The city of Cambridge is a university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia, on the River Cam, about north of London. According to the United Kingdom Census 2011, its population was 123,867 (including 24,488 students). This makes Cambridge the second largest city in Cambridgeshire after Peterborough, and the 54th largest in the United Kingdom. There is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area during the Bronze Age and Roman times; under Viking rule Cambridge became an important trading centre. The first town charters were granted in the 12th century, although city status was not conferred until 1951.
Cambridge is most widely known as the home of the University of Cambridge, founded in 1209 and consistently ranked one of the top five universities in the world. The university includes the renowned Cavendish Laboratory, King's College Chapel, and the Cambridge University Library. The Cambridge skyline is dominated by the last two buildings, along with the spire of the Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church on Hills Rd, the chimney of Addenbrooke's Hospital in the far south of the city and St John's College Chapel tower.
Today, Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the city. Its economic strengths lie in industries such as software and bioscience, many start-up companies having been spun out of the university. Over 40% of the workforce have a higher education qualification, more than twice the national average. Cambridge is also home to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, one of the largest biomedical research clusters in the world.
The green space of Parker's Piece hosted the first ever game of association football, and the Strawberry Fair music and arts festival is held on Midsummer Common. Cambridge is adjacent to the M11 and A14 roads, and is around 50 minutes from London King's Cross by non-stop train, with other rail links to Norwich, Birmingham and elsewhere.
Settlements have existed around the Cambridge area since prehistoric times. The earliest clear evidence of occupation is the remains of a year-old farmstead discovered at the site of Fitzwilliam College. There is further archaeological evidence of occupation through the Iron Age, with evidence of settlement on Castle Hill in the 1st century BC, perhaps relating to wider cultural changes occurring in southeastern Britain at this time linked to the arrival of the Belgae.
The principal Roman site at Cambridge is a small fort named Duroliponte located on Castle Hill, just northwest of the city centre and around the location of the earlier British village. The fort was bounded on two sides by the lines formed by the present Mount Pleasant, continuing across Huntingdon Road into Clare Street. The eastern side followed Magrath Avenue, with the southern side running near to Chesterton Lane and Kettle's Yard before turning northwest at Honey Hill. It was constructed around 70 and converted to civilian use around fifty years later. Evidence of widespread Roman settlement has been discovered in Cambridge including numerous farmsteads and a village in the Cambridge district of Newnham.
Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain around 410, the location may have been abandoned by the Britons, although the site is usually identified as the listed among the 28 cities of Britain by the History of the Britons. There is evidence that the invading Saxons had begun occupying the area by the end of the century. Their settlement—also on and around Castle Hill—became known as Grantebrychge ("Granta-bridge"). (By Middle English, the name of the settlement had changed to "Cambridge" and the upper stretches of the Granta changed their name to match.) Anglo-Saxon grave goods have been found in the area. During this period, Cambridge benefited from good trade links across the hard-to-travel fenlands. By the 7th century, the town was less significant and was described by Bede as a "little ruined city" containing the burial site of Etheldreda. Cambridge formed part of the border between the East and Middle Anglian kingdoms and settlement slowly expanded on both sides of the river.
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 Viking period, the Saxons enjoyed a return to power, building churches such as St Bene't's Church, wharves, merchant houses and a mint, which produced coins with the town's name abbreviated to "Grant".
In 1068, two years after his conquest of England, William of Normandy built a castle on Castle Hill. Like the rest of the newly conquered kingdom, Cambridge fell under the control of the King and his deputies. The distinctive Round Church dates from this period.
The first town charter was granted by Henry I to Cambridge between 1120 and 1131. It gave Cambridge monopoly of waterborne traffic and hithe tolls as well as recognising the Borough court. In 1209, Cambridge University was founded by students escaping from hostile townspeople in Oxford. The oldest college that still exists, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284.
In 1349 Cambridge was affected by the Black Death. Few records survive but 16 of 40 scholars at Kings Hall died. The town north of the river was severely affected being almost wiped out. Following further depopulation after a second national epidemic in 1361, a letter from the Bishop of Ely suggested that two parishes in Cambridge be merged as there weren't enough people to fill even one church. With over a third of English clergy dying in the Black Death, four new colleges were established at the University over the following years to train new clergymen, namely Gonville Hall, Trinity Hall, Corpus Christi and Clare.
In 1382 a revised town charter effects a "diminution of the liberties that the community had enjoyed", due to Cambridge's participation in the Peasants' Revolt. The charter transfers supervision of baking & brewing, weights & measures, and forestalling & regrating, from the town to the University.
Following numerous deaths in the town due to plague, sanitation and fresh water was brought to Cambridge through the construction of Hobson's Conduit in the early 1600s. The water system brought water from Nine Wells, at the foot of the Gog Magog Hills, into the centre of the town.
Cambridge played a significant role in the early part of the English Civil War as it was the headquarters of the Eastern Counties Association, an organisation administering a regional East Anglian army, which became the mainstay of the Parliamentarian military effort prior to the formation of the New Model Army. In 1643 control of the town was given by Parliament to Oliver Cromwell, who had been educated at the University's Sidney Sussex College. The town's castle was fortified, with troops garrisoned there and some bridges destroyed to aid the defence. Although Royalist forces came within of the town in 1644, the defences were never used and the garrison was stood down the following year.
In the 19th century, in common with many other English towns, Cambridge expanded rapidly. This was due in part to increased life expectancy and also improved agricultural production leading to increased trade in town markets. Inclosure Acts of 1801 and 1807 enabled expansion of the town over surrounding open fields and eventually in 1912 and again in 1935 the boundaries were extended to include areas such as Chesterton, Cherry Hinton, Fen Ditton, Trumpington, and Grantchester.
The railway came to Cambridge in 1845 after initially being resisted, with the opening of the Great Eastern London to Norwich line. The station was placed outside the town centre following pressure from the University, who restricted travel by undergraduates. With the arrival of the railway and its associated employment came expansion of the areas around the station, such as Romsey Town. The train link to London stimulated heavier industries, such as the production of brick, cement and malt.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, the size of the city was increased by several large council estates. The biggest impact has been on the area north of the river, which are now the estates of East Chesterton, King's Hedges, and Arbury where Archbishop Rowan Williams lived and worked as an assistant priest in the early 1980s.
During the Second World War, Cambridge was an important centre for defence of the east coast. The town became a military centre, with an R.A.F. training centre and the regional headquarters for Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire established during the conflict. The town itself escaped relatively lightly from German bombing raids, which were mainly targeted at the railway. 29 people were killed and no historic buildings were damaged. In 1944, a secret meeting of military leaders held in Trinity College laid the foundation for the allied invasion of Europe. During the war Cambridge served as an evacuation centre for over 7,000 people from London, as well as for parts of the University of London.
Cambridge was granted its city charter in 1951 in recognition of its history, administrative importance and economic success. Cambridge does not have a cathedral, traditionally a prerequisite for city status, instead falling within the Church of England Diocese of Ely. In 1962 Cambridge's first shopping arcade, Bradwell's Court, opened on Drummer Street, though this was demolished in 2006. Other shopping arcades followed at Lion Yard, which housed a relocated Central Library for the city, and the Grafton Centre which replaced Victorian housing stock which had fallen into disrepair in the Kite area of the city. This latter project was controversial at the time.
The city gained its second University in 1992 when Anglia Polytechnic became Anglia Polytechnic University. Renamed Anglia Ruskin University in 2005, the institution has its origins in the Cambridge School of Art opened in 1858 by John Ruskin. The Open University also has a presence in the city, with an office operating on Hills Road. Cambridge City Council plans to renew the area around the Corn Exchange concert hall, and plans for a permanent ice-skating rink are being considered after the success of a temporary one that has been on Parker's Piece every year for the past few years.