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Named after a 13th Century hospital and featuring an ornate gatehouse and the famous Bridge of Sighs

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Bridge of Sighs
Inner Courts
Chapel and Hugh Aston Tomb
Entrance Gatehouse
River Cam Views
St John’s College is the largest at Cambridge, in terms of its territory. The beautiful college building is part of the stunning area of the Backs.

The College of Saint John the Evangelist, Established 1511
Source WikiMedia (PD)

College Motto

I Often Remember
The college is connected to the beautiful Bridge of Sighs, which was designed by Henry Hutchinson. He based his design on a Bridge of Sighs in Venice, although the only real similarity is that they are both covered.

The Bridge of Sighs, designed in 1831 by Henry Hutchinson and bears little resemblance to its namesake in Venice
St John’s has, like so many colleges in Cambridge, educated some students who have gone on to achieve great things all over the world. Some of these at St John’s were greatly involved in the abolition of the British Slave Trade. In particular of course, William Wilberforce himself.

William Wilberforce, the prominent slave abolitionist, attended St John's College from 1776
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Current Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh, a famous former student of St John's College
Photo © Ricardo Stuckert (CC)
The College has a striking Chapel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built in 1866-9. The design was inspired by the Church of Saint Chappell in Paris. Its tower is 50 meters high and is one of the highest points in Cambridge.

St Johns College Chapel, dating from 1866 and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott

Inside the magnificent Chapel
The Chapel is also home to the Ashton Tomb. This is the oldest feature of the Chapel and belongs to Hugo Ashton (1522), one of the first alumni of St John’s. The tomb includes a graphic carving of a corpse as well as Hugo in his more respectable gowns. An ash tree and a barrel or ‘tun’ is carved into the tomb, spelling out ash-ton, a medieval play on words.

Tomb of Hugh Ashton, a fellow of St John's
The main gate is similar in style to that of  Christ’s College, and likewise bears the arms of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Mythical creatures known as Yales flank the crest and are said to include the body of an antelope, the head of a goat and the tail of an elephant. Above them is the a sculpture of St John the Evangelist, eagle at his feet and poisoned chalice in hand.

The main Gatehouse of St John's College, decorated with the arms of the foundress

Close up of the ornate main Gate, with mythical beasts called Yales and a statue of St John above

Did You Know?

Some students claim to have seen the ghost of a past undergraduate who blocks narrow staircases in the Second Court. It is thought the ghost is that of James Wood, a Master of St John's, who was so poor that he could not afford to light his room and would do his work in the well-lit stairway!
The College is also catered for by a Michelin Star chef  Bill Brogan,  unfortunately the food is only available to the students of the college!! Another odd feature reserved for the fellows, is the legal right to eat unmarked mute swans. A right otherwise only given to the Royal Family! St John’s is also host to one of Cambridge's most extravagant parties. Each year St John’s May Ball is one of the hottest tickets in town. It has even appeared in the Times Magazines top 10 parties in the world!

The 16th century dining hall has a hammerbeam roof
Photo © Andrew Dunn (CC)
A trip to St John’s allows you to see one of the most prominent and successful colleges at Cambridge. Beware though, you may just get more than you bargained for....Mr John Naylor was said to have paid a ghostly visit to his old friend Geoffrey Shaw, predicting his impending death.... a few months later Mr Shaw did indeed die and the mystery of the ghost of St John’s was born.....

The interior of the Old Library, dating from 1624
Photo © CharlieRCD (CC)
Visitor Information
St John's College is open to visitors Monday to Friday, Easter to early November, 10am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday 9.30am to 7pm. Entrance costs under £5. Tel: 01223 338 600

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