September 24 – A Trip to Cambridge

Churches and University Colleges

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today we walked to the guided busway and took the half-hour trip into  Cambridge. It was actually much further than we thought but it is a very convenient way to travel and we enjoyed the smooth trip. The bus took us right into central Cambridge and our first visit was to Great St Mary’s church. Cambridge is very reminiscent of Oxford as it is a university city and full of tourists. The bicycles all tied up to the fence around the church was particularly similar.

Great St Marys church is a large church and is one of the Greater Churches in England. These Greater Churches are defined as “non-cathedral churches which, by virtue of their great age, size, historical, architectural, or ecclesiastical importance, display many of the characteristics of a cathedral”, and those which ” fulfil a role which is additional to that of a normal parish church”. The Greater Churches Network was founded in 1991, there are currently 55 churches within the Greater Churches Network. The first church on the current site was built in 1205 but after it was destroyed by fire in 1290 it was rebuilt. The new church was consecrated in 1346 and in the middle ages it became an official gathering place for meetings and debates for Cambridge University. The present building was built between 1478 and 1519 and restored in 1766 followed by a further restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1850-81 and Anthony Salvin in 1857. The church is designed in the Late Perpendicular style and the stained glass is the work of Hardman and was added between 1867 and 1869. The church had one of the few moveable pulpits in England and the polygonal font dates from 1632.

The Christ in Majesty reredos was made by Alan Durst in 1960 and is a fantastic sculpture in gold behind a lovely gold altar cloth. The wooden quire stalls have wonderfully carved bench ends depicting lots of different creatures. St Andrews Chapel stained glass window depicts St Michael, Jesus’s death and ascension and St Christopher.. Below these are St George/Rheims, St Andrew/Egypt, St Patrick/Mesopotamia, St David/Gallipoli, and to the sides are St Barnabus, St Augustine of Hippo, St Thomas Aquinas, Robert Grosse and below this Hugh Latimer, Isaac Barrow, Thomas Bray and George Berkeley. There was also a first edition of the King James Bible from 1611.

Outside the church was an Archetypes exhibition by Liviu Mocan and across the road was the white Senate House of the University of Cambridge built by James Gibbs from 1722 – 1730. On a plinth nearby was a relief map of Cambridge and outside the senate house is a bronze replica of the Warwick Vase made around 1830.

We walked along the road passing Kings College, St Catharines College and Corpus Christi and admiring their architecture and scale. Such an amazing amount of beauty to take in. Outside is Corpus Christi College is the gilded Corpus Clock which was unveiled by Stephen Hawking in 2008. Stephen Hawking as the director of research at the Centre of Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death earlier this year on 14 March 2018.

Most of the colleges can be entered but most charge up to £10 per person. Gonville and Caius College, however, offer free entry so we went to have a look. The statues over the entrance to the college are John Caius d. 1573, Edmund Gonville d. 1351 and William Bateman d. 1355. The chapel at the college had some amazing stained glass windows. There are wall monuments to important people in the life of the college like Dr Stephen Perse, d.1615, Dr Thomas Leage, Dr John Caius and a monumental brass to Sir John Lestrange who died in 1518. The Byzantine apze from 1870 is fabulous with gild mosaic ceiling and walls and five wonderful mosaics by Antonio Salviata from 1870, an Italian glass manufacturer. The Gonville Court also has a magnificent clock tower.

St Botolph’s church is lovely too with a Laudian wooden font canopy from 1636, a pipe organ and various wall monuments. The rood screen dado was painted in the late 19th century by C.G.Gray and has a series of lovely paintings. The sanctuary is lovely with a painted ceiling, stained glass window, green altar cloth and a crowned reredos over a painting of Christ crucified. There are two more paintings either side of the window.

Next, we went to Little St Mary’s church where there has been a church on the site since the twelfth century. From 1856-7 Sir George Gilbert Scott restored the church as he did many others. The church had a 14th-century font with 17th-century shields of arms painted around it. It has some lovely stained glass windows including some lovely modern ones by Caroline Benyon in 2000. It has two royal coats of arms for George IV and a Hanoverian one.

We walked along to the Fitzwilliam Museum which we have visited before in December 2016 but unfortunately, it was closed on Monday.I do not think we were the only ones to be disappointed. These buildings were all purpose built and the museums are huge. We are lucky the Victorians were so interested in building beautiful and vast buildings to hold the things they gathered as they explored the world.

On our walk back we passed the great Gate of Trinity College which had a statue of Henry VIII with the coat of arms of Edward !!!. We also passed St Johns College and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is a round church.

Next, we decided we should do some geocaches and one was on the other side of the River Cam but how do you get there? Certainly not from where we were so we walked back passed all the colleges. All the colleges have bridges over the river but the general public cannot get to them Finally we found a bridge across the river but still we could not walk alongside the river as it is all owned by the various colleges. When we reached a block away we found ourselves behind the college properties and finally found a virtual cache that we could do called “A Cambridge Postcard” where you take a photo of yourself with Kings College behind you.

King’s College Chapel is a splendid example of late Gothic or Perpendicular architecture. It was started in 1446 by Henry VI (1421-71) and took over a century to build. It has the largest fan vault in the world and some of the finest medieval stained glass. It is also the venue for the Christmas Eve service, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is broadcast to millions around the world. The Chapel plays a central role in College life. It was built as a place of daily worship for the College scholars, and today the Choir still sings Evensong daily during term time.

What a difference a day makes. The photos of this cache yesterday were very sad but today it was a lovely day.  We walked along to Magdalene Bridge, the bridge overlooking the Mathematical bridge and watched people enjoying punting on the river including one student who looked like it was his first time as he was making hard work of manoeuvering the punt. I felt a bit sorry for the couple in the boat who were about our age and the lady did not look like she was enjoying herself at all. Most of the other outers were expert but when you are standing on the bridge you have to be careful you don’t lean over too far as when a boat goes under the bridge, all of a sudden a pole will come up in the air right in front of you.

Just when I thought I could not walk another step we passed the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences and just had to go inside. It was really interesting with dinosaurs, rocks, fossils, gemstones and so much more. I was particularly interested in the rock formations that make up the geological map of the British Isles. I have become very interested in this sort of thing through doing earthcaches around the country.

Finally very weary after walking 9.32 km or 13907 steps we boarded the guided bus and took a nice trip back to Swavesey. W grabbed one cache at the bus station in Cambridge and one at the Really Side Tracked in Swavesey so we only got a total of three geocaches for the day. Well, you cannot go geocaching every day, can you? What a great day we had!!