Walk 102: Cambridge City Walk: The Art Trail

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2.96 miles (4.77 km)

Time to walk: A couple of hours, but if the colleges are open (they weren’t when we walked this in September 2017) you might want to visit & take considerably longer. Factor in looking round the Fitzwilliam Museum as well

Difficulty: Flat & all on hard footpaths

Parking: Park outside the City & use the Park & Ride

Public toilets: Cafes, bars etc all over the route

Map of the route:

We love Cambridge…not as much as Oxford, but we love wandering around the city, the old colleges, the history, the architecture, the cafes & pubs, & just the ambience of the whole place

So we jumped at the chance to work there again as it offered a chance to explore some more of this fascinating city. We’d already done a walk around the city centre & colleges (See Walk 7 under the ‘Walks outside Northamptonshire’ tab), so were looking for a short evening walk we could do after work

What we found was the Cambridge Art Trail which takes in a few of the colleges that we knew would be closed, but we still thought it worth a stroll as there were a few things we hadn’t seen before. It turned out to be quite a surprise so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Todays walk starts outside the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum building…

The museum was founded in 1816 with the legacy of the library & art collection of the 7th Viscount FitzWilliam. The bequest also included £100,000 “to cause to be erected a good substantial museum repository”. The collection was initially placed in the old Perse School building in Free School Lane. It was moved in 1842 to the Old Schools (at that time the University Library)

The “Founder’s Building” itself was designed by George Basevi, completed by CR Cockerell & opened in 1848. The entrance hall is by Edward Middleton Barry & was completed in 1875. The first stone of the new building was laid by Gilbert Ainslie in 1837. A further large bequest was made to the University in 1912 by Charles Brinsley Marlay, including a sum of £80,000 & a collection of 84 pictures. A 2 storey extension, paid for partly by the Courtauld family, was added in 1931

The museum has five departments: Antiquities; Applied Arts; Coins & Medals; Manuscripts & Printed Books; Paintings, Drawings & Prints

The museum has a particularly extensive collection of Turner, which has its origins in a set of 25 watercolour drawings donated to the university by John Ruskin in 1861. Sir Sydney Cockerell, who was serving as director of the museum at the time, went on to acquire a further 8 Turner watercolours & some of his writings

2. Facing the building turn right & walk along Trumpington Street…

…passing the lovely Peterhouse College on the left

Peterhouse is the oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, & granted its charter by King Edward I. It’s one of the wealthiest colleges in Cambridge, with assets including property in central London such as the Albany apartment complex in Piccadilly. Peterhouse is one of the few colleges that still seeks to insist that its members attend communal dinners, known as “Hall”

“Hall” takes place in two sittings, with the second known as “Formal Hall”, which consists of a three course candlelit meal & which must be attended wearing gowns. At Formal Hall, the students rise as the fellows proceed in, a gong is rung, & two Latin graces are read

3. Continue along Trumpington Street…

The large church on the left’s Emmanuel United Reformed Church. Historically a congregational church, Emmanuel voted to join the new United Reformed Church in 1972. In addition to its Sunday worship, Emmanuel runs several community activities, a volunteer staffed fairtrade cafe, a series of lunchtime music recitals & a share in Hope Cambridge’s Churches Homeless Project

The church has gone by different names over the years, first as the Hog Hill Independent Church & then the Emmanuel Congregational Chapel or Church

4. At the first junction turn right up Pembroke Street, leading into Downing Street…

Before reaching the hotel, turn right into the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology & pass under the arch towards the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

5. Look on the ground to see two bronze footsteps…

The footprints are those of Anthony Gormley who is famous for using casts of his own body including the amazing Angel of the North, & Another Place on Crosby Beach – love his work

The bizarre, & unseen thing, about this is the the rest of Anthony Gormley is he’s upside down under the pavement!! A full size statue of him was inverted so only the soles of his feet were left showing

The piece is called ‘Earthbound Plant’ & the Museum grounds are a superb place for it

6. Come back out of the courtyard, cross the road & walk down Corn Exchange Street…

The large brick building on the left at the bottom’s the Cambridge Corn Exchange, one of the best music venues around. Turn left past the front of it – tonight the Australian Pink Floyd were playing

7. Walk down Wheeler Street into Bene’t Street past an old friend we’ve visited several times before on our visits to Cambridge & it deserves another mention…The Eagle

Originally opened in 1667 as the “Eagle & Child”, The Eagle is one of the larger pubs in Cambridge. The site is owned by Corpus Christi College & is managed by Greene King brewery

When the university’s Cavendish Laboratory was still at its old site at nearby Free School Lane, the pub was a popular lunch destination for staff working there. Thus, it became the place where Francis Crick interrupted patrons’ lunchtime on 28 February 1953 to announce that he & James Watson had “discovered the secret of life” after they had come up with their proposal for the structure of DNA. The anecdote is related in Watson’s book The Double Helix & is commemorated on a blue plaque next to the entrance, & two plaques in the middle room by the table where Crick & Watson lunched regularly

Aside from the announcement of the discovery of DNA, The Eagle is perhaps best known for its RAF bar. The ceiling is covered in the graffiti of British & American WWII pilots who burned their names & squadron numbers there using cigarette lighters, candles & lipstick. These were hidden by decades of smoke & grime until former RAF technician James Chainey painstakingly restored & recorded the inscriptions. These include a naked woman drawn in lipstick, apparently the outline of the pub landlady!

Walk into the back yard & look up at the small open window on the left…

A fire raged through the upstairs bedrooms a few hundred years ago & a young child, unable to open the window, was trapped inside & burnt to death. Ever since, the window has been kept open, & on occasions when it has been closed, it has brought bad luck, or has mysteriously opened itself. It’s even claimed that it is now written into the lease that the window must always remain open

8. Continue to the junction with Kings Parade to find, on the left The Corpus Clock, which is a large sculptural clock on the outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. It was conceived & funded by John C. Taylor, an old member of the college & officially unveiled to the public on 19 September 2008 by Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking

The clock’s face is a 24 carat gold-plated stainless steel disc. It has no hands or numerals, but displays the time by opening individual slits in the clock face backlit with blue LEDs

The dominating visual feature of the clock is a grim looking metal sculpture of an insect similar to a grasshopper or locust. It moves its mouth, appearing to “eat up” the seconds as they pass, & occasionally it “blinks” in seeming satisfaction. The creature’s constant motion produces an eerie grinding sound that suits its task. The hour is tolled by the sound of a chain clanking into a small wooden coffin hidden in the back of the clock

Taylor deliberately designed it to be “terrifying”: “Basically I view time as not on your side. He’ll eat up every minute of your life, & as soon as one has gone he’s salivating for the next.” Others have described it as “hypnotically beautiful & deeply disturbing”

9. Straight across Kings Parade’s another blur plaque commemorating a place where Alan Turing was a student & then a Fellow…

Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science & artificial intelligence. During World War II, Turing worked for the Government Code & Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. For a time he led Hut 8, the section which was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Here he devised a number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bombe method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine. Turing played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic, & in so doing helped win the war

Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts & accepted chemical castration treatment. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as suicide. In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated.” Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013

10. Walk along Kings Parade past Kings College

King’s was founded in 1441 by Henry VI, soon after he had founded its sister college in Eton. However, the King’s plans for the college were disrupted by the Wars of the Roses & resultant scarcity of funds, & his eventual deposition. Little progress was made on the project until in 1508 Henry VII began to take an interest in the college, most likely as a political move to legitimise his new position. The building of the college’s chapel, begun in 1446, was finally finished in 1544 during the reign of Henry VIII

11. At the junction with Gonville & Caius turn left down Senate Passage…

…& then follow it left down towards Kings College Chapel – this beautiful area is typical of old Cambridge

King’s College Chapel is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture. It has the world’s largest fan vault & the chapel’s stained glass windows & wooden chancel screen are considered some of the finest from their era. The chapel’s choir, composed of male students at King’s & choristers from the nearby King’s College School, is one of the most accomplished & renowned in the world. Every year on Christmas Eve the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols is broadcast from the chapel to millions of listeners worldwide

12. Turn right & walk through stunning Clare College

Clare College was founded in 1326 as University Hall, making it the second oldest surviving college of the University after Peterhouse. It was refounded in 1338 as Clare Hall by an endowment from Elizabeth de Clare. Clare is famous for its chapel choir & for its gardens on “The Backs” (the back of the colleges that overlook the River Cam).

Walk straight through the middle of the college & through to the river…

13. Continue up the tree lined path, cross the Queen’s Road at the pelican crossing & enter the other part of Clare College, Memorial & Ashby Courts…

Look across to the left to see a large sculpture called DNA Double Helix. We’ve already mentioned the discovery of the structure of DNA by Francis Crick & James Watson & this piece of art was made to celebrate that by Charles Jencks in 2005

14. Walk up the college steps & through into the courtyard where there’s an usual bronze sculpture by Henry Moore called ‘Falling Warrior’

Look closely at the statue as there are actually very few points where it actually touches the base & captures a person falling. Moore was influenced by the casts at Pompeii & also some Picasso paintings

15. Come back out of the main gates & cross Queens Road at the pelican crossing…

…to walk down the rather picturesque Garrett Hostel Lane

16. At the end, cross over the bridge which is at least the eighth one on this site between the colleges of Trinity & Trinity Hall. The current design is by Timothy Guy Morgan, who at the time was an undergraduate student at Jesus College, after an open competition. Morgan died in 1960, before the bridge was completed. It was one of the first post-tensioned concrete bridges in the country

The modern building on the right’s the Jerwood Library which was finished in 1998 & it’s funny how this building fits in superbly with its older surroundings. There was a bit of tradition happening on the Cam too…

17. We’re now back into the more traditional streets of Cambridge so at the end of the road turn left into Trinity Lane & follow it round to the right…

At the T-junction cross straight over into lovely Rose Crescent. This looked even better in the early evening with all the lights coming on

18. At the end emerge onto Market Street…

Market Hill has operated as a marketplace since Saxon times & a daily outdoor market continues to run there. Turn left along Market Street…

…& then right along Sidney Street, where at the junction we arrive at Christ’s College

19. The college was founded by William Byngham in 1437 as God’s House. In 1505 the college was granted a new royal charter, was given a substantial endowment by Lady Margaret Beaufort, & changed its name to Christ’s College, becoming the twelfth of the Cambridge colleges to be founded in its current form. The college is renowned for educating some of Cambridge’s most famous alumni, including Charles Darwin & John Milton

Within Cambridge, Christ’s has a reputation for strong academic performance & tutorial support. As of 2015, it had an endowment of £157 million, making it one of the wealthier colleges in Cambridge

It was closed when we were there, but if you walk in & enter Christ’s College Chapel you’ll see Anthony Caro’s ‘The Deposition’

Also available to see in the college gardens are ‘A Pattern of Life’ by Tim Harrisson &, in the Darwin Garden, a sculpture of Charles Darwin as a young man by Anthony Smith

20. It was really getting dark now so we come back out of Christ’s College & turn right up Hobson Street…

Halfway along on the left is what remains of the beautiful old art-deco Central Cinema.The Central Cinema was first opened as a single level, 525 seat cinema on 27th August 1921. In July 1923, it was closed to be enlarged to 778 seats, reopening on 11th October 1923. The ‘old’ Central Cinema was closed at the end of May 1930, & was demolished

On the site was built a ‘new’ Central Cinema, which had seating for 1,069 in stalls & circle. The facade was covered with white tiles, & in a central position on top of the facade was a large globe. The decorative treatment was in a mix of Egyptian & Art Deco styles. The Central Cinema opened on 11th October 1930 with Harold Lloyd in “Welcome Danger”

It was badly damaged by a fire on 25th April 1939, which resulted in the collapse of the roof. ABC began work immediately to rebuild the cinema, but things slowed down at the outbreak of World War II. Work had progressed so far, as a new roof had been installed, that they were allowed to continue, & it re-opened on 11th November 1940

The cinema was closed by ABC in January 1972 but was a Bingo Club but was closed in May 2009, a victim of the recently introduced Government ban on smoking in public places. There are currently to plans to reopen it as a cafe & community facility

21. On the corner of King Street & Malcolm Street’s dArrys Liquor & Loft Restaurant

The reason it caught our eye on this ‘Art Trail’ was for the rather interesting sign hanging outside on the wall

22. Turn left down Malcolm Street. On the right’s the large, modern & welcoming Cambridge Brew House which has its own on-site micro brewery…

Walk to the bottom of Malcolm Street & turn right into Jesus Lane…

23. Across the road at the pelican’s Jesus College

Jesus College’s full name is The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist & the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund. Its common name comes from the name of its chapel, Jesus Chapel. The College was established between 1496 & 1516 on the site of the 12th century Benedictine nunnery of St Mary & St Radegund by John Alcock, then Bishop of Ely. The cockerel is a symbol of Jesus College, after the surname of its founder

Again we couldn’t get in, but if you can, there’s quite a few sculptures to be seen around the grounds in the college including William Turnbull’s ‘Head’, Eduardo Paolozzi’s ‘Daedalus on Wheels’ & Danny Lane’s ‘Empress’

24. Come back out onto Jesus Lane & turn right towards the city centre again…

…& then right again into the lively Bridge Street

25. After a couple of hundred yards on the right’s one of Cambridge’s oldest buildings…the Church of the Holy Sepulchre otherwise known as ‘The Round Church”

The church was built around 1130, its shape being inspired by the rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. It’s one of only four medieval round churches still in existence in England. It was built by the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre, who were probably a group of Austin canons. Initially it was a wayfarers’ chapel on the Roman road known as Via Devana, but by the middle of the 13th century it had become a parish church under the patronage of Barnwell Priory. Many rebuilding & additions have taken place over the years

26. There’s several very good pubs & eating establishments along Bridge Street…

…including some that overlook the river as we cross the bridge

27. Just over the bridge’s Magdalene College which was founded in 1428 as a Benedictine hostel, in time coming to be known as Buckingham College, before being refounded in 1542 as the College of St Mary Magdalene

Magdalene counted some of the greatest men in the realm among its benefactors, including Britain’s premier noble the Duke of Norfolk, the Duke of Buckingham & Lord Chief Justice Christopher Wray. The college’s most famous alumnus is the 17th century chronicler Samuel Pepys. His papers & books were donated to the college upon his death & are housed in the Pepys Library in the Pepys Building

Magdalene is noted for its ‘traditional’ style: it boasts a well-regarded candlelit formal hall (held every evening) & was the last all male colleges in Oxford or Cambridge to admit women in 1988. This change resulted in protests by some male undergraduates, including the wearing of black armbands & flying the college flag at half-mast

28. At the crossroad walk straight over passing the Museum of Cambridge which was formerly known as the Cambridge & County Folk Museum & is housed in eight rooms in the former White Horse Inn, a public house that closed in 1934. The museum presents the lives of the people of Cambridge & its surrounding area from 1700 onwards. The collection includes objects covering applied art, coins, costumes, decorative art, fine art, hobbies, law & order, medals, medicine, music, social history, textiles & toys

The museum is supported by Cambridge City Council, the National Lottery, through the Heritage Lottery Fund, & two local organisations

29. On the left’s the end of our journey…Kettle’s Yard which was founded by Jim Ede, a former curator of the Tate Gallery. It was originally their Cambridge home & after moving to Cambridge in 1956, they converted four small cottages into one idiosyncratic house & a place to display Ede’s collection of early 20th century art. Ede maintained an ‘open house’ each afternoon, giving any visitors a personal tour of his collection

In 1966, Ede gave the house & collection to the University of Cambridge, but continued living there before moving to Edinburgh in 1973

Today, the house is preserved as the Edes left it, making a very informal space to enjoy the permanent collection & live music. An appeal to help extend & enhance the gallery raised £8,000,000

So Kettle’s Yard is where our look at the Cambridge Art Trail ends. It was a shame that we couldn’t get into see some of the art in the colleges, but then we did walk after closing time so bear that in mind!

It has however given us a different perspective on a city we thought we knew quite well. Our favourite bit? Definitely Anthony Gormley’s upside down statue!

Go Walk