As the swinging sixties hit their stride, a group of Cambridge teenagers – Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour – were messing around on their guitars and dreaming of making it big as a rock band. The trio left their hometown for London in search of fame and fortune – where they met percussionist Nick Mason and keyboard player Rick Wright and formed Pink Floyd, one of the greatest groups in history – but Cambridge always had a special place in their hearts. The band were said to have been fans of the Flying Pig pub, as well as Grantchester Meadows, after which they named a track on their Ummagumma album.
Described by W. B. Yeats as “the handsomest young man in England”, winsome war poet Rupert Brooke won hearts with his idealistic sonnets, becoming a tragic symbol of loss when he died an untimely death in 1915. Before serving in the Navy, he studied at King’s College, but fled to Grantchester in his third year in search of a more peaceful life. He stayed at the Orchard Tea Rooms and later in the Old Vicarage (both of which can be visited today) and spent his days enjoying the area’s beautiful countryside. When homesick in Berlin years later, he wrote one of his most famous poems, The Old Vicarage, in memory of his occasional home in Grantchester.
Chronicled in the Hollywood film The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking’s amazing life and contribution to science needs no introduction. He came to Cambridge as a PHD student in the early 1960s, becoming a professor of mathematics and eventually founding the university’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, remaining a leading voice in the scientific community until his death in 2018. Widely recognised as one of the world’s most brilliant minds, he defied medical expectations after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his twenties, going on to live not just a long life but one filled with pioneering discoveries relating to black holes. If you’d like to visit a couple of the places featured in his biopic, Senate House Passage and King’s College Chapel were among the most iconic shooting locations.
People often assume she’s an Aussie through and through, but Olivia Newton-John was actually born right here in Cambridge! She only lived in the city for a few years as a youngster – a long time before her star-making turn in Grease – and her family moved to Australia when she was five, hence the accent. They had strong connections to the city though, in fact, her father Brinley Newton-John was headmaster of the Cambridgeshire County High School for Boys – today known as Hills Road Sixth Form College.
One of the most divisive figures in British history, Oliver Cromwell’s name continues to inspire debate, hundreds of years after his death. Whether he was a villain, or a hero is the question asked at the Oliver Cromwell house in Ely, Cambridgeshire, an historical attraction based at the home he shared with his family between 1636 and 1646. From fenland farmer to ruler to eventual execution – the museum explains all about his fascinating story – including how his head went missing and was eventually buried at a Cambridge college!