of a serpent.
Passing through the gate we were in the college’s First Court. From here we had good views of the college chapel’s impressive tower, the tallest building in Cambridge, which we had already seen in front of us as we walked along Trinity Street.
Front Court dates from the early 16th century though it has been considerably altered over the centuries, especially on the north side where this chapel was built. The chapel is relatively new by Cambridge standards, having been built between 1866 and 1869 to replace a smaller medieval chapel which dated back to the 13th century.
The main part of chapel was closed. We could only peer at it from the entrance area through a wrought iron screen. I would like to be able to say that I didn’t see the ‘no photos’ sign until after I had taken this one!
We carried on into Second Court. This was built from 1598 to 1602 and is far more intact than First Court, with a symmetry to its Tudor buildings.
On the far side of the Second Court (the west) is another imposing gate, a copy of the Great Gate. Above the archway is a statue of Mary Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. She financed the building of the court, which was added in 1671.
I was taken by the little faces set into the archway. All are different and all rather gargoyle-like in their ugliness!
We walked through Third Court and little Kitchen Court. From there we came out on to the Wren Bridge over the Cam. As the name suggests, the bridge was based on designs by Sir Christopher Wren, albeit for a bridge intended for a different place.
The Bridge of Sighs
The Wren Bridge is the perfect vantage point for views and photos of Cambridge’s best-known bridge, the Bridge of Sighs. This was built in 1831 and is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, presumably because both are covered. University legend however has it that the bridge is named for the sighs of students as they walk from their rooms in one of the courts on the Backs to their tutors’ offices.
On the far side of the Cam we had a lovely view of New Court, the first college court to be built on this side of the river. It was built between 1826 and 1831 in the Gothic Revival style, to accommodate the growing number of students. It has the flamboyance typical of that style, and in the September sunshine and with beautiful flower beds outside, looked like a very grand stately home.
The Round Church
St John’s was the last college that we visited. Feet were growing weary and I had a train to catch. So we decided to catch a bus back to the main city centre bus terminus from where I could catch a second bus to the station and my friends one to their home.
We found a pleasant spot in which to wait for our bus, outside the Round Church (more properly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre). This is one of just four medieval round churches still in use in England. It was originally built in 1130, modelled on the 4th century Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Although it has seen many structural changes since then a sign outside proclaimed it the oldest church in Cambridge.
A fitting place perhaps to end our walk around this historic city.