Walks index

Plaques and notices in Cambridge


Are you one of those people who, when they see a blue plaque on a wall, have to read it? If so, and you are in Cambridge, you may like to read the following. This is not all the Cambridge blue plaques. For a full list of those, click here. It is not just blue plaques either. I have added other plaques, notices, and anything written that I found interesting.

This page is arranged in themes. There are two maps, a large scale map of the centre and a smaller scale for the rest. Feel free to see the items in any order you'd like, or perhaps more sensibly, chose which you'd like to see. The map marks where to find the different items. For the city centre map, 100 metres is similar to 100 yards and 400 metres is about a quarter of a mile, so you can see that all of this is quite close together. On the smaller scale map, a kilometre is about half a mile, so everything is further away.

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

Scientists Notables of Cambridge Institutions Other Not really plaques
Old Cavendish
J J Thomson
Discovery of DNA
Computers
Shields of scientists
Thomas Hobson
John Mortlock
John Maynard Keynes
Jack Hobbs
Dr John Addenbrooke
Stephen Perse
Cambridge Refuge
Parish marks
Alms houses
War memorials
White Horse Inn
Queen Victoria
Ode to tobacco
3D maps
Milestones
Turnpike
Sign on pub
Shields on Cambridge station
White Horse Inn The Eagle Discovery of DNA 3D maps Keynes founded the Arts Theatre John Mortlock Old Cavendish J J Thomson Stephen Perse Shields of scientists EDSAC Ode to tobacco

Map of plaques and notices in Cambridge

Other map Golden helix 3D map Hobson's Conduit Hobson's Workhouse Computer notice Jack Hobbs Reality Checkpoint Cambridge Refuge Parish Marks Alms houses Queen Victoria War memorial for gas workers Main Cambridge war memorial Decoration on Cambridge station Sign on pub Sign on pub

Map of plaques and notices in Cambridge

Click on the photos for a bigger version.


Scientists


If you walk down Free School Lane you will see this plaque on the wall. It commemorates the Old Cavendish Laboratories. This site is now called the New Museums Site to avoid confusion with the new Cavendish Laboratory in West Cambridge. The Cavendish Laboratory was called after after William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, who was Chancellor of the University and donated money for the construction of the laboratory. The Cavendish Laboratory has had many famous physicists. As of 2006, 29 Cavendish researchers have won Nobel Prizes. Click here for more about the history of the Cavendish Laboratory.

Plaque on Old Cavendish Laboratory

Plaque about J J Thomson

This plaque is also in Free School Lane. J J Thomson became Cavendish Professor of Physics in 1884. One of his students was Ernest Rutherford, who would later succeed him in the post. Thomson was awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the electron and for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases.


DNA

During World War II, researchers had shown that the mysterious substance which carries genes from generation to generation was DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid), which exists within cells. However, no-one knew the structure of DNA or how it did this.

Francis Crick and James Watson were working on this in the Old Cavendish Laboratory, in Free School Lane. They saw a photo of x-ray diffraction of DNA made by Rosalind Franklin at King's College London. This led them to suggest a double helix as the structure of DNA, which also explained how DNA reproduces - the double helix splits into two, and the DNA then rebuilds itself from each half.

Inside the old Cavendish Labs there is a plaque on the wall of Crick and Watson's laboratory.

Plaque inside New Museums Site about discovery of DNA

Once they had made this discovery, Francis Crick and James Watson crossed Benet Street to the nearest pub, the Eagle, to celebrate. As they walked into the Eagle, Crick announced "We have found the secret of Life." A blue plaque outside the pub celebrates this.

The Eagle

The Eagle.

The Eagle blue plaque

Blue plaque on the Eagle.

The Eagle has other claims to fame. It is a very old pub. Its entrance shows that it used to be a coaching inn. A notice outside the pub decribes other people who have drunk there. There is also a Greene King brewery plaque. These are quite common in Cambridge.

The Eagle history

The Eagle brewery plaque

There are other references to the discovery of DNA in Cambridge. Francis Crick used to live in Portugal Place (just behind the Maypole pub). This golden helix is above the front door. Note that it is a single helix, not a double one!

Golden Helix showing where Francis Crick used to live

DNA path

Outside Cambridge, by the railway line, there is a path celebrating the decoding of the Human Genome in 2003. The stripes are the bases of a specific gene. Click here for more about this path.


This plaque is also inside the Old Cavendish. EDSAC, or Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, was an early British computer. Its first computer programs calculated a table of squares and a list of prime numbers. It used mercury delay lines for memory, and derated vacuum tubes for logic. Input was via 5-hole punched tape and output was via a teleprinter.

Plaque about EDSAC

Notice about a computer

Cambridge continues to be deeply involved in computing. Local firms Sinclair and Acorn made some of the first generally used home computers in Britain. The local science parks have so many IT firms that the area is known as Silicon Fen. A shop, "Computer Repairs and Resales", in Mill Road has this notice in the window. Click for a larger version so you can read it. (The shop recovered the data!)


Shields of famous scientists

These shields (dated 1886) are on the corner of Pembroke Street (continuation of Downing Street) and Free School Lane.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) described an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry. He was at Trinity College.

Isaac Newton (1643-1727) made discoveries in optics, specified laws of mechanics and gravity, and invented calculus. He was also at Trinity College.

William Herschel (1738-1822) discovered Uranus, and infrared radiation. I'm not sure if William Herschel has any Cambridge connection. His son John Herschel (1792-1871) was at St John's College, and was a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer, who also did valuable botanical work, so perhaps it is him who is referred to here.

William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828) first reported the dark lines in the spectrum of the Sun and discovered the elements palladium and rhodium. He was at Gonville and was at Caius College.

Click for information about these coat of arms: Bacon, Newton, Herschel, Wollaston.


Notables of Cambridge


Thomas Hobson

Thomas Hobson was a carrier, delivering mail from Cambridge to London. He was based in the George Hotel on Trumpington Street, now part of St.Catherine's College. He rented horses to students and academic staff of the university. Since he found that his best horses were getting over-worked, he made a rule of strict rotation, saying "That or none" which came to be known as Hobson's choice. Thomas Hobson lived in Chesterton Hall. He was a benefactor of Cambridge. This blue plaque mentions his workhouse, the Spinning House, where the poor were housed and given simple work such as spinning. The plaque is on Hobson House, on St Andrews Street.

Blue Plaque about Hobson

Hobson's conduit head

Hobson was also involved in a scheme to provide drinking water for Cambridge. Water was brought from Nine Wells, south of Cambridge, to the Market Place. The old fountain in the Market Place was moved to the corner of Lensfield Road and Trumpington Street (see above). South of it is Hobson's Brook, still with water from Nine Wells. North of it is the artificial channels or culverts, on either side of part of Trumpington St. These still have water in them for part of the year, but dry up during summer. The water is now used in the Botanic Gardens and college ponds.

The monument has two panels on it, which were added later in 1856. These describe a little of its history.

Plaques on Hobson's conduit head

Plaques on Hobson's conduit head

Transcription of the notice in front of the monument:
In 1614, a joint enterprise of the university and the town of Cambridge brought a supply of running water into the town from springs at Great Shelford. Thomas Hobson, the carrier (1544-1630) was a benefactor of the scheme and for that reason the watercourse became known as 'Hobson's Conduit'. This monument marks the end of the artificial watercourse. From this point the water runs in culverts to re-appear in runnels in Trumpington Street and St Andrews's Street. Other culverts feed ponds in certain of the colleges. From 1614 to 1856 the monument stood upon Market Hill where it served as a fountain. In the latter year, following the provision of a piped supply of water by the Cambridge Water Company, the "fountain" was moved to this site. It was reconditioned in 1967. This plaque was erected by the Hobson's Conduit trustees and unveiled by the Mayor Of Cambridge Councillor M.N.Bradford J.P. on 25th April. 1967.

Notice in front of the monument

Notice about Hobson's conduit head

The 'culverts' in Trumpington Street

Hobsons conduit

Bridge over Hobsons Brook

Bridge over Hobsons Brook

John Milton, the famous poet, who studied at Christ's College wrote two sonnets about Hobson.

Apparently, Hobson was not allowed to travel freely because of the plague, and then died. Milton imagines that since he was forced to stay still, Death was able to finally catch up with him!

On the University Carrier

Who sickened in the time of his Vacancy, being forbid to go to London by reason of the Plague.

Here lies old Hobson. Death hath broke his girt,
And here, alas! hath laid him in the dirt;
Or else, the ways being foul, twenty to one
He's here stuck in a slough, and overthrown.
'T was such a shifter that, if truth were known,
Death was half glad when he had got him down;
For he had any time this ten years full
Dodged with him betwixt Cambridge and The Bull.
And surely Death could never have prevailed,
Had not his weekly course of carriage failed;
But lately, finding him so long at home,
And thinking now his journey's end was come,
And that he had ta'en up his latest Inn,
In the kind office of a Chamberlin
Showed him his room where he must lodge that night,
Pulled off his boots, and took away the light.
If any ask for him, it shall be said,
"Hobson has supped, and 's newly gone to bed."

by John Milton

Another on the Same

HERE lieth one who did most truly prove
That he could never die while he could move;
So hung his destiny, never to rot
While he might still jog on and keep his trot;
Made of sphere-metal, never to decay
Until his revolution was at stay.
Time numbers Motion, yet (without a crime
'Gainst old truth) Motion numbered out his time;
And, like an engine moved with wheel and weight,
His principles being ceased, he ended straight.
Rest, that gives all men life, gave him his death,
And too much breathing put him out of breath;
Nor were it contradiction to affirm
Too long vacation hastened on his term.
Merely to drive the time away he sickened,
Fainted, and died, nor would with ale be quickened.
"Nay," quoth he, on his swooning bed outstretched,
"If I may n't carry, sure I 'll ne'er be fetched,
But vow, though the cross Doctors all stood hearers,
For one carrier put down to make six bearers."
Ease was his chief disease; and, to judge right,
He died for heaviness that his cart went light.
His leisure told him that his time was come,
And lack of load made his life burdensome,
That even to his last breath (there be that say 't),
As he were pressed to death, he cried, "More weight!"
But, had his doings lasted as they were,
He had been an immortal Carrier.
Obedient to the moon he spent his date
In course reciprocal, and had his fate
Linked to the mutual flowing of the seas;
Yet (strange to think) his wain was his increase.
His letters are delivered all and gone;
Only remains this superscription.




John Mortlock

These plaques are on the wall of Barclays Bank in Benet Street. This building has been a bank for a long time, as these plaques show. John Mortlock was a famous, even notorious, politician. He ran Cambridge as his private fiefdom for many years. He used to drink at the Eagle.

John Mortlock

Blue plaque about John Mortlock

Plaque about John Mortlock


John Maynard Keynes

Despite its unassuming entrance, the Arts Theatre is one of the main theatres in Cambridge, featuring high-quality touring productions and West End shows, as well as local events.

The Arts Theatre

Blue plaque about Keynes and the Arts Theatre

As its blue plaque explains, this theatre was founded by John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist. Keynes was born in Cambridge as well as being part of the university.


Jack Hobbs

There is an open green space to the south of the city centre called Parkers Piece, used for sport as well as general recreation. On one side there is Hobbs Pavilion, now a restaurant, but originally a cricket pavilion.

The Hobbs Pavilion

Blue plaque about Jack Hobbs

It is named after Jack Hobbs, a famous cricketer who learned to play cricket on Parks Piece. Cricket is still played on Parkers Piece, and in the photo on the left, you can see a scoreboard (click for a bigger version).

Hobbs Pavilion was built by public subscription following Jack Hobb's incredible 1925 season, during which he broke W G Grace's record of test centuries. Jack Hobbs was born in Brewhouse Lane off Gwydir St, in 1882. The eldest of 12 children, he left St Matthews School early and became a baker's errand boy, but could often be seen honing his cricket skills on Parkers Piece at 6am. He joined Surrey crickey team at the age of 17. He finished his career with more than 5,000 runs from 61 England caps and is widely regarded as one of the greatest opening batsmen. He died in Hove in 1963.

There is a charming weather vane on Hobbs Pavilion, with a cricket theme.

The weather vane on Hobbs Pavilion

Reality Checkpoint

In the middle of Parkers Piece, there is a lamp post called Reality Checkpoint. You can see it scratched on the side. The idea was that this was the dividing point between the university and the city folk. Which group had to check their reality is not mentioned!


Dr John Addenbrooke

Blue plaque about Dr John Addenbrooke Addenbrookes Hospital Old Addenbrookes, now Judge Business School

This plaque is not shown on the map, and is not worth making a trip to see, but you might notice it if you pass it. It is by the main entrance to Addenbrookes Hospital (centre photo) which is to the south of Cambridge, between Hills Road and Long Road. The plaque describes a little of the history of the hospital. The original site (right) is still known as Old Addenbrookes, but is now the Judge Business School and has nothing to do with medical matters. It is the large building opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum. You can still see 'Addenbrookes Hospital' written across the front, and the neighbouring restaurant has 'Outpatients' over the door.


Institutions

Free School Lane is a narrow lane alongside the New Museums Site (or Old Cavendish). It is called after the Free Grammar School which was founded in 1615. This plaque describes how this school was founded by Dr Stephen Perse. The school eventually became the Perse, a fee-paying school. The school has existed on several different sites in the city before its present home on Hills Road.

Plaque about Stephen Perse

Notice about Cambridge Refuge

The Grafton Centre is a shopping mall between Fitzroy Street, Burleigh Street and East Road. There is a footpath along its northern edge, and set into the wall, you can see this sign. It says "This wall and the ground on which it stands belong wholly to the Cambridge Refuge, July 1841. This stone was replaced March 10 1881." The Cambridge Refuge was set up to look after prostitutes, until they went in service as maids etc.


On the corner of Maids Causeway and Fair Street, you can see these strange markings. They mark the boundary of Holy Trinity Parish. Holy Trinity church is in Market Street, near Cambridge market in the city centre.

Parish marks

Almshouses in King Street

The almshouses below are in Kings Street, near the Midsummer Common end. There are two plaques on the wall, as below.

This says "Joseph Merrill late of this town, Gentleman, at his Deceafe, in the Year 1805, bequeathed to the Truftees of Storey's Charity Cambridge, the Sum of 1667 Pounds, Stock in the three per Cent Consolidated Bank Annuities. In Trust that they caufe the Dividends arising from the same, to be distributed half yearly, to the poor Inhabitants of the Almshouses."

Notice about Alms houses

Notice about Alms houses

This says "Thomas Jakenett formerly a Burgefs of this town and Agnes his wife Founded an Almfhoufe in the reign of Edw. the 4th 1469, on the South fide in Gt. St. Mary Church-Yard, which was taken down in confequence of an Act of Parliament being granted for Paving and lighting the town of Cambridge, and was rebuilt in this fpot in the year 1790 at the joint expence of the Univerfity and the Inhabitants of Gt. St. Mary's Parifh."


Other

Here are some more plaques, notices and other items which don't fit the themes above.

The main Cambridge war memorial is in Hills Road, at the end of Station Road. The young soldier is marching towards the city centre, back home from the war. But he is looking up Station Road towards the railway station, thinking of his dead friends that he left behind on the battle field. On the other side, you can see the old county coat of arms, supported by Great Bustards.

Cambridge war memorial

War memorial for gas workers

There is a little square and footpath to Tescos off Newmarket Road. In the square is a war memorial which just says "In remembrance of our fellow workers that fell in the Great War" and "in the Second World War" with the names. Tescos was built on the site of the old gas works, and this is the gas workers memorial.


This blue plaque is on the wall of part of Kings College. Originally there were town houses in front of Kings, including this inn. The White Horse Inn was the meeting place in Cambridge for English Protestant reformers who discussed Lutheran ideas, as early as 1521. These included Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Miles Coverdale, Matthew Parker, William Tyndale, Nicholas Shaxton, and John Bale. You can see Latimer's pulpit in St Edwards church.

White Horse Inn

Plaque celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

Gwydir Street is off Mill Road. By the bollards, there is the Gwydir Enterprise centre, and on the wall, there is this Victorian plaque celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.


On the corner of Market Street and Rose Crescent, the shop used to be a tobacconist called Bacon. There is a plaque on the wall in Rose Crescent with a light-hearted poem in praise of tobacco, mentioning Bacon. This was written by Charles Stuart Calverley (1831-1884). He came to Christs College, Cambridge after being expelled from Oxford.

Ode to tobacco

Calvery's Ode To Tobacco
(Written at Cambridge in 1862)
      A tribute to this firm

Thou, who when fears attack
Bidst them avaunt, and Black
Care, at the horseman's back
   Perching, unseatest;
Sweet, when the morn is grey;
Sweet, when they've cleared away
Lunch; and at close of day
   Possibly sweetest:

I have a liking old
For thee, though manifold
Stories, I know, are told
   Not to thy credit;
How one (or two at most)
Drops make a cat a ghost, -
Useless, except to roast -
   Doctors have said it:
How they who use fusees
All grow by slow degrees
Brainless as chimpanzees,
   Meagre as lizards;
Go mad, and beat their wives;
Plunge (after shocking lives)
Razors and carving-knives
   Into their gizzards.

Confound such knavish tricks!
Yet know I five or six
Smokers who freely mix
   Still with their neighbours;
Jones - (who, I'm glad to say,
Asked leave of Mrs. J - )
Daily absorbs a clay
   After his labours.

Cats may have had their goose
Cooked by tobacco-juice;
Still, why deny its use
   Thoughtfully taken?
We're not as tabbies are;
Smith, take a fresh cigar!
Jones, the tobacco jar!
   Here's to thee, Bacon!

"Black care" is an echo of the Latin poet Horace, Odes 3.1.41: post equitem sedet atra Cura (black care sits behind the horseman). A 'fusee' is a match that stays alight even in a strong wind. A 'clay' is 'a clay pipe. It is tempting to say that "Confound such knavish tricks" is an echo from the second verse of the National Anthem (1745) "Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks".


There are some attractive 3D maps in Cambridge. These are not really plaques or notices, but they do use writing - braille. Since the maps are 3D, they can be felt as well as looked at, so they can be used by the blind. Two of them are on Kings Parade, outside Great St Marys church. The other one is near Queens Road, on Queens Green, round the back of Queens college.

3D map outside Great St Marys

Outside Great St Marys

3D map outside Great St Marys

Outside Great St Marys

3D map on Queens Green

On Queens Green


On the wall of Great St Marys church, there is this plaque, which says "This disk marks the datum point from which in 1725 William Warren, Fellow of Trinity Hall, began to measure the one mile points along the roads from Cambridge, at which were set up the first true milestones in Britain since Roman times."

Plaque about milestones on Great St Marys

3D map outside Great St Marys

Here is one of those milestones. It is on Trumpington Road, at the end of Brooklands Avenue. It says "I mile to Great Saint Maries church Cambridge AD MDCCXXVIII". The year is 1728. This milestone is listed, and the listing says that William Warren set up the milestones "under the will of Dr William Mowse Master of Trinity Hall 1552-3. It is a rectangular stone with inset rounded head and has the arms of Trinity Hall impaling Mowse and a pointing hand." I think that the name Cambridge was removed during WWII to confuse the Germans, and now replaced.


Godmanchester turnpike

High on the wall of Kettles Yard new building, on Castle Street, there is this notice about an old turnpike road. A turnpike is a road for which a driver pays a toll or a fee for use.

The content of the notice are given to the right (in case you can't read it from the photo). There are two separate signs. The top one ends with an upward pointing arrow, presumably marking the precise end of the road. The bottom one has a faint hand pointing to the right, to Godmanchester, which is near Huntingdon.

There are 8 furlongs to a mile, so the distance is 23.34 kilometres.

GODMANCHESTER
TURNPIKE ROAD ENDS
HERE

To
the Horse-fhoe Corner
GODMANCHESTER
14 miles 4 furlongs


Sign on pub

King Street is famous for its pubs, and notorious for the King Street Run, a pub crawl where people try to drink in every pub in the street. Luckily there are less pubs than there used to be.

The Champion of the Thames is one of these pubs. It has this sign on the corner, possibly directed towards the King Street Run. It says "This HOUSE is dedicated towards those splendid FELLOWS who make DRINKING a pleasure, who reach CONTENTMENT before CAPACITY and who, whatever the DRINK, can take it, hold it, enjoy it, and STILL remain GENTLEMEN"

Kings Street is not near Kings Parade by the way. Cambridge enjoys having similar street names for roads in different parts of the city!


The railway came to Cambridge in 1845. The station has shields decorating its front, along the top. They are given below, in order. These are from the coats of arms of the colleges of Cambridge University. They are mostly the undergraduate colleges. One shield is very overgrown, but it looks like Robinson College. There are also Wolfson College, Clare Hall and Darwin College, which are post-graduate colleges. Christs College and St Johns College share the same coat of arms as they were both founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort. There is also the shields of Cambridge University and the City of Cambridge, with four shields between them of local worthies. One surprise is that Newnham College is missing. Click here for Newnham's college arms. Homerton College is also missing, but that used to train teachers, and has only recently become a general undergraduate college. The other missing colleges are Hughes Hall, St Edmund's College and Lucy Cavendish College, which take post-graduates. Click here for more information on Cambridge colleges.

On the northern building (on the left, facing the buildings): Robinson College (overgrown), Wolfson College, New Hall, Clare Hall, Darwin College, Churchill College, Selwyn College
On the north side of the main building: Magdalene College, Christs College / St Johns College
On the front of the main building (1845): St Catharines College, Kings College, Trinity Hall, Pembroke College, Peterhouse, City of Cambridge, 7th Duke of Leeds (High Steward of Cambridge ?-?), 4th Earl of Hardwicke (Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire 1834-1873), 3rd Duke of Northumberland (Chancellor of Cambridge University 1840-1847), 1st Baron Lyndhust (High Steward of Cambridge University 1840-1863), Cambridge University, Clare College, Gonville and Caius College, Corpus Christi College, Queens College, Jesus College
On the south side of the main building: Sidney Sussex College
On the southern building (on the right, facing the buildings): Trinity College, Emmanuel College, Downing College, Fitzwilliam College, Girton College
I have added, at the end, the old fashioned blue police lamp, above the door of the railway police station.

Robinson College
Robinson College

Wolfson College
Wolfson College

New Hall
New Hall (now Murray Edwards)

Clare  Hall
Clare Hall

Darwin College
Darwin College

Churchill College
Churchill College

Selwyn College
Selwyn College

Magdalene College
Magdalene College

Christs College / St Johns College
Christs College / St Johns College

St Catharines College
St Catharines College

Kings College
Kings College

Trinity Hall
Trinity Hall

Pembroke College
Pembroke College

Peterhouse
Peterhouse

City of Cambridge
City of Cambridge

7th Duke of Leeds (High Steward of Cambridge) ?-?
7th Duke of Leeds
High Steward of Cambridge
?-?

4th Earl of Hardwicke (Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire(1834-1873)
4th Earl of Hardwicke
Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire
1834-1873

3rd Duke of Northumberland (Chancellor of Cambridge University 1840-1847)
3rd Duke of Northumberland
Chancellor of Cambridge University
1840-1847

1st Baron Lyndhust (High Steward of Cambridge University 1840-1863)
1st Baron Lyndhust
High Steward of Cambridge University
1840-1863

Cambridge University
Cambridge University

Clare College
Clare College

Gonville and Caius College
Gonville and Caius College

Corpus Christi College
Corpus Christi College

Queens College
Queens College

Jesus College
Jesus College

Sidney Sussex College
Sidney Sussex College

Trinity College
Trinity College

Emmanuel College
Emmanuel College

Downing College
Downing College

Fitzwilliam College
Fitzwilliam College

Girton College
Girton College

Blue police lamp
Blue police lamp

Cambridge rail station
Cambridge rail station
showing some of the shields