No punting tour along the River Cam is complete without seeing St. John’s College, the Bridge of Sighs or the Kitchen Bridge.
A punting tour provides the opportunity to take in these wonderful sights without having to dodge crowds or fight the traffic. The relaxation of a punting tour adds a special element to the experience of seeing these wonderful Cambridge landmarks.
St John’s College
The formal name of St John’s is the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge.
The origins of this beautiful college stem back to Tudor times, when it was founded by a joint effort between Lady Margaret Beaufort and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.
The college was originally a religious hospital, the Hospital of St John the Evangelist. Beaufort and Fisher both wished to dissolve the hospital and found a college in its stead, and they worked together on developing the plans for their idea. Lady Margaret entered into a preliminary agreement with the Bishop of Ely that the conversion may go ahead, but the licences had not been completed before her death in 1509. Fisher had to overcome many legal obstructions to continue the project to its completion.
The final inhabitants of the hospital were transferred to Ely on 12th March 1511, and the college was officially established by Lady Beaufort’s executors through its charter on the 9th April 1511. The college opened in 1516, and the building work was completed in 1520.
As far as student numbers go, St John’s is one of the largest Oxbridge colleges. In 2018, it was ranked 9th out of 29 colleges in the Tompkins Table, which ranks Cambridge colleges based on undergraduate performance. More than 30% of St John’s students achieved first-class honours in 2018.
Unsurprisingly, the college has a long and distinguished history, with many exemplary students passing through its doors throughout the centuries. The college’s alumni include twelve Nobel Prize winners, twelve archbishops, seven prime ministers, three saints and two princes. Famously, St. Johns was alma mater to the poet William Wordsworth. Two prominent individuals who brought slavery to an end in the British Empire, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, also studied at St John’s. More recently, Prince William was linked to the college after taking a course in estate management that was run by the university.
The architecture and design of St John’s give it a distinctive charm and style, although it is equally famous for itsthe many legends and traditions that are associated with the college, such as its Fellows being the only non-royals allowed to eat mute swans.
St John’s next door neighbour, Trinity College, is the largest and richest college, and a friendly rivalry between the two has been ongoing since their foundations. The statue of the eagle atop the New Court is said to be turning its head away from Trinity in disgust.
Another draw to St John’s is its famous choir, as well as success in sporting competitions and its celebrated May Ball which takes place annually. Members of the college also founded The Cambridge Apostle and the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race began with a student from the college.
The college celebrated its quincentenary in 2011, with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh making an appearance to mark the event.