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Cambridge Stories

King's College woke-up one morning to find a mini car on the roof of its beautiful and ancient chapel. The fellows were furious and started a witch-hunt to find the perpetrators - without success. Scaffolding was erected next to the car so that it could be removed. But the night before removal the mini car mysteriously moved to the other end of the chapel. The fellows were furious again. Scaffolding was moved to the new location of the car but the night before the second attempt to remove the car - it mysteriously disappeared.

The beautiful Clare bridge has some large, heavy, stone balls on top of the stone hand-rail. Some mischievous students made an identical-looking ball from very lightweight expanded polystyrene and placed it on the hand-rail over one of the arches across the middle of the river. They waited for a punt to arrive under the extra ball and feigned super-human strength to push the ball over the edge of the bridge onto the punt below. The occupants of the punt, reputed to be Japanese tourists, waved their arms, pleading for the students not to push the ball from such a height into their punt but to no avail. The Japanese jumped into the water rather than face horrible injuries as a heavy ball smashed into them and their hired punt. However, the ball, when released from the bridge, floated down to the water and carried by the light breeze missed the punt and floated away down river.

The statue of King Henry VIII standing over the gate into Trinity College lost the stone mace normally carried by the King many years ago. The college was tardy in replacing it so the students decided to put a temporary mace in its place, made of an old wooden chair-leg. From time-to-time the College, now extremely tardy in seeing to the repair, removes the chair-leg with a view to performing the repair. This is equivalent to throwing down the gauntlet to the students - tradition expects the students to put a new wooden chair-leg in its place.

The small tree growing outside Trinity College main gate is not the tree from which an apple fell that set Isaac Newton thinking about a mathematical theory of gravity. That tree was in Lincolnshire. But the Trinity tree is believed to be a cutting from the gravity tree.

The Cavendish Laboratory was made famous around the world when Lord Rutherford announced that the atom had been split for the first time at the Cavendish in Cambridge (Free School Lane). A press conference was held at the gate to the Cavendish in Free School Lane and the lane was crowded. The room where Cockfroft and Walton did the experiments was in the basement. A grill in the pavement (see photograph to left) shows where this historic experiment was performed. Sadly, the room and its significance is not made clear to visitors to Cambridge.

The Eagle pub is an old coaching inn in Cambridge. It is famous for two reasons. Firstly, during the second World War, it was a popular place for local airmen to meet and the back bar has a ceiling which remains undecorated since then - tourists should see it because the airmen left messages there burnt into the ceiling using cigarette lighters. Secondly, the Eagle is just a short walk away from the Cavendish Laboratory on Free School Lane and many famous scientists have visited the Eagle for lunch. Apparently, it was in the Eagle that Crick and Watson first unravelled the structure of DNA.

Strange things happen while punting on the river Cam. Mike Foale was a physics PhD student earning a bit of money doing chauffeur punting one summer. Mike always wanted to be an astronaut. One day he met a group of NASA workers from Houston on the river and explained his ambition to them. One of the NASA workers gave Mike his business card. When Mike finished his PhD some years later he travelled to Houston, telephoned the NASA person and got onto the astronaut training program. Later, towards the end of the cold war, Mike went into space and impressed his superiors with his diplomatic abilities in resolving disputes in the international space-station between Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts.

Sidney Sussex College was Oliver Cromwell's college - the man who contributed most to making Great Britain a republic for a few years by executing King Charles I. Cromwell became Lord Protector - a prototype President. After he died in 1658 the monarchy was restored and Charles II became king. Cromwell's body was exhumed and beheaded for post-mortem punishment. His head was removed and buried in his old college in Cambridge.The exact location is a secret known only to three persons in the college, one of which is the master. The secret is passed-on down the generations to protect the old-boy's head from further punishment by Royalists.

The bumping races on the river have been dangerous in the past. One oarsman was killed during a race many years ago by a St John's College boat. As a consequence boats from St John's College boathouse were banned from the river. However, the boathouse and boats were renamed as Lady Margaret Chapel (popularly called "Lady Maggie" - not a previous Prime Minister), the chapel named after the foundress of the College - Lady Margaret Beaufort. To this day you will not find a boat from St John's College on the river Cam but you will find Lady Maggie boats. There is a good view of the boathouses from the south bank of the river on Midsummer Common.

Bumping races happen in May Week in Cambridge, a week that is confusingly early in the month of June. It is mainly rowing "eights" that are involved (8 x oarspersons and 1 x cox) although there are some races for "fours" (4 x oarspersons and 1 cox). The races are just outside Cambridge downstream on the NE side of the city. Races last all day and are held over four days in divisions, with about 10 boats in a division. The boat that is top of one division also has to row as bottom of the next highest division. If you bump the boat ahead of you then you take its place in the order of the race on the next day. Make four bumps and you win your oar (you get to buy one inscribed with the name of the crew) and become a hero. There is a first division and a boat that rows at the top of the first division. The boat that is top of the first division on the last day of the bumps is called "Head of the River" and the whole crew are heroes. The college that has the boat that is head of the river hosts a big party in the evening on the last day of the races. It is an expensive tradition that the college that is Head of the River burns a boat in the college grounds (like an old Viking ceremony). Courageous young men from any college can test their courage by jumping through the flames or walking through the embers (Zulu inspiration).

Cambridge photo gallery

Browse a selection of photographs of Cambridge. Click on a small photograph to see it enlarged.

 
bus_arrival.jpgqueens_road.jpghorse_mounting.jpgsilver_st.jpg
garrett_hostel_lane.jpggarrett_hostel_lane_bridge1.jpgmill_pond.jpgmath_br.jpg
kings_parade.jpgkings_chapel1.jpgkings_chapel2.jpgkings_chapel3.jpg 
punting.jpgcorpus_clock.jpgkings_keep_off.jpgclare_bridge.jpg
kings_artisitic.jpg kings_parade_2.jpg kings_clare.jpg   clare.jpg
plaque_dna.jpg plaque_cavendish old_cavendish_door.jpg eagle-pub.jpg 
cavendish_atom_splitting.jpg cavendish_photo_corner.jpg fitz_museum.jpg eagle-pub2.jpg 
trinity_king_henry.jpg trinity_gatehouse.jpg trinity_great_court.jpg   trinity_porters_lodge.jpg
trinity_masters_lodge.jpg trinity_newton_tree st_johns_crest st_johns_gatehouse 
st_johns1.jpg bridge_street.jpg magdalene_bridge.jpg magdalene_bridge_punts.jpg 
cheese_shop_tailor.jpg   indigo.jpgmarket_square.jpg narrow_cobbled_street.jpg 
rainbow_cafe.jpg senate_house.jpg st_michaels_cafe.jpg trinity_bridge.jpg 
arts_theatre.jpgbookshop_antiquarian.jpgnew_cavendish3.jpgnew_cavendish2.jpg
christs_crest.jpgchrists_gatehouse.jpgchrists_main_gate.jpgguildhall_tourist_information.jpg
Boat_burning_standard_1.jpgBoat_burning_standard_2.jpg