30 Facts About Cambridge
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30 Facts About Cambridge

There’s always something new to learn about our beautiful historic city!

  1. University of Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2009. It was founded in 1209 (by a group of scholars fleeing Oxford), making it the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university.
  2. Lord Byron, the famous Romantic poet, is said to have kept a bear while he was a student at Trinity College in the 1800s. The story goes that Byron purchased this unwieldy pet from Stourbridge Fair, which ran each year in Cambridge and was the largest medieval fair in Europe at its peak.
  3. It’s no secret that the city has been home to some of the world’s brightest minds, but did you know that a staggering 121 affiliates of the University of Cambridge have been awarded the Nobel Prize since 1904?
  4. Cambridge is the cycling capital of the UK, with around 55% of residents making a journey by bike at least once per week. (Source)
  5. Did you know that Cambridge has a good claim to being the birthplace of the beautiful game? A group of students set about creating a formal set of rules to football on Parker’s Piece in 1863, creating the so-called ‘Cambridge Rules’ which would go on to inform the codes implemented by the Football Association. Pay a visit to Parker’s Piece today and you can find a sculpture that shows the original rules carved into granite in different languages.
  6. Legendary rock band Pink Floyd has its roots in Cambridge, with members Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour born and raised in the city. The group paid homage to one of their favourite local spots in the song Grantchester Meadows, which featured on their Ummagumma album.
  7. One of Cambridge’s most eye-catching pieces of public art is the Snowy Farr sculpture in the Market Square. Created by Gary Webb, it’s a memorial for Walter “Snowy” Farr MBE, an eccentric resident of the city who was known for busking and raising money for The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
  8. Telegenic Cambridge has served as a backdrop for many films and TV series, from the obvious – such as Chariots of Fire, The Theory of Everything and ITV’s Grantchester – to the more unexpected, including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
  9. Take a wander around Cambridge between spring and autumn and you might be greeted by the sight of cattle roaming freely in parks and green spaces. These urban cows are part of a centuries-old tradition which allows farmers to graze livestock on common spaces.
  10. Cambridge is home to Europe’s largest and most successful technology cluster, with around 5,000 science and tech companies generating an annual revenue of over £15.5 billion between them. (Source)
  11. Part of Queen’s College, The Mathematical Bridge is something of an architectural feat, using exclusively straight pieces of timber to create an elegant arched appearance. There’s a longstanding myth that no screws, bolts or nails were used in the making of this famous bridge – but that’s nothing more than a local legend!
  12. One of the oldest surviving buildings in Cambridge is the Leper Chapel on Newmarket Road. Also known as the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene, it dates back to the 12th century and was originally used as a place to isolate victims of leprosy.
  13. After their 2012 wedding, watched by millions around the world, Prince William and Kate Middleton took on the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The couple made a public appearance in the city shortly after the big day, with Will commenting that they “both feel immense pride at being associated with Cambridge, a place renowned the world over for its dynamism, beauty and learning.”
  14. A big hit with visitors to the city, the Corpus Clock depicts a golden, grasshopper-like monster (the ‘Chronophage’) eating time. Unlike a traditional clock, it has no hands, but you can tell the time by using the three rings of LEDs, which denote hours, minutes and seconds.
  15. Not many pubs can claim to have served a man a pint just after he’d discovered the secret of life itself, but The Eagle can! It was in this city centre pub that scientists Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery of DNA in the 1953.
  16. One of Cambridge University’s most famous traditions is May Week, which actually takes place in early June. Heralding the end of the academic year, it’s a time when students enjoy lavish balls and garden parties before dispersing for the summer.
  17. The imposing lamppost in the centre of Parker’s Piece bears the words Reality Checkpoint – believed to be a reference to the end of the university ‘bubble’ and the beginning of the real world, aka the rest of the city.
  18. One of the most famous figures in English history, Oliver Cromwell, was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey, but his decapitated head is buried in the grounds of Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. Grisly but true!
  19. Want to meet Cambridge’s largest resident? Head to the Museum of Zoology, where you’ll be greeted by an enormous fin whale skeleton. Measuring 21-metres, it’s one of the largest of its kind ever recorded, and fills the entrance hall end to end.
  20. Cambridge is home to one of the most famous student theatre troupes in the world: the Footlights. Founded in the 1880s, the group has served as springboard to some of the UK’s biggest stars, including John Cleese, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson. Favouring a mix of sketches, songs and stand-up, the Footlights regularly perform at both the ADC and Cambridge Arts Theatre.
  21. Cambridge University Library is one of the UK’s six legal deposit libraries, which means it receives a copy of every book published in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As a result, it’s got quite an impressive collection – in fact, it houses over 8 million books, journals and other items!
  22. Fancy a dip? A popular swimming spot in Cambridge is the Jesus Green Lido, which at 91 metres in length is one of the longest outdoor pools in Europe.
  23. One of Cambridge’s most beloved community events is the Mill Road Winter Fair, which takes place annually on the first Saturday in December. Offering stalls, entertainment and a parade, it’s been running since 2005 and attracts around 15,000 people a year.
  24. In 1958, a group of engineering students managed to hoist an Austin Seven car onto the roof of Senate House, with the help of some clever calculations. It took the university a week to remove it – and will surely go down in history as one of the boldest student pranks ever!
  25. Cambridge Folk Festival is one of the longest running folk festivals in the world, having launched in 1965. It takes place each summer at Cherry Hinton Hall park, and features an eclectic line-up of traditional and modern folk, as well blues, country and roots acts.
  26. Forming part of St John’s College, The Bridge of Sighs is one of Cambridge’s most famous landmarks. It shares little with its Venetian namesake, but this Gothic Revival style structure is a beauty in its own right, best admired by punt.
  27. First World War poet Rupert Brooke studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and spent time living in Grantchester. He was so enamoured with the Cambridgeshire village he penned one of his most famous works, The Old Vicarage, about his home there.
  28. The city’s name is known around the world, but it wasn’t always called Cambridge. In the Middle Ages it was known as Grantabridge, meaning the bridge over the river Granta (one of the sources of the River Cam).
  29. Want to visit Europe’s largest air museum? Pay a visit to IWM Duxford, which houses a huge collection of aircraft and aviation exhibits, as well as hosting regular flying displays.
  30. Bringing the river to life in raucous style each June, ‘The Bumps’ are a chaotic series of rowing races. In this Cambridge tradition, which dates back to the early 19th Century, boats set out in single file and must catch and touch, or ‘bump’, the boat ahead without being caught by the rowers on their tail.
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Did you know?

First World War poet Rupert Brooke studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and spent time living in Grantchester. He was so enamoured with the Cambridgeshire village he penned one of his most famous works, The Old Vicarage, about his home there.