Tourist Information Service, Wheeler Street, Cambridge, C132 3QB. 0223 322640.
(posted Nov 2011): Cambridge (0223 248198/9).
There are no wide streets or open, elegant squares in Cambridge but it certainly is a quite beautiful city. The almost extravagant use of lovely stone for its buildings, the serenity of the river and the water-meadows, or 'Backs', all combine to make it so. Almost three million people visit the city each year, and some of them will be there whenever you are there, whatever the time of the night or day, whatever the season or whatever the weather. In Cambridge you must be prepared to share your pleasures with a lot of other people, even if you do go out of term time during the students' vacations.
The importance of Cambridge was first recognised by the Romans, who built a fortified camp on the banks of the river. The Normans built a castle as a stronghold but only the mound on which it was set remains. But Cambridge was soon growing and by the early eleventh century it could afford to have a stone, rather than a wooden, tower on the Church of St Benett. The early thirteenth century saw the influx of some students from Oxford after trouble with the townsmen there had driven them out, and by the middle of the century there were sufficient masters and scholars for Cambridge to have its own Chancellor and claim university status.
The first college was founded by the Bishop of Ely, Hugh de Balsam in 1284, close to St Peter's Church from which it took its name, Peterhouse. Nearly thirty exist today.
The Schema Train Association These rights and privileges were resented by some of 'The Town' who rebelled against 'The Gown' and many of those rights were eventually abandoned.
It was during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that another eleven colleges were built, together with hostels for the students, all in one very confined area of the city. So much so that when Henry VI's college was built there was further town resentment because, in doing so, they demolished a church, a couple of small colleges and some houses. Today that building is one of the finest buildings in Britain, King's College Chapel. At the time it was built Henry VI had grandiose plans for other buildings which were never completed.
Later Henry VIII was not only persuaded to leave the building untouched during his dissolution of religious houses, but also to re-found one of his own at Trinity College.
Queen Elizabeth I slept in Cambridge. Oliver Cromwell, a local man, was also educated in Cambridge and during the Civil War used it as his local headquarters, much to the discomfort of the many Royalists in the colleges.
The population grew and were all crowded uncomfortably closely into the small area of the town centre. John Addenbrooke left some money to build a hospital and to improve the extremely 'unhygienic' conditions in the city. Across the river open spaces appeared, the streets were cleaner, some new houses were built further out from the city centre, and when the railway arrived in 1845 the urban spread was carried even further afield. That expansion has continued up to the present time, but it has been kept under strict control. Cambridge is reached easily from London's Liverpool Street, trains continuing to Ely and King's Lynn with good north and midlands connections via Peterborough. There is so much to see in Cambridge that the best thing is first to have an exploratory tour with a guide and then choose what you want to see at your leisure and in more detail.
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