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I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Cambridge before the university.

Or things I didn't know about Cambridge previously. Was chatting with Peter, a fellow soup-runner, and he mentioned several interesting points about Cambridge's history, such as the fact that King's College changed the course of the river Cam so it'll be prettier for them, though I can't find anything on that online now. Anyway, so I decided to look up Cambridge's history, cos it's apparently a lot more interesting than just a bunch of rebels running away from Oxford (actually some Oxford refugees running away from hostile Oxford town folk) to found Cambridge in 1209 (to find more hostile Cambridge town folk).

1. We could have been called Durolipontians (as opposed to Cantabrigians, cos the Latin name for Cambridge is Cantabrigia).
The area was first settled by the Romans, who built a hillfort on Castle Hill in about AD70. It was called Duroliponte. Might have been quite cool to say "Yeah, I study in Duroliponte."

2. We should actually be Grantabridge.
The Anglo-Saxons came next, and by this point the town was somewhat thriving as an inland port, being served by various tributaries throughout the Fens. The river was initially called Granta (and still in, upstream of the Mill Pond, near the University Centre), and the city was called Grantabrycge. Through the waterways, it was connected to the North Sea via King's Lynn, and was pretty rich through trade.
The Saxons also built the tower of St Bene't's, which is the oldest building in Cambridge.

3. The river name was changed to match the town - only in Cambridge.
At some point in the 11th century, during the Normans, the city was known as Grentebrige or Cantebrigge. But clearly it's silly to call the city Cambridge when it's over the river Granta, so why not change the name of the river to Cam instead? Problem solved.
The Normans built a castle on Castle Hill in 1068, and the Norman Round Church (located in front of the Cambridge Union building/near Magdalene bridge) was built by the Knights Templar.

4. We were great for monasteries and fairs.
By the 12/13th century, there were lots of religious institutions in Cambridge - churches, monasteries, and convents (many of them eventually became part of a college). There were also lots of market fairs around, and it was supposedly quite the happening place. In fact, one of the largest medieval fairs in Europe, called the Stourbridge Fair, was right here, thanks to the ease of accessibility via waterways. It was originally meant to support the lepers in the Leper Chapel, part of the Hospital for lepers.

5. The early history of the University of Cambridge is pretty confusing.
Too many names for me, but essentially the start of the university was just a bunch of scholars teaching each other, and it slowly grew bigger, acquired more land from the town, had lots of conflict with the town (still do?), became more bureaucratic, involved a lot of studying of divinity, theology, canon law, Greek, Latin classics and mathematics, and had quite a bit of Royal intervention and so on.
Natural Sciences was introduced in the 17th century, and by the late 19th century, law and most of the other Triposes were established.

Main sources:

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