The Punter’s Guide to Secret Cambridge

TCS Reporter 9 May 2014

So you're hoping to impress your friends with treacherous tales of daring, all from the splintery comfort of a slightly unstable wooden boat? Look no further! We’ve compiled a handy guide of all the little-known punters' tales to accompany your river tour, from Silver Street to Girton!

The streets were paved with gold. Literally.                                    

Silver Street

Built to replace ‘gold street’, a tragic casualty of the recession. This street used to be literally paved with silver, until residents of nearby colleges complained that the glare was interfering with their revision and it had to be repaved.

The Millpond

In winter only the most intrepid venture past: rabid cows and rogue boaties make it treacherous. Long ago, in a bet to prove that Land Economy teaches you real life skills, several students purchased the flour mill that once stood beside this pond.

Now only its ashes remain.

Mathematical Bridge

Newton built this bridge with no nuts and bolts, but ambitious students later deconstructed it in an attempt to understand how it worked. Despite cunningly putting it as every question in subsequent first-year engineering exams, they haven't yet worked out how to reassemble it. Today’s monstrosity was cemented together with the tears of a thousand frustrated engineering freshers.

 (The English students have a bridge too, but it’s metaphorical.)

The mathematical bridge: not as easy as it looks

Queens’ College

So named because in 1653, it became the first Cambridge college to officially admit women. Hundreds of men, thinking it would be easier to get in, applied to the college in dressed as monarchs. It took hundreds of years for the University to get over this failed social experiment and finally provide women with a college of their own.

The Backs

So called because when residents pass the colleges, they turn their backs in disgust; it’s a symbol of the ancient feud between townies and gownies. Justin Timberlake’s hit single ‘bringing sexy Backs’ was altered to its better known counterpart because the original was thought too elitist.

The Trinity Hall library

The window are actually posters – it’s storage space which doubles as subtle peer pressure to make the rowers work harder.

Trinity College

Trinity actually owns all the other colleges, so it’s basically the same thing as Cambridge University. It’s named after the Holy Trinity, which students there still reverence today: brunch, rowing and starred firsts. To get in, you have to have at least one Nobel prize, a healthy disregard for sleep and eyesight poor enough to make massive ‘80s glasses necessary.

 It’s said that you can walk from Cambridge to New York without leaving Trinity property. This is true, because Trinity College actually owns all the land in the world.

The Holy Trinity

‘Kitchen Bridge’ (St John's College)

A recent petition to build a remote-control operated trapdoor in the bridge was deemed “unethical” by CUSU and “impractical” by rowers.

Kitchen bridge: Morally questionable

Bridge of Sighs

It’s a common misconception that this bridge was modelled on its Venetian namesake. Its real name is actually the Bridge of Psi, the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet, which is also a symbol of something to do with physics. That’s what happens when you leave NatScis and Classicists alone together on a bridge.

This bridge links the two sides of John’s. It’s walled to keep the students in. Once you’re in John’s, you don’t leave John’s.

This village isn't real for 51 weeks of the year: it springs into existence during May Week so that lazy, hungover students can bask in their hedonistic liberty by heading there on a cava-fuelled, strawberry-filled punt.


Originally pronounced ‘Matthew’ but changed in an attempt to make the colleges less sexist.

Dead man’s corner

Trinitarians who get less than a 2.1 are thrown out of the windows and left here to rot. Beside them lies the corpse of that student who made a formal complaint about croquet balls disturbing his revision. On a full moon, he can still be heard typing a strongly worded letter to his senior tutor.


All illustrations: Hannah Taylor