Christ's stands right in the city centre and has some of the nicest gardens to wander around, but despite this it's not visited by the hordes of tourists who descend on King's, Trinity and St John's. It was originally founded in 1437 as God's House, then re-founded in 1505 as Christ's College. It's by no means unique in being founded twice; it usually happened when a small establishment was given money to allow it to increase in size, or when the original set-up had run out of money.
Famous alumni: John Milton, Charles Darwin.
Corpus Christi College
Not to be confused with Christ's (or indeed Jesus) College, Corpus Christi is one of the smaller, but also one of the wealthier, colleges. It's well worth looking around as it has the oldest courtyard of any of the colleges. Its library contains a priceless collection of Medieval manuscripts.
Famous alumni: Christopher Marlowe (dramatist), Archbishop Matthew Parker.
Downing was founded in 1800 to promote the study of Law and Medicine. It has a very different feel from the central colleges being set out around large lawns and mostly built in a classical style. It has the reputation of being the most ecologically conscious of all the Cambridge colleges.
Famous alumni: Sir Robert Jennings (President of the International Court of Justice) and the comedian John Cleese.
Emmanuel was founded in 1584, originally to train Protestant preachers. It's just a few minutes walk from the city centre and has interesting buildings and glorious gardens, but unaccountably gets very few tourists (Sssshh! Don't tell anyone).Famous alumni: John Harvard (founder of Harvard University), Sir Richard Attenborough (actor and film-maker).
It's full name is "The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, near Cambridge" but takes its modern name from the Jesus Chapel, around which it was founded from 1496. Despite its old name ending "near Cambridge" it's fairly central, the city having grown out to surround it, but it still has extensive grounds and feels like it's in the countryside.
Famous alumni: Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet).
This is what people picture (minus the ducks perhaps) when they think of Cambridge University. King's College Chapel is huge and far too big to serve the College. It's also one of the great buildings of England and a truly awe-inspiring space in which to stand. Of course you won't be standing there alone, though it's very seldom crowded and doesn't detract from the splendour at all. Don't under any circumstances leave Cambridge without visiting!
Famous alumni: John Maynard Keynes (economist), Alan Turing (computer scientist), Robert Walpole (first British Prime Minister) and novelists E M Forster and Zadie Smith.
The idea of women being admitted to Cambridge University took a long time to come about and Newnham, a college for female students, was part of that process, being established in 1871. It's only 10 minutes walk from the touristy part of Cambridge but not on the average tourist's radar though it's actually one of the most beautiful colleges with great gardens.
Famous alumnae: Rosalind Franklin (physicist), Dame Iris Murdoch (novelist), Sylvia Plath (poet).
The oldest (1284) and the smallest of the Cambridge colleges. It has a large area of parkland and gardens, which most visitors never find, and a wonderful show of daffodils in early Spring. Like many of the colleges there's very little to tell you that you are allowed to wander around, but nothing to tell you you can't.
Famous alumni: Charles Babbage (computing pioneer), Sir Frank Whittle (inventor of the jet engine), Thomas Gray (poet), Michael Portillo (politician and TV presenter).
Like almost all Cambridge colleges, Pembroke has increased in size over the centuries since its founding, which in the case of Pembroke was in 1347, hence there is a wide variety of architectural styles. A pleasant place for a wander, quite close to the main area for tourists but not that much visited.
Famous alumni: Pitt The Younger (youngest ever British Prime Minister), Ted Hughes (poet), Edmund Spenser (Elizabethan poet).
Dating from 1448, Queens' is one of the group of older colleges to be found right in the centre of Cambridge. It may not have such grandiose buildings as nearby King's but its courtyards have a quirky charm and it always seems rather more laid back than some of its neighbours.
Famous alumni: Erasmus (theologian), T H White (author), Stephen Fry (comedian, actor, writer) and Michael Foale (astronaut).
The college was founded in 1878 to commemmorate the life of George Selwyn, who was the first Bishop of New Zealand. It's situated a little way from the centre, close to Newnham College.
Famous alumni: Malcolm Muggeridge (journalist), John Selwyn Gummer (politician).
Sidney Sussex College
From Downing up to Trinity, from Peterhouse to Caius; (pronounced Keys)
Then seek a little College just besides a busy street,
Its name is Sidney Sussex, and you'll find it Bad to Beat'
(E H Griffiths 'A Song of Sidney Sussex', 1900)
It's still beside a busy street today, just across the road from Sainsburys supermarket, but I'd bet that for every thousand townspeople who've been there to shop for groceries only one or two will have looked around Sidney Sussex College. Which is a pity because it's full of history and with an unexpected garden, tucked in among the bustling city streets.
Famous alumni: Oliver Cromwell, many of the Bletchley Park codebreakers.
St John's College
One of the biggest colleges with a proud history going back to 1511. It's a glorious place with much to see, though it does attract many visitors. As a result you're perhaps not as free to wander where you like here and you'll find yourself guided through on a designated route between the buildings. Having said that you will see all its major attractions - of which there are many.
Famous alumni: William Wordsworth (poet), Ben Johnson (playwright), John Herschel (astronomer), Thomas Hobbes (philosopher), Frederick Sanger (biochemist), William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Thomas Babington (anti-slavery campaigners).
The last college we'll visit is also on the main tourist trail, though it seems to absorb them a little more easily than neighbouring St John's. It is the largest college in either Oxford or Cambridge Universities and it has produced an incredible number of influential people such as...
Sir Isaac Newton (scientist), Ralph Vaughn Williams (composer), Alfred Lord Tennyson and Lord Byron (poets), Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein (philosophers), William Thakeray, A A Milne and Vladimir Nabokov (writers) as well as twelve Prime Ministers and thirty-four Nobel Prize winners.
Thus concludes our wander around some of the colleges of Cambridge University. If you want to find out more there are posts on all of the above on the blog and you can read them, should you so desire, by clicking on the Cambridge University tag just below.