Cambridge is a city that has survived several significant time periods, remaining loyal to its’ unique characteristics and culture. It witnessed the settlement of the Vikings, Romans and the Anglo-saxons. Although the main focus of our city was trading and education, there have been some other significant changes taking place through Cambridge’s history. Such as the orign of the name of this city. Why is Cambridge called Cambridge? And what is its’ meaning?
The origin of the name of this city:
Cambridge has benefited from its location since the very beginning. Being surrounded by a river, meant that the transportation of matter was more effective, efficient and cheaper by water than by land. The River Cam flows into the Great Ouse, that then flows into the sea at Kings Lynn (which in the Middle Ages was a large and important town). The Cam consequently acted as an ‘artery’ through the Fens. From the ‘upper class’ wine to reeds and rushes and even the fish from the sea, where imported into Cambridge. Even the grain which was grown from the land surrounding Cambridge was shipped to Kings Lynn, then onto London to finally be exported to parts of Europe.
Subsequently, this privileged location, has seen Cambridge be an active trades industry. This river also allowed a high level of control over its entrance to the city by its famous bridges. With history telling us, that the very first bridge connecting Cambridge to the ‘outside’, stood exactly where Magdalene Bridge is standing nowadays.
It is believed that, this first bridge was built during the Roman times. Notably, a wide, strong bridge, to be used for multiple people at the same time. It was also designed to allows horses and their loads to be carried across. These facts regarding Cambridges’ river are particularly interesting, not only because it highlights how relevant the River Cam has always been to this settlement and its’ habitants, but also it reveals the origin of our great city’s name.
Before Cambridge, it was originally known as Grantebrycge, and was based on the name of the river passing under its very first bridge. As well as adding the word ‘bridge’ in there. So, as you have gathered the River surrounding the city couldn’t have always been known as the River Cam. Its previous name was the River Granta, up until the 5th century. Therefore, the first name of this city translates to ” Bridge over the Granta”.
So, why didn’t this city stay as Grantebrycge until today?… Well the Norman language influences forced a change in the name overtime. So, the ‘Gr‘ changed to a ‘C’ and the ‘nt‘ changed to ‘m‘. As the name of the city was now Cambridge the river that it stood on had to reflect this, changing to “the Bridge over the Cam”.
Additional highlights of the history of this city
The modern city of Cambridge was founded in 875 when the Danes conquered Eastern England, although, the city only flourished around the 10th century, during the Medieval Age. Remarkably buildings from that period still stand tall nowadays, such us: St. Bene’t’s Church – which dates back to 1033. Together with its’ tower, which is the oldest building in Cambridgeshire. Another famous building from around the same period is the Round Church, which is officially called the Holy Sepulchre of Cambridge, and dates back to 1130.
Although Cambridge was only granted its city charter in 1951 in recognition of its administrative importance and economic success, it has been an important hub throughout the ages which remains in its culture, architecture and educational institutions.