Can you spot Cambridge’s ten quirkiest landmarks?
Strolling down King’s Parade and taking in the magnificent architecture or enjoying the beauty of The Backs from the riverside is probably as far as most visitors to Cambridge venture into the city.
But a new book of walking trails around Cambridge, written by researcher and author Andrew Kersham, reveals some of the more difficult to spot landmarks around the city - and offers some intriguing stories about them that even locals may not know.
Andrew said: “I’ve spent a lot of time finding out about some of the overlooked spots in Cambridge that often have some of the quirkiest stories behind them.
“My research has taken me all over the city and I’ve spoken with local historians from Mill Road, college staff and businesses as well as poring through old news articles.
“We have published lots of walking guides before over the past 25 years, starting out with London guides but I and have also written a book about Edinburgh which was a real success so we knew there was an appetite for a book like this. I have a huge interest in Cambridge. So as well as reading lots of books on Cambridge I also walked around taking photographs of unusual sites and buildings, a strange stone marking or an unusual house and then tried to discover their stories. That’s how the book evolved. In fact I found out so much I’m already planning a second book.
“I knew nothing of Mill Road and Romsey before I started out so that was fascinating to learn and one of the real revelations of the book was how hospitable the colleges are because it is possible to feel intimidated by these medieval doorways but actually all the people I met were lovely. And many are open to the public, Christ’s College being a case in point which has fabulous architecture and history and is open without charge to the public.
“The Wren Library at Trinity College is a spectacular place to visit, but there are lots of places such as shops and businesses that are fascinating to me. I loved finding out about Cambridge as a market town as well as a university city.”
Andrew, who grew up in Stevenage, said Cambridge was the place to go out if you wanted to see “the bright lights” and has lots of fond memories of the city and has visited many times.
His book, Walking Cambridge, includes eight walks of Cambridge that encompass both the traditional world famous sights like King's College Chapel and more obscure features that tell a very different story of the city. He has shared his ten favourite Cambridge oddities with Alex Spencer and a little of the stories behind them.
For more oddities and the walks from which they're taken get your hands on a copy of Walking Cambridge (Metro Publications www.metropublications.com).
Ten hidden landmarks
Outside the Chesterton branch of Lloyds Bank is an unusual piece of street furniture called Tony’s Trough. The memorial trough was erected in 1934 with an inscription that reads:
‘In memory of Tony, a dog who gave him friendship and happiness during his Cambridge years. This trough is erected by his Royal Highness Prince Chula of Siam’.
Following the death of his father, the young prince was sent to Harrow school and later Trinity College. The Prince was a colourful character who along with his cousin, Prince Bira, ran the White Mouse racing team, driving British ERA racing cars with some success during the 1930s and 40s. Following the fall of the Siamese monarchy in 1932, the Prince settled in Cornwall where there are a number of similar drinking troughs in memory of later departed family dogs. Prince Chula was a well-known figure in his lifetime and was even a guest on Desert Island Discs in 1960, just three years before his death.
All Saints Garden and its Memorial Cross
Just opposite St John's College, this charming little garden is actually the surviving churchyard of the Norman church All Saints in the Jewry that stood here until 1865. Local worshippers were upset when the church was gradually dismantled and its parts sold off to local builders. The memorial cross in the middle of the garden was designed by Basil Champneys and was erected in 1880 to make amends for the hurt caused and commemorates the church, its parishioners and patrons.
The Ghost Sign of Bull's Dairy
Above number 44 Hills Road you can find the recently repainted sign advertising a local dairy. The apostrophe may be missing from the painted advertisement, but this was very much the dairy of a Mr Stewart T. Bull (1900–70), who would proudly tell his customers his milk came ‘straight from the ’erds’. The shop was where his milk and cream was sold and his milking yard was just behind the store, where around 30 cattle would be milked with its entrance on the recently visited Russell Street. A German bombing raid in February 1941 along Hills Road blew the windows out of number 44, but the resilient Mr Bull survived the attack and went on to serve as Mayor of Cambridge from 1952–3.
John Beazor Antiques
At number 78-80 Regent Street stands the impressive Georgian shopfront of John Beazor Antiques looking to all the world as if it has stood on the site for centuries. In reality the company started business in Great Yarmouth and only came to Cambridge in 1940 to avoid the bombing of the port town. The Beazors brought with them the Georgian shop front which originally came from a bombed-out merchant house in Great Yarmouth.
The displaced screen of Winchester Cathedral
The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is always worth a visit but when you visit make sure you visit the first floor to see a remarkable stone arch. This was originally part of the screen in Winchester Cathedral that dates from 1638 and is the work of Inigo Jones. This style of architecture had fallen from favour in the early 19th century and it was dismantled and left in pieces in the Cathedral’s basement. Nearly one hundred years later it was discovered by the designer of this museum, Thomas Jackson, who rescued this section and installed it here.
The Quantum Gate
The iron gate at number 14 Maids Causeway is well worth a visit as it depicts a surprising property of quantum mechanics, called non-locality. The famous ‘GHZ’ experiment (named after its inventors, Greenburger, Horne and Zeilinger) concerns the measurement of Quantum particles in different places. The symbols on the gate represent John Bell’s equation demonstrating this theory published in 1964. For a more detailed account it would be best to refer to the blog, details of which are also attached to the gate (https://ghz-gate.tumblr.com). The metalwork was made by Neil Fisher who has produced a number of works around Cambridge.
The Plaque to the Cambridge Refuge
This is difficult to find but sandwiched between the back of the Grafton Centre and Christ Church is a plaque commemorating a refuge called Stanton House that was originally dedicated to the protection of prostitutes wanting to leave the profession. The plaque reads:
‘This Wall and the ground on which it stands belongs wholly to The Cambridge Refuge July 1841. This stone was replaced March 10 1881.’
After the Second World War, long after the prostitutes had left, the building was used to house American army families before their return home.
The former Foster's Bank
On St Andrew's Street you may well have seen Lloyd's Bank and noticed the words 'Foster's Bank' inscribed above the entrance. The Foster family were one of the wealthiest and most influential Cambridge families of the 19th century with interests in both banking and flour mills. This building was designed as the head office of Foster & Co. by the great Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905) and completed in 1893. The interior of the building is a spectacular Romanesque temple complete with a vast domed central hall, marble mosaic floors, Spanish mahogany panelling and pastel wall tiles of intricate design. The surprising thing is that having built such a temple to the family’s economic power, they sold their banking interests in 1904 and by 1920 had no commercial interests in the city.
The Pitt Club
On Jesus Lane you'll find a branch of PizzaExpress in an unusual white single-storey building which was originally built as a Roman baths before being taken over by the Pitt Club in 1866. The University club is named after Britain’s youngest ever Prime Minister and still espouses his Conservative values and commitment to extravagant drinking and dining. The club has always struggled with its finances and it was mentioned earlier in the walk how the young David Gregory Marshall diligently saved the club from ruin in the late 19th century. The club has survived numerous such crises over the years, and in the 1970s sold the main body of the building to a branch of PizzaExpress which is still here today. The building’s pediment has a relief of the young Prime Minister which was rescued from the Pitt family home when it was demolished in 1933 and now looks down upon the hungry diners with what some might imagine is aristocratic disdain.
Magdalene Hoard Sculpture
At the busy junction with Northampton Street and Magdalene Street stands an unusual sculpture which is the work of Michael Fairfax. The metal column illustrates the archaeological layers of Cambridge history. It was inspired by the discovery of a hoard of medieval coins when excavating an ancient sewage shaft on this site in 2000. The collection of 1805 silver coins and nine gold are now known as the Magdalene Hoard and can be seen on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum.