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The P Stands For Punting

A comprehensive guide to the legends told on the Cam.


One of the must-do activities for any self-respecting visitor to Cambridge is to go punting whether by hiring your own punt or joining one of the tours of the river. If you do this however, beware! Some of the tales that you might hear are not entirely accurate. The below list of absolutely, completely true facts* has been compiled with the help of Pembroke’s Graduate Parlour.

  • Lord Bryon used to walk his pet bear down to the river so that it could get its daily exercise.
  • Isaac Newton built the Mathematical Bridge
  • Isaac Newton built the Mathematical Bridge without any bolts but it had to be taken apart and when it was reconstructed the builders could not work out how to put it back together so added the bolts.
  • Isaac Newton built the Mathematical Bridge without any bolts but then discovered gravity, realised the bridge was mathematically impossible so returned and added them in.
  • Isaac Newton discovered gravity under a tree in St John’s that is not even an apple tree.
  • Isaac Newton discovered apples.
  • There is a Newton College.
  • Trinity College was built top to bottom because there was no gravity when it was built.
  • You can walk to Oxford on land owned solely by Trinity College.
  • Garrett Hostel Bridge is known as Orgasm Bridge because the student who designed it was caught by Trinity College porters having sex on the bridge shortly after it was opened.
  • The sphere on Clare College Bridge is incomplete because the architect was not paid in full so he held the missing segment hostage while waiting to be paid and he never was.
  • The sphere on Clare College Bridge is unfinished because it keeps the entire bridge unfinished and therefore exempt from taxes.
  • Justin Beiber was trained in King’s College Chapel.IMG_7000.1
  • King’s College Chapel was built from one block of stone.
  • King’s College Chapel is one block of cheese that has over the years developed its shape because of where the Fellows have taken from it for their after dinner platters.
  • King’s College Bridge is the only place in the UK that it is still legal to duel
  • King’s College students are allowed to slaughter a cow on their birthdays
  • A King’s College professor had a relationship with a housekeeper but he died after being locked in a coffin in a closet by an aggrieved student. The housekeeper discovered him and then took her own life out of heartbreak. The two of them then found love in the afterlife and continue to haunt the college to this day. On a certain day of the month you can hear them wailing from King’s College Chapel.
  • St John’s Bridge of Sighs is the original Bridge of Sighs
  • St John’s Bridge of Sighs got its name from all the students sighing before/after their exams †
  • St John’s willow trees are jellybean trees.
  • Between St John’s and Magdalene is where they filmed Shrek
  • Jesus College was named after its founder
  • Colleges on the river make their students pass a punting exam before they are allowed on the river.


* Most of these are not even remotely true. Some could maybe be true if they said completely different things.

† This one, if not true, is pretty accurate

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