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Cambridge History!

Cambridge is most famous for its historic university. However, Cambridge is far older than the university. Quayside

The original settlement was north of the river, on Castle Hill. There is evidence for pre-Roman activity in the area, but the Romans built the first town. It was a convenient crossing point of the river Cam, on the edge of the marshy fen land. The town was a port, since it was the head of the navigation of what was then known as the River Granta. The area by Magdalene Bridge is still known as Quayside, although now it only has punts.

In Anglo Saxon times, there was a settlement on Castle Hill, since it could be defended, and another close to St Benedict's Church (or St Bene't's as it's known in Cambridge). The tower of St Bene't's is Saxon, which makes it the oldest building in Cambridge. The city at the time was called Grantabrycge. At one time it came under Danish rule. St Clement's Church is near Quayside, and this dedication is common in Danish settlements. The Great Bridge (later replaced by Magdalene Bridge) may have built by King Offa (756 - 793). It was the last river crossing until King's Lynn. Cambridge had good trading links to the Continent and a market, and became prosperous.

The Normans built a castle on Castle Hill in 1068. It was particularly important to fortify Cambridge, since Hereward the Wake was defying Norman rule in Ely. All that is left of the castle is Castle Mound in the grounds of Shire Hall, off Castle Hill, belonging to Cambridgeshire County Council. If you climb to the top of the mound, you get a good view of Cambridge. It is the highest point of Cambridge, and allegedly, if you go north in a straight line, there is no higher ground until you reach the North Pole!

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (usually known in Cambridge as the Round Church) is one of only four round Norman church in England. They were built by the Knights Templar. The round arches are typical of Norman church architecture.

By now, the town was known as Grentebrige or Cantebrigge. Eventually the name became Cambridge. However, the river was still called the Granta. Someone thought "Cambridge must be the bridge over the Cam, so the river should be called the Cam instead of the Granta", and so the river's name was changed! Upstream, where it flows through Grantchester, the River is still called the Granta. The Latin name for Cambridge is Cantabrigia, which is why degrees are called Cantab. However, this was not the Roman name for the town, which is unknown.

Barnwell Priory was founded in 1092, originally on Castle Hill, but later moved to area now known as Riverside, by the Elizabeth Way bridge. There is little left now apart from a church, St Andrews the Less, and a building known as the Cellarer's Checker. There were many other religious houses founded in Cambridge, including St Rhadegund's Nunnery, which gave its name to Maid's Causeway, and later became Jesus College. King John granted a charter to Cambridge in 1201 and the charter of 1207 is still in the possession of the city council.

The first recorded date connected with Cambridge University was 1209, when some Oxford students moved to Cambridge. Peterhouse, the first college, was founded in 1284. From this point, various colleges were founded. Some amalgamated previous colleges, or took over from priories (such as St Rhadegund). Corpus Christi was founded by the Guilds of Cambridge. As the university grew, trouble broke out between Town (the people who lived in Cambridge) and Gown (the students). The centre of the town was now definitely within the loop of the river, although you can still see older houses on the lower parts of Castle Hill, such as the Cambridge Folk Museum.

In 1614, Cambridge needed a new water supply. Thomas Hobson built a causeway bringing water from springs at Nine Wells near Shelford outside Cambridge into the city centre. The channels still run along Trumpington Street, although the conduit head has been moved from the market place to the corner of Lensfield Road. Thomas Hobson hired out horses, but hirers had to take the horse closest to the door. This led to the expression "Hobson's Choice" meaning "No choice"!