Last Updated on
East of England
Woburn Abbey is one of the great treasure houses of Britain. It began life as a Cistercian abbey. The estate was given to John Russell, later Earl of Bedford, by Edward VI in 1547 and his ancestors became the Dukes of Bedford. Woburn Abbey is still the home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, but has been open to the public since 1955. The Palladian mansion contains a world-famous art collection, including works by Canaletto, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Lely, Rembrandt, Tintoretto and Van Dyck, as well as collections of porcelain and silver. The estate also includes gardens, a deer park and the Woburn Safari Park.
Verulamium, was the third largest city in Roman Britain and the museum, Verulamium, stands on the site of the Roman town. It is a museum of everyday life in Roman Britain, containing recreated Roman rooms, some amazing mosaics and several intriguing objects - as well as the Sandridge Hoard - a collection of 159 gold Roman coins discovered nearby in 2012.
The Roman theatre at Verulamium is unique in Britain, because it's a theatre with a stage, rather than an amphitheatre. It was built in about 140AD, later redeveloped and by the 4th century it is estimated it could seat an audience of some 2,000. Close to the ruins are the foundations of shops and a temple. There is not a great deal to see, but it is opposite the Roman Museum - so park near the latter and combine the two.
Part of the Gorhambury Estate.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. It was founded in 1816 with the legacy of the library and art collection of Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam. Its collections include antiquities from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome; medieval and renaissance art; English and European pottery and glass, furniture, clocks, fans, armour; Chinese, Japanese and Korean art; coins and medals; literary and music manuscripts and rare printed books; paintings, including works by Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso. The building itself is stunning too!
Pembroke College was founded in 1347 by Mary de St Pol, the widow of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. In 1360, she sought permission from the Pope to build a college chapel – the first in Cambridge. The original chapel is still there – it is now a library – but the current chapel is the first completed building designed by Christopher Wren. It includes some notable features, not least an exquisite 15th century alabaster representation of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Michael depicting the judgement of a soul. Next to the chapel is a cloister where memorials commemorate the 450 Pembroke men who fell in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. Around a third of the young men who joined the college between 1911 and 1917 were dead by 1919.
Notable alumni include William Pitt the Younger, Peter Cook, Eric Idle, Clive James, Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Roger Bushell, Naomie Harris, Robert Macfarlane and Jo Cox.
Part of Cambridge's student life since 1920 (and now on the tourist trail), Fitzbillies is a quality bakery and café, particularly famous for its Chelsea buns. When it became known that it was heading for bankruptcy in 2011, it was saved by Alison Wright when she saw a tweet by Stephen Fry, which said: “No! No! Say it ain’t so - not Fitzbillies? Why I tweeted a pic of one of their peerless Chelsea buns but a sixmonth ago”.
King's College was founded by King Henry VI in 1441, the year after he founded Eton College, originally a sister college which sent scholars on to King's. It is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge and parts are open to the public. The highlight is undoubtedly the chapel, begun by Henry VI but finished by Henry VIII in 1544. The ceiling, windows and carving are breathtaking. It is also famous for the annual Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols, introduced by Eric Milner-White in 1919 and now broadcast all over the world.
St John’s College is the third largest college of the University of Cambridge and is located on the site of a 13th century monastic hospital of St John. The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, and dates from 1511. It is her arms that are carved on the enormous Great Gate; the arms include yales – mythical beasts with elephants’ tails, antelopes’ bodies, goats’ heads and horns that swivel from back to front. Wander through the various courts – many buildings date from the Tudor period. Significant features include the chapel, Bridge of Sighs and New Court. Alumni are known as ‘Johnians’. Famous ones include Lord Palmerston, William Wilberforce, William Wordsworth, Douglas Adams, Fred Sanger, Hugh Dennis, Derek Jacobi, Rob Andrew and Mike Brierley.
Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, combining two earlier colleges, Michaelhouse and King’s Hall, and has the largest court in Oxbridge. Michaelhouse had existed since 1324; King’s Hall had been established by Edward II in 1317 and refounded by Edward III in 1337. Trinity’s flag, flown on special occasions, has as its design the royal standard of Edward III. The oldest parts of the college are medieval, including the range behind the Clock Tower. The Great Gate was built at the beginning of the 16th century. The 17th century Wren Library, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, contains treasures that include 8th century copy of the Epistles of St Paul, works by Isaac Newton and the manuscript of Winnie the Pooh.
Famous alumni include Francis Bacon, John Dryden, Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, Alfred Tennyson, Earl Grey, Ernest Rutherford, Vaughn Williams, G M Trevelyan, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, AA Milne, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Jawaharlal Nehru, Nicholas Monsarrat Antony Gormley, Eddie Redmayne and Prince Charles.
The Round Church, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Cambridge is one of only four round churches in Britain. Influenced by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Cambridge's round church was built in c1130 and is heavily Norman in style - though has been added to and restored at various times - particularly in the later medieval and Victorian periods. It hasn't been used as a parish church since 1994 and is now a study and visitor centre, with an exhibition about the story of Cambridge. The interior architecture of the round church is lovely - and there are some striking stained glass windows.