Cambridge History

All about Cambridge

Cambridge – the UK’s famous ‘University Town’

Here in the UK university towns are renowned for their academic institutions with rich history and plenty of architectural heritage and Cambridge stakes its claim as one of the best. With history and tradition throughout the city, it is a place that has an incredible academic reputation like no other. It is a city where great minds of the past go head-to-head with new generations of intelligence and technology. Whats more Cambridge is set amongst a backdrop of cobbled streets, lush green spaces and college buildings that are as grand as they get – so as a city it is a great place to visit as a tourist, live as a student or stay as a local. In this article we explore the history of our amazing city and how it developed into what we know today.

The history of Cambridge

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 origin of the city’s name and its meaning.

The origin of the city’s name:

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 Cambridge’s’ 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. So, as you may 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 evolved to Cambridge the river that surrounded it had to reflect this, changing to “the Bridge over the Cam”.

Punting Departure Point, Jesus Green, La Mimosa Landing Stage, Near to Quayside, Punting Location

All about Cambridge history

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 as: St. Bene’t’s Church – which dates back to 1033. Together with its’ tower, which is the oldest building in Cambridgeshire. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Cambridge grew to a population of about 2,000 – a medium-sized town by the time’s standards. Another famous building from around this period is the Round Church, which is officially called the Holy Sepulchre of Cambridge, and dates back to 1130. Jump forward to the 1600’s, like much of the country, Cambridge was ravaged by severe bouts of the Plague, with a particularly extreme case occurring in 1630. However, Cambridge bounced back in the 18th century, setting up its own newspaper in 1744, a hospital in 1766, and its first bank in 1780. By 1845, it was even connected to London by railway – opening itself to a huge market. Despite its history, its impressive reputation and academic lineage, Cambridge was only made a city in 1951. Although Cambridge was only granted its city charter in the 1900’s, it has been an important hub throughout the ages which remains in its culture, architecture and educational institutions.

As you can see, the city’s historical importance is great, with memories from these times resembled in the buildings that still stand. Sightseeing this incredible city is on most peoples bucket list when they visit the UK. Whether they opt for a walking tour around the centre or take a chauffeured punt tour along the College Backs, go back in time with a tour of the city. The punting Cambridge tours takes you along the Cam and passes by sights that are only accessible by boat, as well as seven esteem Cambridge Colleges, under nine bridges as well as important and historical buildings along the way. The tour takes approximately 50 minutes and the chauffeur will provide commentary throughout, leaving you with a depth of knowledge about both Cambridge and its Unviersity. Whilst the walking tour take you through the cobbled streets of the centre, around the Market square and to sights that dates back to the Medieval times. So why not take a trip to Cambridge to delve into its history, we can assure you, you’ll not be disappointed.

Posted on March 28th, 2020, by the Traditional Punting Company