Sunday, 16 September 2012

John's Adventures In John's

At St John's College they charge you £4 to enter. A man at the gate takes your money and hands you a leaflet. It tells you where you may go and what you should notice.

The Front Gate dating from 1516

Many signs tell you where you may not go. Areas are roped off. Members of the college only. Visitors this way.

The nineteenth-century Chapel
the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott

Having duly noted the statue of the foundress of the college, Lady Margaret Beaufort, and the outline of the former chapel which can be seen on the lawn, I then duly missed the sign which said No Photography In The Chapel.

A smartly dressed man appeared out of the shadows and told me not to take any more photos. I mumbled incoherently like a schoolboy caught looking at pictures of naughty ladies. He didn't say what I should do with the photo I'd already taken.

A blend of old and new

I scuttled out into the sunshine of Chapel Court, noted all the features which the leaflet advised that I should note, and made my way along the designated route to Third Court and the famous Bridge Of Sighs. Here, rather surprisingly, one of the college staff greeted me warmly and pointed me towards the location of a conference on comparative religion! My camera was stuffed in my pocket at the time and, with my spectacles, long greying hair and wild beard, I can only assume I was mistaken for some visiting eccentric academic.

Inside the Bridge Of Sighs

Thus emboldened I wandered past the signs which were trying their best to divert me away from the Bridge Of Sighs and surreptitiously took a few snaps. The bridge gets its name from its somewhat tenuous similarity to a bridge of the same name in Venice - both are covered bridges. But, whereas the Venetian version leads from the courts of justice and was covered to prevent sentenced criminals throwing themselves into the canal, the one here was covered to stop raindrops pattering down on the heads of the privileged. 

It's a beautiful structure nonetheless and can be seen to best advantage from neighbouring St John's Bridge, this is the way you're supposed to go. And from here you go to Queen's Road, go directly to Queen's Road, do not pass go, do not sneak into any buildings along the way, do not go by devious routes in order to take nice pictures.

New Court

You go past New Court, which is actually 180 years old, and for me always the epitome of the College Backs though it is not without its architectural critics. There were signs for the Conference pointing into New Court, so in my new persona of The Rev Dr John Blogger, Emeritus Professor of Applied Misidentification, University Of Stargoose and Hanglands, I went investigating.

The cloisters leading from the Bridge Of Sighs

A man who looked very much like a former Member Of Parliament nodded in a friendly way as he hurried past. I carried on to the modern Cripps Building.

Since I didn't want to end up in a religious conference I beat a hasty retreat but then couldn't resist wandering round the huge lawns that back down on to the river. 

A delightful young lady was making a delightful sketch of the scene. I couldn't help noticing her despite the guidebook failing to give her a mention.

"Over Bridge Of Sighs
to rest my eyes in shades of green,
Under dreaming spires
to Itchycoo Park that's where I've been"

I followed the path around and exited through the obvious gate. It had an obvious sign on it  "Members Of The University Only".

Take care.   


  1. What a lovely post John. I went there with a friend and her parents when I was in my early teens - her father worked for a betting firm with their headquarters in Newmarket and we stayed there but spent several days walking around the Cambridge collleges and punting on the Cam

  2. Fantastic post John, full of fascinating photography and descriptions... I love your sense of humor :^) I have committed the sin of photographing where I shouldn't, and have been duly scolded for it. Places around the Charleston harbor where the ports thrive are off limits to photographers due to national security issues.

  3. He he, I enjoyed that naughty little trip.

  4. John, I enjoyed your post tremendously today. I always pick up the brochures and skim the contents, but I notice what I damn well feel like noticing! The art of taking the unauthorized and surreptitious photo is one of a photographer's most valuable skills.

  5. nice tour..our little cameras are so subversive--but I was thrilled to find that I could take photos in the British Museum--and the Louvre.
    Documentation that I actually saw things that had been in my history books!

    inside the Bridge of Sighs (sigh)--so THAT'S what it looks like!

    1. looking at those lovely pics me thinks you should be working for the city's tourist board

  6. I shall add this small tour to my memories of Cambridge from last year where I didn't get into any of the colleges (it was exam time) and so wasn't in a position to be told not to take pictures.
    More importantly, the man in the smart coat didn't tell you what you shouldn't do with the pictures.

  7. What a lovely tour through your neck of the woods (and what a neck it is!). This brought back wonderful memories, as I always think this area of England is one of the most beautiful - no I'm not biased at all! Thank you for going 'off-tour'.

  8. You're a man after my own heart, John. Get those shots! Damn the conformists! Maybe if we create a diversion .........

  9. Love the inside of the Bridge of Sighs... the light is stunning!

  10. Lovely little peek into the chapel and through the Bridge of Sighs (what a fantastic name)John, or is that Prof. haha!I reckon it's totally worth the 4 pounds to have a look around here even with the restrictions (which you've shown us can be overcome!!).

  11. You have been naughty, John, but nevertheless enjoyed your tour and surreptitious pictures immensely.

  12. Loved your commentary! Great photos, made even better by becoming 'Professor' for the day and getting an 'access all area pass'!

  13. Marvellous capture inside St John's - the ceiling and flooring are captivating. The cloisters also gets my vote - wonderful stonework. Glad you were able to get some shots in before being caught out!

  14. Brilliant post. Enjoyed the photos and appreciated your somewhat acerbic commentary- made me chuckle :) Elizabeth


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