I’m rapidly becoming a huge fan of the walking tours they have over in the UK. Again, we had one that was supposed to go for 2 hours but went for 3. We learned and saw so much. 🙂


The first thing Jane told us about was how the university  was organised and about its history. All of the rows of shops are basically owned by one college or another, with the shops on the bottom floor being rented out and the floors above being student accommodation.

IMG_2740Our first stop was at the Eagle, where coincidentally Scott and I had had dinner the night before. We knew about the RAF bar, but there were a couple of other things that happened here too that we learned about. (Well, maybe Scott already knew them, but I didn’t.)


It’s been here since the 1500’s and is owned by Corpus Christi college. Every landlord who takes over running the Eagle from the 1600’s onward has to sign an agreement. The story goes that way back when, there was a fire and a girl was trapped in this room and she died. If the window’s ever shut there’ll be another fire. The college are leery about this and have made it a requirement of having the license that the window stays open.

A couple of years ago a fire broke out in the cellars. After all the fire engines left the guy running the pub looked up and saw, to his horror, that the window was shut. He’d hired some new staff and clearly the message about the window hadn’t been delivered. When the college heard about it they made a new requirement that the window must be nailed open. For good measure, it also has a table right in front of it, as we saw when we were there. So now the poor ghost of the fire girl can come and go as she wishes, and everything will be fine. And presumably fire-free.


During the second world war the RAF fighters were based near here and would use this as their watering hole. They’d use their zippo lighters to burn their names and squadron numbers into the roof, while their ‘girlfriends’ would balance on their shoulders and write their names in lipstick. This has since been covered in laquer and is designated a national treasure.


A.A Milne, Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. I can’t remember why this photo was here; possibly he used to lecture at the Uni or he studied here?



The Eagle is also where they announced the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. They raced in and announced it to the lunchtime patrons of the pub, because this is where they always had lunch. Therfore the merry customers of The Eagle knew about it long before the rest of the world.


They even have it at the very table they used to use every day.


Over the road from the Eagle is the oldest building in Cambridge, St Bene’t’s Church, dating from 1033. See the tower? They didn’t know how to build smooth towers that wouldn’t fall down, so each section is slightly thinner than the previous one.


In the lane running beside the church Jane had 2 excellent stories… Marlowe and Alice Todd.

This wall is the back of a row of rooms used by Corpus Christi College. Almost as an aside, she said that Christopher Marlowe used to reside here. OMG!

She then pointed to a house on the other side of the road and said that Alice Todd…. the woman who Alice Springs was named after, was born there. She’s buried in Adelaide and Jane has visited her grave.


Medical studies. After all, it IS a university and work has to be done here somewhere…

This is one of the earliest scientific laboratories  around. This was where so many scientific breakthroughs were found. 29 Cavendish researchers have won the Nobel prize, which isn’t bad going.


Look at the wide window ledges. These were built before electric lighting. They had glass on the tops of them to reflect as much light as possible into the rooms.



The next stop was Queens’ College, which had as its patrons Margaret of Anjou, who founded the college, and Elizabeth Woodville, who wrote some of the statutes, as well as more recently the Queen Mother and now the Queen.

I find it incredible that some of these colleges had women as their patrons, but women weren’t allowed to attend the university until last century, in the 1900’s. Seriously?


Dining Hall. This was a magnificent hodgepodge of Laura Ashley meets … well, I don’t know who or what, but it was all certainly gaudy. Look at the portraits at the end of the hall. The one on the right is a benefactor of the college. The one on the left is Erasmus, who studied at the college.


Elizabeth Woodville was the one in the middle. I was so excited by this; I didn’t expect this at all. It was amazing to be able to see what she looked like – the beauty that ensnared a king.

I can’t help imagining what it must have been like for her. She married a guy who chose the wrong side of the civil war and was killed, leaving her with 2 sons and little money. She heard that the king was visiting her neighbourhood so she stood by the side of the road where he’d ride by, so that he’d see her. She must have been absolutely stunning… he stopped his horse, had a chat and very soon after secretly married her. He only came clean about it when negotiations were under way for him to marry a French princess and he had to say that he was already married.

I’d love to say it all ended happily but it didn’t. Still, I’ve always had a sneaking sympathy for the young widow who waited by the side of the road, risking all on a throw of the dice. When Jane mentioned who she was, I left the group and raced down to take her photo. I stood there and gazed at her. (Well, yes, I may or may not have had a tear in my eye, ok?)


Look up! The gold circles are sunbursts made of lead circles as big as dinner plates, weighing 3lb each. That’s a lot of weight just hanging there above everyone’s heads.


These buildings date from the 1400’s. Yes, still being used. The fact that they’re made of brick was a massive status symbol, bricks being very expensive back in the day.


This side of the quad (which is the wrong term for Cambridge but I can’t remember the correct term) was clearly built in the Tudor times. Then, some time later, it was covered up with a false front. Thankfully, (unlike the other side which was torn down in the 1800’s and rebuilt) the college ran out of money and so left these buildings standing. Once the false front was discovered, imagine the joy when this beautiful building was unveiled.


Walnut tree at the door of the nunnery, which was torn down during the Reformation. The nunnery, not the walnut tree. One is always planted here because there was always one here. Tradition.


The Mathematical Bridge. With punters.


The results of exams are posted out here. They call it the Wailing Wall.


The Senate House Leap. Students would jump across here, but the link I’ve got here is worth a read. 🙂


Kings College… the chapel. Every cathedral and church I’ve been to has lamented the fact that their Medieval windows were destroyed in the Civil War. This one has over 75% of the original stained glass intact. (1530-ish. ) The link I gave suggests that it was because Oliver Cromwell was Cambridge educated and ordered them to be spared, even though his soldiers were living in the chapel. I prefer Jane’s version. About how the cold winds were blowing, and without the stained glass in the windows those soldiers would freeze their proverbials off. So when they were told to smash the glass, they kept putting off the job, not being idiots.


Look up! Isn’t it beautiful? All stone. Christopher Wren, the guy who designed St Paul’s cathedral 200 years later, was reportedly gazing up at this roof. Someone asked if he could do work like this. He replied, “If I could work out where to place the first stone…”


Ruben’s Adoration of the Maji. It’s HUGE. When it was donated to the chapel, with the proviso that it had to be available for the public to see, they closed the chapel for 2 years. They lowered the altar, because if they’d left it at its original height the painting would block off the view of some of the stained glass windows. They also took the chance to clean all of the stone work. This painting is worth millions upon millions.


Cambridge’s Bridge of Sighs. I needed to look at it after seeing the one at Oxford. This was the closest we could get to it without going punting, after Scott and I went walking through miles of city streets to get to the best vantage point. I’ve seen two now – in Venice I’ll complete the set.

Then we jumped in the car and headed for Kenilworth.

This was a must-see for me. When I said that we must go to Kenilworth if at all possibel, Scott emailed me back with the question: Why?

I replied: The History.

Kenilworth Castle. Scroll down to the ‘history’ part of the link. If anything was going on in Medieval and Elizabethan times, Kenilworth was in the thick of it.

(Well, I may be exaggerating slightly, but not much.)

(Bek…. Heyer’s ‘My Lord John.’ This is where the boys grew up. I’ve seen the kitchens and the solar and the steps where they’d race up to the family gallery. OMG.)

Penman’s ‘Falls the Shadow‘ about Simon de Montfort. 

Plus a million and one other references. 🙂

However, after a full day at Cambridge, we arrived too late to tour the Castle that day. But as luck would have it, because I’m a lucky girl, the B & B we were staying at was just across the road from the Kenilworth parish church, where Simon and many others did their worshipping. 🙂


Kenilworth church. It’s a tiny, peaceful place. We wandered over at about 6PM and found it open, which was unusual. The vicar was waiting for a wedding rehearsal, so he had a big long chat to me about the history of the place. See? I told you I was lucky.


Look at the weathervane on top of the steeple. It was gold!



This is a stained glass window depicting all of the shields of the owners of the castle. I wasn’t sure Simon de Montfort’s shield would be here, as he was killed by the Kings forces.


But I squeaked with joy when I found it.


Here’s Robert Dudley’s… the guy who Elizabeth I was in love with but could never marry. (More about him tomorrow.)


The church has a stained glass window of a child holding a teddy bear. There’s only one other window in England which has this.


I couldn’t believe this grave stone. Now, as you all know, I’m frugal… anyone who has the regular blog category of ‘Skinflint Sunday’ would have to be. But burying your first and second wives in the same grave with you??? That’s just taking things a little too far.


The baptismal font was eclectic. The base was Norman, the actual bowl thingy is Elizabethan and the cover is from 1913.


This next shot is amazing.


Well, not the actual photo, but the subject. This is a lead ingot, melted down from the lead taken from the roof of the adjoining abbey when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. This weighs half a tonne or so. They made heaps of them, but for some reason this one was left behind and was only discovered a little while ago.


This is where Elizabeth I came and worshipped, as well as James I when they both visited Kenilworth castle. (Not both at the same time.)

I’ve walked where these people have walked…..

IMG_2855See the bullet holes in the wall from Cromwell’s forces? There’s also marks from where they sharpened their swords. I can’t believe that these things are still around now, in a parish church where weddings are still taking place.


The grounds are beautiful, with graves and abbey ruins (where sundry body parts of Simon de Montfort are said to be buried) all around the church.


I could hardly wait for the next morning – KENILWORTH CASTLE.


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One Response to Cambridge.

  1. Lucinda Sans says:

    I’ve learnt so much reading your posts. Think I might be ready to watch Wolf Hall.

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