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Cambridge History!


Settlements have existed around the area since before the Roman Empire. The earliest clear evidence of occupation, a collection of hunting weapons, is from the Late Bronze Age, starting around 1000 BC. There is further archaeological evidence through the Iron Age, a Belgic tribe having settled on Castle Hill in the 1st century BC.

Roman times
The first major development of the area began with the Roman invasion of Britain in about AD 40. Castle Hill made Cambridge a useful place for a military outpost from which to defend the River Cam. It was also the crossing point for the Via Devana which linked Colchester in Essex with the garrisons at Lincoln and the north. This Roman settlement has been identified as Duroliponte. The settlement remained a regional centre during the 350 years after the Roman occupation, until about AD 400. Roman roads and walled enclosures can still be seen in the area.

Saxon and Viking Age
After the Romans had left, Saxons took over the land on and around Castle Hill. Their grave goods have been found in the area. During Anglo-Saxon times Cambridge benefited from good trade links across the otherwise hard-to-travel fenlands. By the 7th century, however, visitors from nearby Ely reported that Cambridge had declined severely. Cambridge is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Grantebrycge. This is the earliest known reference to a bridge at Cambridge. The arrival of the Vikings in Cambridge was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 875. Viking rule, the Danelaw, had been imposed by 878. The Vikings' vigorous trading habits caused Cambridge to grow rapidly. During this period the centre of the town shifted from Castle Hill on the left bank of the river to the area now known as the Quayside on the right bank. After the end of the Viking period the Saxons enjoyed a brief return to power, building St Benet's church in 1025. It still stands in Bene't Street.

Norman times
In 1068, two years after his conquest of England, William of Normandy built a castle on Castle Hill. Like the rest of the new kingdom, Cambridge fell under the control of the King and his deputies. The distinctive Round Church dates from this period. By Norman times the name of the town had mutated to Grentabrige or Cantebrigge (Grantbridge), while the river that flowed through it was called the Granta. Over time the name of the town changed to Cambridge, while the river Cam was still known as the Granta - indeed the river is still often known as the Granta to this day. The Welsh language name of the town remains Caergrawnt (roughly analogous to Grantchester, which is also the name of a village near Cambridge). It was only later that the river became known as the Cam, by analogy with the name Cambridge. The University, formed 1209, uses a Latin adjective cantabrigiensis (often contracted to "Cantab") to mean "of Cambridge", but this is obviously a back-formation from the English name. Trinity Street, St John's Street and the Main Gate of St John's College with the tower of the college's chapel looming in the background.

Beginnings of the University
In 1209, students escaping from hostile townspeople in Oxford fled to Cambridge and formed a University there. The oldest college that still exists, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284. One of the most impressive buildings in Cambridge, King's College Chapel, was begun in 1446 by King Henry VI. The project was completed in 1515 during the reign of King Henry VIII. Cambridge University Press originated with a printing licence issued in 1534. Hobson's Conduit, the first project to bring clean drinking water to the town centre, was built in 1610 (by the Hobson of Hobson's choice). Parts of it survive today. Addenbrooke's Hospital was founded in 1766. The railway and station were built in 1845. According to legend, the University dictated their location: well away from the centre of town, so that the possibility of quick access to London would not distract students from their work. However, there is no basis for this in fact. Despite having a University, Cambridge was not granted its city charter until 1951. Cambridge does not have a cathedral, which was traditionally a pre-requisite for city status.

Cambridge today
Great St Mary's Church marks the centre of Cambridge, whilst the Senate House on the left is the centre of the University. Gonville and Caius College is in the background. Drawing on its links with the University, the Cambridge area today is sometimes referred to as Silicon Fen, due to the growth of high tech businesses and technology incubators that have sprung up in the series of science parks and other developments in and around the city. Such companies include Acorn Computers and Sinclair. The University was joined by the larger part of Anglia Ruskin University, and the educational reputation has led to other bodies (such as the Open University in East Anglia) basing themselves in the city. The University has a large number of museums that are open to the public.