Walks index

Animals in Cambridge


These are not real animals! They are carved animals, or memories of animals, that you can find in Cambridge.

This page is arranged in themes. It is arranged in a rough order of visiting, but it would make a long walk. The map marks where to find the different items. The carved animals are mostly in the centre, with a few curious items connected with animals round the edge. Feel free to see them in any order you'd like, or perhaps more sensibly, chose which you'd like to see. There is a scale at the top of the map. A kilometre is about half a mile.

Things worth looking at are marked in red. Click on them, or on the links, for descriptions and pictures.

Downing Site
New Museums Site
Animals on college gates Other animals Connected with animals
Mammoth
Iguanodon and giant sloth
Green men
Bear and bison
Dinosaur
Animal fence
Whale
Crocodile
Trinity lions
St Johns yales
More Trinity lions
Sidney Sussex porcupine
Christs dragon and dog
Christs yales
Emmanuel lion
Grasshopper (clock)
Plough horse
Seahorses
Ram
Owl
Bees
Dolphin
Herons
Grasshopper
Pigs
Gargoyles
Great Bustard
Lion and unicorn
Fitzwilliam lions
Coaching inn
Fossils
Horse mounting block
No Horses notice
Dog trough
Coach driver
Bird song
Carved animals in Downings Street Carved animals in Downing Site near Sedgwick Museum Whale Crocodile Grasshopper Trinity lion on gatehouse Trinity lion on gatehouse St Johns yale on gatehouse Christs yale on gatehouse Sidney Sussex porcupine Sidney Sussex porcupine Christs dragon and dog Owl Emmanuel lion Coaching inn Coach driver Horse mounting block Lion and unicorn Dog trough Dolphin Fitzwilliam lions Seahorse No Horses notice Beehive Grasshopper statue Gargoyles Great Bustard Pigs Plough horse Fossils Bird song herons

Map of animals in Cambridge

Click on the photos for a bigger version.

Downing Site / New Museums Site

Downing Street runs from St Andrews Street, near Emmanuel College (and the bus station) to Trumpington Street, quite close to the start of Silver Street. There are university science departments either side of this road. If you walk down Downing Street towards Silver Street, then the buildings on your left are part of the Downing Site. They are not part of Downing College, just close to it. There are two good museums on this site which are open to the public, and free. They are the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Sedgwick Museum. The Sedgwick has many fossils and there are splendid carved animals connected with it both in Downing Street, and inside the Downing Site.


If you start from the bus station end, as you walk down Downing Street, look to your left. The first animal is this splendid mammoth.

Mammoth

Iguanodon and sloth

Next is the coat of arms of Cambridge University, supported by an iguanodon (on the left) and a giant sloth (on the right).


Next you will see a gateway. You will be going in there, but first look up. There are some Green men in the corners. These are monsters (myths?) which can be found in medieval churches, although here they are Victorian. The Green man and satyr are not animals, perhaps, but we have a Green lion as well!

Green satyr Green lion Green man


Walk through the gateway under the Green men. Careful - you might find that you've walked over an important art work!

Turn to your left to see a stone staircase up to Sedgwick Museum. Facing you at the bottom of the stair are two bears. Walk round the stairs to the other side to see a pair of bison.

Bear

Bison

Why bears and bison? In 1904 geologists found fossils of bear and bison in the gravels of Barrington, a village south-east of Cambridge.

Click here for more information on the Sedgwick Museum. If you want to visit the museum (and it's open) then walk up the stairs.

Retrace your footsteps to the gateway of the Downing site, glancing to the right to admire the statue of a dinosaur skeleton. This is a T. rex called Clare, and her story is here.

Clare the T. rex

Fence with animals

Once you have walked back through the gateway to Downing Street, cross the road. Ahead of you is Corn Exchange Street, an entrance to a multi-story carpark, so watch out for cars! But there is a fence with small animal heads set in it.


Return to Downing Street and turn right, walking away from the carpark. You will see an entry to your right into the building complex known as the Old Cavendish Labs or the New Museums Site. Straight ahead there is a modern building and if you look carefully, there is a whale's skeleton in it. (Sorry, this area is being redeveloped, so this bit is out of date at the moment. I will try to update this site once it's finished.)

Skeleton of whale

Skeleton of whale

You can walk up the stairs by the Zoology museum entrance to see the whale close-up. There is also a notice (see below) explaining the history of the whale. I have given a transcription in case you can't read it from the photo.

Notice about whale skeleton

How did this whale get here? This is a male Finback Whale. A coastguard who first spotted it at sea in 1865 mistook it for the upturned keel of a wrecked ship. The whale was washed ashore dead at Pevensey in Sussex. During the next few days, about 40,000 people made the trip to view it on the beach. Special trains were laid on for the sudden influx of people and a new station was built. The huge carcass was first claimed by the Corporation of Hastings as 'flotsam and jetsam'. It was sold at auction to a group of wealthy merchants from Hastings and Eastbourne. They formed the 'Great Fin, Northern or Greenland Whale Company' and gave tours of the whale. The original tour guide explained the monster to the visitors: "This kind of whale, sir, has the smallest swaller has is, and he strains all his wittles through these 'airs which goes round his chops, for you see he has no teeth ... and he eats nothing bigger than a sprat." The prepared skeleton was exhibited again at Easter 1866 on Hastings cricket ground. It was purchased later that year for this museum by public subscription. This Museum building was specially designed to exhibit the whale on this podium. The skeleton has been on display here since 1996.

Read more about the whale here.

The whale is above the Zoology Museum which contains skeletons from animals all over the world. Even if it is shut, there are some exhibits that you can see through the window.


Carry on walking straight forward (if you decide not to visit the Zoology Museum), then at the end, turn left. You will eventually see another gate in front of you which leads out to Free School Lane, but before going through it, turn to your left to see a crocodile carved into the brick wall.

This is the outer wall of the Mond Laboratory. The Laboratory was built in 1933 by the Royal Society for Kapitza to continue his work into intense magnetic fields. During the building work, those passing the lab were surprised to see a figure in a brown monk's habit busily chipping away at the brickwork behind a tarpaulin screen. This was Eric Gill who had been commissioned by Kapitza to carve both a plaque of Rutherford and this Crocodile - "The Crocodile" being Kapitza's pet name for Rutherford, either because of his fear of having his head bitten off by him, or because his voice could be relied upon to precede his visits, just like the crocodile's alarm clock in "Peter Pan".

You can walk through the gateway to a narrow street called Free School Lane. Turn left to get back to Downing Street, or right to go to Benet Street.

Crocodile

Animals on college gates

There are various magnificent college gatehouses. Some of these have animals on. They are scattered throughout the city centre.

Start at Trinity gatehouse, in Trinity Street. Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, combining the previous colleges of Michaelhouse and King's Hall. Kings Hall was established by Edward II and refounded by Edward III. The royal standard of Edward III is the flag of Trinity. It is shown on the gatehouse. It is supported by two heraldic lions.

Trinity gatehouse Lion on Trinity Gatehouse

Walk along to St Johns gatehouse. Lady Margaret Beaufort was the mother of King Henry VII. She founded two Cambridge colleges, St Johns and Christs. Her coat of arms decorate the gatehouses of both. We will see Christs later.

St Johns gatehouse

Yale on St Johns Gatehouse

The coat of arms is supported by two yales, mythical beasts with elephants tails, antelopes bodies, goats heads, and swivelling horns.


Now walk round by the Round Church and walk along Sidney Street. On your right after a bit, there is a part of Trinity College called Whewells Court. It has a pair of small lions round its gate. Here is one of them.

Lion on gate of Whewells Court

Porcupine on Sidney Sussex arch

Carry on walking along past Sidney Sussex college, and you will see Sussex Street on your left. Turn down it. At the end, there is an archway over the street. This joins two parts of Sidney Sussex college. Walk under the arch, and turn round to look at the other side. There is a blue porcupine. Sidney Sussex College was founded by Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex. The crest of her family is a blue and gold porcupine, and so this is the corporate seal of the college. This archway was built in 1991.


Having walked through the arch, you are in Hobson Street. Turn left and then bend round to the right into King Street to find Christs back gate. This gate was made in 1993, and it has several carvings. Here is a dragon.

Dragon on Christs back gate

Dog on Christs back gate

Here is a dog. The carvings were done by Tim Crawley. The dragon and greyhound are supporters of the coat of arms of Lady Margaret Beaufort who founded Christs College. They are also over the door in Kings College Chapel.

Turn round and walk back along Hobson Street to the end to see Christs gatehouse. This is the other college founded by Lady Margaret, the mother of King Henry VII, and has more yales, mythical beasts with elephants tails, antelopes bodies, goats heads, and swivelling horns. Here are the two different yales to compare!

A yale on St Johns Gatehouse.

Yale on St Johns Gatehouse

A yale on Christs Gatehouse.

Yale on Christs Gatehouse


Here is what the whole of Christs gatehouse looks like:

Christs College gatehouse

Emmanuel College lion

Carry on walking past Christs, then left left down Emmanuel Street towards the bus station. Part of Emmanuel College is on your left. Look up to see the Emmanuel coat of arms, with its lion.

This is the end of the gatehouse animals walk.

Other animals


There are other carved animals round Cambridge but they do not make a very logical walk. It might be better to combine them with the animals on the gatehouses above, or even just try to see one or two rather than covering the lot. But this gives a rough order.

Start at the famous Corpus Clock, unveiled in 2008. This is at the corner of Benet Street and Kings Parade. It is rather a strange clock without hands. Instead you tell the time by looking at the blue lights within the golden circle. On top, there is this rather ferocious grasshopper.

A part of mechanical clocks which converts pendulum motion into rotational motion is called a grasshopper escapement. In this clock, it really looks like a grasshopper. It is called the Chronophage or "time eater". It moves backwards and forwards on the cogs of the wheels. Its eyes blink at random. Every minute, its mouth opens, showing needle-like teeth. Then it shuts, eating the minute.

Read more about the grasshopper here.

Grasshopper on clock

Plough horses

Walk down Benet Street and past the end of the Guildhall. There is a large hall called the Corn Exchange. There are carvings outside demonstrating farming, including this rather splendid plough team.


Head for Cambridge Market. On the south side of the market, there is the Guildhall, where the City Council meet. On the balcony, there is Cambridge City coat of arms, supported by two seahorses. These are heraldic seahorses, half real horse, half fish, rather than real seahorses. The seahorses are unusual for an inland town, but historically Cambridge was a port, with river-borne traffic from the coast.

Seahorses on Cambridge city coat of arms

Seahorse relief

If you look either side of the door underneath the coat of arms, there are two pedestals with reliefs on. There are seahorses on these as well.


Apocathary owl

Above 19-20 At Andrews Street, there is another owl, sitting on a pestle and mortar. This shows that this shop was originally an apocathary. These sold medicines, like a chemist, but they ground up the ingredients themselves. The owl is a symbol of wisdom.


Now walk to the porcupine on the arch in Sussex Street. If you look up at the building to the left of the arch (facing the porcupine) you will see several rams heads. These are at the top of flat pillars decorating the building. I suspect that they are a joke. There are different types (or orders) of pillars. An Ionic pillar has spirals at the top, based on rams horns. Here we have the whole head!

Ram

Beehive

There is rather a walk to the next animal. Walk through Christs Pieces and New Square, up Fitzroy Street and along Burleigh Street. On your right, the new Primark shop has plaques from the Co-op shop which used to be on this site. The beehive is a symbol of the Co-op movement. There are two beehive plaques and the other has the number 99, so both show the year, 1899.


You now need to head for Parkers Piece, a green area to the southeast of the city centre. In the middle of this there is a lamp post called Reality Checkpoint. It has dolphins on it.

Dolphin

Grasshopper statue

Gonville Place runs along the south-east side of Parkers Piece. Towards the south, looking over a hedge, you will see a grasshopper statue. This local development is called the Greshams. A grasshopper was the heraldic device adopted by two successful Tudor merchants, Sir Thomas and Sir John Gresham, to signify their rapid rise from modest rural origins.

Walk down Gonville Place to the junction with St Andrews Street and Hills Road, towards the spire of the Roman Catholic church. The church is covered with gargoyles and carvings of animals and monsters.

Gargoyles Gargoyles Gargoyles Gargoyles Gargoyles Gargoyles Gargoyles


Great Bustard on War Memorial

The plaques walk tells you about the Cambridge War Memorial. On the side furthest from the station, there is a coat of arms which belonged to Cambridgeshire County Council in 1914 (it is now different). The birds supporting it are Great Bustards. They are now extinct in Britain, but used to live in Cambridgeshire.


Just beyond the war memorial is a pub called the Flying Pig, on Hill Road, near the end of Station Road. It has two statues of pigs above the door.

Pig

Lion and Unicorn on top of Hobsons conduit

Hobsons Conduit head is on the corner of Lensfield Road and Trumpington Street. It has a royal coat of arms on it, with the lion and the unicorn. The plaques page tells you more about Thomas Hobson.


Carry on walking until you see the great white building of the Fitzwilliam Museum on your left. There are four lions guarding its grand entrance. The museum is free to enter, and I'm sure that you can find many more animals inside!

Lions outside the Fitzwilliam Museum

Lions outside the Fitzwilliam Museum

Connected with animals

There are other items round Cambridge that had a historic connection with animals. I'm afraid that these don't make a sensible walk, as they are scattered round the place. But you might like to hunt for one or two!


Right in the centre of Cambridge, in Benet Street, there is the Eagle, an old coaching inn. Click here for more about the Eagle.

The Eagle - an old coaching inn

The Eagle - entrance to yard

Here is the entrance to the yard of the Eagle. This was used by the coaches and horses. You can find other coaching inns round Cambridge.


The Grand Arcade is a new shopping centre. You can get there from St Andrews Street, or through John Lewis, or via the Lion Yard (and that can be found off Petty Cury). The Grand Arcade is paved with polished stone. If you look closely at the stone, you will see fossils in it. These are on the upper floor, from the library to the escalator in Lion Yard, but you will be able to find many more.

Fossil in the Grand Arcade Fossil in the Grand Arcade

If you are interested in fossils, then visit the Sedgwick Museum in the New Museums Site.


There is a horse mounting block on Queens Road, opposite Clare back gate. This is to help a horseman mount his horse if it was too tall.

Horse mounting block

Laundress Lane notice

There is a little lane called Laundress Lane, from Silver Street to Mill Lane. At one end of the lane you can see a notice firmly restricting types of traffic!


Here is an oddity in the middle of Mitcham's Corner. This is a one-way traffic system to the north of the River Cam, really a large roundabout, but squashed, and so big that it has houses on it. In the middle, there is this dog trough. Click on the photo to read the inscription.

Dog trough

Dog watering tap

This is the modern equivalent - a tap and bowl for dogs to drink from. It is at the entrance to Mill Road Cemetery, at the end of the drive.


In Mill Road cemetery, there is the gravestone of a coach driver who died in 1868. This is a late reference to a coach driver. The coach service was replaced by the railways, which arrived in Cambridge in 1845.
Click here for more information on Mill Road cemetery.

Gravestone of coach driver

Gravestone of coach driver

The inscription says In Memory of James Reynolds, many years driver of the Telegraph Coach from Cambridge to London, who died the 24th day of March 1868, aged 73 years. "All who live must die, Passing through Nature to Eternity." Hamlet


Also in Mill Road cemetery, there are a number of sculptures called Bird Song. These are by the sculptor Gordon Young. When asked to design these sculptures, he visited the cemetery, and was struck by the number of birds that you can hear in the cemetery. Each sculpture gives the song of one of the birds that you can hear in the cemetery, and a poem or verse about that bird. One sculpture is made of wood, from the tree that used to be outside Holy Trinity in Cambridge City centre.

Dove by Gordon Young
Crow by Gordon Young Gold Finch by Gordon Young Robin by Gordon Young Blackbird by Gordon Young
House Sparrow by Gordon Young Song Thrush by Gordon Young

Map of Birdsong by Gordon Young


Heron graffi In various places in Cambridge, painted herons have appeared. They are far too elegant to be called graffiti! These are in the workshops near the Gwydir Street entrance to the cemetery.