Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


This article is about Cambridge, England; see also Cambridge, Massachusetts and other towns called Cambridge.

King's College Chapel, seen from The Backs

The city of Cambridge is an old English University town and the regional centre of the county of Cambridgeshire. It lies approximately 80 kilometers or 50 miles north of London and is surrounded by a number of smaller towns and villages. It is best known for the University of Cambridge, including the world-renowned Cavendish Laboratories (named after Henry Cavendish), the choir of King's College chapel, and the University Library. The Cambridge skyline is dominated by the last two.

According to the 2001 census, the population was 108,863 (including 22,153 students).

Latitude 52°12'N, Longitude 0°07'E.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Local Government
3 Transport
4 Sport
5 See also
6 External Links


Settlements have existed around the area since before the Roman Empire. The earliest clear evidence of occupation, a collection of hunting weapons, is from the Late Bronze Age, starting around 1000BC. There is further archaeological evidence through the Iron Age, a Belgic tribe having settled on Castle Hill in the 1st century BC.

The first major development of the area began with the Roman invasion around 40 AD. Castle Hill made Cambridge a useful place for a military outpost from which to defend the River Cam. It was also the crossing point for the Via Devana which linked Colchester in Essex with the garrisons at Lincoln and the north. This Roman settlement may have been called Durolipons.

The settlement remained a regional centre during the 350 years after the Roman occupation, until about 400 AD. Roman roads and walled enclosures can still be seen in the area.

After the Romans had left, Saxons took over the land on and around Castle Hill. Their grave goods have been found in the area. During Anglo-Saxon times Cambridge benefitted from good trade links across the otherwise hard-to-travel fenlands. By the 7th century AD, however, visitors from nearby Ely reported that Cambridge had declined severely. Cambridge is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Grantebrycge. This is the earliest known reference to a bridge at Cambridge.

The arrival of the Vikings in Cambridge was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 875. Viking rule, the Danelaw, had been imposed by 878. The Vikings' vigorous trading habits caused Cambridge to grow rapidly. During this period the centre of the town shifted from Castle Hill on the left bank of the river to the area now known as the Quayside on the right bank. After the end of the Viking period the Saxons enjoyed a brief return to power, building St. Benet's church in 1025. It still stands in Bene't Street.

Two years after his conquest of England, William of Normandy built a castle on Castle Hill. Like the rest of the new kingdom, Cambridge fell under the control of the King and his deputies. The distinctive Round Church dates from this period. By Norman times the name of the town had mutated to Grentabrige or Cantebrigge, while the river that flowed through it was called the Granta. Over time the name of the town changed to Cambridge, while the river Cam was still known as the Granta - indeed the river is still often known as the Granta to this day. It was only later that the river became known as the Cam, by analogy with the name Cambridge.

One of the first educational establishments in Cambridge was the School of Pythagoras, founded in 1200, whose building still stands in the grounds of St. John's College, Cambridge.

Beginnings of the University

In 1209, students escaping from violence in Oxford fled to Cambridge and formed a University here. The first college, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284. One of the most impressive buildings in Cambridge, King's College Chapel, was begun in 1446 by King Henry IV. The project was completed in 1515 during the reign of King Henry VIII.

Cambridge University Press originated with a printing licence issued in 1534. Hobson's Conduit, the first project to bring clean drinking water to the town centre, was built in 1610. Parts of it survive today. Addenbrookes's Hospital was founded in 1719. The railway and station were built in 1845. According to legend, the University dictated their location: well away from the centre of town, so that the possibility of quick access to London would not distract students from their work.

Despite having a University, Cambridge was not granted its city charter until 1951. Cambridge does not have a cathedral, which is normally a pre-requisite for city status.

Cambridge Today

Drawing on its links with the University, Cambridge today is at the heart of Silicon Fen, the growth of high tech businesses and technology incubators that have sprung up in the series of science parks and other developments in and around the city. The University was joined by the larger part of Anglia Polytechnic University, and the educational reputation has led to other bodies (such as the Open University in East Anglia) basing themselves in the city.

Local Government

Cambridge is served by Cambridge City Council, a city council belonging to Cambridgeshire County Council. The city council's headquarters are in the Guildhall, an imposing building in the market square.

For electoral purposes the city is divided into the following wards:

1957, Cambridge has been twinned with Heidelberg, an old university town in Germany. It was also twinned with Szeged in Hungary in 1987.



Because of its rapid growth since the
20th century, Cambridge has a congested road network. Several major roads intersect at Cambridge. The M11 motorway from east London terminates here. The A14 (formerly A45) east-west trunk route skirts the northern edge of the city. This is a major freight route connecting the port of Felixstowe on the east coast with the Midlands, North Wales, the west coast and Ireland. The A10, a former Roman road from north London, passes round the city on its way to Ely and King's Lynn. Other roads connect the city with Bedford, St Neots, Newmarket and Colchester.

The city has a ring road about 2km in diameter, inside which there are traffic restrictions intended to reduce congestion in the centre. It has a well developed park-and-ride bus service encouraging motorists to park near the city's edge.


Cambridge station was built in 1845. Cambridge has a direct rail links to King's Cross and Liverpool Street stations in London, and to the cities of Liverpool, Birmingham, Kings Lynn, Ely and Norwich. Occasional diesel trains serve London Stansted Airport . The important UK rail hubs of Peterborough and Crewe are also within direct reach of Cambridge.


Cambridge has an airport, owned by Marshall Aerospace who are capable of adapting and fitting out military transports, airliners and corporate jets. The runway can accommodate an unladen Boeing 747 or MD-11, although passenger services are flown by 32 seat twin-turboprop types, such as those owned by Scot Airways. A dealer in
fibreglass-moulded light monoplanes is also based here. Redevelopment of the airport is under discussion in 2002/03.


As a university town lying on fairly flat ground and with traffic congestion, Cambridge has a large number of cyclists. Many residents also prefer cycling to driving in the narrow, busy streets, giving the city the highest level of cycle use in the UK. The main organisation campaigning to improve conditions for cyclists in Cambridge is
Cambridge Cycling Campaign. The city will also soon be linked to the growing National Cycle Network.


Cambridge is home to Cambridge United F.C, who play in the Football League at the Abbey Stadium, and also to non-league Cambridge City F.C, who play at Milton Road in Chesterton.

The town is also known for the University sporting events against Oxford, especially the Rugby Union Varsity match and the Boat Race. These are followed by people who have no connection to the institutions themselves.

See also

External Links